Amazon Is Developing An Alt-History Show Called ‘Black America’

By Zeba Blay, HuffPost Black Voices

Paras Griffin via Getty Images

Will Packer, the man behind the hit comedy “Girls Trip,” is bringing a new show to Amazon that might give HBO a run for its money.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Packer is teaming up “Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder on “Black America,” a drama set in an alternate history in which freed African American slaves have been given control of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as reparations following the Civil War.

Set in the present-day, the show will imagine a sovereign African-American nation called “New Colonia,” rapidly emerging as one of the leading industrialized nations in the world.

The announcement of “Black America” comes just days after HBO sparked controversy with the announcement of its own alternate history drama, “Confederate,” from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” which is set in an alternate reality in which the South had won the Civil War and slavery remains in present day.

Read the full article and reactions to the show’s announcement here.

Read about the importance of Black-owned, Black-run media here.

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Teens Plaster Vandalized Emmett Till Marker With Words Of Hope

By Elyse Wanshel, HuffPost Black Voices

The vandalized sign.

A civil rights landmark in Mississippi that commemorates the death of Emmett Till has been vandalized, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The sign, which has been defaced before, was scraped so badly that information and photos about Till’s brutal death have been obliterated.

Students from Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that teaches young adults how to become civil rights leaders, were present at the site after the sign was vandalized and were disheartened by the destruction.

Dani Gottlieb, a 16-year-old from Cultural Leadership, told HuffPost that she was expecting to see “flowers growing in Emmett Till’s honor” at the landmark, “not a torn-down marker.”

Contributions from the teens at Cultural Leadership.

She and her peers decided as a group to take action. They covered the scraped-off information with hand-drawn pictures of Till, messages of hope and information about his killing.

Read the article in its entirety here.

Read in depth about the struggle for justice and equal rights here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Karyn Parsons Is Telling The Stories Of Little-Known Black Icons

By Zahara Hill,

Karen Parsons. Photo by Santiago Felipe via Getty Images

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actress Karyn Parsons has come quite a ways since she was pardoning herself for being so attractive as a self-obsessed Hilary Banks.

But these days, she has a thing or two to teach us about black history.

In 2005, Parsons founded Sweet Blackberry, an organization that creates short animated films that present the stories of lesser-known black history figures. The films are played in libraries and schools nationwide, and can be streamed on Netflix….

She said the idea for Sweet Blackberry stemmed from learning about Henry “Box” Brown from her mother. Brown was a former slave who mailed his way to freedom by hiding in a box to be shipped from Virginia to Philadelphia.

“I couldn’t get over the fact that I never heard that story,” she said.

Parsons said in addition to not being able to get Brown’s legacy off her mind, she was pregnant with her first child and began to think about the knowledge she’d pass on to her daughter….

Of course, Sweet Blackberry’s first animated short would be “The Journey of Henry ‘Box’ Brown,” narrated by Alfre Woodard. The film was met with rave reviews and even earned a Parent’s Choice award….

″[Black history] gives you a sense of strength ― knowing what people were able to do before you. I think of people like Bessie Coleman and it makes me feel stronger. I think of [Bessie’s] perseverance and what she was able to do,” Parsons said.

“A lot of us don’t have too many generations that we know about to go back to and call upon for the strength that we might be able to benefit from. And these people can be that,” she said.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

My Black History: The Case for Black Art in an Anti-Presidential Era

From: The Root

Authored by: Maiysha Kai

Anastasia_Aleksieieva for iStock

InMy Black History: The Case for Black Art in an Anti-Presidential Era”, Maiysha Kai explains the power black art holds in the current political state of the United States.

She explains how, “The Black Arts Movement that followed was a direct response to the loss of our most prominent leaders of the 1960s, as well as our subsequent rejection of the desire to assimilate into any American culture invested in our marginalization. Even hip-hop has origins in the response of black and brown youths to a society that simultaneously disenfranchised and criminalized them en masse, the tenor of which would come to a head in the turbulent rise of “gangsta rap” in the 1990s.” 

Kai explains how African American’s are empowered through their art; letting their art speak social change by being an “expression of resistance but also a visible and visceral expression of the human experience.”

With the loss of an African American President, there is widespread “post-black”  and “post-racial” which in turn is leading to the “rise of black art in America.”

Read more Breaking News from ABHM here!

To read the full article, check out The Root!

Watch: My Black History: Michael Eric Dyson on How MLK’s Assassination Opened His Eyes

From: The Root

Video Created by: P.J. Rickards


To commemorate the month of February and its celebration of Black History, Michael Eric Dyson (author, professor, and ordained minister) reflects on how the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. changed Dyson’s perspective on racial injustice.

Dyson’s lesson learned from MLK’s assassination is best summarized as he states,

“…his death, which gave rise to so much in the aftermath, his blood mixed in the soil from it sprouted an entire new awareness and consciousness that led from his assassination to 40 years later to the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama.”

Read more about Michael Dyson’s full reflection here.


To learn more about social justice organizations and leaders during the Civil Rights Movement click here.


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This Definitive History of Racist Ideas Should Be Required Reading

By Lawrence Ross for

Ibram X. Kendi; the cover of his book, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Ibram X. Kendi; the cover of his book, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

There are some books that just demand space on your bookshelf—not just because they’re interesting but also because these books break new ground in a way that will enrich your intellectual life. A new book on racism, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, written by Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., a University of Florida professor of Africana studies, is such a book.

The winner of the 2016 National Book Award for nonfiction, Kendi has done something that’s damn near impossible: write a book about racism that breaks new ground, while being written in a way that’s accessible to the nonacademic. If you’ve ever been interested in how racist ideas spread throughout the United States, this is the book to read. The Root talked to Kendi about what inspired the book, why white people have a hard time dealing with their own racism and whether racism can ever be eliminated.

Read the entire interview here

Read more Breaking News here

Restoring Black History

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times

logo-nmaahcWith the ringing of a bell and a speech from President Obama, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is to officially open its extraordinary collection to the public on Saturday. But the museum can claim another, equally important achievement: helping resolve the protracted debate about the contributions of black people to American history and, indeed, about whether they had a history worth preserving at all. Those questions were at the heart of the nation’s original debate about whether, and how, black lives matter.

For years, the issue was whether black people were fit to be more than slaves. “Never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”…

gww_negroraceinamerica_2_cropIn the 1880s, George Washington Williams, whom the historian John Hope Franklin called “the first serious historian of his race,” published the “History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880”; he confessed that part of his motivation was “to call the attention to the absurd charge that the Negro does not belong to the human family.”

About a decade later, W.E.B. Du Bois became the first black person to earn a Ph.D. (in history) at Harvard, followed by Carter G. Woodson, a founder of Negro History Week, who wanted to make history by writing it. “If a race has no history,” he wrote, “it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Arthur A. Schomburg, the famous bibliophile, posited a solution: “The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future.” History “must restore what slavery took away.”

Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument to black veterans. One hundred years later, the effort he and the veterans began has finally born fruit.

Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument to black veterans. One hundred years later, the effort he and the veterans began has finally born fruit.

This mandate to rewrite the status of the race by writing the history of its achievements was too broad to be contained only in books. Public history mattered, too. In 1915, Woodson and several of his friends established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, in part to popularize the study of black history. That same year, black leaders called for a memorial to honor black veterans. And a year later — exactly a century ago — Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument in their honor. After decades of resistance, that effort took a giant leap forward in 2003, when Congress passed bipartisan legislation to build the museum that was signed by President George W. Bush.

Some $540 million later, the first black president will open the museum’s doors…We can only imagine the triumph that the pioneers of black history would feel had they lived to see this occasion.

The new NMAAHC repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums, as exemplified here by the famous display of the "Venus Hottentot," Saartjie Bartman, in the European freak shows of the 19th century.

The new NMAAHC repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums, as exemplified here by the famous display of the “Venus Hottentot,” Saartjie Bartman, in the European freak shows of the 19th century.

More than a museum, the building on the National Mall is a refutation of two and a half centuries of the misuse of history to reinforce a social order in which black people were enslaved, then systematically repressed and denied their rights when freed. It also repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums….

[The NMAAHC] reinscribes race at a symbolically central place in American culture, on the National Mall, where we celebrate our collective public histories, ensuring that a mountain of evidence about black contributions to America will be on permanent display. It does this on the same mall shared by those symbols of the founding fathers’ hypocritical slaveholding past, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, which the new museum, brilliantly designed by David Adjaye, complements and also deconstructs.

Read the Gates’ full opinion piece here.

More Breaking News here.

How Rosa Parks’ Legacy Lives On In The Black Lives Matter Movement

Rosa Parks would believe that #BlackLivesMatter, too.

By , the Huffington Post

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Sixty years ago on this day, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and settled in to American history. We’ve seen the iconic pictures of Parks getting booked at the police station, or later staged seated on a bus looking pensively out the window. Parks has become one of the great, mythic figures of the Civil Rights era — a kind of sanctified figure who feels worlds away from the current, volatile era of social justice. But she isn’t.

Today’s fight for civil rights and social justice may…seem like the very antithesis of the movement in which Parks played an integral part. In many ways, this is true. The intersection of technology, social media, and grassroots activism has produced a very different kind of struggle. The #BlackLivesMatter movement…has been criticized for being divisive (“All lives matter!“), disruptive, aimless, and even violent, in the wake of heated protests in Ferguson and…Chicago.

#BlackLivesMatter protestors are considered a stark contrast to the apparent respectability of the civil rights activists of the 1960s. When we think of those protesters, we think of peaceful black people marching quietly…turning the other cheek and nobly rising above the abuse of water-hose wielding police officers and tear gas.

People believe #BlackLivesMatter…will fail to replicate the successes of the Civil Rights era because its overriding message is one of frustration, not “peace and love.” But this perception of the 1960s Civil Rights era as “respectable” and #BlackLivesMatter as disruptive is far too simplistic, disregarding the nuances of both movements…

In elementary school classrooms Parks has been introduced as the meek Christian woman who refused to give her bus seat up for a white rider simply because she was tired. In actuality, Parks made a calculated act of defiance, orchestrated by the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP of which she was an active and passionate member, designed to be the catalyst for what would become the Civil Rights Movement.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

It’s important to remember that part of why Parks was chosen to spark the bus boycott was a question of respectability — she was a seamstress and a secretary, “Somebody [we] could win with,” as chapter president E.D. Nixon explained later..

And yet, “respectability” was not the beginning and end of who Parks was. Parks was not passive, she was not meek…  The incident marked the second time she had been kicked off the bus, by the same driver, in a time when these kinds of public protests were…incredibly dangerous.  Parks was defiant, she was inconvenient, she was disruptive. So often, disruptiveness and defiance are mistaken for a kind of violence. Do we expect that Parks quiet, polite, “respectable,” when she refused to give up her seat, knowing that she would be arrested and harassed?

Criticisms of the #BlackLivesMatter movement consistently pit it against the Civil Rights Movement. “What would Martin Luther King think,” detractors ask. “What would Rosa Parks think?” Rosa Parks would believe that black lives matter, because Rosa Parks, alongside King and the NAACP, formed the catalyst for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The iconic photos of Parks in our history books are only a fraction of who she really was, and what she truly represented. Into the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Parks remained a passionate activist, speaking out against housing discrimination, police brutality, and our broken prison system.

In her private writings…she wrote about the frustration, dismay, and anger she felt about racism and segregation. “There is just so much hurt, disappointment and oppression one can take,” she once wrote. “The line between reason and madness grows thinner.” Her justifiable anger and defiance is what links today’s civil rights activist to Parks and her contemporaries. In that sense, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not a disruption but a continuation of the work that Parks and others began.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Malcom X Suggests Cure To Racism In Newly-Discovered Handwritten Letter

The letter is on sale for $1.25 million.

, The Huffington Post

A recently-discovered letter reportedly handwritten by Malcolm X in 1964 describes racism at that time as an “incurable cancer” that was “plaguing” America.

Los Angeles historic manuscript and letter dealer, Moments in Time, retrieved the six-page letter, reportedly written by the civil rights activist. It went on sale Sunday for $1.25 million.

A letter was recently discovered that is said to have been written by Malcolm X. (Photo credit: Gary Zimet)

The letter that was allegedly written by Malcolm X.  (Photo credit: Gary Zimet)

Gary Zimet, president and owner of Moments in Time, received the letter from a contact who discovered it in a storage locker in the Bronx, New York. Zimet has decided to keep the person’s name anonymous.

The letter details a monumental period in the late activist’s life — his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, the year prior to his assassination in 1965 in New York City…

Malcolm X describes his pilgrimage as “the most important event in the life of all Muslims,” and goes on to explain why his experience was so enlightening.

In regards to the legitimacy of this letter, Zaheer Ali, an oral historian who served as the project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, says it’s likely this letter was actually written by Malcolm X.

“Based on everything I’ve seen, handwriting and context, I can confidently say that yes, this letter is his letter…The content is consistent, this isn’t uncommon. He was very prolific….”

Ali believes the letter’s message, addressing race and religion, is particularly timely today.

“However this letter surfaced, it surfaced at the right time.”

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Horror Drove Her From South. 100 Years Later, She Returned.

By Dan Barry, New York Times

In 1915, Mamie Kirkland and her family fled Ellisville, Miss., in fear that her father would be lynched. She swore she would never return. But at age 107, she made the journey.

NAACP flyer showing that John Hartfield's lynching was planned ahead.

NAACP flyer showing that John Hartfield’s lynching was planned ahead.

…[Kirkland’s] father, Edward Lang, a laborer and aspiring minister, roused the house at 12:30 in the morning. “Rochelle, I got to leave,” she remembered him saying to her mother. “Get the children together.”

Family lore has it that people wanted to lynch her father and a friend named John Hartfield, and that the two men fled that night. The rest of the Langs — a mother and five children, including baby Lucille, who was nursing — left by train in the morning. It was 1915.

“We were just shaking,” Ms. Kirkland said.

They settled in East St. Louis, Ill., where word later came that Mr. Hartfield had returned to Ellisville to be with his white girlfriend. This is undocumented family gospel. What is documented is that on June 26, 1919, white townspeople lynched him for allegedly raping a white woman.

The front page of The Jackson Daily News announced that Mr. Hartfield would be lynched at 5 p.m. “Governor Bilbo Says He Is Powerless to Prevent It,” the headline read. “Thousands of People Are Flocking Into Ellisville to Attend the Event.”

The [Ellisville, Mississippi,] population of 1,700 instantly multiplied as crowds spilled out of the Hotel Alice and into the open space along the train tracks. A postcard depicting the scene bears the caption: “Waiting for the Show to Start.”

The lynching of  John Hartfield was attended by thousands.

The lynching of John Hartfield was attended by thousands.

Mr. Hartfield was dragged to a big gum tree and strung up. A rain of bullets from the crowd seemed to reanimate the corpse, which finally fell to the ground and was burned to ashes. Some took body parts as souvenirs.

In the Ellisville of today, little recalls the moment, other than the Hotel Alice. In a mayoral portrait gallery at City Hall, for example, the officeholder in 1919 is absent. And at Jones County Junior College, Roll 539 of the microfilm for the local newspaper, The Laurel Daily Leader, jumps from May 27, 1919, to Aug. 22, 1919 — as if the June lynching of Mr. Hartfield had never happened.

Ms. Mamie Kirkland, age 107, speaking with the mayor of Ellisville, Mississippi.

Ms. Mamie Kirkland, age 107, speaking with the mayor of Ellisville, Mississippi.

But it remained seared in collective memory. “I never saw him in my life, but I remember his name,” Ms. Kirkland said, adding, “Could have been my father.”

By then, it appears, the family had already endured mayhem in East St. Louis, where thousands of Southern black men like her father found work in industrial plants. In 1917, when Ms. Kirkland was 9, rioting white men, incensed by the job competition and changing demographics, burned down black neighborhoods and shot at those who fled. Dozens of black residents, maybe many more, died, and thousands were left homeless.

Read the full story here.

Read an eyewitness account of the lynching of John Hartfield by a reporter here.

Read more Breaking News here.