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When the past is present…

 

Rosa Parks Stamp to Be Unveiled on Her 100th Birthday, February 4th

Cassandra Spratling and Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press, for USA Today

DETROIT — The first national unveiling ceremonies for a commemorative U.S. Postal Service stamp honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks, will be held in Detroit and Dearborn, Mich., on Feb. 4.

This new "Forever" stamp will go on sale February 4, 2013.

This new “Forever” stamp will go on sale February 4, 2013.

Events at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn are expected to draw large crowds, including stamp collectors from around the country, on what would have been Parks’ 100th birthday.

The first Rosa Parks Forever stamps will be sold at the Wright museum, with a dedication ceremony starting at 7:30.a.m. The Henry Ford Museum, where the Rosa Parks bus is on permanent display, will host the First-Day-of-Issue stamp event at 10:45 a.m., as part of a daylong celebration dubbed the National Day of Courage.

Her 1955 arrest triggered the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. This was a part of the early Civil Rights Movement and the place that introduced Dr. King to the world as a leader.

Her 1955 arrest triggered the year-long Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. This was a part of the early Civil Rights Movement and the event that introduced Dr. King to the world.

Parks made history on Dec. 1, 1955, by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus — an act that spurred a movement to end legally sanctioned racial discrimination. She and her husband Raymond moved to Detroit in 1957.

Rosa Parks died Oct. 24, 2005, in Detroit, at the age of 92.

Rosa Parks died Oct. 24, 2005, in Detroit, at the age of 92.

Speakers at the Henry Ford event will include activist and former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Detroit for whom Parks worked as a secretary and receptionist from 1965-88.

Read more about the event here.

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True Believers in Justice: Attorney Travis Williams

By Dawn Porter, for the New York Times

I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, but unlike Travis Williams — the subject of this Op-Doc video — I never wanted to be a public defender. prison industrial complexI didn’t understand how anyone could represent people who did terrible things. “Criminals” were not people I wanted to help.

Then, in 2009, while working in the legal department at A&E Television, I met Jonathan Rapping, the founder of what’s now Gideon’s Promise. He invited me to his client-centered legal training program in Alabama. At the start of training, Mr. Rapping asked each lawyer to articulate why he or she chose to become a public defender. One young man said he had a brother with Down syndrome, so he wanted to help people who could not navigate the legal system for themselves. Another said he had been arrested as a teenager, so he wanted to help kids like him who didn’t know their rights. Their stories moved me. I learned more about the true state of the criminal justice system during that week than I knew from all my years practicing law. I wanted other people to learn about what they were doing and so I decided to make this film.

prisoner aloneI was horrified by what I learned about the criminal justice system. Innocent people, in prison for months or years, sometimes plead guilty to get out of jail; onerous sentences are too often given for minor crimes; people can lose civil rights, like the right to vote, as a result of criminal convictions. In America, a felony conviction can be a lifelong sentence. In America, a felony conviction can be a lifelong sentence because of this multitude of collateral consequences.

I also saw what a difference it made to have lawyers like Travis fighting hard for poor people’s rights. I saw him tell clients and their families that they were facing long sentences, outrageous bail terms or prison. But I saw him deliver even the worst news with compassion, and I saw him fight for every client. He’s inspired me to judge less and listen more, to try to put myself in the position of people who face a terribly structured system that often provides justice to neither the victim nor the accused. Thanks to Travis and the other young lawyers I met on this journey, I can proudly say I’m a “true believer” in their cause.

Watch Porter’s 6-minute video about Travis Williams, public defender and unsung hero, here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Fear of a Black Gun Owner

Ironically, the NRA used to support gun control — when the Black Panthers were packing.

By Edward Wyckoff Williams, theRoot.com

The gun-rights movement has been co-opted in the post-civil rights era. Loud voices both inside and outside the NRA use the claxons of government tyranny and fear of supposed “street thugs” to justify deregulation. The Second Amendment text that calls for a “well-regulated militia” is often ignored in favor of the ambiguous phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Black Panther Party leaders Bobby Black and Huey Newton

Black Panther Party leaders Bobby Black and Huey Newton called for an end to police brutality in black neighborhoods. The Black Panthers also provided many free services, such as breakfasts for kids, rides to prisons for family visits with inmates, classes, and sickle-cell testing.

 

…It seems the arguments and the players have been reversed. At its founding in 1871, the NRA was an organization dedicated to promoting marksmanship, firearms-safety education and shooting for recreation. Today it promotes utter irresponsibility and unfettered access to deadly weapons.

In just a few short decades, what was once a reasonable debate in Washington has become corrupted. In 1989, Republican President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order banning the importation of semiautomatic weapons. Bill Clinton followed suit in 1998 and, in 2001, banned the importation of assault pistols. Today the inmates are in control of the asylum, with Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee refusing to entertain any civilian restriction to military-style assault rifles.

But unlike Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the NRA and their GOP allies find it hard to justify unbridled support of gun ownership and access. As MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry brilliantly described in a recent segment, the Black Panthers may not have been what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they described “a well-regulated militia” taking up arms against the tyranny of the state, but that is exactly what they represented.

The Panthers sought to protect themselves and other law-abiding citizens against indiscriminate violence perpetrated by police forces.

Gun control has a strange history in the USA.

Gun control has a strange history in the USA.

But firepower in the hands of black men was — and still is — seen as dangerous and wildly inappropriate. Unless, of course, that violence is intraracial. When black males from Baltimore to Chicago shoot each other, policymakers hardly notice. Apathy breeds inaction, and big business encourages that the status quo be maintained.

The justified anger that informed decisions by the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers to fully embrace their Second Amendment rights has been bastardized by contemporary arguments for lax gun control. And as money continues to corrupt, it only gets worse.

Read the full article here.

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Celebrating the ‘complete’ Martin Luther King Jr.; unfinished work and all

By Blair L. M. Kelley, theGrio.com

My 9-year old daughter came home this week raving about her class and their discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Homes, an infamously poor and overcrowded public housing project in Chicago, in the 1960s. (Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Homes, an infamously poor and overcrowded public housing project in Chicago, in the 1960s. (Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

She declared that she loved learning about his life and that she was thankful to him because without King, no change would have been possible in America on the question of race. I am a historian of African-American history specializing in social movements, so I quickly moved to correct her. Of course change would have happened, even if King had never lived! I described to her other leaders. I reminded her that movements don’t function because of just one great man. I told her that King was not a perfect person, and that even he had come short of meeting all his goals. In the end, I even resorted to reminding her that I wrote a book on a movement that took place 35 years before King was even born.

Clearly my daughter didn’t care. She insisted that her school would not be integrated, and that her whole world would not have been the same without King’s leadership.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that most people feel the same way about King that my daughter does….

President Lyndon Baines Johnson gives the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pen he used to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon Baines Johnson gives the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pen he used to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

As an icon, King is often thought of as flawless, so that we rarely reflect on his failures as a movement leader. Our collective memory of King only touches on the high points…We tend not to remember the moments when King faltered or searched for the right direction. We don’t recall the indecision about what to do next after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the challenge of the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement campaign, or his unfulfilled Poor People’s Campaign — cut short by his tragic assassination in 1968. These moments are forgotten when King is not remembered in his broader context.

It is especially telling that Chicago, Illinois was the site of one of King’s most difficult campaigns. King and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, were drawn into the struggle in the urban North after the Los Angeles riots of 1965. While the southern movement had been making strides in dismantling segregation and disfranchisement, the problems of black residents in the urban North and West had not gained sustained national attention.

Read about Dr. King’s Chicago campaign – and more – here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

Where Was the 1st Underground Railroad?

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr., theRoot.com

We have all been regaled with stories about our slave ancestors escaping from the harsh life of the plantations in the South,

undergrd railroad finding their freedom in the North by “following the North Star” through alligator- and snake-infested swamps, hiding by day in dense forests, braving the elements, dangerous animals and disease-bearing mosquitos and eventually finding freedom across the Mason-Dixon Line, frequently guided by that courageous conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman.

Few elements of African-American history have been more mythologized or misunderstood than the legendary Underground Railroad….

But the question for today is, “Where was the first Underground Railroad?” I think that the answer will surprise you, just as it surprised me when we filmed this story for my forthcoming PBS series, Many Rivers to Cross: The History of the African American People.

It stands to reason that slaves in the Southern states had to flee north to gain their freedom, following the metaphorical “drinking gourd” (as the Big Dipper was called), right? And this was certainly the case after 1830, when what we now call the Underground Railroad came into common usage in the press. So you will be forgiven if you think that this has always been true. Actually, the very first slaves in what is now the United States fled to their freedom by running south, not north.

How could this have been possible?

Read the answer here.

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2nd Amendment Passed to Protect Slavery? No!

A legal scholar lambastes a Truthout article claiming that it was for preserving slave-patrol militias.

By Paul Finkelman, PhD, theRoot.com

Recently Thom Hartmann published an essay on Truthout titled “The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.”2ndamendmt and gun Hartmann, who is described on the Internet as a radio host, author, former psychotherapist and entrepreneur and a progressive political commentator, said the amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended, in part, to protect slave-patrol militias.

If Hartmann’s political goal is to argue for reasonable firearms regulations, then he and I are in the same camp. I have long argued that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms, and that the purpose of the amendment was purely to guarantee that the states could maintain their own militias. I have also written a great deal on how the Constitution protected slavery (see my book Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson), and I am not shy about pointing out how the founders protected slavery. Indeed, my most recent public comment on slavery and the founding was an op-ed in the New York Times on Jefferson and slavery titled “The Monster of Monticello.”

Still, however committed one may be to a political outcome, it serves no purpose to make historical arguments that are demonstrably wrong, misleading and inconsistent with what happened. Hartmann does not serve his cause well by purporting to write history when his version of history is mostly wrong, and very misleading.

Read the complete, carefully argued refutation of Hartmann’s essay here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Leave a comment about this controversy below.

 

How We Can Truly Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Marion Wright Edelman, Huffington Post

At his death in 1968, when [Dr. King] was calling with urgency for an end to poverty in our nation, there were 25.4 million poor Americans including 11 million poor children and our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $4.13 trillion. Today there are 46.2 million poor people including 16.1 million poor children and our GDP is three times larger. Twenty million of our neighbors are living in extreme poverty including 7.3 million children.

Disgracefully children are the poorest age group in America and the younger they are the poorer they are and one in four preschool children is poor. More than one in three Black children and the same proportion of Latino children are poor. Children have suffered most since the recession began.

• The number of poor children – 16.1 million – exceeds the entire combined populations of Haiti and Liberia, two of the poorest countries on earth.

• The number of extremely poor children – 7.3 million – in our nation is greater than the population of Sierra Leone.

• The number of poor children under five – 5.0 million – exceeds the entire population of the state of South Carolina or Louisiana or Alabama.

I have no doubt that in our nation where the 400 highest income earners made as much as the combined tax revenues of 22 state governments with 42 million citizens in 2008, and the wealthiest top 1 percent hold more net wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. The rich don’t need another tax break and they need to give back some of their unfair share of our nation’s tax subsidies, loopholes and bailouts to feed and house and educate our children and employ their parents.

Let’s honor and follow Dr. King by naming and changing the continuing racial disparities, undergirded by poverty, that place one in three Black and one in six Hispanic boys born in 2001 at risk of prison in their lifetimes. Incarceration is the new American apartheid. Let’s reroute our children into a pipeline to college and productive work to compete with children from China and India.

Read the full article here.

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The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery

By Thom Hartmann, Truthout

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified…was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.

Slave patrols (called patrollers, pattyrollers or paddy rollers by the slaves) were organized groups of three to six white men who enforced discipline upon black slaves during the antebellum U.S. southern states. They policed the slaves on the plantations and hunted down fugitive slaves. Patrols used summary punishment against escapees, which included maiming or killing them. Beginning in 1704 in South Carolina, slave patrols were established and the idea spread throughout the southern states. The institution of policing in America can be traced back to the slave patrols. (Wikipedia)

Slave patrols were organized groups of three to six white men who enforced discipline upon black slaves during the antebellum U.S. southern states. They policed the slaves on the plantations and hunted down fugitive slaves. Patrols used summary punishment against escapees, which included maiming or killing them. Beginning in 1704 in South Carolina, slave patrols were established and the idea spread throughout the southern states. The institution of policing in America can be traced back to the slave patrols. (Wikipedia)

Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states….

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, “The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search ‘all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition’ and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds.”

It’s the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, “Why don’t they just rise up and kill the whites?”  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

A slave police badge. You can buy one online today.

A slave police badge. You can buy one online today.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, “Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller.” There were exemptions so “men in critical professions” like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work.  Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 – including physicians and ministers – had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

Read the rest of the article here.

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7 More Slave-Themed Films for You to Look Forward To in 2013

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act: Cinema of the African Diaspora

With just about every post on this site announcing the production of a movie centered around stories of slavery in the United States,

A scene from Twelve Years A Slave

A scene from Twelve Years A Slave

the inevitable question asked by readers, comes in the form of something like: what’s the deal with all these slave-themed movies?

Indeed… what’s the deal?

To summarize a recent post in which I gave one potential answer to that quesiton – Hollywood seems to be in a *celebratory* mood, if we can call it that, honoring the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, and those 4 years that would eventually lead to making slavery illegal in this country – USA. Although I should note that not every project is set in slavery-era USA….

If you’re already exhausted by what we can call “slave movie fever,” with films like Case départDjango andLincoln especially behind us (although conversation about those films continues – especially the last 2), you should know that there are several more on the way, scheduled to be released throughout 2013; and I thought I’d take a look at some of them (those that we’re currently aware of anyway), and hopefully get your prepped and ready for the wave that’s to come.

Read the rest of the article to see the list of movies with descriptions.

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Happy Birthday, Julian Bond, Civil Rights Hero!

From the African American Registry

Julian Bond, an African-American Civil rights activist and politician, was born on this date in 1940, in Nashville, TN.bond_julian300

In 1960, Bond was one of several hundred students who helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Five years later Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. He was barred from taking his seat in the House because of his outspoken statements against the Vietnam War and his sympathy for those unwilling to serve in the war. In December 1966, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor and he served four terms as representative and six terms in the Georgia Senate, from 1975-86…

bond, julian speaks at DNCBond served as chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2008. He continues to write and lecture about the history of the civil rights movement and the condition of African Americans and the poor. He is President Emeritus of the Southern Poverty Law Center….

Julian Bond is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C., and a faculty member in the history department at the University of Virginia.

Read the full article here.

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