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In a recent post, “Attending College Doesn’t Close Wage Gap and Other Myths Exposed in New Report,” Kirsten West Savali exposes the sad truths from a study published titled, “Asset Value of Whiteness” that unravels the relationship between race, class, and education.
“Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy take a deep dive into the intrinsic link between racism and capitalism; specifically, how whiteness infests the so-called American dream and renders it inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t meet the pre-selected criteria.”
Savali quotes Amy Traub, who is the co-author of the report:
“For centuries, white households enjoyed wealth-building opportunities that were systematically denied to people of color. Today our policies continue to impede efforts by African-American and Latino households to obtain equal access to economic security.”
Read the full article here.
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Join us this Wednesday, December 14th from 6:00- 7:00 p.m. at the Villard Square Library for a book talk on Dr. Cameron’s autobiography A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story. Meet Reggie Jackson, Robert S. Smith and Fran Kaplan, co-contributors to the third edition of A Time of Terror by the late Dr. James Cameron and the only account of a lynching ever written by a survivor. The program will include readings from the book, an explanation of how it came to be, and a discussion of its relevance for today’s readers. A book signing by the co-contributors will follow the event.
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Most Americans learn that slavery was a southern institution, but in fact, many enslaved Africans were held and worked in the North. Many northern industries and businesses–shipbuilding, ports, banks, insurance companies, textile mills–were dependent on slave labor in both the North and South. Northern consumers were dependent on the products of this slave labor for food, clothing, and amenities like ivory piano keys.
In this exhibit, you will learn about the significant complicity of the northern states in the slave trade, slave labor, and slave-made products in the history of the United States.
For a brief introduction, you can watch the trailer for Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North. The movie traces the journey by members of DeWolf family to explore the origins of their family’s wealth. The DeWolf family owned the largest slave trading business in the country, headquartered in Rhode Island. The full documentary can be obtained here.
Here you can hear a full public lecture by the authors of the book Complicity: How The North Promoted, Prolonged, And Profited From Slavery.
The black press has played a vital role, both in advancing the ideals of American democracy and in supporting African American identity and culture.
The first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in New York City in 1827 by Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. and other free black men. They appointed community activists Samuel Cornish and John B. Russworm as editors. The goal of Freedom’s Journal was to oppose New York newspapers that demeaned blacks and supported slavery. (New York state’s economy depended on slavery, because its textile mills processed southern cotton, which accounted for half its exports.)
In the first issue of Freedom’s Journal, Cornish and Russwurm declared, “Too long have others spoken for us, too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations.” Their second objective was to build a common African American identity through “the moral, religious, civil and literary improvement of our race.”
Freedom’s Journal had subscribers in eleven states and Washington D.C., and in Canada, Europe, and Haiti. The paper covered local, national, and international events. The paper also celebrated the achievements of African Americans. Its editorials spoke out against injustice and debated controversial issues such as the resettlement of free blacks from the U.S. in Liberia in West Africa.
This tradition of crusading journalism was continued by black abolitionists like David Walker (An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World) and Frederick Douglass (North Star). Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave, became one of the first American women to own a newspaper (The Free Speech and Headlight, in Memphis, TN). She also wrote for other newspapers, both black and white-owned. Her investigative pamphlets that analyzed and fought against lynchings and Jim Crow are still used today (Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record).
One of the longest running black newspapers, the California Eagle was founded in 1879 by a former slave, John J. Neimore, for African American migrants arriving from the South. The paper would serve Los Angeles, California, for eighty-five years. Upon Neimore’s death, his employee, Charlotta Bass, bought and ran the paper. Bass was an activist for social justice inside and outside of her newspaper. The pages of the Eagle campaigned for the abolition of enforced segregation though racial covenants, increased participation of African Americans in politics at all levels, and the patronizing of black businesses by blacks as a matter of principle under the slogan “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work.”
Charlotta Bass also helped found and run such community institutions as Industrial Business Council to fight employment discrimination in such important companies as LA Rapid Transit, Southern Telephone, and the Boulder Dam. She served as co-president of the LA chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, as director of the NAACP’s Youth Movement, and national chair of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice (a black women’s organization that protested racial violence). She was a pioneer of multiracial struggle, fighting for the release of Chicanos (Mexican Americans) convicted of murder by an all-white jury. In 1952, Bass became the first African-American woman to run for Vice President, as a candidate of the Progressive Party.
Racial discrimination in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois prevented law school graduate Robert S. Abbott from practicing his profession, so in 1905 he founded The Chicago Defender. He built it into the most widely circulated, powerful, and successful black-owned newspaper of all time. Abbott employed talented writers, among them Gwendolyn Brooks, Walter White, and Langston Hughes. When white newspaper distributers refused to circulate The Defender in the South, he created his own clever “underground” network: African-American railroad porters who secretly carried his paper around the county on trains.
The paper’s slogan was “American race prejudice must be destroyed.” Abbott’s other goals included the opening up of trade unions, government jobs, and police forces to African American workers. The Chicago Defender provided firsthand coverage of the series of white race riots known as the Red Summer Riots of 1919. The paper is credited with stimulating the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities by publishing migrants’ stories, describing the North as a place of prosperity and justice, showing pictures of Chicago, and running classified ads for housing. The Chicago Defender continues to be published today at www.chicagodefender.com.
Many African American newspapers declined during the late 1950s and 1960s, during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, because white-owned papers had finally began to hire black journalists and compete for black readers. Today you can get a variety of African American news and views on such issues as anti-black violence or reparations from such outspoken journalists as Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic), Charles Blow (New York Times), and Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC) working in “mainstream” media.
The good news is that the black press is alive and well. It continues to play a crucial role in our racially divided society. Its vital discourse with the public–locally, nationally, and internationally–is conducted through print, broadcast, and online media. Whether they work in black-owned and operated media or in the black perspectives sections of white-owned media, African American journalists offer a corrective balance to how issues and images are commonly represented in white outlets.
Each week America’s Black Holocaust Museum selects articles and broadcasts about current events from the outlets listed below and posts them to our Breaking News blog.
Ebony (also in print)
Essence (also 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.)
Shadow and Act (on Cinema of the African Diaspora)
Huffington Post Black Voices
NY Times Black Culture and History section
It’s not every museum you can visit from the comfort of your own home!
In this week’s Black Nouveau program, MPTV producers highlighted ABHM’s 21st century form of armchair travel and education.
This week’s program Trippin’ included a virtual visit to ABHM and describes the rich historical and contemporary resources to be found on the site. Trippin’ also feature three other Wisconsin-based museums that offer important exhibitions about local and national African American history:
Here is Trippin’ in its entirety. The segment on ABHM begins at minute 19:45.
“Black Nouveau” is an award-winning program that is regarded as one of the most accurate and positive perspectives of African American life in Milwaukee. It offers messages that promote positive images, interviews and profiles of African-American movers and shakers.
“The mood toward drugs is changing in this country, and the momentum is with us. We’re making no excuses for drugs — hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we’re going after them. As I’ve said before, we’ve taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we’re going to win the war on drugs.” – President Ronald Reagan, October 2, 1982
With these words America’s modern War on Drugs was launched. This war would have many casualties. The war would lead the United States down the path to incarcerate over two million people. State budgets would expand to pay the costs of hundreds of new prisons. The black and Latino communities would lose countless young men to incarceration. By 2015, the Federal government will spend over $25 billion annually to combat drugs.
Tulia, Texas: Watch this film about one small town’s experience with the War on Drugs.
The irony of the War on Drugs being launched in the 1980s is that illicit drug use had been dropping for about a decade. We were essentially beginning to fight a war with an enemy that no one believed existed. In fact, less than 2 percent of the public viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the nation. Prior to this time the federal government played only a small role in crime control. Reagan’s Attorney General, William French Smith recommended a policy shift to deploy a “strong federal law enforcement capacity” in what he called a “highly popular” manner.
This shift led Reagan to fulfill one of his campaign promises, to get tough on crime. He used coded racial language to convince whites to believe that a “human predator” existed. This predator would primarily be young black males. In 1970 Sidney Wilhelm wrote a book titled, Who Needs the Negro? He argued that black labor was no longer necessary to the American economy due to automation and de-industrialization. Blacks would become the enemy in the War on Drugs.
The Reagan Administration and Congress authorized $125 million to establish regional drug task forces employing over 1,000 FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents along with new federal prosecutors. The FBI drug enforcement budget skyrocketed from $8 million in 1980 to over $95 million four years later. From 1981 until 1991 the DEA antidrug budget increased from $86 million to over a billion dollars. Alongside these increases federal allocations for education and treatment of drug abuse was decimated. The National Institute on Drug Abuse saw its funding slashed from $274 million in 1981 to only $57 million by 1984.
This new emphasis on criminal prosecution of the Drug War led to a huge increase in state and local law enforcement and prosecution. The enforcement of new, more harsh drug laws would be concentrated in poor black communities. These communities were already suffering tremendously due to the major recession of the early 1980’s. Family supporting wages from manufacturing jobs, which drove many blacks into northern communities beginning in the 1950’s, were being shifted overseas. Jobs were difficult to find and in some cases impossible to find. The jobs that were created during this time were mostly in the suburbs, and inaccessible to inner city residents.
An illicit drug market became the replacement labor force. Crack cocaine, became the tool by which this market expanded. In 1984 the Los Angeles Times first reported on the use of cocaine “rocks” in black and Latino neighborhoods. Crack was simply a mixture of powdered cocaine, water and baking soda that was “cooked” to produce smokable “rocks.” By 1986 this new form of cocaine was only found in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and a handful of other big cities.
Two professional athletes, Len Bias of the Boston Celtics and Don Rogers of the Cleveland Browns died in June 1986 of what was referred to by the media as “crack related” incidents that were in reality powdered cocaine overdoses. News coverage increased overnight of police raiding “crack houses” and escorting black and Latino males away in handcuffs. In July 1986 the three major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) showed seventy-four evening news segments on drugs, including over thirty stories on crack. Newspapers around the country produced about one thousand stories about crack leading up to the mid-term congressional elections in November 1986.
By mid 1986 Newsweek called crack the biggest story since Vietnam and Watergate. Time magazine called it the issue of the year. The “crack epidemic” or “crack plague” became the most common terms to describe the drug. The intense media coverage of crack led the DEA to issue a press release to correct the misperception of crack. They stated, “crack is currently the subject of considerable media attention…The result has been a distortion of the public perception of the extent of crack use as compared to the use of other drugs…it appears to be a secondary rather than primary problem in most areas.”
One of the most incendiary stories related to crack was the so-called “crack babies.” These were babies born to drug using mothers. The hysteria surrounding this phenomenon led to laws being passed to prosecute mothers who tested positive for cocaine. Crack and powdered cocaine are indistinguishable. Therefore there is no way to tell if the mother had used crack or powdered cocaine. Despite the fact that no data was available on supposedly “crack-addicted babies”, the media ran hundreds of stories warning that these children would become menaces to society. Only later did studies prove this to be untrue. The media barely covered this new information.
The intense media scrutiny led Congress to pass the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The bill introduced mandatory minimum sentences including a 5-year term for possession of five grams of crack cocaine, while mandating the same sentence for 500 grams of powdered cocaine, a 100:1 ratio. The crack scare died down after the election.
By 1988, crack became an issue again during the election cycle. ABC News reported that crack was a “plague…eating away at the fabric of America.” The rhetoric about crack continued, and led Congress to pass the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which enhanced drug penalties and led to the Comprehensive Community Substance Abuse Prevention Act of 1989. These Congressional acts led to huge increases in law enforcement budgets. As a result the prison population began to soar. In 1980 there were only 14,100 people in prison or jail for drug offenses. Today there are over a half-million, in increase of 1,100 percent.
The impact of the drug scare would continue during the Clinton administration with the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the largest crime bill in U.S. history. It placed an additional 100,000 new police officers on the street and provided nearly $10 billion funding for prisons. It also eliminated Pell grants for incarcerated prisoners to receive post secondary education, which had been available since 1965.
The increased funding, extra police officers and prosecutors led to the largest growth in prisoners in world history. The incarcerated population in the United States grew from a little over 500,000 in 1980 (319,598 in prison, 182,288 in jail) to over 2.3 million by 2013. The War on Drugs led to the imposition of crime policies which would put America in the position of having only 5% of the world’s population and over 25% of the people incarcerated.
Reggie Jackson is Head Griot of America’s Black Holocaust Museum and President of the Board of the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, ABHM’s parent organization. Reggie is a frequent public speaker on topics relating to African American history and the black holocaust. He works as a teacher with the Milwaukee Public Schools.
The myth of racial difference that was created to sustain American slavery persists today. Slavery did not end in 1865, it evolved.
The EJI Race and Poverty Project explores racial history and uses innovative teaching tools to deepen our understanding of the legacy of racial injustice. By telling the truth about our past, EJI believes we can create a different, healthier discourse about race in America.
At the far end of the African continent, Redhill was once a village, home to more than 70 predominantly mixed-race (or coloured, as they are referred to in South Africa) families.
But stone walls are still standing, reminders of a precious past for those who were forcibly removed in the late 1960s by South Africa’s white minority regime.
“Here was the lounge and this used to be the kitchen with a fireplace and the small bedroom at the back,” says 78-year-old Lily Lawrence, walking through the old stones which were once her home.
The Group Areas Act, passed in 1950, was a pillar of the brutal apartheid regime.
Among other things, it led to the removal of non-whites from real estate considered desirable by the government. Over the following decades, thousands of families were forced to leave their homes and relocate to barren land.
The effects of this policy have yet to be reversed. Even in post-apartheid South Africa, much of the most fertile territory is still in the hands of a few thousand white commercial farmers.
Just after his re-election to a second term in office in May, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the creation of another window for lodging claims for the restitution of land.
Under the 1950 law, Mrs Lawrence, her husband and their four children had no other choice but to leave their land.
“It was so heartbreaking, tears, tears and tears,” says Mrs Lawrence, recalling the day they left. She says the family had to leave much of their furniture behind – including heirlooms – as it could not be taken up the stairs of the flat they were moving to.
Today, two of her children, Margaret and George, are doing everything possible for this past not to be forgotten. They were only eight and 13 years old when they left Redhill.
But the trauma of the forced removal remains. Margaret is an archivist at the Simon’s Town Museum. She collects pictures, texts, memories from the coloured community and tries to piece together their history.
She invites her mother to the museum to talk to schoolchildren. Twenty years after the end of apartheid, she wants the new generation to know what happened.
George, her brother, has embarked on a legal journey, trying to get the land back from the South African state. He says he registered the first land claim in 1998 – but since then, has only been to meetings and offered excuses for inaction.
“The only thing I want in my life is to come back to my land. I was born here, my roots are here. It is not so difficult, the government just has to sign the papers.”
Since President Zuma announced another window for the restitution, another 12,500 new claims have been lodged, according to the government-backed Land Claims Commission.
Read the full article here.
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Almost two years ago, Kadejah Davis-Talton, then 12, was shot to death at her home in Detroit over a disagreement about a cellphone. On Tuesday, the man convicted in her killing was told he could face 50 years in prison.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Vonda Evans sentenced Joshua Brown, age 21, to 24 to 50 years for second-degree murder, 14 to 30 years for assault with intent to murder, which he is to serve concurrently, and an additional mandatory two years for a felony firearm charge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
According to prosecutors, the man’s mother, Heather Brown, drove her son to and from Davis-Talton’s home on Jan. 31, 2012 after she had gotten in a dispute over her missing cellphone with Almanda Talton, the girl’s mother.
Talton said she found a phone in public restroom at a tax business and gave it to an employee, according CBS Detroit. She thought Joshua Brown came to her home to discuss something else, and then shut the door on him after talking to him briefly. Brown, then 19, fired several shots through the door, according to prosecutors, striking and killing Kadejah Davis-Talton. (. . .)
“Why would two mothers risk their children’s lives over such a minor thing as a cellphone?” Evans asked before sentencing, the Detroit News reports. “A mother’s worst nightmare was experienced the night Kadejah was killed.” (. . .)
Davis-Talton was a sixth-grade student who had straight A’s and had just celebrated her birthday before her death. (. . .)
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Perhaps you, like me, were raised essentially to think of the slave experience primarily in terms of our black ancestors here in the United States. In other words, slavery was primarily about us, right, from Crispus Attucks and Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker and Richard Allen, all the way to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Think of this as an instance of what we might think of as African-American exceptionalism. (In other words, if it’s in “the black Experience,” it’s got to be about black Americans.) Well, think again.
The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (. . .)Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.
And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage. In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone! Some scholars estimate that another 60,000 to 70,000 Africans ended up in the United States after touching down in the Caribbean first, so that would bring the total to approximately 450,000 Africans who arrived in the United States over the course of the slave trade.
Incredibly, most of the 42 million members of the African-American community descend from this tiny group of less than half a million Africans. (. . .)
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