Category Archives: Black History

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 9- Who were the Black Panthers?

bp.jpgSince Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 half time performance, there has been lots of conversation around the Black Panthers. Many (white) Americans seem appalled that Bey would pay tribute to such an organization,  falsely comparing the Black Panthers to the Ku Klux Klan (the Black Panthers were NOT terrorists who bombed, murdered, and lynched innocent people like the KKK). But do we really know who the Black Panthers were? Unfortunately, the American education system has a way of painting historic black leaders and organizations in a negative light, and/or watering down the truth to fit its preferred narrative. So let’s educate ourselves and learn who the Black Panthers truly were.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party. The two had worked together for years prior through activism in black politics. Bobby  Seale was involved in RAM (Revolutionary Action Movement) and both of the men were in the Soul Students Advisory Committee, a collegiate organization. The philosophy for the Panthers was developed through these experiences.

But the Panthers were not just about philosophy. They had demands and outlined action to achieve them. Recently, people have talked about the Panthers possession of guns. The Panthers did indeed exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. This was done to implement Malcolm X’s self-defense philosophy and patrol the police. At the time, police brutality was rampant, with officers beating and killing black people randomly. Police departments were even recruiting officers from the racist south to police the northern ghettos.

The Socialist Alternative recalls this instance:

On one occasion, whilst on patrol, they witnessed an officer stop and search a young guy. The Panthers got out of their car and went over to the scene and stood watching their guns on full display. Angrily, the policeman began to question them and tried to intimidate them with threats of arrest. But Huey P. Newton had studied the law intimately and could quote every law and court ruling relevant to their situation.

During these situations, the Panthers made it clear that they did not want to have a shoot-out with the police and that they would only use their guns in self-defense. They would also hand out information, to the crowd that formed, about the Black Panthers philosophy and meeting details.

Outside of their self-defense, we rarely talk about the notable community programs that the Panthers organized. They organized many “revolutionary program,” as they called them, such as free breakfast for children, health clinics, and shoes for children. Bobby Seale explained, “A revolutionary program is onset forth by revolutionaries, by those who want to change the existing system for a better system.”

The Black Panther Party grew to have 5,000 full time employees and 45 chapters throughout America. They sold 250,000 papers a week. At the time, polls showed that the organization had 90 percent support from black people in major cities. The group was largely impactful, with the FBI describing them as “the number one threat to the internal security of the United States.”

Today, we remember the Black Panther Party, for being one of the most widely know black political organizations that protected and met people’s needs through programs that provided food, clothes, medical care and more. We thank them for showing us what we can accomplish through organization. Today, unfortunately,  we still see many of the same issues that they combated. We can learn much from them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

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#EverydayBlackHistory Day 8- Visual Artist John Jennings

jjThere’s a space and place for all of us in this movement. How we express our perspectives and seek justice and freedom will look differently for each of us, and that’s okay. Some of us will educate, some will protest, some will open non-profit organizations or businesses, some will meet with government leaders…and the list goes on. But one man, John Jennings, is using his art to start a revolution.

John Jennings is a visual artists who challenges the typical portrayal of black expression by creating work that goes outside of that confine. He bases his work on these questionsHow can we show the work of underrepresented artists, especially those who do comics (see list of books below)? How can we go beyond the racial stereotypes of traditional comic art to show the rich expression of black artists, past and present? John Jennings explains, “we have to understand that stereotypical images are designed to function in a particular way. They all have purposes in how the Black body is perceived. The work that I do and that my colleagues create offer alternatives to those constructions and gives the Black audience choices on multiple levels.

Black TwitterYou may have come across some of John Jennings work withoutmother even realizing it. John Jennings is the creator of #BLKPWRTWITTR, a remake of the Twitter logo that was created after the murders of nine innocent black lives at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. John Jennings was looking for a way to express his range of emotions and show unity. He also created the piece, Tears of Mother Emanuel.

Today, we celebrate John Jennings for using his gift to tear down stereotypes, create a space for underrepresented artists, and giving us a visual component to the movement. We are thankful to experience this black history in the making.

#EverydayBlackHistory

Here are some books by John Jennings:

Black Comix

What “black,” “art” and “culture” mean to a group of African-American artists.

 

 

 

Graphic novel is science fiction/horror story about buying and selling of race.

 

 

 Out of Sequence

 Underrepresented voices showcase their imaginative comic art.

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 7- Whitney Houston Performs National Anthem

whitIn the spirit of the Super Bowl , Lady Gaga’s beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and Beyonce and Bruno Mars slaying the halftime show, I cannot help but remember one of the greatest Super Bowl performances EVER by the one and only Whitney Houston.

In 1991, 25 years ago, Whitney Houston sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV. To this day, Whitney Houston’s rendition is still revered as the standard for performing this song. Whitney Houston performed the national anthem at the hight of the Persian Gulf War and captivated the patriotic spirit of the country so well that Artista Records released the recording as a single. The single made it to the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 20. The performance remained iconic, so much so that it moved to the top 10, reaching No. 6, after September 11, 2001.

So let’s all take a few minutes and bask in the glory of Whitney Houston’s (arguably) unmatched rendition of the national anthem:

Today, we remember Whitney Houston for singing the national anthem like never before, and for just being the greatest of all time. Period. She’s no longer here with us but her legacy is and will continue to live forever.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 6- Black Sanitation Workers’ Strikes

i am manMany of us are aware that Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN. But do you know why Dr. King was in Memphis at that time?

On February 1, 1968, there was a severe rainstorm in Memphis, TN. Echols Cole and Robert Walker, two black sanitation workers, took cover from the storm in the trash compactor of their truck. Somehow, the compactor mechanism was triggered and the men were crushed to death. A bereavement fee was paid from the Memphis government to the families of Echols Cole and Robert Walker but it wasn’t even enough to cover the costs of their funerals.

Also on February 1, 1968 (timeline), due to the weather, 22 black sanitation workers were sent home without pay. However, their white supervisors continued to work and were paid. So on February 12, more than 1,100 out of 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. The mayor at the time, Henry Loeb, was completely against their demands.

As the strike continued, the black community of Memphis came together to support the strikers. Organizations like COME (Community on the Move for Equality) developed food and clothing banks in churches, collected donations to pay the strikers rent and mortgages, and recruited marchers to participate in demonstrations. Then Reverend James Lawson, pastor of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, invited Dr. King to join in support of the strikers. Reverend James Lawson was an experienced activist in the Civil Rights Movement and trained activists in nonviolent resistance.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to strikers and supporters. He was scheduled to also lead a march while in Memphis but on April 4, 1968, when he stepped onto the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Hotel, Dr. King was assassinated.

On April 16, 1968, two months after the start of the strike, an agreement was reached between city and union officials and the strikers, and the strike ended. While Dr. King played a role in the success of the black sanitation workers strike, we must acknowledge and commend the 1,100 plus workers and their families that sacrificed their means and livelihood to gain fair treatment and equality. Marchers often carried the iconic “I AM A MAN” signs, demonstrating that they not only wanted better wages and safer working conditions, but they were fighting for the recognition of their humanity.

Today, we remember the black sanitation workers’ strike and all the unsung heroes and heroins for their resistance and commitment to equality. We admire the black community of Memphis for the indescribable coming together and support that they demonstrated that led to their success.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 4- Claudette Colvin

claudette.jpgToday, we celebrate and remember Rosa Parks on what would have been her 103rd birthday. Rosa Parks is known as the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement” and we are forever grateful for all her work towards freedom and justice. However, before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.

Claudette Colvin was one of several women to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL prior to Rosa Parks. On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to move stating, “I paid my fare and it’s my constitutional right.” In an interview she recalls, “I remember they dragged me off the bus because I refused to walk. They handcuffed me and took me to an adult jail.”  At the time, Claudette Colvin was 15 years old. She explains, “I just couldn’t move. History had me glued to the seat.”

Claudette Colvin was charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and defying the segregation law.

It’s important to understand how mush of a sacrifice Claudette Colvin’s actions actually were. Her parents felt that she put their family in danger, so much so that her father stayed up that entire night with a shotgun fully loaded, fearful that the KKK would come to their home. She also lost friends, with their parents saying she was “crazy” and an “extremist.”

Claudette Colvin wanted to continue her fight in the courts, unlike others that had refused to give up their seat. However, even after she sought out a lawyer, the black community leaders preferred to wait on taking legal action. Claudette Colvin had not had any civil rights training and, soon after the arrest, she became pregnant and had a child out of wedlock. She believes they felt she did not fit the image.

However, a year later, federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle was filed, which included Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith, and ultimately ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama.

Today, we remember Claudette Colvin for her courage and sacrifice. While there are some names that quickly come to mind when we think of the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to remember that there were thousands of foot soldiers who played major roles in the movement. We may not know all their names, but we are forever  indebted to them.

#EverydayBlackHistory

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 3- Mary Jane Patterson

MJPToday, many Black women make the decision
to continue their education at institutions
of higher learning. Whether attending a historically black college or university (HBCU) or a predominately white institution (PWI), countless black women are succeeding, and sprinkling #BlackGirlMagic all around campus. But who did this first?

Mary Jane Patterson was the first Black women to receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1862.

While it is not certain, it is believed that Mary Jane Patterson was born into slavery in Raleigh, NC in 1840, moving to Oberlin as a teenager. She completed college preparatory courses at Oberlin College in 1857. But when it was time for her to attend college, Mary Jane Patterson chose not to enroll in the college’s two-year program for women and enrolled in the “gentlemen’s course,” which was a four-year program. She graduated with her B.A. degree with high honors in 1862.

At the age of 22, Mary Jane Patterson moved to Philadelphia, PA. There, she was a teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth for five years. In 1869, she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at the new Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Mary Jane Patterson became the principal of the school until she resigned in 1884. Under her leadership, the school developed a prestigious reputation.

Mary Jane Patterson was also active in women’s rights and assisted in founding the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

Today, we remember Mary Jane Patterson for paving the way for black women (and people) in higher education, even in a time when slavery still existed and women were extremely marginalized. We thank her for being an early demonstration of black girl magic.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 2- Wendell Scott

Scott 3In 2015, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted its first African-Amercian driver. That driver is Wendell Scott, the first Black driver to compete full time in the premiere division, and the first to win at NASCAR’s highest level.

A native of Danville, Virginia, Wendell Scott began racing in 1947 at local area tracks. From 1961-1973, he competed in NASCAR’s premiere series, becoming the first Black person to win a NASCAR premiere series event on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. In his 13 year career, Wendell Scott made 495 starts, ranking 37th on the all-time list.

While NASCAR credits him with winning one premiere series event, Wendell Scott’s son, Frank Scott, shared the impact of racism on his father’s winning record. “I can remember him racing in Jacksonville, and he beat them all, but they wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. And then when they did, they had my father in third place. One of the main reasons that they gave was there was a white beauty queen, and they always kissed the driver.” Wendall Scott was also banned from racing at certain speedways, and even received death threats when he planned to race in Atlanta, GA.

Frank Scott shared, “Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race.'”

Wendell Scott’s career ended when he could no longer afford to race and no one would support him financially. Frank Scott explained, “Where other drivers that we were competing against had major sponsorships, providing them engineers, as many cars as they needed, he did everything that he did out of his own pocket.”

Today, we remember Wendell Scott for bravely pioneering in NASCAR racing, and being excellent, despite the discrimination and racism that tried to keep him from succeeding. We celebrate his achievements and are thankful that his legacy is now (finally) recognized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

 

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 1- Jimmie Lee Jackson

jimmie-lee-jacksonSome know about “Bloody Sunday,” a voting rights march that began in Selma, AL and ended in violence.  However, few know about Jimmie Lee Jackson, an activist whose death was the catalyst for the march in Selma, which lead to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Jimmie Lee Jackson was a young man from Alabama who tried to register to vote numerous times but was denied due to the color of his skin. On February 18, 1965, when Jimmie was 26, he, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82 year old grandfather Cager Lee, participated in a protest in Marion, AL. Protesters were attacked by state troopers and Jimmie and his grandfather sought refuge in a restaurant, Mack’s Cafe. In the cafe, Jimmie’s mother was being attacked by two state troopers. Jimmie went to her rescue, was thrown by a state trooper into a cigarette machine, and shot twice in the stomach by state trooper James Bonard Fowler.

Jimmie was taken to the Good Samaritan hospital in Selma, AL and appeared to be recovering. However, days later, Jimmie died.

The Black community was outraged. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organizer James Bevel stated “We will march Jimmie’s body to the state capitol in Montgomery and lie it on the steps so Governor George Wallace can see what he’s done.” While they did not do that, activists did plan a 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, AL on Sunday March 7, 1965, four days after Jimmie’s funeral. However, activists were met with violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, in what is know known as “Bloody Sunday.”

In 2007, James Bonard Fowler (at the age of 74) was indicted for the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and served five months in prison.

Today, we remember Jimmie Lee Jackson, whose life was taken seeking justice. Many do not know his name or his story but his life and death played a major role in Black people gaining the right to vote in America.

#EverydayBlackHistory

Click here to read more about Jimmie Lee Jackson.

 

 

 

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