"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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rev. Joseph Lowery

"We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations." ~ Inaugural Benediction, January 20, 2009

Joseph E. Lowery was born October 6, 1921 in Huntsville, Alabama. His father was a mortician and his mother was a teacher. He earned a bachelor's degree from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, a divinity degree from Paine Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in divinity from the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

While pastoring Warren Street Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama in 1955 Lowery was head of the Alabama Civic Affair Association during the Montgomery bus boycott. When boycott leaders joined together after its successful resolution to form the Southern Christian Leadership Convention, he was named vice president of the SCLC. He later served as board chairman (1967-1977) and president (1977-1997) while leading churches in Mobile, Birmingham and Atlanta.

With Martin Luther King
Currently Lowery is currently best known for giving the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009. The prayer made many references to familiar phrases from the civil rights movement, starting with a verse from James Weldon Johnson's Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing and closing with a controversial allusion taken from Bill Broonzy's Black, Brown and White Blues.

celebration for Lowery's 90th birthday is scheduled for this Sunday in Atlanta.

Fannie Lou Hamer

"I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a little scared - but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it seemed they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember."

Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer was born October 6, 1917 in Montgomery  County, Mississippi, and raised in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta. She was the youngest of 20 children and began picking cotton at the age of 6, leaving school in sixth grade to work full time in the fields. When she was in her twenties her employer found out she could read and write and made her a time keeper; in the evenings she cleaned his family's home.

In 1962 Hamer attended a SNCC rally at her church where speaker James Bevel urged the audience to register to vote. The next week she and 17 others rode in a rented bus to the county seat of Indianola to register, with Hamer leading the group in singing hymns and praying during the journey. She was unable to pass the test, which contained questions about such things as the state constitution, but passed it on the third try. Those involved in the voter drive were threatened and shots fired into their homes at night. Hamer and her husband lost their jobs and were evicted, losing their car and their furniture.

Hamer was hired as a field organizer by SNCC for $10 a week, working on voter registration and poverty programs throughout the state. In June 1963 she was part of a group arrested and badly beaten in Winona; as a result she most most of the sight in one eye and walked with a limp. During the Freedom Summer of 1964 she worked with youth volunteers from around the country and helped organize the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of the different civil rights groups working on voting rights.

In response to the all-white state Democratic Party, African Americans founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, open to all residents. Hamer became the Vice Chair and spokesperson, leading a delegation at the Democratic National Convention in August 1964. In a nationally televised address the the Credentials Committee she outlined conditions in Mississippi and asked that the group be seated. President Lyndon Johnson, afraid of losing southern support, sent Humbert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and others to negotiate. When offered only two at-large seats, the MFDP refused. Although they were not represented in 1964, the publicity helped lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and changes in the party representation in 1968.

Hamer, along with Victoria Gray and Annie Devine, ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965 primaries on the MFDC ticket, again to challenge the legitimacy of the "regular" Democratic Party. Although all three lost, they challenged the seating of the elected representatives, claiming the state registrar's office had not recognized their petitions. The U. S. House of Representatives denied the challenge by an 85-vote margin.

Hamer with (l-r) Emory Harris, Stokely
 Carmichael, Sam Block, Eleanor
Holmes and Ella Baker
In 1968 Hamer served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and was given a standing ovation when seated. Throughout her life continued to work for grass-roots change in the Delta through Head Start, Freedom Farm Cooperative, and a lawsuit for school integration. Shortly before her death she was named an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She died on March 14, 1977 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The phrase she is most known for, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired" is carved on her tombstone.

H. Rap Brown

In and of itself, color has no meaning. But the white world has given it meaning—political, social, economic, historical, physiological and philosophical. Once color has been given meaning an order is thereby established.

Hubert Gerold Brown was born October 4, 1943 in Baton Rouge, earning the nickname "Rap" as a teenager because of his verbal skills. He attended Southern High School and Southern University in Baton Rouge, spending summers in Washington D.C. with his older brother Ed, a a student at Howard University and member of Howard's Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). In 1964 he stayed in Washington instead of returning for his final year of college, and began working at the United Planning Center, a neighborhood anti-poverty program, and was named chair of NAG although he was not a Howard student.

Through NAG Brown had met several SNCC members, and in 1966 he became SNCC's Alabama Field Organizer, working on voter registration. When Stokely Carmichael resigned from SNCC the next year, Brown replaced  him as chairman but left himself in 1966 to join the Black Panther Party as a Minister of Justice.
"I say violence is necessary. It is as American as cherry pie."
After speaking at a July 1967 rally in Cambridge, Maryland that resulted in armed confrontations with police and fires that destroyed two city blocks, Brown was charged with inciting to riot and arson. His attorney, William Kunstler, arranged for him to turn himself in to the FBI, and while he was out on bail he was arrested for being in possession of a rifle while flying from Baton Rouge to New York City. The weapons charges were eventually dropped but when the Cambridge courthouse where Brown's arson trial was scheduled to take place was bombed, he disappeared and was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He was arrested in New York City in October 1971 on robbery charges and served five years in Attica state prison.

While in Attica Brown converted to Islam, changing his name to Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. When he was released in 1976 he went to Atlanta, opening a grocery store and leading the Atlanta Community Mosque.

In 2000 he was charged with shooting Sheriff's Deputies Ricky Kinchen and Aldranon English as they were serving him with a warrant for failure to appear for a speeding ticket. Kinchen was killed; English survived and named al-Amin as the shooter. He was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. Because of his high-profile background, in 2007 he was transferred to ADX Florence supermax prison in Colorado.

James Forman

"Forman was volatile and uncompromising, an angry young man. His head had been clubbed many times on the front lines in Dixie. He was impatient with Urban League and NAACP types; he was nervous and perhaps a trifle battle-fatigued." ~ James Farmer, Lay Bare the Heart

James Forman was born October 4, 1928 in Chicago, spending time when he was not in school with his grandparents in Marshall County, Mississippi. He graduated with honors from Englewood High School in 1947 and after a semester at a community college joined the Air Force, serving in Okinawa. He then enrolled at the University of Southern California but after being arrested outside the campus library on suspicion of robbery and being beaten while in custody he returned to Chicago. In 1954 he enrolled in Chicago's Roosevelt University, graduating in three years. He began attending graduate school at Boston University, but after being inspired by the court-ordered integration of Central High acquired press credentials from the Chicago Defender in 1958 and went to Little Rock, where as his obituary in the Washington Post stated, he "filed a few stories, worked on a social-protest novel and looked for opportunities to organize mass protests in the South."

Such an opportunity came through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and by 1961 Forman had been named Executive Secretary of SNCC under Chairman John Lewis. His skill at organizing and directing voter registration volunteers, as well as handling administrative details, publicity, and fundraising, were what Eleanor Holmes Norton called an "organizational miracle in holding together a loose band of nonviolent revolutionaries who simply wanted to act together to eliminate racial discrimination and terror." SNCC became one of the "Big Five" civil rights groups, along with the older National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality, and Southern Christian Leadership Convention. Forman took part in organizing the August 1963 March on Washington and was responsible for rewriting Lewis's speech to make it less inflammatory. The next year he led a group of 10 SNCC members in a visit to Guinea.

As SNCC became more militant, in 1966 Lewis and Forman were replaced in office by Stokely Carmichael and Ruby Doris Robinson. Forman helped negotiate the brief merger between SNCC and the Black Panther Party, and for a time took part in Panther leadership, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of Political Education. In 1969 he participated in the Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit, culminating in the "Black Manifesto" calling for $500,000,000 in reparations.

Forman continued to write and participate in the civil rights movement. In 1980 he earned a master's degree in African American History from Cornell University, and in 1982 a PhD from the Institute for Policy Studies Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities. He taught at American University and campaigned for statehood for the District of Columbia. He died January 10, 2005 at the age of 76. His son, James Forman, Jr is a professor at the Yale Law School.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Timothy Thomas Fortune

During twenty years of active journalism in New York I have found it to be true that the successes we achieve in life, of whatever character, usually cost us so much in effort and anxiety that very little capacity for the enjoyment of the fruits of our labors is left us.

Timothy Thomas Fortune was born October 3, 1856 in Marianna, Florida. He was educated at the first Freedmen's School in Florida and served as a page in the State Senate before apprenticing at a Jacksonville newspaper. After studying journalism for a year at Howard University he worked at the People's Advocate newspaper in Washington, D.C. before relocating to New York City in 1881.

Fortune then worked as a printer and editor for several newspapers before acquiring financing in 1884 to establish his own paper, The New York Globe, later known as The New York Freedman and The New York Age. Also in 1884 he published his first book, Black and White: Land, Labor and Politics in the South, a vivid description of the discrimination and racism of the post-Reconstruction era. His writing appeared in 30 books, including a volume of poetry, Dreams of Life, in 1905.

In 1890 Fortune led a meeting of over 100 delegates from 23 states to form the National Afro-American League, which he had proposed in an earlier editorial as a "national all-black coalition of state and local chapters to assert equal rights and protest discrimination, disenfranchisement, lynching, and mob law." The League only lasted four years but was revived in 1898 as the National Afro-American Council, which again met with little success yet stayed in existence long enough to serve as a fore-runner of the Niagara Movement. Fortune is credited with being the first person to use the term "Afro-American."

Although after the death of Frederick Douglass in 1895 Fortune was considered the most outspokenly militant African American in the North, he frequently collaborated with Booker T. Washington, editing  for Washington and promoting his views in the Age. This stance led to criticism and decreased revenue for the paper, and after years of heavy drinking Fortune suffered a nervous breakdown in 1907. His biographer, Emma Lou Thornbrough wrote that "unable to bend as Washington had, he was broken." Washington, as a major stockholder, took control of the Age, later selling it to Fred R. Moore. It continued to be published until 1960.

Fortune gradually recovered and worked at newspapers in Philadelphia, Washington, and Indianapolis, and in 1923 became editor of Marcus Garvey's Negro World. He died in Philadelphia on June 2, 1928 at the age of 71.

Bartow Black

’Twas when the Proclamation came,—
   Far in the sixties back,—
He left his lord, and changed his name
   To “Mister Bartow Black.”

He learned to think himself a man,
   And privileged, you know,
To adopt a new and different plan,—
   To lay aside the hoe.

He took the lead in politics,
   And handled all the “notes,”—
For he was up to all the tricks
   That gather in the votes;

For when the war came to a close
   And negroes “took a stand,”
Young Bartow with the current rose,
   The foremost in command.

His voice upon the “stump” was heard;
   He “Yankeedom” did prate;
The “carpet-bagger” he revered;
   The Southerner did hate.

He now was greater than the lord
   Who used to call him slave,
For he was on the “County Board,”
   With every right to rave.

But this amazing run of luck
   Was far too good to stand;
And soon the chivalrous “Ku-Klux”
   Rose in the Southern land.

Then Bartow got a little note,—
   ’Twas very queerly signed,—
It simply told him not to vote,
   Or be to death resigned.

Young Bartow thought this little game
   Was very fine and nice
To bring his courage rare to shame
   And knowledge of justice.

“What right have they to think I fear?”
   He to himself did say.
“Dare they presume that I do care
   How loudly they do bray?

“This is my home, and here I die,
   Contending for my right!
Then let them come! My colors fly!
   I’m ready now to fight!

“Let those who think that Bartow Black,—
   An office-holder, too!—
Will to the cowards show his back,
   Their vain presumption rue!”

Bartow pursued his office game,
   And made the money, too,
But home at nights he wisely came
   And played the husband true.

When they had got their subject tame,
   And well-matured their plan,
They at the hour of midnight came,
   And armed was every man!

They numbered fifty Southern sons,
   And masked was every face;
And Winfield rifles were their guns,—
   You could that plainly trace.

One Southern brave did have a key,
   An entrance quick to make;
They entered all; but meek, you see,
   Their victim not to wake!

They reached his room! He was in bed,—
   His wife was by his side!
They struck a match above his head,—
   His eyes he opened wide!

Poor Bartow could not reach his gun,
   Though quick his arm did stretch,
For twenty bullets through him spun,
   That stiffly laid the wretch.

And then they rolled his carcass o’er,
   And filled both sides with lead;
And then they turned it on the floor,
   And shot away his head!

Ere Black his bloody end did meet
   His wife had swooned away;
The Southern braves did now retreat,—
   There was no need to stay!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

John Russwurm

"We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentation of things which concern us dearly. It shall ever be our daily duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed, and to lay the cause before the public... From the press and the pulpit we have suffered much by being incorrectly represented. Men... have not hesitated to represent us disadvantageously, without becoming personally acquainted with the true state of things."

John Brown Russwurm was born October 1, 1799 in Port Antonio, Jamaica to a white English father and a black enslaved mother. He was sent to school in Quebec at the age of seven and later came to live with his father and step-mother in Portland, Maine. He attended Hebron Academy and after graduation taught at an African American school in Boston. Although his father had died, he returned to Maine in 1824 to live with his step-mother and attend Bowdoin College. He graduated two years later, becoming the third African American college graduate in the country.

Russwurm then went to New York City where he and Samuel Cornish, a Presbyterian minister, began publishing Freedom's Journal, the first newspaper to be owned operated, edited, and published by African Americans. Although the paper originally opposed  the American Colonization Society's efforts to organize African Americans to emigrate to Liberia, when Cornish resigned leaving Russwurm as sole editor, Russwurm began promoting colonization.

Russwurm settled in Liberia in 1829, working as editor of the Liberia Herald and Superintendent of Education in Monrovia, the capital. In 1836 he became Governor of Maryland-in-Liberia, a settlement founded by the Maryland Colonization Society. He worked to build relationships with neighboring Africans as well as with the white leaders of the colonization societies.  After Liberia gained independence in 1847 he worked to unite the two colonies, although this did not occur until after his death. He died in Liberia on June 17, 1851 at the age of 51.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Richard Berry Harrison

"... the strangest thing about it all is not that I dared to do it, but that I got audiences of my own race and kept them awake while doing Shakespeare—taking all the parts, moving from side to side of the stage or hall without letting people see that I was moving, holding them without any let-ups between bits of dialogue. I did that for twenty years all over this country, keeping at the last, seven plays and more than 100 recitations in my mind."

Richard Berry Harrison was born on September 28, 1864 in London, Ontario to parents who escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. Reputedly he was named for Shakespeare's play Richard III. As a child he sold newspapers on the street, often outside theaters in hopes of meeting the actors. He saved money to attend plays and often recited in church and school.

As a teenager he worked as a bellhop in Detroit, sometimes receiving theater or opera tickets as tips from guests. One guest, theater manager Chambliss Hill, arranged for him to attend the Detroit Training School of Art. After Harrison graduated in 1887 Hill tried to help him get acting roles but none were available for African Americans. In 1891 Harrison began touring the country in a one-man show, reciting poetry and Shakespearean monologues. He met poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar at the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 and the two toured together, with Harrison reading from Dunbar's book Oak and Ivy.

Harrison then worked as a railway porter and dining car steward, and contacts made on the railroad enabled him to study with the Jessie Bonstelle Stock Company in Detroit and to be hired as a reader for the Behymer Lyceum Bureau in Los Angeles. While touring with the Lyceum Bureau he began teaching elocution and drama to church groups and started a summer program in New York. He also taught courses and workshops at North Carolina A&T, Branch Normal College (now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and Flipper-Key College in Oklahoma. In 1922 Harrison started a summer drama program for teachers at NCA&T, spending his winters teaching, directing, and speaking for the Greater New York Federation of Churches.

In 1930 Harrison was cast as The Lord in Marc Connelly's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Green Pastures, although at first he was reluctant to take the part, saying the play sounded like "Uncle Tom in Heaven". It ran on Broadway for 16 months, and Harrison toured for another five years, with a total of 1657 performances. He became well known throughout the country, and received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1930 for his performance and for his earlier work on stage and teaching. On his 70th birthday in 1934 he was awarded an honorary MA from Howard University and honorary PhD's from NCA&T and Lincoln University. He appeared on the cover of Time  magazine one week before he died on March 14, 1935 at the age of 70.

"Richard B. Harrison still draws out of us a reverence and wonder that we do not often feel toward mortal men; and as long as he walks the earth like a natural man but with a serenity that now distinguishes him from his fellows, sheer goodness will continue to seem like a miracle. What moves us to tears in the theatre is the sight of that kindly, gentle old man and the sound of his resonant voice. The Green Pastures has enriched him. His performance has grown in simplicity and warmth of his spirit." ~ Brooks Atkinson, New York Times