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“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin

 

In the Turmoil Over Race and Policing, Children Pay a Steep Emotional Price

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Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Cameron Sterling being comforted at a vigil near where his father, Alton, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, La., last week. Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

In the past week alone, there was the 4-year-old girl in Falcon Heights, Minn., who was captured on video consoling her mother after they watched a police officer shoot the mother’s boyfriend through the window of a car. And there was the 15-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, La., who sobbed uncontrollably in front of television cameras after the similar shooting death of his father.

Then there were the four brothers, ages 12 to 17, whose mother was shot by the sniper who opened fire on officers in Dallas on Thursday night while the family was protesting police violence against blacks. The mother, who survived, threw herself atop one boy, as the others ran for their lives.

Again and again, children are finding themselves enmeshed in the country’s roiling debate over police treatment of African-Americans. The close-up views of violence, obviously traumatizing, are giving rise to a generation of young people who distrust authority, grow up well before their time and suffer nightmares that seem too real.

“As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of the boy in Louisiana who sobbed over the death of his father, Alton Sterling. “That I can’t take away from him.”

While adults around them protest and demand criminal justice reform, young witnesses of the carnage are reeling from their losses and harboring pent-up depression that often comes pouring out in panic attacks and breakdowns, relatives say.

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week. Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother’s room after Ms. Bland’s death last year in a jail cell.

“They are aware of what’s going in the world, of how you can leave your house and you can very well end up in a body bag,” said a sister of Ms. Bland’s, Shante Needham, whose four children continue to struggle with the death of their aunt. “They watch the news. They see all the stuff going on on Facebook. And it’s sad that kids even have to think like that, that if I get stopped by the police, I may not make it home.”…

Read the full article here.

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Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

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In Baton Rouge, La., a memorial to Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by the police on Tuesday. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times

In Baton Rouge, La., a memorial to Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by the police on Tuesday. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times

The vast majority of interactions between police officers and civilians end routinely, with no one injured, no one aggrieved and no one making the headlines. But when force is used, a new study has found, the race of the person being stopped by officers is significant.

The study of thousands of use-of-force episodes from police departments across the nation has concluded what many people have long thought, but which could not be proved because of a lack of data: African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.

The report, to be released Friday by the Center for Policing Equity, a New York-based think tank, took three years to assemble and largely refutes explanations from some police officials that blacks are more likely to be subjected to police force because they are more frequently involved in criminal activity.

The researchers said they did not gather enough data specifically related to police shootings to draw conclusions on whether there were racial disparities when it came to the fatal confrontations between officers and civilians so in the news….

Aislinn Sol, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago.

Aislinn Sol, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago.

African-American activists who have demanded greater police accountability since the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., set off days of rioting, said Thursday that the study was critical to the conversation, but far from surprising.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Is water wet?’” said Aislinn Sol, organizer of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter. “But what we gain with each study, each new piece of information is that we are able to win people over who are on the fence. The evidence is becoming overwhelming and incontrovertible that it is a systemic problem, rather than an isolated one.”…

The study found that the overall mean use-of-force rate for all black residents was 273 per 100,000, which is 3.6 times higher than the rate for white residents (76 per 100,000) and 2.5 times higher than the overall rate of 108 per 100,000 for all residents.

For those who were arrested, the mean rate of use of force against blacks was 46 for every 1,000 arrests, compared with 36 per 1,000 for whites….

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What White America Fails to See

By , Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times

IT is clear that you, white America, will never understand us. We are a nation of nearly 40 million black souls inside a nation of more than 320 million people. We don’t all think the same, feel the same, love, learn, live or even die the same.

But there’s one thing most of us agree on: We don’t want the cops to kill us without fear that they will ever face a jury, much less go to jail, even as the world watches our death on a homemade video recording.

A combination of images show the dying moments of Philando Castile, a black man shot by Minnesota police after he was pulled over while driving. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the scene on her Facebook page. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A combination of images show the dying moments of Philando Castile, a black man shot by Minnesota police after he was pulled over while driving. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the scene on her Facebook page. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

You will never understand the helplessness we feel in watching these events unfold, violently, time and again, as shaky images tell a story more sobering than your eyes are willing to believe: that black life can mean so little. That Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile, black men whose deaths were captured on film this past week, could be gone as we watch, as a police officer fires a gun. That the police are part of an undeclared war against blackness.

You can never admit that this is true. In fact, you deem the idea so preposterous and insulting that you call the black people who believe it racists themselves. In that case the best-armed man will always win.

You say that black folks kill each other every day without a mumbling word while we thunderously protest a few cops, usually but not always white, who shoot to death black people who you deem to be mostly “thugs.”

That such an accusation is nonsense is nearly beside the point. Black people protest, to one another, to a world that largely refuses to listen, that what goes on in black communities across this nation is horrid, as it would be in any neighborhood depleted of dollars and hope — emptied of good schools, and deprived of social and economic buffers against brutality. People usually murder where they nest; they aim their rage at easy targets.

It is not best understood as black-on-black crime; rather, it is neighbor-to-neighbor carnage. If their neighbors were white, they’d get no exemption from the crime that plagues human beings who happen to be black. If you want interracial killing, you have to have interracial communities.

 

Critics of Police Welcome Facebook Live and Other Tools to Stream Video

After back-to-back killings of black men by police officers this week, scores of African-Americans declared on social media that they would be equipping themselves with a powerful tool: FacebookLive.

philando8n-1-web

Philando Castile was the supervisor of a school cafeteria, much beloved by both the students and staff.

Facebook’s new live-streaming service and similar apps, like Twitter’s Periscope, offer the ability to not just record but to broadcast events as they are unfolding.

Viewers saw this firsthand when a woman streamed her boyfriend, Philando Castile, clutching his bloodied chest during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., on Wednesday, moments after he was shot by the police. As of Thursday, the video had been watched nearly four million times.

Those wrenching images on Facebook, along with the police shooting of Alton Sterling a day earlier in Baton Rouge, La., uploaded to YouTube and other platforms, reinforced the power of video, especially when live, in drawing public attention.

After news of the two shootings spread, many in the active black community on Twitter vowed to begin making live recordings of every interaction they had with the police….

Video has increasingly enabled citizens to document their interactions with the police. In 1991, the plumber who captured footage of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King used a Sony Handycam, and then sent the videotape to a local news station. Even with powerful digital cameras in smartphones, it still often took hours or days for footage to find its way online as recently as two years ago.

But that has changed greatly with the introduction of tools like Periscope in March 2015 and Facebook Live, which became available to all users in April. Videos can be streamed even before an encounter is over, leaving no time for investigations or official statements.

A flier distributed by Communities United Against Police Brutality in the Minneapolis area urges people to film their interactions with the police.

A flier distributed by Communities United Against Police Brutality in the Minneapolis area urges people to film their interactions with the police.

Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Mr. Castile, said during another Facebook Live session on Thursday that she put the video online to hold the officers accountable.

“I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that the people could see,” said Ms. Reynolds, who uses the name Lavish Reynolds online. “I want the people to determine who was right and who was wrong.”…

Michelle Gross, the president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, based in Minnesota, said the spread of apps that instantly store video online represented a transformation in holding police accountable.

Ms. Gross’s group has distributed fliers encouraging residents in the Minneapolis area to download the Bambuser app, which immediately saves video online and protects it with a password. She said her group had heard of police officers confiscating and erasing images from cellphones.

Ademo Freeman, the founder of CopBlock, a group dedicated to documenting police actions, said that he had recommended dedicated apps like Bambuser but that Facebook, with more than a billion active users, had a big advantage.

“Facebook is something that everybody has, so it is very easy,” Mr. Freeman said. “Just because of the sheer number of people and its convenience, Facebook is probably going to become more popular for these types of videos.”…

Alton Sterling, 37 years old, was the father of five children.

Alton Sterling, 37 years old, was the father of five children.

Arthur Reed, the leader of the anti-violence group that released the cellphone video of the Baton Rouge shooting, said the case demonstrated the power that regular people had at their fingertips.

Mr. Reed’s group did not use a live-streaming app to capture the encounter, but decided to circulate the footage online to counter reports in which the police said Mr. Sterling had reached for a gun.

“We don’t have to beg the media to come and report on the stories,” Mr. Reed said. “We can put it out on social media now, and the story gets told.”

Read the full article here.

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Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence?

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Binghamton, N.Y. — FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.

The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation….

indian1Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.

The 27th and final grievance was at the Declaration’s heart (and on Long Islanders’ minds) because in the 15 months between the Battles of Lexington and Concord and independence, reports about the role African-Americans and Indians would play in the coming conflict was the most widely discussed news. And British officials all over North America did seek the aid of slaves and Indians to quell the rebellion.

A few months before Jefferson wrote the Declaration, the Continental Congress received a letter from an army commander that contained a shocking revelation: Two British officials, Guy Carleton and Guy Johnson, had gathered a number of Indians and begged them to “feast on a Bostonian and drink his blood.” Seizing this as proof that the British were utterly despicable, Congress ordered this letter printed in newspapers from Massachusetts to Virginia….slave revolt in VA

Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were essential in broadcasting these accounts as loudly as they could. They highlighted any efforts of British agents like Dunmore, Carleton and Johnson to involve African-Americans and Indians in defeating the Revolution….It was a very rare week in 1775 and 1776 in which Americans would open their local paper without reading at least one article about British officials “whispering” to Indians or “tampering” with slave plantations.

john_singleton_copley_001So when the crowd in Huntington blackened the effigy’s face and stuffed its head with feathers before setting it on fire, they were indeed celebrating an independent America, but one defined by racial fear and exclusion. Their burning of the king and his enslaved and native supporters together signified the opposite of what we think of as America. The effigy represented a collection of enemies who were all excluded from the republic born on July 4, 1776.

This idea — that some people belong as proper Americans and others do not — has marked American history ever since…. All the African-Americans and Indians who supported the revolution — and lots did — were no match against the idea that they were all “merciless savages” and “domestic insurrectionists.” Like the people of Huntington, Americans since 1776 have operated time and time again on the assumption that blacks and Indians don’t belong in this republic. This notion comes from the very founders we revere this weekend. It haunts us still.

Read the full article here.

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Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

By SYDNEY EMBER and NICHOLAS FANDOS, New York Times

For the black community in Chicago and elsewhere, Johnson Publishing Company represented a certain kind of hope.

Ebony cover M. ObamaThe company’s magazines, most notably Ebony and Jet, gained prominence during the struggle for civil rights — Jet published graphic photos of the murdered black teenager Emmett Till that helped intensify the movement — and made it their mission to chronicle African-American life.

At a time when much of the media was ignoring black people, or showing them primarily in the context of poverty or crime, Ebony and Jet celebrated their success, featuring stars like Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin on their covers. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the first print publication he granted an interview to was Ebony. 

So when Johnson Publishing, which is based in Chicago, announced a little more than two weeks ago that it had sold Ebony and Jet to a private equity firm in Texas, there was a sense of loss.

“It was a very heartbreaking day,” said Melody Spann-Cooper, the chairwoman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, which owns a Chicago radio station, WVON, aimed at a black audience. “Ebony gave to African-Americans what Life didn’t.”

Jet Magazine printed what mainstream presses would not -- including the photos of teenager Emmett Till's lynched and mutilated body, in its October 1960 issue.

Jet Magazine printed what mainstream presses would not — including the photos of teenager Emmett Till’s lynched and mutilated body, in its October 1960 issue.

Ms. Spann-Cooper’s reaction underscored a deeper concern: As racial issues have once again become a prominent topic in the national conversation, the influence of black-owned media companies on black culture is diminishing.

“Ebony used to be the only thing black folks had and read,” Ms. Spann-Cooper said. “As we became more integrated into society, we had other options.”…

Traditional media companies have struggled for years to adapt to a digital world, but the pressure on black-owned media has been even more acute. Many are smaller and lack the financial resources to compete in an increasingly consolidated media landscape. Advertisers have turned away from black-oriented media, owners say, under the belief that they can now reach minorities in other ways.

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender in the 1950s and '60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press, speaks with a soldier in Vietnam. Payne was a city reporter and later Washington correspondent for the black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, in the 1950s and ’60s. (By Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HarperCollins)

Since well before the Civil War, publications and, more recently, radio and television stations owned and operated by African-Americans have provided an important counterweight to mass market media, simultaneously celebrating and shaping black culture — from politics and government to fashion and music.

Johnson Publishing was started in 1942 with a modest $500 loan, and eventually turned into a media empire big enough that in 1982, its founder, John H. Johnson, became the first black person to make Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. When the radio station WVON ran a program in 2007 for Black History Month called the “28 Blacks Who Changed America,” Mr. Johnson, who died in 2005, was No. 7 on the list, behind luminaries like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall.

WVON Radio in Chicago is aimed at a black audience. Credit Lyndon French for The New York Times

WVON Radio in Chicago is aimed at a black audience. Credit Lyndon French for The New York Times

“If we don’t own our press, we don’t have a platform to speak,” said Leonard Burnett Jr., whose company, the Uptown Ventures Group, owns Uptown Magazineuptlifestyle publication aimed at affluent African-Americans.

Several owners also pointed to another benefit: Their companies hired more minorities. Ms. Spann-Cooper of the Midway Broadcasting Corporation said 90 percent of her employees were African-American. “When we are African-American-owned, the work force looks like us,” she said.

But as financial resources dwindle, black-owned media companies are struggling to maintain their presence. Jet, for instance, became a web-only publication in 2014….

Read the full article here.

For more information, see this exhibit By Us, For Us: The Crucial Role of the Black Press.

More Breaking News here.

A Very Short List of National Black Press Outlets

Ebony Magazine's print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published by Johnson Publishing Company.

Ebony Magazine’s print cover, August 8, 2015. Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson and has published continuously since 1945. This monthly magazine reaches 11 million readers. Its digest-sized sister magazine, Jet, is also published (now online only) by Johnson Publishing Company.

Online

theRoot.com

theGrio.com

Jet Magazine

Ebony (also in print)

Essence (also in print)

In Print

Black News Directory (A listing of dozens of some of the 200+ black publications published in the USA – from the American Legacy Magazine to Hip Hop Weekly.)

National Newspaper Publishers Association (and links to member papers of the NNPA black press in each state)

Black Perspectives Sections within White-Owned/Operated Media

Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)

Huffington Post Black Voices 

NY Times Black Culture and History section

 

Black Holocaust Museum convenes diverse group for film/dialogue series

By Stephanie Harte, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

WF:BF Simple FlyerDuring the past three months, Reggie Jackson and Fran Kaplan of America’s Black Holocaust Museum brought together people of different races, ages and genders to talk about the role institutional racism plays in people’s lives.

The museum recently concluded “White Frame/ Black Frame: The Hidden Roots of Racial Realities,” a free six-session film and interracial dialogue series. Participants were asked to commit to all six sessions so members could build trust with one another.

Fifty people, ranging from teens to senior citizens, participated in the series. They were divided into seven discussion groups and each was assigned a facilitator.

Jackson, head griot, and Kaplan, the virtual museum’s coordinator, showed a short film clip at each session from “White People,” a 2015 documentary about white privilege in the United States, to trigger discussion….

Participants also suggested film clips for Kaplan and Jackson to show during the series. Donte McFaddan, co-founder and co-programmer of the Black Lens Program at the Milwaukee Film Festival, participated in the series and suggested several clips including portions of “Hollywood Shuffle.” The film follows an actor limited to stereotypical roles because he is black.

“Seeing that there are differences in how we experience life allows us to come together,” Jackson said. “We hope people learn that institutional racism plays a role in all of our lives.”

Troy Freund, who participated in White Frame/Black Frame, works as an independent photographer in Milwaukee and around the Midwest.

Troy Freund, who participated in White Frame/Black Frame, works as an independent photographer in Milwaukee and around the Midwest.

Troy Freund, a participant in the series, said the clips drove home the reality of how serious racism is. He added that he benefited from hearing his group members’ reactions.

“We all have to learn about ourselves,” Freund said. “I love my city, I’ve lived here for 20-something years, so I signed up (for the series) thinking ‘let’s see what I can learn.’”…

Maria Cunningham, a librarian at the Milwaukee Public Library and ABHM volunteer, served as a facilitator and put together a suggested reading list for the participants. One of the selections was How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumia, which details how young Arab and Muslim Americans are often viewed as the enemy in American society. White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise, an author and educator, also was included on the list.

Maria Cunningham (center) listens intently to a group member during "Hidden History," ABHM's 2015 film/dialogue series.

Maria Cunningham (center) listens intently to a group member during “Hidden History,” ABHM’s 2015 film/dialogue series.

Cunningham said she enjoyed watching participants become more comfortable as the weeks went on. “Programs like this show that people can talk about these problems and that it is safe to do so,” Cunningham said.

“It is very gratifying to see people of so many different groups come together and have very civil conversations,” Jackson said.

Ni'Sea Thurman, 15, and Stephania Parrett, 17, were part of a group of trained community members who facilitated the program's small group dialogues.

Ni’Sea Thurman, 15, and Stephania Parrett, 17, were part of a group of trained community members who facilitated the program’s small group dialogues.

Nisea Thurman-Wamubu, 15, and Stephania Parrett, 17, were the two youngest facilitators. Both participate in Urban Underground, an organization of young people committed to building safe and sustainable communities….

The teens both agreed it was difficult at times to explain topics to people older than they are. “I felt so privileged to gain their trust,” Thurman-Wamubu said. “I never felt so much joy to share with others.”
“White Frame/ Black Frame” was the third yearly film and dialogue series hosted by ABHM. In prior years, full-length films and documentaries were shown, allowing less time for dialogue.

WF:BF Simple Flyer p2“We could see we needed more time to dialogue to take out a deeper meaning,” Kaplan said. “Having a place where we could talk so honestly is what made it work so well.”

Jackson and Kaplan hope to start hosting the film dialogue series more than once a year, since they had a waiting list for “White Frame/ Black Frame.”

Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

 

Jack Daniel’s Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help From a Slave

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Visitors to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Only recently has the company begun to embrace the story of Nearis Green, the enslaved man from whom Daniel learned to make his great whiskey. Credit Nathan Morgan for The New York Times

Visitors to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Only recently has the company begun to embrace the story of Nearis Green, the enslaved man from whom Daniel learned to make his great whiskey. Credit Nathan Morgan for The New York Times

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Every year, about 275,000 people tour the Jack Daniel’s distillery here, and as they stroll through its brick buildings nestled in a tree-shaded hollow, they hear a story like this: Sometime in the 1850s, when Daniel was a boy, he went to work for a preacher, grocer and distiller named Dan Call. The preacher was a busy man, and when he saw promise in young Jack, he taught him how to run his whiskey still — and the rest is history.

This year is the 150th anniversary of Jack Daniel’s, and the distillery, home to one of the world’s best-selling whiskeys, is using the occasion to tell a different, more complicated tale. Daniel, the company now says, didn’t learn distilling from Dan Call, but from a man named Nearis Green — one of Call’s slaves.

This version of the story was never a secret, but it is one that the distillery has only recently begun to embrace, tentatively, in some of its tours, and in a social media and marketing campaign this summer.

“It’s taken something like the anniversary for us to start to talk about ourselves,” said Nelson Eddy, Jack Daniel’s in-house historian.

Frontier history is a gauzy and unreliable pursuit, and Nearis Green’s story — built on oral history and the thinnest of archival trails — may never be definitively proved. Still, the decision to tell it resonates far beyond this small city.

A man believed to be the son of Nearis Green sits at the right hand of Jack Daniel (center, in white hat). This photo, in Daniel’s old office,was taken at his distillery in Tennessee in the late 1800s.

A man believed to be the son of Nearis Green sits at the right hand of Jack Daniel (center, in white hat). This photo, in Daniel’s old office,was taken at his distillery in Tennessee in the late 1800s. It was highly unusual for an enslaved worker to be photographed, especially alongside his owner and white paid employees.

For years, the prevailing history of American whiskey has been framed as a lily-white affair, centered on German and Scots-Irish settlers who distilled their surplus grains into whiskey and sent it to far-off markets, eventually creating a $2.9 billion industry and a product equally beloved by Kentucky colonels and Brooklyn hipsters.

Some also see the move as a savvy marketing tactic. “When you look at the history of Jack Daniel’s, it’s gotten glossier over the years,” said Peter Krass, the author of “Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel.” “In the 1980s, they aimed at yuppies. I could see them taking it to the next level, to millennials, who dig social justice issues.”

Jack Daniel’s says it simply wants to set the record straight. The Green story has been known to historians and locals for decades, even as the distillery officially ignored it.

Left out of that account were men like Nearis Green. Slavery and whiskey, far from being two separate strands of Southern history, were inextricably entwined. Enslaved men not only made up the bulk of the distilling labor force, but they often played crucial skilled roles in the whiskey-making process. In the same way that white cookbook authors often appropriated recipes from their black cooks, white distillery owners took credit for the whiskey.

President George Washington relied on six slaves to help run his rye whiskey distillery, one of the largest on the East Coast. This is a re-creation of the grist mill and distillery at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home in Virginia. Credit: Lexey Swall for The New York Times

President George Washington relied on six slaves to help run his rye whiskey distillery, one of the largest on the East Coast. This is a re-creation of the grist mill and distillery at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home in Virginia. Credit: Lexey Swall for The New York Times

In deciding to talk about Green, Jack Daniel’s may be hoping to get ahead of a collision between the growing popularity of American whiskey among younger drinkers and a heightened awareness of the hidden racial politics behind America’s culinary heritage….

A business built on slave help may not seem like a selling point, which may explain why Jack Daniel’s is taking things slowly. The Green story is an optional part of the distillery tour, left to the tour guide’s discretion, and the company is still considering whether it will flesh out the story in new displays at its visitors center.

However far the distillery decides to go, it is placing itself at the center of a larger issue that distillers and whiskey historians have begun to grapple with only in the last few years: the deep ties between slavery and whiskey.

Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

 

BuzzFeed Features Dr. Cameron and ABHM in “How to Survive a Lynching”

By Syreeta McFadden, BuzzFeed.com

Lawrence Beitler was sitting on the front porch of his home in Marion, Indiana, when someone asked him to tote his 8×10 view camera to the town square. It was past midnight on August 8, 1930, and Beitler, 44, was a professional photographer who mostly shot portraits of weddings, schoolchildren, and church groups. That night, he would be photographing a lynching. He “didn’t even want to do it,” according to a later interview with his daughter, “but taking pictures was his business.”

Photographer Lawrence Beitler was called from his studio after the second teen was hanged. He apparently lit the nighttime scene. It appears that tree limbs were removed from the spreading maple, so that the bodies of Abram Smith and Tommy Shipp could be seen. Jimmie Cameron was to be the next victim.

Photographer Lawrence Beitler was called from his studio to document the murdered boys and their proud lynchers for posterity.

By the time Beitler arrived on the square, a jubilant mob of nearly 15,000 white men, women, and children had gathered. Earlier that night, a group of vigilantes had charged the county jail to seize two black teenagers — Thomas Shipp, 18, and Abram Smith, 19 — who’d allegedly raped a young white woman and murdered her boyfriend. Beitler took one photo of Shipp’s and Smith’s brutalized bodies hanging from a tree, the crowd of eager onlookers before them, and left.

Lynching, in the American imagination, is considered to be solely the provenance of Confederate racism, one of the most prominent examples being the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi. Yet the most notorious lynching imagery prior to Till came from Union towns: Duluth, MinnesotaCairo, IllinoisOmaha, Nebraska — and Marion, Indiana. It is Beitler’s photograph, in particular, that has served as the most glaring visual reminder of the country’s decades-long spectacle of racism and public murder. The photo of the lynching of two Indiana teenagers would never grace the pages of the local paper. But the image is everywhere.

Souvenir Portrait of the Lynching of Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp, August 7, 1930, by studio photographer Lawrence Beitler. Courtesy of the Indiana Hisorical Society.

Souvenir Portrait of the Lynching of Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp, August 7, 1930. Courtesy of the Indiana Hisorical Society.

It was Beitler’s photograph that inspired Abel Meeropol to write his anti-lynching poem “Strange Fruit” in 1936, which Billie Holiday would later record and make famous. Just last month, a decade-old mural adaptation of the photograph in Elgin, Illinois, which features only the faces of the white participants, came under public scrutiny as people discovered the image’s origin.

The photo of the lynching of two Indiana teenagers would never grace the pages of the local paper. But the image is everywhere.

I can’t say exactly when I first encountered the image. It might have been as an undergrad at Columbia, in the library of the black students’ lounge as I thumbed through a copy of Ralph Ginzburg’s 100 Years of Lynchings. But my understanding of its significance came in the late summer of 1996, when a friend and I visited America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in my hometown of Milwaukee.

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Dr. James Cameron in America’s Black Holocaust Museum.

When we entered the main exhibition room, there was a built-to-scale rendering of Beitler’s photo made out of wax, including the facsimiles of Shipp and Smith hanging from the tree. “Did you know that there was a third boy they tried to lynch that night?” our museum guide, a tall but frail older man, asked us, his voice warm and gravelly. We didn’t. Our guide went on to explain that there were actually three ropes strung up on the maple tree in Marion on August 7, 1930. A third teenager had been dragged from his jail cell to the courthouse square. His name was James Cameron and he was the only known person to have ever survived a lynching in America.

We were standing in front of him….

 

Read the well-researched and beautifully written full feature article about ABHM’s founder, James Cameron, the lynching he survived, and the museum he founded.

Dr. Cameron’s memoir, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story, is the only account of a lynching ever written by a survivor. You can buy the book here.

Watch Dr. Cameron tell his story in the video in this exhibit.

More Breaking News here.

 

Grand Jury Declines to Indict Cop Who Slammed Teen Girl to Ground

BY BREANNA EDWARDS, theroot.com

Cpl. Eric Casebolt will not face criminal charges after a controversial video showed him aggressively tossing a 15-year-old girl in a bathing suit to the ground at a pool party and then pinning her to the ground with his knees.

A Texas grand jury declined to indict a McKinney, Texas, police officer who was seen on video slamming a teenage girl to the ground outside a pool party last year, WFAA reports.

Now-former Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt was thrust into the spotlight in June 2015 after seven minutes of video showed the officer aggressively tossing the 15-year-old girl to the ground before pinning her with his knees. Casebolt also pulled his gun on two other youths who came running to help the girl.

A Collin County grand jury ruled Thursday that there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges against Casebolt, WFAA reports.

“We’re glad that the system worked in his favor in this case,” Casebolt’s attorney, Tom Mills, said of the decision, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Casebolt resigned four days after the incident.

Officer Eric Casebolt

Officer Eric Casebolt

Following the decision, the family of the teenage girl Casebolt slammed to the ground said they will sue Casebolt, the Morning News notes.

“We currently live in a time in which the public servants who are hired to protect and serve are not required to uphold the very law they are sworn to enforce,” attorney Kim T. Cole said in a prepared statement. “The message is clear.  Police are above the law.  This must change.”

According to the Morning News, following the grand jury’s decision, McKinney police will be hosting a forum Monday evening titled, “Moving Forward, Strengthening Police and Community Relationships.”

Read more here.

More Breaking News here.