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When the past is present…


African-American Genealogy Conference: Looking for a Home

Black Homestead (WI Historical Society)

Black Homestead (WI Historical Society)




Experience a two-day adventure into African-American genealogy, featuring internationally known genealogist, author and lecturer, Tony Burroughs. African-American Genealogy Conference: Looking for a Home will be held June 21-22 at the Pyle Center in Madison. View or download a flier describing the African-American genealogical resources available at the Wisconsin Historical Society (PDF 141 KB).

The featured speaker, Tony Burroughs, taught at Chicago State University. His book, “Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African-American Family Tree,” was number one on Essence magazine’s bestseller list.


Other speakers include:

Black Family Portrait (WI Historical Society)

Black Family Portrait (WI Historical Society)

  • Walter T. McDonald, co-author of “Finding Freedom: The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave.”
  • Crystal Moten, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison history department, will talk about “Finding and Telling Their Stories: Black Women’s Lives and Experiences in the Historical Record.”
  • James Hansen, Wisconsin Historical Society genealogy reference librarian, will discuss “African-American Newspapers and Periodicals.”
  • Lori Bessler, a Wisconsin Historical Society genealogy reference librarian who also teaches genealogy classes, will discuss “Navigating Ancestry and FamilySearch.”

This event is co-hosted by the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Madison African-American Genealogy Writing Group.

Hotel Accommodations:

Downtown hotels are filling up quickly because of other events being held on campus this weekend. We have arranged for a block of rooms at Lowell Center (610 Langdon St, just down the block from the Pyle Center). Phone 608-256-2621 and provide the group code name “home.”

Ticket InfoView or download a brochure and registration form that includes information about fees (PDF 217 KB). Email the library to confirm a registration spot in this conference.

Venue: Pyle Center

Address: 702 Langdon St

City: Madison


On This Date in History, May 31, 1921: The Tulsa Race Riot

From Wikipedia

The Greenwood District in happier days, pre-riot. The building with the tile roof, midway back on the left, was the only one still standing since the riot. It now serves as the Cultural Center.

The Greenwood District in happier days, pre-riot. The building with the tile roof, midway back on the left, was the only one still standing since the riot. It now serves as the Greenwood Cultural Center. (See photo below)

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, the white citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked the city’s black citizens, following the publication of a sensationalized story of a black man assaulting a white woman in an elevator. The Greenwood District, also known as the “Black Wall Street,” the wealthiest black community in the United States, was burned to the ground.

Flourishing businesses burn during the riot. The area was completely decimated. (Tulsa Historical Society)

Flourishing businesses burn during the riot. The area was completely decimated. (Tulsa Historical Society)

In one of the nation’s worst acts of terrorism and racial violence, 35 square blocks of homes and businesses were torched by mobs of angry whites.

The riot began because of the alleged assault of a white elevator operator, 17-year old Sarah Page, by an African American shoeshiner, 19-year old Dick Rowland (the case against Mr. Rowland was eventually dismissed). The Tulsa Tribune got word of the incident and chose to publish the story in the paper on May 31, 1921. Shortly after the newspaper article surfaced, there was news that a white lynch mob was going to take matters into its own hands and kill Dick Rowland.

A group of armed white men congregated outside the jail and, subsequently, a group of African American men joined the assembled crowd in order to protect Dick Rowland.

Black men marching to the jail to protect Rowland from being lynched, before the start of the race riot. (Tulsa Historical Society)

Black men marching to the jail to protect Rowland from being lynched, before the start of the race riot. (Tulsa Historical Society)

There was an argument in which a white man tried to take a gun from a black man, and the gun fired a bullet up into the sky. This incident promoted many others to fire their guns, and the violence erupted on the evening of May 31, 1921. Whites flooded into the Greenwood district and destroyed the businesses and homes of African American residents. No one was exempt from the violence of the white mobs; men, women, and even children were killed by the mobs.

Troops were eventually deployed on the afternoon of June 1, but by that time there was not much left of the once thriving Greenwood district. Over 600 successful businesses were lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. Note—It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six blacks owned their own planes.

A black man being detained during the riot, while white men watch from across the tracks. (Courtesy of the Tulsa Historical Society.)

A black man being detained during the riot, while white men watch from across the tracks. (Courtesy of the Tulsa Historical Society.)

It was suspected by many blacks that the entire thing was planned because many white men, women and children stood on the borders of the city and watched as blacks were shot, burned and lynched. In addition, some of the black-owned airplanes were stolen by the white mob and used to throw cocktail bombs & dynamite sticks from the sky. Property damage totaled $1.5 million (1921). Although the official death toll claimed that 26 blacks and 13 whites died during the fighting, most estimates are considerably higher. At the time of the riot, the American Red Cross estimated that over 300 persons were killed. The Red Cross also listed 8,624 persons in need of assistance, in excess of 1,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and the delivery of several stillborn infants.

By A. G. Sulzberger, The New York Times, June 19, 2011

TULSA, Okla. — With their guns firing, a mob of white men charged across the train tracks that cut a racial border through this city. A 4-year-old boy named Wess Young fled into the darkness with his mother and sister in search of safety, returning the next day to discover that their once-thriving black community had burned to the ground.

Homes of African Americans burning during the race riot. (Tulsa Historical Society.)

Homes of African Americans burning during the race riot. (Tulsa Historical Society.)

The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.

Wess Young was 4 years old when he fled with his family from the riot. (Brandi Simons, The New York Times.)

Wess Young was 4 years old when he fled with his family from the riot. (Brandi Simons, The New York Times.)

Ever since the story was unearthed by historians and revealed in uncompromising detail in a state government report a decade ago — it estimated that up to 300 people were killed and more than 8,000 left homeless — the black men and women who lived through the events have watched with renewed hope as others worked for some type of justice on their behalf.

But even as the city observed the 90th anniversary this month, the efforts to secure recognition and compensation have produced a mixed record of success.1

Memorial on the grounds of the Greenwood Cultural Center. (Brandi Simon, The New York Times)

Memorial on the grounds of the Greenwood Cultural Center. (Brandi Simon, The New York Times)

The riot will be taught for the first time in Tulsa public schools next year but remains absent in many history textbooks across the United States. Civic leaders built monuments to acknowledge the riot, including a new Reconciliation Park, but in the wake of failed legislative and legal attempts, no payments were ever delivered for what was lost.

Griot’s Note:

1The Greenwood Cultural Center, dedicated on October 22, 1995, was created as a tribute to Greenwood’s history and as a symbol of hope for the community’s future. The center has a museum, an African American art gallery, a large banquet hall, and housed the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame until 2007. The total cost of the center was almost $3 million. The cultural center is a very important part of the reconstruction and unity of the Greenwood Historical District.The Greenwood Cultural Center sponsors and promotes education and cultural events preserving African American heritage. It also provides positive images of North Tulsa to the community, attracting a wide variety of visitors, not only to the center itself, but also to the city of Tulsa as a whole.

Homes of African Americans burning during the race riot. Courtesy of the Tulsa Historical Society.)

The Greenwood Cultural Center has an extensive exhibit about the Tulsa Race Riot.

In 2011, the Greenwood Cultural Center lost 100% of its funding from the State of Oklahoma. As a result, the center may be forced to close its doors. A fundraising campaign is now underway to try to raise private funds to keep the educational and cultural facility open.

Read the entire NYT story here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Cheerios Commercial Featuring Mixed Race Family Gets Racist Backlash

By , the Huffington Post

An adorable Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple and their daughter generated such a strong racist backlash on YouTube that the comments section had to be closed.

The ad had received more than 1,600 likes and more than 500 dislikes as of Thursday evening.

Prior to the closure, the comment section had been filled “with references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes’ and ‘racial genocide,'” according to Adweek.

YouTube comment sections have a reputation for breeding racist flame wars. CNN focused on the issue earlier this year, after a panel addressing racism and race on YouTube was held at South By Southwest:

“Everyone gets hate comments on YouTube,” said Andre Meadows, the creator of the Black Nerd Comedy channel. “You can make the most wonderful video in the world and you will get ‘Fake!’ and ‘Gay!'”But for minority creators, “when you get comments, it seems to be targeted toward race almost immediately. A lot of people get ‘dumb video, stupid video’ — but with mine it immediately goes to racial slurs.”

Commenters on the cereal’s Facebook page also said they found the commercial “disgusting” and that it made them “want to vomit.” Other hateful commenters expressed shock that a black father would stay with his family.

However, many took to Facebook to express their appreciation for Cheerios’ decision to feature a mixed-race family.

“Having been mixed in the ’70s, I’d like to thank everyone at Cheerios for making a commercial with an interracial couple! Going to buy boxes today! Many thanks for reflecting what my family looked like,” Beschelle Lockhart posted Monday.

“Just watched your commercial with the biracial family. Beautiful. Thank you so much,” Alexandra Burt wrote.

Cheerios was unfazed by the racist Internet backlash. “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all,” Camille Gibson, Cheerios vice president of marketing, told Gawker.

For more Breaking News, click here.


It’s Not Your Grandmother’s NAACP

The 104-year-old organization is working to dispel myths that it’s black-only and mired in the past.

By Jenée Desmond-Harris,

In 2005 the NAACP took a look at its membership and, more important, the people who were not members. There was the robust Youth & College Division, but then, as National Board Chairman Roslyn Brock puts it, “After you’re 25, we lose you — you’re graduating from college, starting your family, starting your career. Then folks come back to NAACP around their late 40s, 50s, and they literally stay until God calls them home.”

National Board of Directors Chairman Roslyn M. Brock and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous

National Board of Directors Chairman Roslyn M. Brock and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous

She wanted to change that. The Leadership 500 Summit, a conference held for the ninth year this weekend, was designed to get the attention of professionals in that missing generation. Its explicit agenda: Recruit movers and shakers between the ages of 30 and 50, teach them about the NAACP’s work, dispel myths about what the 104-year-old civil rights organization is (black-only, nonprogressive and old, to name a few of those myths) and send attendees home ready to become active members and lead the group into the future….

[Chairman Roslyn Brock told The Root],

The NAACP has been around for 104 years, but everybody in it is not 104 years old. When you come here and you see who our thought leaders are, who our president and CEO has hired and attracted, you’ll see some of the best and brightest professionals that you will see anywhere.

So through this event and through social media, we’re saying, “Come home to the NAACP. Because courage should not skip this generation.”…

[She also spoke about other myths about the NAACP]:

…[S]ome might think we’re not progressive, or that we kind of stayed back in the old days. But our ability to push the envelope is not only marriage equality — it’s environmental justice, for example. Many don’t know that we have a very robust emerging program around climate change and economic justice in communities of color.

Also, we have white Americans who are presidents of our local branches, of our local college chapters, and we’re doing a good job of widening our net of black and brown, yellow and others to come to the NAACP, because we believe that “colored” people come in all colors, and our cause is not a black cause; it is an American cause.

Read the full article and interview here.

Learn about, and if you wish, join the NAACP here.

See more Breaking News here.



Obama at Morehouse: Try Another Listen

You might find that attacks on his commencement speech — a hit among graduates — missed the mark.

By Jack White,

It’s been evident since Obama’s first election that America was dividing into two different worlds, broadly defined by demographics. He was swept into office by a relatively youthful, ethnically diverse coalition in which huge majorities of blacks and Hispanics were allied with a minority of whites. His opponents consisted mainly of older whites unsettled by the emergence of a new America. These were people, as I wrote some years ago, who “went to sleep in their America on Election Day 2008 and woke up in another country, as though they had been swept up in a spaceship and transported to an alien world.”

But now, if we can judge by the disagreement between highbrows such as Coates and Capehart, a similar disjunction may be starting to develop in some rarefied

Leland Shelton is congratulated as he is acknowledged by President Obama in Sunday's Morehouse College commencement address. After a difficult childhood, Mr. Shelton graduated Phi Beta Kappa and is headed to Harvard Law School. (Associated Press)

Leland Shelton is congratulated as he is acknowledged by President Obama in Sunday’s Morehouse College commencement address. After a difficult childhood, Mr. Shelton graduated Phi Beta Kappa and is headed to Harvard Law School. (Associated Press)

segments of black America. Obama’s conservative white critics twist his every word and action into further proof that he is a socialist, crypto-Muslim bent on destroying the country. In much the same way, his emerging cadre of black, usually leftish, critics interpret his every move as evidence that he is a pro-establishment cynic using his speeches to black folks to send coded “Sister Souljah” speech messages to white folks. They’re determined to find fault with Obama even when he does something right — and in this case at least, they are as out of touch as the president’s right-wing opponents.

That’s the conclusion I reached after rereading Obama’s Morehouse remarks in light of the strong critiques from Coates and Kai Wright, my esteemed former colleague at The Root. I didn’t hear the “convenient race talk” that Coates detected or the browbeating that troubled Wright. I didn’t even hear the voice of a politician.

I heard the voice of my father.

It could have been my dad lecturing me across the dinner table when Obama declared, “You have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by.”

And again, when he admonished the graduates to “be a good role model, set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know somebody who’s not on point, go back and bring that brother along. Those who’ve been left behind, who haven’t had the same opportunities we have — they need to hear from you.”

And yet again, when he urged them to “recognize the burdens you carry with you, but to resist the temptation to use them as excuses. To transform the way we think about manhood, and set higher standards for ourselves and for others. To be successful, but also to understand that each of us has responsibilities not just to ourselves, but to one another and to future generations. Men who refuse to be afraid. Men who refuse to be afraid.”

Those are the messages that my father, a medical-school professor at Howard University who died 25 years ago, pounded into my head as I was growing up, and that I’ve tried to convey to my own children.

Read the full article and the description of the debate about the speech here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Job Post: The African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI) seeks experienced Curator

African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI), IA

The African American Museum of Iowa

The African American Museum of Iowa

55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, 319-862-2101

Curator Position: The African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI) seeks a dynamic and experienced museum professional to serve as full time Curator.

Supervisory Responsibilities: The curator will be expected to supervise a variety of interns, and temporary staff as available.

Key Responsibilities:

(Exhibition Related)

  • Conduct scholarly research to support annually changing exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, and temporary exhibitions throughout the state. Write exhibition text, labels, and supporting promotional materials.
  • Manage exhibition content, loaned objects, insurance paperwork, etc.
  • Prepare and adhere to exhibition budgets.
  • Select and manage exhibition advisory committees.
  • Oversee and assist with all exhibition design and layout aspects, including signage, wall construction, lighting, object placement, etc.
  • Write grants that pertain to the curator function.

(Collections Related)

  • Function as Registrar, Collections Manager, and Archivist.
  • Manage all incoming archival and artifact donations, in accordance with the AAMI’s mission.
  • Monitor and care for the AAMI’s object, archival, textile, and photograph collections, both on display in permanent and temperate galleries and in storage. Monitor AAMI climate and humidity.
  • Conduct basic conservation work, as needed.
  • Maintain PastPerfect 5.0 museum records for archives, objects, photographs, oral histories, and library materials.


  • BA in history, museum studies, or other related field, with academic courses in African American studies preferred.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, professional demeanor, and diplomatic skills.
  • Ability to successfully interact with internal and external individuals of diverse background, including donors, dignitaries, committees, and members.
  • Must be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite. Experience with Adobe Creative Suite is a plus.
  • Writing sample to be provided upon request.

Application Process:
Qualified applicants please send your cover letter, resume, and three professional references to Michael Kates at Application deadline is May 31, 2013.



Why there’s no ‘excuse’ for simplifying Obama’s message to Morehouse men

by James Braxton Peterson,

Interestingly enough, both the president’s detractors and his supporters will seize on the same soundbite from his address to the 2013 graduating class at Morehouse College.

In the speech, he basically makes two requests of the Morehouse graduating seniors – 1) In the Morehouse tradition, continue to expect more of yourself and 2) “inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves.”

President Obama’s Full Address

Fair enough.  The soundbite that supporters and detractors of Obama have and will zero in on is: “We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down.”

I am fairly convinced now that President Obama can not speak to an all or mostly black audience without generating some variation of diametrically opposed reactions.

Excuses, excuses…

Some have said that this is Obama appeasing his (not present) white audience by once again chastising black men for not being boot-strappy enough; others will say that he is too willing to excuse structural and institutional racism and inequality even as he claims that “we’ve got no time for excuses.”

Supporters will claim that this is one of the most personal speeches that the president has ever given and they will laud his truth-telling and willingness to state the tough-love realities for black men.

I suspect the 2013 graduates of Morehouse College were mostly happy to have the POTUS as their commencement speaker – even if some of them align themselves with his critics.

The president’s recitation of “excuses” seems to resonate beyond this particular speech and may be more aptly

President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Cabinet in July 2012.

President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Cabinet in July 2012. Some African Americans are angry or disappointed that the President has brought so few black people into leadership in his administration – fewer than brought by his two predecessors Clinton and Bush.

indicative of how some of Obama’s critics (on the left) now see his presidency – emptied of its promise and too often excused by black folks and many in the media for under-performing on politics and policy issues dear to progressives. As a part of his rhetorical strategy to situate himself as an insider (with respect to the Morehouse community), President Obama recited the following:

“Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness….

But more and more black folk are growing weary of the excuses made by and for this administration in the face of diminished resources, high unemployment, and limited access to economic opportunity in the black community.

Read the full opinion piece here.

Read more Breaking News here.


Cleveland’s WEWS-TV Issues Apology For Report On Charles Ramsey’s Criminal Record


Cleveland’s WEWS-TV issued an apology on Thursday after the local news station reported on Charles Ramsey’s criminal record.

Ramsey was one of two neighbors who helped Amanda Berry, who had been kidnapped for 10 years, and two other women escape from captivity earlier this week. While he was hailed a hero for his role, his presence on TV was mocked and even auto-tuned. Al Sharpton defended Ramsey. “He kicks in a door to rescue those women and some are criticizing his diction?” Sharpton said of Ramsey.

Soon after his TV debut, reports surfaced about Ramsey’s record, one that reportedly included convictions for domestic violence. Multiple outlets, including WEWS, reported on Ramsey’s criminal past.

After facing backlash from viewers, WEWS apologized in a post on the station’s Facebook page.

TO OUR READERS & FOLLOWERS: We heard you. Wednesday night, we made a poor judgment call in posting a story about Charles Ramsey’s criminal record and how he’s since reformed. While the story was factually sound, the timing of it and publication of such information was not in good taste, and we regret it. Your comments prompted us to quickly remove the story from our website and Facebook page, but we know we can’t erase what we’ve already done. Ramsey is a hero for his actions, and we recognize that. Thank you so much for your feedback.

Read the original article Here

Read more Breaking News Here


Which Slave Wrote His Way Out of Slavery?

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,

This African penned a letter powerful enough to lead to freedom.

From the time when they first landed in Florida in the early 1500s, African Americans did their best to run away from the inhumane conditions of slavery. Over the course of slavery in the United States between 1513 and 1865, tens of thousands of people

Job ben Solomon, 1733, by William Hoare. Oil on canvas. Qatar Museums Authority/Orientalist Museum, Doha, Qatar

Job ben Solomon, 1733, by William Hoare.                          Oil on canvas.
Qatar Museums Authority/Orientalist Museum,              Doha, Qata

managed to escape, first south from the Carolinas and Georgia to the haven afforded by Spanish Florida before 1763, and later,north from the Southern colonies and states across the Mason-Dixon Line. More than a hundred of these “fugitive slaves,” as they were called, even wrote or dictated books about their deliverance from bondage, detailing how they were able to escape. While each escape was something of a miracle, some of the methods that they used are astonishing.

Everyone has their favorite slave narratives, as the genre of books is called. My own short list includes the stories of Henry Brown, William and Ellen Craft and Frederick Douglass. In 1838 Frederick Douglass donned a sailor’s uniform, sewn by his soon-to-be wife, who was free, and rode a train from Baltimore to Philadelphia disguised as a free man using papers he had obtained from a free black seaman. In 1848 Ellen Craft, who had a very light complexion, did a double cross-dress as white man and, accompanied by her dark-complexioned husband, rode to freedom on a train ride from Macon, Ga., to Philadelphia, masked as master and slave. A year later Henry “Box” Brown actually had himself nailed into a wooden, claustrophobic, coffin-like box, and then shipped from slavery in Richmond to freedom in Philadelphia.

But the oddest way that a slave escaped from slavery, to me, without a doubt, is the story of Ayuba.

Ayuba wrote his way out of slavery. As incredible as this may seem, this is literally true. The man who came to be known in England as “Job ben Solomon” was born Ayuba Suleiman Jallo (or, in French, “Diallo”) into a prominent family in Bundu, an independent, precolonial country located in current-day Senegal….

Find out how Ayuba did it – and how he was involved in the slave trade – here.

Read Breaking News here.


Black Journalist Asks Why TV Shows Stereotyping Whites Aren’t Protested Like Black Shows

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

The fact that this was written by black journalist is even more perplexing to me.

Eric Deggans, TV and media critic, penned an op-ed for NPR titled On ‘Hicksploitation’ And Other White Stereotypes Seen On TV, in which he essentially laments what he sees as a double standard when it comes to TV shows that emphasize and exploit stereotypes of white people versus those that do the same of black people.

Honey Boo Boo and Mom. "What many forget is that it can be just as easy to stereotype white, working-class folks, and just as hard to scrub those stereotypes off your TV screen," says Eric Deegans.

Honey Boo Boo and Mom. “What many forget is that it can be just as easy to stereotype white, working-class folks, and just as hard to scrub those stereotypes off your TV screen,” says Eric Deegans.

In the piece, to argue his point, he cites shows like Here Comes Honey Boo BooJersey ShoreMob Wives and others, as examples of TV programming that exploit stereotypes of white people, and compares them to All My Babies’ Mamas – the Oxygen network reality TV series that drew protest and was eventually buried….

I certainly wouldn’t disagree with him on how problematic exploiting stereotypes in mass media can be. Although, as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said, the problem with stereotypes isn’t that they are wrong, but that they are INCOMPLETE!

LOVE that quote!

And that’s where Mr Deggans and I part ways. The reason he gives for why he thinks shows stereotyping white people haven’t seen similar protests as those stereotyping black people, MJS dudek08p.jpgignores one very important fact. And that is, referencing Adichie’s quote above, in mass media, there is, and has always been, a far more COMPLETErepresentation of white people. Black people simply haven’t had that luxury. Since the invention of the medium that is television (and let’s throw in cinema as well), America (and really the world) has been inundated with a wealth of VARIED representations of white people on screen. For every Honey Boo Boo, there are scores of other kinds of depictions of white people of all classes, on TV and in film. And these images dominate our screens, and have done so for a century, and continue to do so….

Read the complete article here.

Read more Breaking News here.