When the past is present…
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When the past is present…
Imagine that you are a black student in 1957 preparing to go to Little Rock Central High School to attempt what seemed impossible — the integration of public schools. These students were aware of what the public thought of their entering into a “white” high school. They didn’t worry about fitting in. Most whites, including the governor at the time, Orval Faubus, stood against them. Most troubling to the students was the fact that many blacks thought that the integration of Central would cause more trouble for their race than good.
The night before Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Melba Pattillo, Jefferson Thomas, Ernest Green, Minniejean Brown, Carlotta Walls, Terrence Roberts and Gloria Ray, or the “Little Rock Nine” as history remembers them, were to enter into high school was not a peaceful night of sleep. It was a night filled with hate. Faubus declared that integration was an impossibility in a televised statement and instructed the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High and keep all blacks out of the school. They did keep them out for that first day of class.
[An adult activist] Daisy Bates instructed the students to wait for her on Wednesday, the second day of school, and planned for all nine students and herself to enter the school together. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine, did not have a phone. She never received the message and attempted to enter the school alone through the front entrance. An angry mob met her, threatening to lynch her, as the Arkansas National Guard looked on. Fortunately, two whites stepped forward to aid her and she escaped without injury. The other eight were also denied admittance by the National Guard who were under orders from Governor Faubus.
[Finally, on September 25th,] President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the nine students. Each student had their own guard. The students did enter Central High and were protected somewhat, but they were the subject of persecution. Students spat at them, beat them, and yelled insults. White mothers pulled their children out of school, and even blacks told the nine to give up. Why did they stay under such hostile situations? Ernest Green says “We kids did it mainly because we didn’t know any better, but our parents were willing to put their careers, and their homes on the line.”
…These nine students, although they didn’t realize it then, made huge waves in the civil rights movement. Not only did they show that blacks COULD fight for their rights and WIN, they also brought the idea of segregation to the forefront of people’s minds. They showed the nation what extreme and horrible measures some whites would take to protect segregation. No doubt, the events at Central High inspired many lunch counter sit ins and Freedom Rides and inspired blacks to take up the cause of Civil Rights. If these nine children could take on the huge task, they could too.
Read the full article about the “Crisis,” as it is called in Little Rock, here.
Additional resources here.
In her new book,What’s the Matter With White People?: Why We Long For a Golden Age That Never Was, Joan Walsh, editor-at-large for Salon.com, tells the story of the white working class in 20th- and 21st-century America.
Using her personal journey growing up in a blue-collar, Irish Catholic family, Walsh offers a window into the hopes, fears, racial anxieties and political leanings of a group who have become in some ways all but invisible in a post-All in the Family era.
Walsh also uses the election of the nation’s first African-American president – and subsequent backlash from the far-right – as an opportunity to explore racial politics, given that mainstream American identity is largely defined vis-a-vis whiteness. As the browning of America continues, the Republican Party’s platform is increasingly invested in using race to divide and conquer. Walsh explores the dog-whistle politics – particularly around the issue of welfare – that have been central to America’s political discourse since the implementation of Nixon’s Southern strategy and the rise of the Reagan-Democrats: namely, disgruntled white working-class voters who are socially conservative and have been encouraged, often unknowingly, to resent the black, the brown and the poor.
Her book examines the fallacy that minorities have benefited from affirmative action at the expense of whites and explains why many poor and middle-class white Americans vote Republican, even against their own economic interests.
Read the interview with Joan Walsh here.
At least two recent incidents in which empty chairs were hung from trees by rope have critics decrying what they say are racially offensive displays meant to symbolize the “lynching” of President Barack Obama.
In Austin, Texas, a homeowner hung an empty folding chair from a tree branch in front of his house and later attached an American flag to it. He reportedly told a Democratic political blogger who said she had concerns, “You can take it and go straight to hell and take Obama with you.”
In Centreville, Va., an empty chair with a sign reading “Nobama” was strung from a tree in or near a park. “In short, this appears to be a crude metaphor for the lynching of President Obama,” wrote the blogger who posted the photo.
The image of an empty chair has been associated with Obama ever since Clint Eastwood’s headline-grabbing, non-conformist speech at the Republican National Convention three weeks ago in Tampa, Fla. The 82-year-old actor-director talked to an empty chair as if the Democratic president were sitting in it, criticizing and mocking the “invisible Obama” for 12 minutes.
“When somebody doesn’t do the job, you’ve got to let them go,” Eastwood said before making a throat-slashing gesture.
Read more here.
On this date in 1905, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company was founded by a former slave, Alonzo Franklin Herndon. It is the largest black-owned stockholder insurance company in America.
A sharecropper from Social Circle, GA., Herndon parlayed his haircutting skills into the finest men’s barbershop in Atlanta, catering to the white businessmen who populated Peachtree Street until his shop was damaged during the 1905 Atlanta race riots. An indomitable entrepreneur, Herndon was a real estate investor, a world traveler, an amateur architect, a pillar of black Atlanta, and its wealthiest black man. His mansion, built by black artisans in 1910, today abuts the Morris Brown College campus and is listed on the national register of historic homes on Diamond Hill.
The company that Herndon founded with a $140 investment was the outgrowth of one of the many benevolent societies catering to low and moderate-income consumers. Salesmen sold the company’s low cost industrial insurance door-to-door at a time when, perhaps, they were the only black men passing through a southern town wearing suits and ties.
Continuing to serve its traditional customer base, Atlanta Life became a household name to black families throughout 17 states. Its salespeople collected premiums weekly and the company became woven into the fabric of the communities it served through its strong civic involvement and through its pivotal role in the underpinnings of the civil rights movement. For instance, it was quietly responsible for providing bail for countless students arrested during the sit-in movement. Atlanta Life continues to serve its community by sponsoring cultural and educational events.
Read more here.
On this date in 1664, Maryland passed the first anti-amalgamation law. This law was intended to prevent marriages between Black men and English women.
Interracial marriage was a fairly common practice during the colonial era among white indentured servants and black slaves as well as in more aristocratic circles.
Subsequently, similar laws were passed in Virginia 1691, Massachusetts 1705, North Carolina 1715, South Carolina 1717, Delaware 1721 and Pennsylvania in 1725. Intermarriage bans were lifted during Reconstruction in the early 1870′s, but by the end of the decade mixed marriages were declared void. It wasn’t until the 1950′s and 1960′s that all of these laws were lifted again.
However in October, 1958, a Virginia grand jury indicted Mildred Loving and her white husband for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Each pleaded guilty and received a one-year sentence. Their sentences were suspended providing they leave Virginia and not return for twenty-five years. The Loving’s appealed that decision to the U. S. Supreme court in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 and won. The Supreme Court struck down the Virginia law and similar laws in fifteen other states at the time.
Read more here.
The first feature-length documentary by talented Kenyan director Lupita Nyong’o, In My Genes, follows eight individual Kenyans who have one thing in common: they were born with albinism, a genetic condition that causes a lack of pigmentation.
In many parts of Africa, including Kenya, it is a condition that marginalizes, stereotypes, and even endangers those who have it. Though highly visible in a society that is predominantly black, the reality of living with albinism is invisible to most. Through her intimate portraits, Ms. Nyong’o lets us see their challenges, their humanity, and their everyday triumphs.
[In addition to her filmmaking, Ms. Nyong'o has] been cast in quite a meaty role in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave. [Produced by Brad Pitt, this movie in production also stars Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and other well-known actors.]
Read more about the filmmaker and the film In My Genes here.
Read more about Twelve Years a Slave here.
Nine-year-old Amor “Lilman” Arteaga of Flatbush, Brooklyn is so irate over the continuing pants sagging trend that he wrote a rap about it — aptly titled “Pull Ya Pants Up.”
The song sends a punch with the catchy hook, “Think that your swaggin’, ’cause your pants are saggin’? Pull your pants up! Pull your pants up!”
Amor punctuates his message with the line, “It’s not just your pants, your pulling us all down!”
His message is catching on. The pint-sized performer has already debuted his first single to “cheering crowds,” according to the Daily News….
In fact, pants sagging is seen as so distasteful that some locales across America have passed ordinances banning the practice. Even President Obama has weighed in on the style, stating “brothers should pull up their pants. You’re walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing.”
Amor’s inspiration for penning the timely ditty with his dad, Juan, was similar to those feelings voiced by the president.“It’s disrespectful showing your butt off,” the fourth grader said. “I’m always seeing boys, girls, rappers, singers — everyone is sagging out.”
Amor hopes to next bring “Pull Ya Pants Up” to the airwaves with appearances on BET and radio play. Until then, he will continue creating music focusing on social issues such as violence.
On this day we remember the Christiana Resistance, the first slave revolt against the Fugitive Slave Laws.
William Parker, an escaped former slave from Roedown Plantation in Maryland, was an anti-slavery activist and a principal character in the events of September 11, 1851 in Christiana, Pennsylvania. The Christiana “Incident” resulted in the death of a Maryland slaveowner. It brought the attention of the country to the perils and challenges of attempting to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
Parker had escaped to Christiana, Pennsylvania, near the Maryland border, where he married and settled. Inspired by the speeches of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, Parker encouraged members from the community to form a mutual protection society. Slave catchers would often come into the area seeking escaped slaves to return to their slaveholders. They were paid handsomely for their services and in many cases would capture freed blacks as well.
Parker and other members of the mutual protection society were well known for using whatever force necessary to prevent the recapture of blacks in the area. They had a great intelligence network to know when slave catchers were about and would readily spring into action to retrieve any captives before they could be taken back across state lines. If the laws of the country would not protect them, their family, friends and neighbors, then they would protect themselves.
One such incident of resistance occurred on September 11, 1851 when a slaveholder from Maryland, Edward Gorsuch, came bearing a warrant to recover his slaves. Gorsuch had information that his slaves were at Parker’s farmhouse. Parker had received intelligence that Gorsuch, a federal marshal and others were on their way to his farmhouse. So when Gorsuch arrived, Parker and his cohorts were prepared. Eliza, Parker’s wife, sounded a horn alerting neighbors that slave catchers were out and that help was needed. Both sides were resolute in their determination to prevail – Parker convinced of the immorality of slavery – Gorsuch confident in the law and his right to own slaves. There are conflicting stories of why and how the shooting started but in the end Gorsuch was dead and his son severely wounded.
U.S. Marines were brought in to stabilize the situation. There was significant pressure from the South to obtain justice for Gorsuch, the slain white slaveowner. Following an extensive search, a group of 38 men (including four white Quakers) were accused of treason for their defiance of the federal order. All the accused were eventually released, signalling a major win in the fight against slavery and strengthening the resolve of anti-slavery forces across the country.
Parker went into hiding that fateful evening. Using the underground railroad he later made his way to Rochester, New York where Frederick Douglass assisted him into Canada. He, his wife, and their three children eventually found their way to a black settlement in Buxton, Ontario where they purchased a 50-acre lot of land and had more children.
It’s no secret that black and brown men are leading the numbers of incarcerated in America, but what is a mystery is how this country plans to rehabilitate its inmates.
Enter Southern University System President Ron Mason and his “Five Fifths Agenda for America,” which proposes that HBCUs take a vested interest in the intellectual lives of prisoners.
Enter Southern University System President Ron Mason and his “Five Fifths Agenda for America,” which proposes that HBCUs take a vested interest in the intellectual lives of prisoners. “Try to envision most HBCUs making the investment in admissions and recruitment to uncover the ‘hidden stars;’ Black men who don’t have the test scores or grades to qualify for regular admission, but have demonstrated a talent and character indicating a solid probability of college completion and life success.”
Read more here.
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have challenged a U.S. federal judge’s ruling that would allow a black state supreme court justice to become the court’s next chief justice.
Jindal, who is Indian-American, on Friday asked an appeals court to review a lower-court decision to allow black justice Bernette Johnson’s to succeed a white chief justice retiring next year. The dispute over whether Johnson should be the first black justice to head the Louisiana court has highlighted long-standing racial tensions in the state.
In a statement released by one of his lawyers, Jindal said the matter should be settled by the Louisiana Supreme Court and the federal government should not be involved. A lawyer for Johnson called Jindal’s position a throwback to the days when Southern states used the principle of “states rights” as a smokescreen for racism.
Read more here.