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When the past is present…

 

Who Were the White Folks of Freedom Summer?

From SNCC leaders to Freedom School organizers, these are their stories.

By Diamond Sharp, theRoot.com

Marshall Ganz, a SNCC field secretary, also helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. One of the most notable participants in the Freedom Summer movement, he would go on to do organizing work with Cesar Chavez. Ganz has been credited with creating the successful grassroots organizing model that the Obama campaign utilized during the 2008 election. Here he speaks to the Boston Occupy Movement.

Marshall Ganz, a SNCC field secretary, also helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. One of the most notable participants in the Freedom Summer movement, he would go on to do organizing work with Cesar Chavez. Ganz has been credited with creating the successful grassroots organizing model that the Obama campaign utilized during the 2008 election. Here he speaks to the Boston Occupy Movement.

It’s well-known that 1964’s Freedom Summer, as it came to be called, was an interracial effort, with many white college students joining African Americans to register voters in Mississippi. It was the murder of three civil rights activists—two of them white—by members of the Ku Klux Klan that sparked national outrage and drew national attention to the struggle for access to the ballot. Ironically, thanks to a racially biased press, it was those murders and the presence of nonblack activists that many believe earned the work the headlines it deserved. From Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leaders to Freedom School organizers, here are some of these activists’ stories…

Click here to read short bios and see photos of these 10 white allies you should know:

 

Heather Booth, SNCC member and, later, founding director of the NAACP National Voter Fund. Considered one of the most notable alums of Freedom Summer, she is currently vice president of USAction.

Heather Booth, SNCC member and, later, founding director of the NAACP National Voter Fund. Considered one of the most notable alums of Freedom Summer, she is currently vice president of USAction.

1. Heather Booth

2. Dr. June Finer

3. Frank Cieciorka

4. Mary King

5. Miriam Cohen Glickman

6. Casey Hayden

7. Howard Zinn

8. Constance Curry

9. Marshall Ganz

10. Mario Savio

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New Malcolm X Diary Reveals a Revolutionary Optimist

By  theroot.com

While many in the civil rights movement community this summer are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, another important half-century milestone—and a significantly blacker, more radical one—was recently acknowledged in New York City: the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X’s political organization.

Malcolm X, founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), was  a tremendous radical during the time of Civil Rights, however his recently published diary depicts various goals of his like educating African leaders about the plight of African American in America.

Malcolm X, founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), was a tremendous radical during the time of Civil Rights, however his recently published diary depicts various goals of his like educating African leaders about the plight of African American in America.

Malcolm X, founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), was a tremendous radical during the time of Civil Rights, however his recently published diary depicts various goals of his like educating African leaders about the plight of African American in America.

If Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of domestic social equality turned into a nightmare, Malcolm’s vision for black Americans to join the international community of Africans as an anti-Western bloc was quickly stifled with his 1965 assassination. The OAAU—patterned after the OAU, the Organization of African Unity—represented Malcolm’s domestic and international potential, a painful addition to the pile of 20th-century black historical what-ifs.

“Brother Malcolm was internationalizing the movement,” said event organizer A. Peter Bailey, who was only in his early 20s when he edited the OAAU’s newsletter, The Blacklash. “He was on a conscious effort to connect the struggle against racism in America to the struggle against colonialism internationally, especially in Africa.”

The OAAU event, which took place on June 28—the to-the-day 50th anniversary—at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center (the former Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm was assassinated), came in the wake of a newly published diary of Malcolm X. The book, edited by journalist-historian Herb Boyd and writer Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, one of Malcolm X’s six daughters, is called The Diary of Malcolm X: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, 1964. Finally freed from scholarly microfilm, the diary has been the subject of a court case between the authors and the publisher, Third World Press, and Malcolm’s other five daughters, who did not sign off on the book’s publication.

Malcolm’s diary paints the picture of a man eager to find his religious and political centers. Most of the first half of the book details his much-talked-about trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, while the second half—which takes place after the OAAU founding in New York—is more about his travels to Africa, where he meets more than 10 heads of state and is treated like a de facto ambassador of black America.

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Who Was the Unsung Hero of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr., theRoot.com

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.

Fifty years ago this Wednesday, July 2, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law at the White House. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a bevy of politicians crowded around him, taking in the historic moment, as significant as any in advancing American race relations since the end of the Civil War. Although the struggle for voting rights would continue for another year (and beyond), the 1964 Civil Rights Act dealt a severe blow to Jim Crow-style segregation in public schools and accommodations. At least as a matter of law, it forbade forevermore discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” It was, as Sen. Everett Dirksen famously quoted the writer Victor Hugo, “an idea whose time [had] come.” But it was anything but inevitable.

Unfortunately, since then, we’ve had to endure the long and silly debate over which man deserves more credit for the bill’s passage through the House and Senate en route to the president’s desk: Johnson, the political animal inside the White House, or King, the charismatic civil rights leader at the forefront of the march outside it. The fact is, both men were critical. And by setting up the debate in this way, we not only distort the complexity of such an undertaking, but we also dangerously reinforce the notion that when it came to getting things done during the civil rights movement, the insiders were white and the outsiders were black. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially where the 1964 Civil Rights Act is concerned.

Clarence Mitchel, Jr., the NAACP lobbyist behind the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with President Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the Act.

Clarence Mitchel, Jr., the NAACP lobbyist behind the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with President Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the Act.

Just as vital to the bill’s success was another African-American leader. Another “Jr.,” he was far less well-known, precisely because he was so deep inside the process. His name was Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., and he was the chief Washington lobbyist for the NAACP during the extraordinarily heroic phase of the civil rights movement.

As far as I’m concerned, Mitchell was and remains the unsung hero of the 1964 law. You won’t see his face in many pictures. His focus was on the law and the finesse needed to ensure that the bill had enough votes to pass. Although the law has been studied and discussed in great detail over the past half-century, thankfully new works continue to shed light on it and its pivotal players. For giving Mitchell his due, we owe a debt to Todd Purdum, author of this year’s masterful anniversary account, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As soon as I read Purdum’s book, I knew I wanted to dedicate my column on the Civil Rights Act to Mitchell.

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New Wave of African Writers With an Internationalist Bent

By FELICIA R. LEE, nytimes.com

More than a decade ago, when the young Nigerian writer Chimamanda

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the premiere of the film "Half of a Yellow Sun," based on her novel, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the premiere of the film “Half of a Yellow Sun,” based on her novel, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ngozi Adichie was struggling to get her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” published, an agent told her that things would be easier “if only you were Indian,” because Indian writers were in vogue. Another suggested changing the setting from Nigeria to America. Ms. Adichie didn’t take this as commentary on her work, she said, but on the timidity of the publishing world when it came to unknown writers and unfamiliar cultures, especially African ones.

These days she wouldn’t receive that kind of advice. Black literary writers with African roots (though some grew up elsewhere), mostly young cosmopolitans who write in English, are making a splash in the book world, especially in the United States. They are on best-seller lists, garner high profile reviews and win major awards, in America and in Britain. Ms.
Adichie, 36, the author of “Americanah,” which won the National Book

Ethiopian-born novelist Dinaw Mengetsu in 2010, when his book "How to Read the Air" was published.

Ethiopian-born novelist Dinaw Mengetsu in 2010, when his book “How to Read the Air” was published.

Critics Circle Award for fiction this year, is a prominent member of an
expanding group that includes Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Taiye Selasi, among others.
There are reasons for the critical mass now, say writers, publishers and literature scholars. After years of political and social turmoil, positive changes in several African nations are helping to greatly expand the number of writers and readers. Newer awards like the Caine Prize for African Writing have helped, too, as have social media, the Internet and top M.F.A. programs. At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, black writers with recent African roots will make up more than 10 percent of the fiction students come September. Moreover, the number of African immigrants in
the United States has more than quadrupled in the past two decades, to
almost 1.7 million.

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First Trailer for Mini-Series of Acclaimed ‘The Book of Negroes’

By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act

The "Book of Negroes" mini-series is based on a bestselling historical novel of the same name. The Book of Negroes itself is an actual document kept by the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Aunjanue Ellis and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.

The “Book of Negroes” mini-series is based on a bestselling historical novel of the same name. The Book of Negroes itself is an actual document kept by the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Aunjanue Ellis and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.

Principal photography for Clement Virgo’s much-anticipated film adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s award-winning bestseller, “The Book of Negroes,” is complete, as the project now moves into the next phase of the production process, with a MIPCOM premiere in Cannes set for Monday, October 13 as the opening night gala. (…)

Boasting one of the strongest female characters in recent fiction, the novel’s synopsis reads:

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.”

This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.

Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Aunjanue Ellis stars as Aminata Diallo, while Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Gossett Jr. play Sam Fraunces and Daddy Moses respectively.

The Book Of NegroesGooding’s Fraunces is a freed slave from Jamaica who runs his namesake tavern (Fraunces Tavern), participates in several historical events, and later moves to Mount Vernon to run George Washington’s household.

Meanwhile, Daddy Moses is Moses ‘Daddy’ Wilkinson or Old Moses, an African American slave, and Methodist preacher in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Though blind and crippled, Wilkinson led a band of runaway slaves to freedom in 1776.

Also Lyriq Bent is playing Chekura, who, as a young boy, made the crossing with Aminata when she was sold into slavery, is separated from her, and later reunites with her when they are adults, and have a child together.

Allan Hawco is Solomon Lindo (a Jewish man Aminata is sold to), Ben Chaplin is Capt. John Clarkson (a young British naval officer recruiting black settlers to move from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone); and Jane Alexander plays a Maria Witherspoon, the matriarch of a white family that Aminata leaves her baby with, for safety, during a series of riots that break out as the city she lives in is attacked and black men and women are lynched. She later returns to the Witherspoon’s home to claim her child, only to learn that they’ve left with the baby.

The adaptation of the novel will be a 6-hour TV mini-series.

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An Original Freedom Rider Reflects on the Struggle

Right: Hank Thomas was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1961 due to the Freedom Rides. Left: Hank Thomas at 73 years old, is now retired and owns two Marriott Hotels in Atlanta, GA

Right: Hank Thomas was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1961 due to the Freedom Rides.
Left: Hank Thomas at 73 years old, is now retired, living the American dream by own several Marriot Hotels.

By , Theroot.com

In 1961, 19-year-old Howard University student Hank Thomas embarked on a journey that would change interstate travel forever and inspire the birth of other movements. Thomas made a quick decision to join the Congress of Racial Equality’s Freedom Rides to travel from Washington, D.C., to the Deep South with several other young African Americans and whites.

The U.S. Supreme Court had struck down racial segregation on interstate buses in 1946 and expanded that decision in 1960 by outlawing segregated waiting rooms, lunch counters and restroom facilities for interstate passengers. However, both rulings were largely ignored in the Deep South. Freedom Riders risked their lives by traveling on buses through the South and, by doing so, challenged the federal government to enforce the law. Freedom Riders were beaten, lynched and arrested for the sake of justice. Thomas’ experience as a Freedom Rider was no exception.

Being a Freedom Rider isn’t Thomas’ only claim to fame, however, and his rebellious spirit isn’t by happenstance. The great-great-great-grandson of an outspoken slave, Thomas also played a part in working toward Freedom Summer’s goal of registering black people to vote in 1964.

Thomas, now retired at 73, owns two Marriott hotels and lives in Atlanta. He recounted to The Root his experiences as a Freedom Rider, the importance of remembering significant events like Freedom Summer and what black people should be doing to build upon progress already made.

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How Hip-Hop Has Become a Gateway to Black Poetry

By: The Root Staff

Left of Black interviews poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander about how young people are coming to poetry through their experience with hip-hop, and what it means that more poets are winning prizes and recognition.

Left of Black host Mark Anthony Neal is joined by Elizabeth Alexander to discuss the black art aesthetic, growing recognition for black poets and whether hip-hop is poetry. Alexander—the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies, and a professor of American studies and English, at Yale University—was chosen by President Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his 2009 inauguration.

Watch:

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Baptism by Fire

fire_sullivan-1254

Firefighter Jordan Sullivan, who recently saved two children on his first ‘real fire’ call

By N. R. KLEINFIELD, nytimes.com

In his 96 days in the field as a firefighter, a probie out of the Fire Academy — the Rock, as it’s familiarly known — it had not happened. Around the firehouse, the veterans continually swapped fire stories. That was how they both taught and regaled one another, and the stories were good ones. He could not contribute. He hadn’t had a fire.

Sometimes a probie goes on the maiden run of his career and, bam, a fire. Usually, in New York, it happens during the first few tours. Maybe it takes a week or even a month. But 96 days — nearly triple digits! That was ridiculous.

Probies take a lot of ribbing, part of the subculture of being a probationary firefighter, and it was a running joke about how Jordan Sullivan could not catch a fire. The others would say drolly, “Well, I know I’m not going to a fire tonight, Jordan’s here.”…

FIREFIGHTER SULLIVAN had wanted to become a wrestling coach… Then Sept. 11 happened, and soon after that incoherent day, he decided he wanted to become a firefighter. It was something he had never before contemplated, and he could not explain his reasoning. He knew he had stood on a Brooklyn rooftop and watched in disbelief as the towers fell. And he knew it felt right to want this.

FIREHOUSEDW0017-1254

Sullivan sits and grins on the firetruck for Ladder Company 105.

He took the next Fire Department entrance exam, in 2002, receiving an 89. Seemed decent. Then he got his call number, where he stood among the 17,850 who took the test: 6,048.

Firefighters he spoke to told him it was a dead number, try again. He checked. The next test was in January 2007. He would be 29, and by department age limits too old to apply. Ultimately, the wounded department reached deep — its ranks thinned by the loss of 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11 and the stampede of retirements in ensuing years — yet they still hit only 5,646 on the call list.

So that was that. He was disappointed, but moved on, didn’t just carry around the dream. Soon after, he got a job with the city comptroller, starting as a clerk and working up to claims investigator. He was not unhappy.

In 2007, he heard on the news about the lawsuit. The Justice Department had sued the Fire Department after the Vulcan Society, an association of black firefighters, complained that the entrance exam was biased against minority applicants. At the time, the department was 90 percent white.

He hadn’t personally felt the exam was unfair to him as a black man. He found the suit curious but irrelevant to him, figuring, “I’ll be 50-something years old before it’s resolved.”

Things went quicker. In July 2009, a federal judge ruled that the 1999 and 2002 exams discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants. Under court-ordered reforms, promising black and Hispanic candidates not appointed from those tests could take a newly created one, regardless of their age, and would receive priority in being hired.

At the beginning of 2012, a full decade since he had that first urge, he was among hundreds of black and Latino candidates who heard from the Fire Department that they could sit for the new exam. He was amazed and unabashedly grateful at this stroke of providence.

 

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Texas county unwittingly votes in favour of reparations for African Americans

From theguardian.com

Dallas county commissioners, most of whom admit not reading the resolution, unanimously vote in support of slavery reparations

Leaders in a North Texas county passed a resolution this week supporting reparations to African Americans for slavery – without even realizing they had done so.

02 Feb 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA --- Four African American college students sit in protest at a whites-only lunch counter during the second day of peaceful protest at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina. From left: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. --- Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

Feb. 2, 1960, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA — Four African American college students sit in protest at a whites-only lunch counter during the second day of peaceful protest at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. From left: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. — Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

Dallas county commissioners unanimously passed a Juneteenth resolution on Tuesday that appeared to be another routine proclamation, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. But the resolution went further by including a list of injustices, and then stating in the final paragraph that blacks’ suffering should be “satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations”.

Commissioners admitted afterward they hadn’t read the resolution before voting, according to The Dallas Morning News. About an hour after their vote, commissioners complained they hadn’t received copies of the resolution beforehand.

The meeting agenda made no specific mention of reparations, but the resolution was read aloud by John Wiley Price, who introduced the measure and is the commission’s only black member.

The vote is nonbinding, so no reparations, through payments or other means, will be made.

During Jim Crow, black men were often jailed for "shiftlessness" or other trumped up "crimes" like failing to step off the sidewalk for a white man. These "criminals" were put to work in factories, plantations, and mines owned by white businessmen.

During Jim Crow, black men were often jailed for “shiftlessness” or other trumped up “crimes” like failing to step off the sidewalk for a white man. These “criminals” were put to work in factories, plantations, and mines owned by white businessmen.

Price said he wrote the resolution after reading an article making the case for reparations. He noted that Native American and Japanese Americans are among the groups that have received compensation for past mistreatment.

“We are the only people who haven’t been compensated,” Price said.

Other commissioners didn’t debate the merits of reparations, and instead expressed frustration at not seeing the resolution before the vote.

“I am leaving my vote the way it is,” county judge Clay Jenkins said. “This is the body’s expression of support for unity towards people, a recognition of Juneteenth.”

He later added, “I want to encourage staff to make sure that all of the commissioners have the opportunity to actually read what they are voting on before that vote in the future.”

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This Day in History: We Celebrate the Birth of Anna Kingsley

 

From the African American Registry, aaregistry.org

This date in 1793 celebrates the birth of Anna Kingsley. She was a African plantation owner, abolitionist, and former slave in America.

The owner's house on the Kingsley Plantation

The owner’s house on the Kingsley Plantation

Born Anna Madgigine Jai in Senegal, she was captured in her native country in 1806 when she was 13 years old. She was brought to Florida, then a Spanish colony, where she was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader and a maritime merchant, and she worked on his plantation in northeast Florida.

Kingsley married her and allowed for her freedom in 1811. They had four children. She became the manager of the plantation and held the position for 25 years. Anna Kingsley became a slave owner herself. Her husband was on record as saying that she “could carry on all the affairs of the plantation in my absence as well as I could myself.”

After Spain sold Florida to the United States in 1819, life grew difficult. The U.S. laws concerning freed Blacks were far more restrictive than those of Spain. Kingsley’s status as a freed slave and landowner were threatened. Plus her interracial marriage was unacceptable in the new U.S. state of Florida. The Kingsleys fled to Haiti, where they ran another plantation and created a colony for free Blacks. After her husband’s death in 1843, Kingsley returned to Florida, where she fought the courts to claim the land left to her and her children in his will.

After a difficult court battle (some of his white relatives had contested her claim), Kingsley won the right to her inheritance. Her skill at running a plantation and her battle for property rights made her a celebrated and influential figure in the free Black community of northern Florida. Anna Kingsley died in 1870.

Anna Kingsley book

References:
Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman

The Anti-Slavery Society

Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner

 

 

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