"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
P O Box 1752 Paris TX 75461 ~ 903.783.9232 ~ naacp6213@yahoo.com
Meets First Thursday of Each Month at 6:00 PM ~ 121 E Booth

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eldridge Cleaver

I feel that I am a citizen of the American dream and that the revolutionary struggle of which I am a part is a struggle against the American nightmare.

Leroy Eldrige Cleaver was born August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas near Pine Bluff. When his father began work as a dining-car waiter on the Super Chief, a train running from Chicago to Los Angeles, the family moved first to Phoenix and then to the Watts section of Los Angeles. Cleaver spent most of his teenage years in youth facilities, first serving a year for stealing a bicycle and later for marijuana sales.

When arrested again as an adult in 1954 for selling marijuana, he served two and a half years at the state prison in Soledad, where he earned his high school diploma and began reading works by Karl Marx, W.E.B. DuBois and Thomas Paine. After his release he returned to marijuana sales, as well as committing a series of rapes. He was convicted of assault, and sentenced to two to fourteen years which he served at San Quentin and Folsom prisons.

During this prison sentence Cleaver became a follower of the Black Muslims, influenced by the ideas and rhetoric of Malcolm X. He also began writing essays on race, gender and politics, as well as on his own prison experiences. The first of these were published in The Negro History Bulletin in 1962.

Cleaver became eligible for parole in 1965 and began corresponding with San Francisco civil rights attorney Beverly Axelrod. She was able to have his essay "Notes on a Native Son" published in Ramparts magazine, as well as the promise of a job at the magazine when he was released. Further essays attracted the support of writers such as Norman Mailer, and Cleaver was paroled in 1966.

He became an editor and contributor at Ramparts, and his essays and letters to Ms. Axelrod were published two years later in the best-selling book Soul on Ice. The book was viewed as the ultimate handbook for the student activists and Black Power activists of the time, as well as a scathing critique of American culture.

During this time he established Black House, a cultural center for young African Americans in Oakland. There he met Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founders of the Black Panther Party. Cleaver soon became the party's Minister of Information, publishing its newspaper and making public appearances around the country. UC Berkeley sociologist Laile Bartlett said this about him:
"Under his leadership, the Black Panthers had developed from a local Oakland organization into an international movement being copied by liberationists around the world. As a writer--his Soul on Ice was a bestseller--Cleaver was both symbol and spokesman for a public that transcended race and class."
With the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Cleaver was one of the most influential African American figures of the time. He created an alliance between the Black Panther Party and the mostly white left-wing Peace and Freedom Party to nominate candidates for local, state and federal offices. Cleaver himself ran for president, receiving about 35, 000 votes.

He was wounded in a gun battle with the Oakland Police in April 1968, during which fellow Panther Bobby Hutton was killed. He was arrested for parole violation but released two months later. A higher court overturned the release and added charges from the shootout. He left the country in November to avoid arrest, settling first in Cuba and later in Algeria and North Korea.

Although he was greeted as a revolutionary hero in these countries, Cleaver became disenchanted with the repressive Communist regimes. "What made Marxism-Leninism unworkable was that there was no humanity in it, no love," he said in a Reader's Digest interview after his 1975 return. "I'd rather be in jail in America than free anywhere else." Imprisoned when he first returned, his conservative politics and new-found Christian faith found him a wide range of supported and all charges were dropped by 1978. 

In that year Cleaver published a second book Soul on Fire addressing his conversion experience, although he later rejected the commercialism of evangelical Christianity and joined the Mormon Church. He was active in local politics, even challenging incumbent Alan Cranston in the U. S. Senate primary.

By the 1980's Cleaver began to have problems with drugs again, being arrested several times for cocaine use. He died on May 1, 1998 in Pomona, California at the age of 62.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roy Wilkins

"A towering figure in American history and during the time he headed the NAACP. It was during this crucial period that the association was faced with some of its most serious challenges and the whole landscape of the black condition in America was changed, radically, for the better." ~ Benjamin Hooks

Roy Wilkins was born August 30, 1901 in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1923 with a degree in sociology. While in college he was night editor for the student newspaper Minnesota Daily and reporter for the St. Paul Appeal. After graduation he took a job at The Call in Kansas City, soon becoming managing editor.

His lifetime work with the NAACP began in 1931 as assistant secretary under Walter White. When W. E. B. DuBois resigned in 1934, Wilkins replaced DuBois as editor of Crisis magazine, a position he held until 1949. He then became administrator of internal affairs, and in 1955 was elected Executive Secretary, the highest staff position, a title changed to Executive Director in 1964.

Wilkins worked to advance civil rights through legislation, frequently testifying before congressional hearings and conferring with presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter. He was one of the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, was named to the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1967, and chaired the U. S. Delegation to the International Conference on Human Rights in 1968. He was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1964 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1967.

During a time of increasing militancy, Wilkins was known as a moderate, conciliatory leader, expressing this opinion in The New York Times:
The Negro has to be a superb diplomat and a great strategist. He has to parlay what actual power he has along with the good will of the white majority. He has to devise and pursue those philosophies and activities which will least alienate the white majority opinion. And that doesn't mean that the Negro has to indulge in bootlicking. But he must gain the sympathy of the large majority of the American public. He must also seek to make an identification with the American tradition.
Criticism of his conservative approach came from other civil rights leaders such as DuBois, Daisy Bates and Fred Shuttlesworth, especially in regard to his cooperation with the anti-communist efforts in the early 1950's. At that time Wilkins collaborated with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to publish and distribute leaflets denouncing activist Paul Robeson, a frequent target of the anti-communist movement.

Wilkins died in New York City on September 8, 1981 at the age of 80. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Robert Russa Moton

“I have seen Major Moton in a good many trying situations in which an ordinary man would have lost his head, but I have never seen him when he seemed to feel the least degraded or humiliated,” Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education

Robert Russa Moton was born August 26, 1867 in Amelia County, Virginia. His mother, a plantation cook, secretly taught him to read. When they were discovered by the plantation owner, the owner's daughter begin helping with the lessons. Moton later went to one of the free schools that were started in the South during reconstruction. He attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), graduating in 1890 and staying on as part of the staff. He became Commander of Cadets the next year, a position equivalent to Dean of Men.

Moton traveled throughout the South raising funds for Hampton and promoting vocational education, often in the company of Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute. Both men believed that job training was crucial for African American advancement and both were willing to work within the Jim Crow limitations of the times, seeking to cooperate and coexist with whites. When Washington died in 1915 Moton took his place as President of Tuskegee, going on to expand its liberal arts curriculum and increasing endowments through wealthy donors in the North.

During World War I Moton was successful in having an African American officer's training site located at Tuskegee. This was used again during World War II for the Tuskegee Airmen, and Moton Field was named in his honor. President Wilson sent him to France to inspect the African American troops, and he later served as an advisor to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt.

Moton gave the keynote address at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, during which he said "Twelve million black men and women in this country are proud of their American citizenship, but they are determined that it shall mean for them no less than for any other group, the largest enjoyment of opportunity and the fullest blessings of freedom." In 1923 he brought a VA hospital for African Americans to Alabama, facing opposition from the Ku Klux Klan because of his insistence that African American administrators and doctors be hired.

Holly Knoll
Moton retired in 1935 to Gloucester, Virginia where he built a large Georgian-style house named Holly Knoll. He invited intellectuals and community leaders to meet at Holly Knoll to talk about education and other issues of the day. After his death five years later, his son-in-law Frederick Patterson continued the tradition. Planning of the United Negro College Fund was held there, as were strategy meetings for the Brown v. Board of Education case. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited often and wrote part of his "I Have a Dream" speech under a 400-year-old live oak on the grounds. White allies and others wanting to arrive unseen would come by boat along the York River. Holly Knoll was abandoned by the 1980's but is now put to its original use as a meeting place and is being administered and rehabilitated by the Gloucester Institute.

The Robert Russa Moton Museum, which preserves the history of civil rights in education, is housed in the former Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. Students walked out of the school in 1951 when the local school board would not approve expenditures for the school, even though there were no desks for teachers or students and the school was so crowded that classes were held in a school bus. The students filed a lawsuit which was one of the five presented as part of the Brown case.

Moton was the first president of the National Negro Business League, founded in 1900 by Booker T. Washington to promote the "commercial and financial development of the Negro". In 1912 Moton founded the Negro Organization Society of Virginia, an umbrella group for existing community organizations dedicated to "Better Schools, Better Health, Better Homes, Better Farms." He wrote his autobiography Finding a Way Out in 1920, followed by What the Negro Thinks in 1929. He died on May 31, 1940 at the age of 72.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Althea Gibson

The entrance of Negroes into national tennis is as inevitable as it has proven in baseball, in football, or in boxing; there is no denying so much talent. The committee at Forest Hills has the power to stifle the efforts of one Althea Gibson, who may or may not be succeeded by others of her race who have equal or superior ability. They will knock at the door as she has done. Eventually the tennis world will rise up en masse to protest the injustices perpetrated by our policymakers. Eventually -- why not now? ~ Alice Marble, American Lawn Tennis Magazine, 1950

Althea Gibson was born August 25, 1927 in Silver, South Carolina, and her family moved to Harlem when she was three. Her father taught her to box, and at age ten she began playing paddleball in Police Athletic League tournaments. Her skill caught the attention of local African American tennis players at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club.

In 1944 and 1945 Gibson won the girls' championship of the American Tennis Association, an African American organization similar to the whites-only United States Lawn Tennis Association. ATA officials recognized her potential to compete against USLTA opponents and in 1946 she was invited to move to North Carolina to train. Mentor Sugar Ray Robinson urged her to "go south". She lived with the family of ATA President Dr. Hubert Eaton in Wilmington, North Carolina during the school year and with Vice President Dr. Robert Johnson in the summers for the next three years while she finished high school, having dropped out several years earlier. After graduation from Wilmington High School she enrolled Florida A&M University, earning a degree in Physical Education in 1953. She then taught at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Gibson won her first of ten consecutive ATA championships in 1947, and in 1950 was accepted to play in the U. S. Nationals only at the insistence of four-time women's champion Alice Marble. She only lasted until the second round that year, but two years later was ranked ninth in the United States and in 1956 won the women's singles and doubles at the French Championship. The next two years she won championships at Wimbledon and the U. S. Nationals, along with five more doubles titles. There would not be another African American champion at Wimbledon until Arthur Ashe in 1975.

In 1958 Gibson retired from playing in the USLTA. Before the open era began ten years later it was a strictly amateur association with no cash prizes beyond an expense allowance. There was no professional women's tennis at the time, and no endorsements were available. It is reported that she made $100,000 playing exhibition matches before Harlem Globetrotters games in 1960.

Gibson worked as a teaching pro and wrote an autobiography I Always Wanted to be Somebody. She recorded an album Althea Gibson Sings and appeared in the movie The Horse Soldiers. In 1964 was the first African American member of the LPGA, competing for fourteen years but never placing higher than second place in a tournament. She again encountered racism, once being allowed to compete at the Beaumont, Texas Country Club but being forbidden to used the clubhouse or the restrooms. In 1971 she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She became the New Hersey State Commissioner of Athletics in 1975 and also served on the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness.

Gibson died on September 28, 2003 at the age of 76. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

William Wilberforce

“So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade's wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for Abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”

British abolitionist William Wilberforce was born August 24, 1759 in Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire. He attended St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was a classmate of future Prime Minister William Pitt. Wilberforce was elected to Parliament at the age of 21 while still a student. Although small and sickly from childhood, with extremely bad eyesight, he soon became known for his oratorical skills. Diarist James Boswell said this about him: "I saw what seemed a mere shrimp mount upon the table; but as I listened, he grew, and grew, until the shrimp became a whale."

Raised in a traditional Anglican family, Wilberforce had been introduced to evangelical Christianity during the years he lived with an aunt and uncle who were followers of Methodist preacher George Whitefield. His faith was reawakened on reading William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life in 1785. He became increasingly involved in moral and social issues and began working for the abolition of the slave trade in 1789. John Wesley wrote these words to him shortly before Wesley's death in 1791:
               "Unless the divine power has raised you up to be an Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be fore you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.
              "Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a "law" in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?"
Wilberforce worked with the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, led by Thomas Clarkson and Charles Middleton. This was perhaps the first grass-roots civil human rights organization, using many modern methods such as lobbying, public meetings, and even a logo (pictured at right) designed by Josiah Wedgwood.

Before Parliament could be persuaded to pass anti-slavery legislation, the war against France in 1793 created a more conservative climate and no progress was made for another decade. In 1804 Wilberforce introduced a bill prohibiting British subjects from participating in the slave trade which was passed within two years and took effect in March 1807.

Wilberforce continued to work to abolish slavery, even after his retirement from Parliament in 1826. Aided by the 1832 slave revolt in Jamaica, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed just days before his death on July 29 of that year.

Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce
Wilberforce is the subject of the 2007 film Amazing Grace, released on the 200th anniversary of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Ohio's Wilberforce University, the nation's oldest private historically black university, is named in his honor. His birthplace in Hull has been opened as a museum honoring the abolition movement.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Houston Riot of 1917

The primary cause of the Houston riot was the habitual brutality of the white police officers of Houston in their treatment of colored people. Contributing causes were (1) the mistake made in not arming members of the colored provost guard or military police, (2) lax discipline at Camp Logan which permitted promiscuous visiting at the camp and made drinking and immorality possible among the soldiers. ~ Martha Gruenig, Crisis Magazine, November 1917

The Houston Riot of 1917 was one of the saddest chapters in the history of American race relations. It vividly illustrated the problems that the nation struggled with on the home front during wartime. ~ Texas State Historical Association

On August 23, 1917 soldiers from the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion stationed in Houston to guard the construction of Camp Logan, a training facility, marched on the Fourth Ward police station and were met outside the camp by police and armed citizens. Four policemen, four soldiers and 12 civilians were killed in the confrontation, and 19 soldiers were eventually executed. No white soldiers or Houston residents were charged with any crimes.

Around noon that day, police dragged an African American woman from her home and arrested her for public drunkenness. A soldier from  the camp asked what was going on, and was beaten and arrested as well. When Cpl. Charles Baltimore, an MP, learned of the arrest he went to the police station to investigate. He was beaten, then shot at as he was chased away. Rumors soon reached the camp that Baltimore had been killed, and that a white mob was approaching. Soldiers armed themselves and began their march toward the city.

Martial law was declared the next day, and two days later the African American soldiers were sent back to New Mexico where they had been previously stationed. A series of three court-martials were held from November 1917 through March 1918, with seven soldiers testifying in exchange for clemency. The trials were held in San Antonio with no publicity or review from the U. S. War Department, and the first executions were carried out with two day's notice and only a few officers present.

The New York chapter of the NAACP petitioned President Wilson for clemency. The War Department had issued a ruling that "all death sentences be suspended until the President of the United States could review all records". Wilson commuted the sentences of ten of the eleven soldiers sentenced at the third court-martial, sentencing them to life in prison.

Monday, August 22, 2011

John Lee Hooker

If they played more blues, people would just get it - they try to hold it back but just about can't hold it back now because the blues is really going. ~ John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker was born August 22, 1917 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His father was a sharecropper and Baptist minister, and only gospel music was allowed in their home. His parents divorced when he was four, and the next year his mother remarried Will Moore, a blues singer and guitar player. Hooker learned guitar from his stepfather, who played in the one-chord Shreveport style, and through him met other bluesmen such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton and Blind Blake.

Hooker left home at the age of 15, originally going to Memphis and then working in factories Cincinnati and other cities before he settled in Detroit where he played at house parties and in the clubs along Hastings Street.

He began his recording career with Modern Records in 1948 with the release of "Boogie Chillen". Because of contract constraints he recorded for different labels under a number of names over the next two decades. In the sixties he was part of the blues revival discovered by folk and rock musicians, influencing groups like Canned Heat, The Animals and The Yardbirds.

Hooker performed with contemporary artists, winning Grammy Awards in 1990 and 1998 for recordings with Bonnie Raitt and with Van Morrison. He also won Grammies in 1996 and 1998 for his albums "Chill Out" and "Don't Look Back", as well as a lifetime achievement award in 2000.

"Boogie Chillen' was named one of the songs of the century by the Recording Industry Association of America, and Hooker is a member of the National Blues Hall of Fame. He died in Los Altos, California on June 21, 2001 at the age of 83.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nat Turner Rebellion

And about this time [1825] I had a vision—and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened—the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams—and I heard a voice saying, "Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bare it." ~ Confessions of Nat Turner, as transcribed by Thomas R Gray

The slave rebellion led by Nat Turner on August 21, 1831 was the deadliest in American history with 55 whites and estimates of up to 200 blacks killed in Southampton County, Virginia.

Turner was born October 2, 1800, one week before Gabriel Prosser was hanged for leading a revolt in Richmond, 70 miles to the west. He taught himself to read and write at an early age and was deeply religious, often fasting and praying. He frequently led Baptist services and was known as "the Prophet." A series of visions over the years led to his belief that he was called to lead an uprising against the slaveowners, with this occurring in 1828:
"I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first... And by signs in the heavens that it would make known to me when I should commence the great work, and until the first sign appeared I should conceal it from the knowledge of men; and on the appearance of the sign... I should arise and prepare myself and slay my enemies with their own weapons."

The "sign in the heavens" was an eclipse on February 12, 1831 and he began preparation for a revolt planned for July 4, enlisting the help of fellow slaves named Henry, Hark, Nelson and Sam. Because of an illness it was postponed until August, a week after dust or other conditions caused the sun to appear bluish-green. They struck in the early morning hours, killing white families in the area, beginning in Turner's household. The group grew as large as 70 men, many on horseback. The Richmond Enquirer  reported that "Turner declared that 'indiscriminate slaughter was not their intention after they attained a foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance to strike terror and alarm.'"

As word of  the uprising spread, the local militia was called out, along with three artillery companies and men from the naval base in Richmond. The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours. About 50 men and women were tried and executed for taking part, and many others were killed by the militia and white mobs. Some were beheaded, with their heads impaled on posts as an intimidation to others. Rumors spread as far as Alabama, leading to further violence throughout the south.

Turner was not captured until October 30, and was hanged on November 11. His attorney, Thomas Ruffin Gray, later published The Confessions of Nat Turner, based on conversations with Turner and his own research. As in the aftermath of other insurrections, the treatment of slaves became much more repressive. It became illegal to teach "slaves, free blacks or mulattoes" to read, and they were not allowed to have church services without a licensed white minister present.

The Turner Rebellion has been written about extensively, first by Herbert Aptheker in the 1943 American Negro Slave Revolts and in 1975 by Stephen B Oates in The Fires of Jubilee. It was the subject of Thomas Styron's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1967 novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, which drew criticism from many African American scholars although it was defended by Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. Released earlier this month is The Resurrection of Nat Turner by Sharon Ewell Foster, an African American Christian novelist.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dick Turpin

"By that time the water was right up even with my chin. Then I commenced to get scared, and in fooling around it happened that a rope touched my arm, and I commenced to climb overhand and got on deck." ~ Dick Turpin, Naval Court of Inquiry, 1898

John Henry "Dick" Turpin was born August 20, 1876 in Long Branch, New York near Syracuse. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1896 and was serving as a mess attendant about the USS Maine when it exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898. Of the crew of 350, only 90 survived the blast.

Turpin was aboard the gunboat Bennington in 1905 when a boiler exploded, killing 62 men. Eleven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the disaster but Turpin was not among them, although it is reported he saved a number of crew members by swimming them to shore.

Turpin is likely the only person to have been in both naval explosions.

Kathryn Turpin (third from left)
He left active duty in 1916, only to be recalled for World War I the following year. He served as Chief Gunner's Mate aboard the cruiser Marblehead, becoming one of the first African American Chief Petty Officers. During this time his wife Kathryn worked as a riveter at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.

Turpin was the Navy boxing champion in several weight classes during his service career, and taught boxing at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He retired from the Navy in 1925.

Turpin worked as a master rigger at the Puget Sound Shipyard. He was also a master diver, and was a member of the crew that invented the underwater cutting torch. During World War II he visited Naval Training Centers and Defense Plants throughout the country and was on the reviewing stand in Seattle when the first African American volunteers were sworn in after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Turpin died March 10, 1962 in Bremerton at the age of 85. He was cremated with his ashes scattered at sea.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Henry Hampton

"Eyes on the Prize recounts the fight to end decades of discrimination and segregation. It is the story of the people -- young and old, male and female, northern and southern -- who, compelled by a meeting of conscience and circumstance, worked to eradicate a world where whites and blacks could not go to the same school, ride the same bus, vote in the same election, or participate equally insociety. It was a world in which peaceful demonstrators were met with resistance and brutality -- in short, a reality that is now nearly incomprehensible to many young Americans." ~ PBS

Filmmaker Henry Hampton was born August 19, 1940 in St. Louis. He graduated from Washington University where he majored in literature and pre-med, briefly attending medical school at McGill University in Montreal before settling in Boston.

While working as a cab driver, a chance meeting with Royal Cloud of the Unitarian Universalist Association led to a public relations job with the church, and two years later he became Director of Information. At the opening of the Film and Media Archive at Washington University, which contains Hampton's work, Bob Hohler said this about Hampton:
As a communications officer and as an activist, as a writer and editor, filmmaker and poet, interpreter and analyst, facilitator and conciliator Henry was in the middle of it all. Later, people would say to me that one of the striking things about Henry was his capacity to listen, to hear even in the silences. This is where he learned it. I think of this five-year period as the equivalent of Henry's doctoral program.
Hampton in Selma
While covering the Selma March and beating death of Unitarian pastor James Reeb, Hampton became aware of the role played by the media in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 he founded Blackside Productions, initially producing industrial training and government-sponsored films. He began working on the project that would become Eyes on the Prize in 1978, at first with Capitol City Communications. When Capitol City withdrew funding, he continued the project, eventually finding corporate sponsorship and distribution through PBS.

Eyes on the Prize won seven Emmys, numerous Peabody awards, and was nominated for an Oscar. It is part of the curriculum of 35% of the colleges in the United States, and has been seen by over 20 million viewers. Blackside has produced over 80 films, including Eyes on the Prize II and documentaries on Malcolm X, the depression and the War on Poverty. It is one of the largest minority-owned productions companies in the country.

Hampton died on lung cancer in Boston on April 22, 1998. He also served as Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Afro-American History and on the Board of the Children's Defense Fund. 
"Because history is fun when you really go back and begin picking it apart and making it yours. Everybody needs history but the people who need it most are poor folks--people without resources or options. Food might be more immediately important than history but if you don’t understand what’s been done to you--by your own people and the so-called "they"--you can never get around it." ~ Henry Hampton, Commencement Speech at Washington University, 1989

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Frank Horne

Kid Stuff

                                                                The wise guys
                                                                tell me
                                                                that Christmas
                                                                is Kid Stuff...
                                                                Maybe they've got
                                                                something there --

                                                                Two thousand years ago
                                                                three wise guys
                                                                chased a star
                                                                across a continent
                                                                to bring
                                                                frankincense and myrrh
                                                                to a Kid
                                                                born in a manger
                                                                with an idea in his head...

                                                                And as the bombs
                                                                all over the world
                                                                the real wise guys
                                                                that we've all
                                                                got to go chasing stars
                                                                in the hope
                                                                that we can get back
                                                                some of that
                                                                Kid Stuff
                                                                born two thousand years ago.

Frank Horne was born August 18, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York. He began writing poetry while attending the City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1921. He then attended the Northern Illinois College of Ophthamology, and practiced as an optometrist in Chicago and Harlem. 

Horne was part of the Harlem Renaissance, writing for the NAACP's Crisis and the National Urban League's Opportunity magazines. He won second place in Crisis's 1925 poetry contest with Letters Found Near a Suicide, a collection of 11 poems. He was primarily a reviewer for Opportunity, winning a top prize in 1924 for a critique including this advice to African American writers:
"Your task is definite, grand, and fine. You are to sing the attributes of a soul. Be superbly conscious of the many tributaries to our pulsing stream of life. You must articulate what the hidden sting of the slaver's lash leaves reverberating in its train -- the subtle hates, the burnt desires, sudden hopes, and dark despairs.... Sing, O black poets, for song is all we have!"
In 1926 Horne left New York to take a position on the faculty of Fort Valley High and Industrial School (now Fort Valley State University.) His essay I Am Initiated into the Negro Race describes his move to the south, saying ""From now on, I am the Enterer of Side Doors, and Back Doors, and sometimes No Door At All." Over the next decade he served as instructor, track coach, dean and acting president. He earned a master's degree from USC in 1932, researching the state of vocational education. Portions of his thesis were published in Opportunity containing the conclusion that
"As factors in training Negro youth to earn a livelihood in industrial America of today, the industrial schools of the South, except in a few rare instances, could practically all be scrapped without appreciable loss to any one....We are fiddling with 'man-and-plow' agriculture in the face of the gang-plow and the tractor; our home economics girls are in bodily danger in a modern kitchen; the language of collective bargaining, company unions and cooperatives is so much Greek to the ears of our industrial students."
Mary McLeod Bethune recruited Horne on 1936 to become her assistant at the National Youth Administration. He later served in the Federal Housing Authority, succeeding Robert Wagner as Director of the Office of Race Relations, responsible for addressing issues of equality in public housing. After Wagner became Mayor of New York City, Horne became director of the city's Commission on Intergroup Relations and served as a consultant to the NYC Housing Redevelopment Board.

Horne continued to write poetry throughout his life, bridging the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Power Era with work such as He Won't Say Put ("and mighty Martin Luther King / he ain't go no Santy this year"). He died on September 7, 1974 at the age of 75. He was the uncle of singer Lena Horne, who lived with his family in Georgia for several years.

Letters Found Near a Suicide
from The Crisis (November 1925)
by Frank Horne
To All of You
My little stone
Sinks quickly
Into the bosom of this deep, dark pool
Of oblivion . . .
I have troubled its breast but little.
Yet those far shores
That knew me not
Will feel the fleeting, furtive kiss
Of my tiny concentric ripples . . . . .
* * *
To Lewellyn
You have borne full well
The burden of my friendship–
I have drunk deep
At your crystal pool,
And in return
I have polluted its waters
With the bile of my hatred,
I have flooded your soul
With tortuous thoughts,
I have played Iscariot
To your Pythias . . . . .
* * *
To the Poets:
Why do poets
Like to die
And sing raptures to the grave?
They seem to think
That bitter dirt
Turns sweet between the teeth.
I have lived
And yelled hozannas
At the climbing stars
I have lived
And drunk deep
The deceptive wine of life. . . .
And now, tipsy and reeling
From its dregs
I die . . .
Oh, let the poets sing
Raptures to the grave.

from Ebony and Topaz: A Collectanea (1927)
by Frank Horne
Down in Georgia
a danglin’ nigger
hangin’ in a tree
. . . kicks holes in the laughing sunlight–
A little red haired
Irish girl . . . grey eyes
and a blue dress–
A little black babe
in a lacy white cap . . .
The soft red lips of the little red head kiss so tenderly
the little black head–
grey eyes smile
into black eyes
and the gay sunlight
laughs joyously
in a bust of gold . . . 
Down in Georgia
a danglin’ nigger
hangin’ in a tree
. . . kicks holes in the laughing sunlight–”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Marcus Garvey

"Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life." ~ Marcus Garvey, First Message to the Negroes of the World from Atlanta Prison

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. He became a printer's apprentice at the age of 14, and leading a labor strike for higher wages in 1907 was the beginning of a lifetime of activism. He traveled throughout Central America and Europe working as an editor and printer, and was greatly influenced by Pan-Africanist Duse Mohamed Ali in England. Upon returning to Jamaica he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

After reading Up From Slavery Garvey began correspondence with Booker T. Washington and came to the United States to visit Tuskegee Institute, planning to create a similar school in Jamaica. He settled in Harlem where he met Hubert Harrison and began speaking on street corners, much as he had done at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner in London. He established a branch of the UNIA in New York, promoting social, political and economic freedom for those of African descent, and the next year began publication of Negro World, a weekly newspaper.
"The Universal Improvement Association represents the hopes and aspirations of the awakened Negro. Our desire is for a place in the world, not to disturb the tranquility of other men, but to lay down our burden and rest our weary backs and feet by the banks of the Niger and sing our songs and chant our hymns to the God of Ethiopia."
The UNIA grew rapidly, and within two years claimed over two million members. The Black Star Line was incorporated, purchasing a ship rechristened SS Frederick Douglass as part of Garvey's vision of promoting trade with Africa and transporting to Liberia those who wanted to leave the white-dominated American countries. UNIA's first International Convention was held in 1920, with 25,000 present at Madison Square Garden to hear Garvey speak. Total membership at that time was said to be four million.

J. Edgar Hoover's General Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Investigation (known as the FBI after 1935) began investigating Garvey, first in search of evidence for charges as an undesirable alien and then for mail fraud, bringing in the U. S. Attorney General and the U. S. Post Office. Pamphlets promoting the Black Star Line picturing a second ship, the Phillis Wheatley, which had not been purchased were used as evidence, and in June 1923 Garvey was sentenced to five years in federal prison. His sentence was commuted by President Coolidge in 1927, and he was deported to Jamaica.

Garvey became involved in local politics, founding the People's Political Party, and continued to publish the Negro World, but the UNIA declined without his efforts in the United States.

In 1935 he returned to London, again working as a printer and editor. He stayed involved with events in the Caribbean as well as those unfolding in Ethiopia with the invasion of Italian forces. He died in London on June 10, 1940 at the age of 52. In 1964 his remains were reinterred in Jamaica's National Heroes Park and he was proclaimed Jamaica's first national hero.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wyatt Tee Walker

‘‘One of the keenest minds of the nonviolent revolution.’’ ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights leader, pastor and musicologist Wyatt Tee Walker was born August 16, 1929 in Brockton, Massachusetts and attended Virginia Union University, earning  a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics and a master's in divinity. It was at this time he met Martin Luther King, Jr. at an inter-seminary meeting while King was at Crozier Theological Seminary.

Upon graduation in 1953, Walker became pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia. He became involved in local civil rights issues, serving as president of the Petersburg NAACP chapter and as founder and president of the Virginia branch of the Congress of Racial Equality. He organized the Petersburg Improvement Association, modeled after the Montgomery Improvement Association, a grassroots organization fighting segregation. Walker was jailed in 1958 the first of seventeen times for leading efforts to integrate the Petersburg Public Library, deliberately choosing to try to check out a biography of Robert E. Lee.

Police dogs attack Walter Gadsden in Birmingham

Walker was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Convention in 1957, and in 1960 King asked him to come to Atlanta to serve as its executive director. He proved to be an excellent administrator, coordinating staff, raising money, and raising the new organization to national prominence alongside the older NAACP and CORE.

He was the primary strategist for "Project C", the implementation of the Birmingham Campaign in 1963 that called for marches, sit-ins and boycotts of local businesses, with an eye for detail that included counting the number of stools at each lunch counter. The violent reaction of Commission of Public Safety Bull Connor, using dogs and fire hoses to subdue the protesters, brought national attention to the SCLC's efforts as did King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

Taylor left the SCLC to for the Negro Heritage Library, working with school boards to expand public school curricula and library resources to reflect African American history and culture. In 1967 he was called to serve as senior pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. King conducted his official installation and preached that Sunday's sermon on March 24, 1968, eleven days before he was assassinated.

Taylor returned to school to earn a doctorate in 1975 from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, specializing in African American sacred music. He published Somebody's Calling My Name: Black Sacred Music and Social Change, the first of his eleven books, in 1979. He has served as an urban affairs consultant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller and on the American Committee on Africa, an anti-apartheid group.

Taylor retired in 2004 and now lives in Virginia. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vernon Jordan

"There is a definition of black America but no definition of white America. And we are just as mixed up in views, needs, and aspirations as any other group of people. It's never been monolithic. There's always been dissent. There's always been a difference of opinion, and a difference of approach. And that's healthy."

Vernon Eulion Jordan, Jr. was born August 15, 1935 in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana in 1957 and earned a law degree from Howard University in 1960. He joined the law firm of Donald L. Hollowell in Atlanta, where Constance Baker Motley also worked. The firm won a suit in Federal court against the University of Georgia over the enrollment of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, and Jordan gained national coverage escorting Hunter to the admissions office past a mob of white protesters.

Jordan later served as Georgia NAACP Field Director, as Director of the Southern Regional Council's Voter Education Project and as Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund. In 1970 he was named President of the National Urban League, where he originated the annual State of Black America reports.

On May 29, 1980 Jordan was shot by Joseph Paul Franklin in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Franklin was acquitted of attempted murder in 1982 but later confessed to the shooting.

After recovering from his injuries, Jordan resigned from the Urban League and joined the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He was part of President Bill Clinton's transition team in 1992-1993 and continued to serve as an adviser to Clinton, a close friend. In 2000 he became Senior Managing Director of Lazard Freres & Co., LLC, an investment banking firm. He serves on a number of corporate boards.
"What I know about this world is that white people will take care of themselves. And what I have learned is that if you are where they are on an equal basis, they cannot take care of themselves without taking care of you."
Jordan was awarded the 2001 NAACP Spingarn Medal. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ernest Just

"The Brotherhood of Man is not so much a Christian doctrine as a fundamental biological law. For biology does not and cannot recognize any specific differences among humans. This is a fact of tremendous significance for the human family. The peace of the world lives here. And the transcendent value of science to man will be measured in just proportion to which we can realize this truth."

Ernest Everett Just was born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina. His mother, a teacher, thought that educational opportunities for African Americans were limited in the south, and he was sent to Kimball Union Academy, a college prep boarding school in Meriden, New Hampshire. He finished the four-year program in three years, graduating as valedictorian, having served as class president, editor of the school newspaper, and president of the debate team. He then attended Dartmouth College, earning bachelor's degrees in history and biology with special honors in zoology, again as valedictorian as the only Magna Cum Laude graduate and Phi Beta Kappa member in the class.

Despite his academic achievements, the only teaching positions Just was offered were at African American colleges. In 1907 he joined the faculty of Howard University, becoming chair of the Zoology Department in 1912, and serving on the Howard Medical School faculty as head of the Physiology Department. He organized the first drama club at Howard, and with three students founded Omega Psi Phi fraternity in 1911.

Just began graduate studies as a research assistant at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and took a year's leave of absence from Howard to attend the University of Chicago, receiving a PhD in experimental embryology in 1916. He had already become known as an expert on the reproductive systems and cells of marine animals, and was awarded the NAACP's first Spingarn Medal in 1915. His work is summarized in his 1939 book The Biology of the Cell Surface.

He continued his summer research at Woods Hole until 1929 when he went to the Zoological Station in Naples, Italy. The next year he was the first American to be invited to the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, where he worked until the rise of the rise of the Nazi Party led him to relocate to Paris in 1933.  Foreigners were warned to leave the country in 1940, but he stayed to finish his current research and was placed in a prisoner of war camp after the German invasion. The U. S. State Department quickly arranged his release, and he returned to the United States. Already in ill health, he died October 27, 1941 in Washington, DC at the age of 58.

Molefi Kete Asante

"It is true that I am different from you and yet at the same time my alternity carries its own identity and it is not simply, the other. In either case, whether in love of difference or love of identity, we are bundles of affections and cognitions that are evident in our communications."

Arthur Lee Smith, Jr. was born on August 14, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia, and took the name Molefi Kete Asante in 1976 to reflect his African heritage after finding that a library in Accra, Ghana had one of his books but it was presumed to be written by an Englishman.

Asante began studying African culture and history after meeting Essien Essien, a Nigerian, while he was attending Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas. He later graduated from Oklahoma Christian College, then earning a master's degree from Pepperdine University and a PhD in communication studies from UCLA in 1968. He taught at Purdue and UCLA before joining the faculty of SUNY Buffalo in 1973, where he headed the Department of Communications and became a full professor in 1976. In 1984 he moved to Temple University where he still teaches, starting the first doctoral program in African American studies in 1986.

Asante is considered one of the most influential voices in the field of African American studies. He is a leading proponent of Afrocentricity, which seeks to move studies in all disciplines away from the traditional European-based viewpoint. He explains it this way:
One of the key assumptions of the Afrocentrist is that all relationships are based on centers and margins and the distances from either the center or the margin. When black people view themselves as centered and central in their own history then they see themselves as agents, actors, and participants rather than as marginals on the periphery of political or economic experience. Using this paradigm, human beings have discovered that all phenomena are expressed in the fundamental categories of space and time. Furthermore, it is then understood that relationships develop and knowledge increases to the extent we are able to appreciate the issues of space and time. (Afrocentricity, 2009)
Asante has written prolifically, publishing 70 books and over 400 article and essays, most notably in the field of intercultural comunication.
Humans are responsible for all conventions by which we live regardless of our societies. If I do not want for you what I want for myself then I am reducing you to something other than human. In effect, to be human, as I am human or think I am, I have certain expectations but if I am able to separate you from me and to define you as outside of those expectations, then I have reduced you, thrown you into a pile of trash, or to the human wayside. This is the core meaning of all forms of human discrimination. The racist says, “You are not me and you do not deserve the rights or expectations that I have.” All societies have dank corners of these antiqúe beliefs in their closets because all societies have individuals who believe they are better than others. Chattel slavery in the past was the epitome of the idea of otherness, the enslaved were those who were really not considered human at all, but property, to be owned, managed, and disposed of at will. (The Ordeal of Citizenship in the Digital Era, 2011)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Joycelyn Elders

“I went to Washington, not to get that job but to do that job. I wanted to do something about the problems that I saw out there that were happening in our country. I wanted to do something to make sure that all people had access to health care. I wanted to do something to reduce teenage pregnancies and begin to address the needs of our adolescents.”

Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas on August 12, 1933, and began using the name Joycelyn Lee in college. Her mother stressed the value of education to all eight of her children, saying “if you want to get out of the cotton patch, you’ve got to get something in your head” and teaching them to read at an early age, correcting their mistakes with a switch.

Elders was valedictorian of her high school class but  had no plans to attend college until graduation night when she was awarded a United Methodist Women's scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock.  Her brothers and sisters picked cotton to raise the $3.83 she needed for bus fare. She majored in biology and aspired to be a lab technician until she heard Edith Irby Jones, the first African American to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School, speak at a chapel service.

After graduation Elders joined the Army, serving in the Women's Medical Specialist Corps and training in physical therapy. After her 3-year enlistment was up in 1956 she enrolled at the University of Arkansas Medical School, where she and the two other African American medical students were not permitted in the student lunchroom, eating instead with the African American hospital staff.

Elders interned at the University of Minnesota, and returned to the University of Arkansas for her residency in pediatrics and an MS in biochemistry, becoming chief resident and joining the U of A faculty where she became a full professor in 1976. She became the only physician in Arkansas to be certified in pediatric endocrinology in 1978 and has published over 100 research papers, primarily on juvenile diabetes. This research, including the effects of diabetes on pregnancy, led to her study of sexuality and advocacy on behalf of young people.

In 1987 Governor Bill Clinton named her Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, where she established health clinics in schools, expanded pre-natal care and increased home care opportunities. When Clinton took office as President in January 1993 he nominated her for Surgeon General, but she was not confirmed until September because of conservatives' objections to her views on abortion rights and sex education.

While serving as Surgeon General she continued to be outspoken on these issues, as well as the possibility of legalizing drugs to reduce crime. After responding to a comment from an audience member about masturbation after U. N. Conference on AIDS she was fired by the White House. (Her description of the incident can be read in this interview by UMC.org Profiles on page 5.)

Elders returned to the faculty of the University of Arkansas Medical School. She is now retired but continues to be a strong advocate for reproductive rights and health education.