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America’s Black Holocaust Museum, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Public Library, will offer a film each month, beginning February 11, 2014.
The films are free and open to the public. Popcorn and other refreshments will be served.
Each film will be briefly introduced by a scholar, who will also facilitate a discussion immediately following the film.
• February 11, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
The Loving Story
M.L.King Library, 310 W. Locust St., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Fran Kaplan, Director ABHM
Synopsis: In June 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were married in Washington, D.C.He was a white man; she was part African American and part Native American.They returned to their native Virginia to start their lives together but, as “The Loving Story” tells us, they were jailed and then banished for breaking the state’s Racial Integrity Act.By marrying beyond the state’s borders and then living together as husband and wife in Virginia, they had broken the law.The Lovings were not political people, but their wish to return home as a family placed them in the middle of a historic movement. How far might you go for love?
• March 11, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Reggie Jackson, Head Griot ABHM
Synopsis: Radicals. Agitators. Troublemakers. Liberators. Called by many names, the abolitionists tore the nation apart in order to make a more perfect union. Men and women, black and white, Northerners and Southerners, poor and wealthy, these passionate antislavery activists fought body and soul in the most important civil rights crusade in American history. What began as a pacifist movement fueled by persuasion and prayer became a fiery and furious struggle that forever changed the nation. Had you lived in slavery days, what could you have done?
• April 15, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Slavery By Another Name
Villard Square, 5190 N. 35th St., Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Robert Smith, History, UWM
Synopsis: This film challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. What are the effects on our society today of slavery by another name?
• May 12, 2014 – 5:15-7:45pm
Bay View Library, 2566 S.Kinnickinnic, Milwaukee WI
Facilitator: Dr. Russell Brooker, Political Science, Alverno College
Synopsis: The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called Freedom Riders who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South. How are Americans challenging racial inequalities today?
This free public program is brought to you by the Milwaukee Public Library and America’s Black Holocaust Museum with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.
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On Friday night, the Iowa GOP surfaced a less-than-helpful flowchart to identify racism. The “Is someone a racist?” graphic was posted to the official Iowa Republican Party Facebook page and then quickly pulled down – but not beforeThe Daily Beast captured it.
The chart started by asking if the person is white. Non-white people were automatically “not racist,” and the only factor in determining whether a white person is racist or not was the question, “do you like them?”
After the post was removed, Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker apologized in a Facebook post on the state party’s page. “Earlier tonight, a contractor of the Iowa GOP made a post referencing a discussion on race that the GOP believes was in bad taste and inappropriate. We apologize to those whom were offended, have removed the post and are ensuring it does not happen again,” he wrote.
The chart was not the first questionable social media post the Republican Party has made recently. On Dec. 1, the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience on a Montgomery, Ala. bus, the Republican National Committee posted a tweet thanking Parks for her “bold stand and her role in ending racism.” (. . .)
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What most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.(…)
I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.
I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”
Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”
Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.(…)
I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.(…)
Read the full article here.
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(. . .) He reminded us that “the choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence; it is between nonviolence or nonexistence.” Therefore, we are celebrating the 2014 King Holiday Observance with the theme, Remember! Celebrate! Act! King’s Legacy of Peace for Our World. This theme also pays homage to the fact that, this year, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of both my father receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With the theme of peace in mind, we launched our five-year “Choose Nonviolence” campaign.
As part of the campaign, our goal is to expose, encourage, educate, engage and empower one million current, emerging and next-generation leaders to embrace Dr. King’s leadership philosophy. This will be done through social media, dialogues, summits, marketing campaigns and a global leadership initiative. On the national holiday today, The King Center is calling for a moratorium on violence. Specifically, we are asking that there be no shots fired — no shooting off at the mouth with our tongue, no shooting off physically with our fists and no shooting off of any type of gun! Just for one day — on the King Holiday — in recognition of my father, and as TIME magazine has said, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, let us honor the memory of one of the world’s most highly regarded nonviolent proponents of peace on his holiday, with no shots fired. Instead, we ask that people engage in something positive and uplifting in service to humanity. (. . .)
Choosing nonviolence does not mean that one will never get angry or become upset with others, including the ones we love. One day my dad and brothers were riding their bicycles, and I decided to follow them into the street on my tricycle. My father was very upset, but he remained disciplined and didn’t let his emotions take him too far, which is an important part of embracing nonviolence.
I shared this story about my father to remind us that as human beings we will fall short from time to time. We will get angry, feel hurt, or say something we wish we hadn’t. It’s okay.The important thing to remember is that we must remain disciplined in how far we take that anger or hurt, and that it is presented in an appropriate and nonviolent manner.
NEWARK — Amiri Baraka, the longtime activist and former poet laureate of New Jersey died today, officials confirmed. He was 79 years old.
Baraka was placed in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center last month for an unknown reason, but a spokesman for his son’s mayoral campaign said his condition was improving late in December.
Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed.(…) Quintana recalled Baraka’s role in the 1970 Black and Puerto Rican convention, a landmark political meeting that resulted in the election of Ken Gibson, Newark’s first black mayor.(…)
A Newark native and resident formerly known as Leroi Jones, Amiri Baraka has published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction. In 1963 Amiri Baraka wrote “Blues People,” an in-depth history of music from the time of slavery throughout the various incarnations of blues and jazz, with integrated social commentary. The book’s 50th anniversary was recently celebrated during an event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
In 1964, Baraka published the book of poetry, “Dead Lecturer” that marked a significant transition in his career. Also written under the name Leroi Jones, the book featured more traditional poems but also laid the groundwork for the more radical, experimental work that would come to define his later career.
“He was able to put music into the work, even reading the work,” said Maria Maziotti Gillan, a poet and the director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. “Mostly he was able to capture an audience when he spoke. He was a able to capture an audience through his poetry but also through what he had to say.”Baraka was the state’s first poet laureate for a short time in 2002 and 2003.
In 2002, Gov. James E. McGreevey called for Baraka’s resignation as New Jersey’s Poet Laureate after a Jewish group condemned “Somebody Blew Up America.” The poem, written shortly after 9/11, included a passage claiming thousands of Israelis knew there was going to be an attack and stayed home from work — an Internet rumor not based in fact.
In typical fashion, Baraka defended his free speech and wrote an essay entitled, “I will not apologize, I will not resign.”
Almost two years ago, Kadejah Davis-Talton, then 12, was shot to death at her home in Detroit over a disagreement about a cellphone. On Tuesday, the man convicted in her killing was told he could face 50 years in prison.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans sentenced Joshua Brown, age 21, to 24 to 50 years for second-degree murder, 14 to 30 years for assault with intent to murder, which he is to serve concurrently, and an additional mandatory two years for a felony firearm charge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
According to prosecutors, the man’s mother, Heather Brown, drove her son to and from Davis-Talton’s home on Jan. 31, 2012 after she had gotten in a dispute over her missing cellphone with Almanda Talton, the girl’s mother.
Talton said she found a phone in public restroom at a tax business and gave it to an employee, according CBS Detroit. She thought Joshua Brown came to her home to discuss something else, and then shut the door on him after talking to him briefly. Brown, then 19, fired several shots through the door, according to prosecutors, striking and killing Kadejah Davis-Talton. (. . .)
“Why would two mothers risk their children’s lives over such a minor thing as a cellphone?” Evans asked before sentencing, the Detroit News reports. “A mother’s worst nightmare was experienced the night Kadejah was killed.” (. . .)
Davis-Talton was a sixth-grade student who had straight A’s and had just celebrated her birthday before her death. (. . .)
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Perhaps you, like me, were raised essentially to think of the slave experience primarily in terms of our black ancestors here in the United States. In other words, slavery was primarily about us, right, from Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker and Richard Allen, all the way to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Think of this as an instance of what we might think of as African-American exceptionalism. (In other words, if it’s in “the black Experience,” it’s got to be about black Americans.) Well, think again.
The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (. . .)Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.
And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage. In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.
Incredibly, most of the 42 million members of the African-American community descend from this tiny group of less than half a million Africans. (. . .)
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Re-posted from the New York Times Disunion Series, December 22, 2013 (Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.)
In the summer of 1862, a 31-year-old slave named Samuel Mathews and his family freed themselves by escaping from their plantation in Franklin County, Alabama. With the army of Union General William Rosecrans nearby, local Confederates had been talking of impressing Samuel Mathews into service as a cook. Unwilling to serve the rebel army, Samuel, his 25-year-old wife, Sarah, their 8-year-old son, Richard, and their 7-year-old daughter, Ellen, snuck away to a Union Army camp in nearby Tuscumbia, in the northwest corner of the state. But it was only the first step in their journey to freedom, which would last eight months and finish 700 miles north in the unlikely locale of rural Dodge County, Wisconsin.
Because of political and military decisions early in the war that classified escaped slaves as “contraband” of war, not to be returned to their owners, thousands of enslaved blacks flocked to the relative safety of Union lines; many then made their way north. The Eighth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment participated in the occupation of Tuscumbia, which is where the Mathews family may have first heard about the Badger State. One infantryman took note of the large number of “contrabands” in Tuscumbia and explained to The Janesville Gazette: “The negroes are deserting their masters by hundreds” and “thank God the time has about come when all such folks can claim freedom by just coming into our lines.”
While every former slave had his or her own story of emancipation, the Mathews family saga sheds a light on the often difficult path taken by tens of thousands of people after taking their first steps to freedom – and the changes they brought to the communities where they landed.
In early September, the Union Army decamped from Tuscumbia and marched to Mississippi. The African-American refugees accompanied the Yankees, and a soldier from the Eighth Wisconsin wrote that the scene “will forever live in my memory.” In the front, he explained, “moved the Army of the Union and of Freedom” and “in the rear came the army of contrabands, of all ages, sexes, and shades of complexion.” The soldier concluded: “There was to me something strangely sublime in the spectacle of these thousands of human beings fleeing from bondage to freedom.”
The Mathews family was among this “army of contrabands,” but a Confederate counterattack at Iuka, Mississippi, nearly separated them. Years later, Richard Mathews recalled “his fright and terror when he hid in a hollow tree with his baby sister” during the Battle of Iuka, “wondering if he would ever be united with his parents.” Fortunately, all four family members survived the battle.
By the spring of 1863, the Mathews family had traveled north to a Union army contraband camp in Cairo, Ilinois., that was commanded by the Reverend John B. Rogers, a Baptist minister and chaplain to the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. Writing in his memoir, “War Pictures,” Rogers praised the refugees’ hard work and desire for religious and educational instruction. “Old and young come together,” he explained in a letter to the Quaker abolitionist Levi P. Coffin. “They are seen all about after school hours, with books in hand, learning their lessons. May we hope, my dear brother, that from this small beginning there may be great and important results growing to bless the colored race.”
While the Mathews family enjoyed their freedom in Cairo, a group of farmers from the southeast Wisconsin town of Trenton struggled with wartime manpower shortages. The area was staunchly Republican, and as a local newspaper explained, a group of “Union and liberty-loving citizens” decided to conduct “an experiment” by importing former slaves to ease their labor problem.
The leaders of the group – Edison P. Cady, a Baptist deacon, Quartus H. Barron, a representative from Dodge County in the Wisconsin Assembly, and Xury Whiting, a substantial landowner – contacted a freedmen’s aid society and were probably soon directly in touch with Reverend Rogers in Cairo. Rogers and the Trenton farmers were all active Baptists, and the year before, Rogers had arranged for the resettlement of 75 freedmen to his hometown of Fond du Lac, 25 miles northeast of Trenton.
Cady traveled to Cairo and found three dozen refugees, including Samuel and Sarah Mathews and their children, eager to make a new life in Wisconsin. Joining the Mathews family were James and Helen Prebbles, who had escaped from their owner in Arkansas, and a number of refugees from Kentucky, including Hayden Netter, 26, and Serisa Jennie Dobner, 20. On April 8, 1863, Cady arrived by train back in Dodge County with 39 African-Americans.
Not everybody in Dodge County was happy with the settlers, however. The Beaver Dam Argus, a Democratic newspaper, blasted the arrival of the “Black Republicans.” “There is an ‘irrepressible conflict’ between free white labor and free black labor,” The Argus declared, and “white laborers may as well prepare to take a ‘back seat.’” The Argus boldly claimed that “these negroes … will undergo more hardships and for less pay than they ever did with their owners in the South.”
Despite such dire predictions, the former slaves and their white employers settled into new lives. The Mathews family worked on the farm of Quartus H. Barron, and when their second son was born a year later, they named him Henry Quartus Mathews to honor their benefactor. The Prebbles lived and worked on Xury Whiting’s farm, and other farmers in Trenton provided accommodations to the rest of the settlers. Soon after her arrival, Serisa Dobner married George W. Newsom, the son of one of the few free blacks already in the area.
Hayden Netter had little time to enjoy Wisconsin and was drafted seven months after his arrival. In November 1863, he joined Company E of the Wisconsin First Infantry Regiment, becoming one of the few African-American soldiers to serve in otherwise white units. Newlywed George Newsom was drafted a year later and served in the 67th Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry.
When the Army drafted another local African-American, the Unionist Dodge County Citizen goaded its political rivals. “Here is an excellent opportunity,” the Republican newspaper wrote, for the “copperheads who think it is such a dreadful thing to make soldiers of colored men, to step forward and go as his substitute.” No Democrats accepted the offer. Instead, The Argus continued its campaign against the black settlers, accusing Trenton’s “mock philanthropists” of “shamefully” abusing the newcomers and alleged that the freedmen “would gladly return to their former comfortable quarters in the South.”
Netter remained in the Army for the duration of the war, serving uneventfully in two other white Wisconsin regiments. George Newsom was not as fortunate and died of “typhoid malarial fever” in Morganza, Louisiana, on April 7, 1865, a week before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Newsom left behind his 22-year-old widow and 1-year-old son in Wisconsin.
In the summer of 1865, Netter returned to Dodge County to find a thriving black community. After living on rural farms for three years, many of the immigrants had saved enough money to make it on their own, belying The Beaver Dam Argus’s contention that the Trenton farmers had “used these negroes worse than they were ever used in the South.” In April 1865, Prebbles was the first African-American to purchase property in the nearby village of Fox Lake, and six months later, the Mathews family bought the house next door. By 1870, Netter, who had married the widowed Serisa Dobner Newsom, and two other black families also owned property in Fox Lake.
The black and white residents of the village seemed to get along well. The African-American men cast their ballots once the Wisconsin Supreme Court re-affirmed black suffrage in 1866, and black children attended school with their white neighbors. Prebbles served as the Fox Lake streets commissioner in the late 1870s, and Prebbles and Samuel Mathews often worked for the village. The Fox Lake Representative captured the local progressive political attitude with its masthead: “Equal Rights for All Men and Women – White or Black.”
The community reached its peak about 20 years after the Civil War. The 1880 census recorded 66 African-Americans in Fox Lake (out of a total population of 956) and 10 more nearby black residents, or 6.9 percent of the village’s population, one of the highest shares in the state. In that same census, Madison, with a population 10 times greater, counted only 63 African-Americans. The vibrant community supported one of Wisconsin’s earliest congregations of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, when Sarah Mathews and James Prebbles received a charter in 1872.
As the 19th century came to a close, however, the community splintered. Rising white resistance to social contact between the races and the mechanization of farm work encouraged many members of the second generation of Fox Lake’s “Negro Colony” to move away for better opportunities in places like Milwaukee and Chicago.
The black population dwindled. In 1884, the Netter family moved away; in 1896, Samuel Mathews died, and three years later James Prebbles died. Sarah Mathews’s death in 1914 marked the passing of the original generation of adult settlers. In about 1898, the remaining community members closed the A.M.E. Zion Church.
Although the memory of the local black community faded as the descendants of the original immigrants left town, settlements like the Fox Lake Negro Colony remain an important part of the Civil War’s legacy. In countless neighborhoods, towns and cities, sympathetic whites worked together with former slaves to make sense of their new world and to adapt to the reality of African-American freedom and citizenship. Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.
Sources: Unpublished manuscripts, biographical material and newspapers clippings, Harriet O’Connell Local History Room, Fox Lake Public Library; Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, Nov. 17, 1932; Newspaper clippings, E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks, vol. 4, Wisconsin Historical Society; Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, Nov. 17, 1932; J.B. Rogers, “War Pictures”; Levi Coffin, “Reminiscences of Levi Coffin“; Dodge County Citizen, April 16, 1863, and March 31, 1864; Sally Albertz, “Fond du Lac’s Black Community and Their Church”; Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865; George W. Nusom [sic] military service record, National Archives and Records Administration; Dodge County Citizen, Nov. 26, 1863; Beaver Dam Argus, April 15, 1863, and March 23 and April 13, 1864; Fox Lake Representative May 7, 1875; 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 United Stated Federal Census, Wisconsin; 1875, 1885, 1895, and 1905 Wisconsin State Census.
Gregory Bond, who received his doctorate in American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently researching the history of the Fox Lake Negro Colony.