Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plessy, Ferguson descendants to speak in Topeka Sunday

The 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson established the doctrine of separate but equal, which was overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1954. Descendants of Plessy and Ferguson will speak 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan.:

Phoebe Ferguson found it "daunting" when she learned her grandfather prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court case that made segregated schools and even train travel the law of the land.

On the flip side of that case, Keith Plessy is humbled to be the descendant of Homer Plessy, a black man arrested in 1892 when he rode in a white-only railway car in New Orleans.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson became synonymous in the United States with the doctrine of "separate but equal," meaning separate facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were equal. It was applied to schools, restaurants, theaters, restrooms and other public facilities.

Former Dodger Bragan, initially opposed to Jackie Robinson, but later a supporter dead at 92

Former Brooklyn Dodger catcher and big league manager Bobby Bragan has died at age 92.

Bragan, a reserve catcher, was initially opposed to playing on the same team with the first African American player, Jackie Robinson, in 1947, but quickly changed his mind:

Playing for the hometown Dodgers, Bragan was part of the group of players that objected to Jackie Robinson's addition to the Brooklyn club. After spending time with Robinson, Bragan quickly relented. "After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player," Bragan told in 2005. "I told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson."Bragan quickly relented. "After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player. I told Mr. Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson."

The above information is from today's New York Baseball History Examiner.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

John Lewis offers memories of Martin Luther King

Original Freedom Rider to speak at Ohio Wesleyan

Diane Nash, one of the original Freedom Riders will speak Feb. 4 at Ohio Wesleyan University:

Nash will speak at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Benes Rooms of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware. Her presentation, “The Civil Rights Movement: A Fifty-Year Perspective,” will include time for audience questions, and is free and open to the public. Her presentation kicks off the university’s commemoration of Black History Month.

“Ms. Nash is a towering figure in the freedom struggle,” said history professor Michael Flamm, Ph.D., who is coordinating her Ohio Wesleyan visit. “She provides a personal and inspirational perspective that no textbook or lecture could. I hope everyone comes to hear her speak about her extraordinary life and her timely thoughts on civil rights and race relations in the 21st century.”

In spring 1960, Nash publicly questioned Mayor Ben West about the morality of segregation, resulting in his pronouncement that Nashville’s lunch counters should be open to everyone. She then helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, through which she planned and publicized lunch counter sit-ins and “freedom rides” throughout the South.

In 1962, while living in Mississippi, Nash was jailed for teaching African American children the techniques of direct nonviolent protest. Her ideas and efforts were instrumental in 1963’s March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Later, she helped to develop the strategy for the Selma, Ala., right-to-vote movement, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For her efforts, Nash received a “Rosa Parks Award” from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, presented in 1965 by Dr. King himself.

California woman recalls Freedom Summer

Paradise, California resident Karen Duncanwood recalled her experiences with Freedom Summer in an interview with the Oroville Mercury-Register:

Duncanwood was a 19-year-old freshman at San Francisco State University in 1964 when she volunteered, out of moral outrage, she said, to go to Mississippi to help with Freedom Summer, a project to encourage black citizens to register to vote.

READ more comments from Duncanwood
Even though her father told her she couldn't go, she got a ride with some other students to Ohio, where they were to be trained.

It didn't take long for fear to set in.

At the training site, Duncanwood said Rita Schwerner, the wife of civil-rights worker Michael Schwerner, addressed the 300 new arrivals and explained her husband and two other workers had been missing for 16 hours and were presumed dead. They'd been murdered, it turned out.

At the week-long training, Duncanwood found out much more about civil-rights abuses in the South. She also was taught how to protect her head if police tried to beat her, and she learned rules to try to be safe, such as always to travel in groups and never to leave home after dark.

When she and other new workers arrived in Mississippi by train, two welcoming parties awaited them, she said. The first was a group of about 50 whites who carried signs and shouted insults. The second was a much larger group of blacks, who were very happy to see them.
The blacks took them to a local church for further orientation. But before long, the sheriff appeared at the church saying he wanted the 80 or so volunteers to report to his office.

There, he lectured them on how they were misguided and ought to just go home, she said. The bad people were the black people, he said. Their men robbed white people and raped women.

Duncanwood said she lived with two other women volunteers in the home of an older black couple who grew cotton on five acres. The house was very simple with an outdoor privy. They bathed in a big tub.

Her hosts were warm but reserved at first, for they'd had no social contact with whites, she said.

In Mississippi, the system was rigged so that very few blacks could ever register to vote.

For one thing, they had to pay a poll tax, which few could afford.

Then, they were required to pass a test given by the county registrar of voters. The registrar would take a passage from the state constitution and ask the applicant to paraphrase it.

A third barrier was the fear of reprisal for even attempting to register, Duncanwood said.

The primary job assigned to Duncanwood and her roommates was teaching in a Freedom School.

They taught young blacks the history of their race and other subjects designed to help them break out of the apathy that kept them bound.

"They were so hungry to learn," she said.

One night, however, the church where the school was held was firebombed and destroyed — one of 67 bombings and burnings that occurred that summer.

Duncanwood and her friends were convinced the local sheriff was responsible because they saw his car going in the direction of the church and then leaving in the opposite direction just about the time the building burned.

True to the way things were done in Mississippi at that time, the sheriff tried to blame a young black activist for the deed, Duncanwood said.

Freedom School continued, less conveniently, in the churchyard.

She said she experienced hostility from whites many times that summer.

Once, she said she and a couple of other female volunteers tried to worship at the local Episcopal Church. They wanted to participate in Communion.

Soon after they'd sat down, she said, the elders of the church tapped them on the shoulders and told them they weren't welcome.

They walked out to the church's lobby and spoke to the elders there.

Duncanwood said she explained she'd been raised Episcopalian and that she wanted to join in Communion.

She said the men reiterated they should leave. Then they pulled their hands out of their pockets, revealing that they had on brass knuckles. The women went outside and found the tires on their car slashed.

Civil rights leader pushes for action

In a speech on Martin Luther King Day, civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery said there is still much work to be done:

In 1965, Lowery was also instrumental in the 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, where they pushed for voter rights. Before that march, King had said, "We are going to walk non-violent and peacefully, let the world and the nation know that we are tired now."

Lowery remembers that day like it was yesterday.

"I wasn't there bloody Sunday, but I went back and made the march and I carried the demands of the march to Governor Wallace," he said.

Still, he said there's still a lot of work to be done.

"We've got 300 mayors, black mayors, black president, yet within the shadows of city halls and the shadow of the Capitol there are people living in poverty, with little hope," he said.

Lowery said having President Obama in office should help to uplift us all.

"The fact that this country has moved to where they can elect a black president ought to inspire us to work harder to make the country even better," he said.

King's dream is still alive and well today. It lives, "in the hearts of millions of people," Lowery said.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Obama delivers message commemorating King anniversary

During a speech this morning at the Vernont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, D. Cl., President Barack Obama noted the lessons that can be learned from the life of Martin Luther King:

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Transcript provided for Obama speech commemorating MLK anninversary

Good morning. Praise be to God. Let me begin by thanking the entire Vermont Avenue Baptist Church family for welcoming our family here today. It feels like a family. Thank you for making us feel that way. (Applause.) To Pastor Wheeler, first lady Wheeler, thank you so much for welcoming us here today. Congratulations on Jordan Denice -- aka Cornelia. (Laughter.)

Michelle and I have been blessed with a new nephew this year as well -- Austin Lucas Robinson. (Applause.) So maybe at the appropriate time we can make introductions. (Laughter.) Now, if Jordan's father is like me, then that will be in about 30 years. (Laughter.) That is a great blessing.

Michelle and Malia and Sasha and I are thrilled to be here today. And I know that sometimes you have to go through a little fuss to have me as a guest speaker. (Laughter.) So let me apologize in advance for all the fuss.

We gather here, on a Sabbath, during a time of profound difficulty for our nation and for our world. In such a time, it soothes the soul to seek out the Divine in a spirit of prayer; to seek solace among a community of believers. But we are not here just to ask the Lord for His blessing. We aren't here just to interpret His Scripture. We're also here to call on the memory of one of His noble servants, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now, it's fitting that we do so here, within the four walls of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church -- here, in a church that rose like the phoenix from the ashes of the civil war; here in a church formed by freed slaves, whose founding pastor had worn the union blue; here in a church from whose pews congregants set out for marches and from whom choir anthems of freedom were heard; from whose sanctuary King himself would sermonize from time to time.

One of those times was Thursday, December 6, 1956. Pastor, you said you were a little older than me, so were you around at that point? (Laughter.) You were three years old -- okay. (Laughter.) I wasn’t born yet. (Laughter.)

On Thursday, December 6, 1956. And before Dr. King had pointed us to the mountaintop, before he told us about his dream in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King came here, as a 27-year-old preacher, to speak on what he called "The Challenge of a New Age." "The Challenge of a New Age." It was a period of triumph, but also uncertainty, for Dr. King and his followers -- because just weeks earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered the desegregation of Montgomery's buses, a hard-wrought, hard-fought victory that would put an end to the 381-day historic boycott down in Montgomery, Alabama.

And yet, as Dr. King rose to take that pulpit, the future still seemed daunting. It wasn't clear what would come next for the movement that Dr. King led. It wasn't clear how we were going to reach the Promised Land. Because segregation was still rife; lynchings still a fact. Yes, the Supreme Court had ruled not only on the Montgomery buses, but also on Brown v. Board of Education. And yet that ruling was defied throughout the South -- by schools and by states; they ignored it with impunity. And here in the nation's capital, the federal government had yet to fully align itself with the laws on its books and the ideals of its founding.

So it's not hard for us, then, to imagine that moment. We can imagine folks coming to this church, happy about the boycott being over. We can also imagine them, though, coming here concerned about their future, sometimes second-guessing strategy, maybe fighting off some creeping doubts, perhaps despairing about whether the movement in which they had placed so many of their hopes -- a movement in which they believed so deeply -- could actually deliver on its promise.

So here we are, more than half a century later, once again facing the challenges of a new age. Here we are, once more marching toward an unknown future, what I call the Joshua generation to their Moses generation -- the great inheritors of progress paid for with sweat and blood, and sometimes life itself.

We've inherited the progress of unjust laws that are now overturned. We take for granted the progress of a ballot being available to anybody who wants to take the time to actually vote. We enjoy the fruits of prejudice and bigotry being lifted -- slowly, sometimes in fits and starts, but irrevocably -- from human hearts. It's that progress that made it possible for me to be here today; for the good people of this country to elect an African American the 44th President of the United States of America.

Reverend Wheeler mentioned the inauguration, last year's election. You know, on the heels of that victory over a year ago, there were some who suggested that somehow we had entered into a post-racial America, all those problems would be solved. There were those who argued that because I had spoke of a need for unity in this country that our nation was somehow entering into a period of post-partisanship. That didn’t work out so well. There was a hope shared by many that life would be better from the moment that I swore that oath.

Of course, as we meet here today, one year later, we know the promise of that moment has not yet been fully fulfilled. Because of an era of greed and irresponsibility that sowed the seeds of its own demise, because of persistent economic troubles unaddressed through the generations, because of a banking crisis that brought the financial system to the brink of catastrophe, we are being tested -- in our own lives and as a nation -- as few have been tested before.

Unemployment is at its highest level in more than a quarter of a century. Nowhere is it higher than the African American community. Poverty is on the rise. Home ownership is slipping. Beyond our shores, our sons and daughters are fighting two wars. Closer to home, our Haitian brothers and sisters are in desperate need. Bruised, battered, many people are legitimately feeling doubt, even despair, about the future. Like those who came to this church on that Thursday in 1956, folks are wondering, where do we go from here?

I understand those feelings. I understand the frustration and sometimes anger that so many folks feel as they struggle to stay afloat. I get letters from folks around the country every day; I read 10 a night out of the 40,000 that we receive. And there are stories of hardship and desperation, in some cases, pleading for help: I need a job. I'm about to lose my home. I don't have health care -- it's about to cause my family to be bankrupt. Sometimes you get letters from children: My mama or my daddy have lost their jobs, is there something you can do to help? Ten letters like that a day we read.

So, yes, we're passing through a hard winter. It's the hardest in some time. But let's always remember that, as a people, the American people, we've weathered some hard winters before. This country was founded during some harsh winters. The fishermen, the laborers, the craftsmen who made camp at Valley Forge -- they weathered a hard winter. The slaves and the freedmen who rode an underground railroad, seeking the light of justice under the cover of night -- they weathered a hard winter. The seamstress whose feet were tired, the pastor whose voice echoes through the ages -- they weathered some hard winters. It was for them, as it is for us, difficult, in the dead of winter, to sometimes see spring coming. They, too, sometimes felt their hopes deflate. And yet, each season, the frost melts, the cold recedes, the sun reappears. So it was for earlier generations and so it will be for us.

What we need to do is to just ask what lessons we can learn from those earlier generations about how they sustained themselves during those hard winters, how they persevered and prevailed. Let us in this Joshua generation learn how that Moses generation overcame.

Let me offer a few thoughts on this. First and foremost, they did so by remaining firm in their resolve. Despite being threatened by sniper fire or planted bombs, by shoving and punching and spitting and angry stares, they adhered to that sweet spirit of resistance, the principles of nonviolence that had accounted for their success.

Second, they understood that as much as our government and our political parties had betrayed them in the past -- as much as our nation itself had betrayed its own ideals -- government, if aligned with the interests of its people, can be -- and must be -- a force for good. So they stayed on the Justice Department. They went into the courts. They pressured Congress, they pressured their President. They didn’t give up on this country. They didn’t give up on government. They didn’t somehow say government was the problem; they said, we're going to change government, we're going to make it better. Imperfect as it was, they continued to believe in the promise of democracy; in America's constant ability to remake itself, to perfect this union.

Third, our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn't see progress when it came. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks just don't want to see that even if we don't get everything, we're getting something. (Applause.) King understood that the desegregation of the Armed Forces didn’t end the civil rights movement, because black and white soldiers still couldn't sit together at the same lunch counter when they came home. But he still insisted on the rightness of desegregating the Armed Forces. That was a good first step -- even as he called for more. He didn’t suggest that somehow by the signing of the Civil Rights that somehow all discrimination would end. But he also didn’t think that we shouldn’t sign the Civil Rights Act because it hasn’t solved every problem. Let's take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were -- which was progress.

Fourth, at the core of King's success was an appeal to conscience that touched hearts and opened minds, a commitment to universal ideals -- of freedom, of justice, of equality -- that spoke to all people, not just some people. For King understood that without broad support, any movement for civil rights could not be sustained. That's why he marched with the white auto worker in Detroit. That's why he linked arm with the Mexican farm worker in California, and united people of all colors in the noble quest for freedom.

Of course, King overcame in other ways as well. He remained strategically focused on gaining ground -- his eyes on the prize constantly -- understanding that change would not be easy, understand that change wouldn't come overnight, understanding that there would be setbacks and false starts along the way, but understanding, as he said in 1956, that "we can walk and never get weary, because we know there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice."

And it's because the Moses generation overcame that the trials we face today are very different from the ones that tested us in previous generations. Even after the worst recession in generations, life in America is not even close to being as brutal as it was back then for so many. That's the legacy of Dr. King and his movement. That's our inheritance. Having said that, let there be no doubt the challenges of our new age are serious in their own right, and we must face them as squarely as they faced the challenges they saw.

I know it's been a hard road we've traveled this year to rescue the economy, but the economy is growing again. The job losses have finally slowed, and around the country, there's signs that businesses and families are beginning to rebound. We are making progress.

I know it's been a hard road that we've traveled to reach this point on health reform. I promise you I know. (Laughter.) But under the legislation I will sign into law, insurance companies won't be able to drop you when you get sick, and more than 30 million people -- (applause) -- our fellow Americans will finally have insurance. More than 30 million men and women and children, mothers and fathers, won't be worried about what might happen to them if they get sick. This will be a victory not for Democrats; this will be a victory for dignity and decency, for our common humanity. This will be a victory for the United States of America.

Let's work to change the political system, as imperfect as it is. I know people can feel down about the way things are going sometimes here in Washington. I know it's tempting to give up on the political process. But we've put in place tougher rules on lobbying and ethics and transparency -- tougher rules than any administration in history. It's not enough, but it's progress. Progress is possible. Don't give up on voting. Don't give up on advocacy. Don't give up on activism. There are too many needs to be met, too much work to be done. Like Dr. King said, "We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope."

Let us broaden our coalition, building a confederation not of liberals or conservatives, not of red states or blue states, but of all Americans who are hurting today, and searching for a better tomorrow. The urgency of the hour demands that we make common cause with all of America's workers -- white, black, brown -- all of whom are being hammered by this recession, all of whom are yearning for that spring to come. It demands that we reach out to those who've been left out in the cold even when the economy is good, even when we're not in recession -- the youth in the inner cities, the youth here in Washington, D.C., people in rural communities who haven't seen prosperity reach them for a very long time. It demands that we fight discrimination, whatever form it may come. That means we fight discrimination against gays and lesbians, and we make common cause to reform our immigration system.

And finally, we have to recognize, as Dr. King did, that progress can't just come from without -- it also has to come from within. And over the past year, for example, we've made meaningful improvements in the field of education. I've got a terrific Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. He's been working hard with states and working hard with the D.C. school district, and we've insisted on reform, and we've insisted on accountability. We we're putting in more money and we've provided more Pell Grants and more tuition tax credits and simpler financial aid forms. We've done all that, but parents still need to parent. (Applause.) Kids still need to own up to their responsibilities. We still have to set high expectations for our young people. Folks can't simply look to government for all the answers without also looking inside themselves, inside their own homes, for some of the answers.

Progress will only come if we're willing to promote that ethic of hard work, a sense of responsibility, in our own lives. I'm not talking, by the way, just to the African American community. Sometimes when I say these things people assme, well, he's just talking to black people about working hard. No, no, no, no. I'm talking to the American community. Because somewhere along the way, we, as a nation, began to lose touch with some of our core values. You know what I'm talking about. We became enraptured with the false prophets who prophesized an easy path to success, paved with credit cards and home equity loans and get-rich-quick schemes, and the most important thing was to be a celebrity; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get on TV. That's everybody.

We forgot what made the bus boycott a success; what made the civil rights movement a success; what made the United States of America a success -- that, in this country, there's no substitute for hard work, no substitute for a job well done, no substitute for being responsible stewards of God's blessings.

What we're called to do, then, is rebuild America from its foundation on up. To reinvest in the essentials that we've neglected for too long -- like health care, like education, like a better energy policy, like basic infrastructure, like scientific research. Our generation is called to buckle down and get back to basics.

We must do so not only for ourselves, but also for our children, and their children. For Jordan and for Austin. That's a sacrifice that falls on us to make. It's a much smaller sacrifice than the Moses generation had to make, but it's still a sacrifice.

Yes, it's hard to transition to a clean energy economy. Sometimes it may be inconvenient, but it's a sacrifice that we have to make. It's hard to be fiscally responsible when we have all these human needs, and we're inheriting enormous deficits and debt, but that's a sacrifice that we're going to have to make. You know, it's easy, after a hard day's work, to just put your kid in front of the TV set -- you're tired, don't want to fuss with them -- instead of reading to them, but that's a sacrifice we must joyfully accept.

Sometimes it's hard to be a good father and good mother. Sometimes it's hard to be a good neighbor, or a good citizen, to give up time in service of others, to give something of ourselves to a cause that's greater than ourselves -- as Michelle and I are urging folks to do tomorrow to honor and celebrate Dr. King. But these are sacrifices that we are called to make. These are sacrifices that our faith calls us to make. Our faith in the future. Our faith in America. Our faith in God.

And on his sermon all those years ago, Dr. King quoted a poet's verse:

Truth forever on the scaffold
Wrong forever on the throne…
And behind the dim unknown stands God
Within the shadows keeping watch above his own.

Even as Dr. King stood in this church, a victory in the past and uncertainty in the future, he trusted God. He trusted that God would make a way. A way for prayers to be answered. A way for our union to be perfected. A way for the arc of the moral universe, no matter how long, to slowly bend towards truth and bend towards freedom, to bend towards justice. He had faith that God would make a way out of no way.

You know, folks ask me sometimes why I look so calm. (Laughter.) They say, all this stuff coming at you, how come you just seem calm? And I have a confession to make here. There are times where I'm not so calm. (Laughter.) Reggie Love knows. My wife knows. There are times when progress seems too slow. There are times when the words that are spoken about me hurt. There are times when the barbs sting. There are times when it feels like all these efforts are for naught, and change is so painfully slow in coming, and I have to confront my own doubts.

But let me tell you -- during those times it's faith that keeps me calm. (Applause.) It's faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he's been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she's teaching she can't reach, that that 10th one she's going to be able to reach. The same faith that breaks the silence of an earthquake's wake with the sound of prayers and hymns sung by a Haitian community. A faith in things not seen, in better days ahead, in Him who holds the future in the hollow of His hand. A faith that lets us mount up on wings like eagles; lets us run and not be weary; lets us walk and not faint.

So let us hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. (Applause.) Together, we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we're going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible. (Applause.)

May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you.

Charlotte Observer relates role of North Carolina in civil right movement

As part of its observance of Martin Luther King's birthday, the Charlotte Observer notes the role the state of South Carolina had in the civil rights movement:

This week, as North Carolina celebrates King's birth, it will also remember the thousands of students - many of them from North Carolina - who risked beatings and even murder to integrate lunch counters, buses, hotels, schools and voting booths.

"I knew I could be killed, but it didn't matter," remembers the Rev. David Forbes of Raleigh, one of the founding members of SNCC. "It was time. If we had to give up some blood, so be it."

It started with a sit-in

On Feb. 1, 1960, students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (now N.C. A&T State University) sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, kicking off a wave of student-led sit-ins that led to violent confrontations, and eventually desegregation, in restaurants across the South. The idea spread like wildfire, mobilizing thousands of students - and King saw an opportunity.

In April 1960, his group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, pulled together a meeting of student leaders from all over the South. They chose to hold it at Shaw University, home to an active student movement and the alma mater of one of King's top aides, Ella Baker.

The idea was to harness the collective energy of students, who until then had been protesting in isolated groups within their own cities, and coordinate nonviolent protests.

At the time, Forbes was a Shaw student and the head of the Raleigh Sit-In Movement. Earlier that year, he had organized Raleigh's first sit-in at a downtown Woolworth. He had earned the distinction of being the first sit-in protester arrested in the Capital City.

He and hundreds of fellow students were gathering nearly every night to discuss strategy and train in nonviolent protest tactics, inspired by King. Their philosophy was to dress well, treat people respectfully and never to fight back against violent attacks. They learned to cover their heads and turn their backs to the blows.

"As King would say, love is more powerful than dynamite," Forbes said. "White folks use dogs and tanks and dynamite. White folks can quell riots, but they had not had any experience in dealing with love and passivity."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

King FBI documents may be opened to public

Legislation to open thousands of FBI documents about the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King will be introduced in the U. S. Senate by John Kerry.

Kerry, D-Mass., said the bill, which failed in 2006, can pass this year in honor of King. "I want the world to know what he stood for," Kerry said. "And I want his personal history preserved and examined by releasing all of his records."

The bill calls for creating a Martin Luther King Records Collection at the National Archives that would include all government records related to King. The bill also would create a five-member independent review board that would identify and make public all documents from agencies including the FBI — just as a review board in 1992 made public documents related to the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination.

"This is personal for someone who came of age in the civil rights movement and was inspired by Dr. King," Kerry said. "He challenged the conscience of my generation and still moves a new generation of volunteers and activists to speak out against prejudice and suffering, wherever they might take place."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Malcolm X: an influential leader

(Karissa Kiblinger was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2008-2009 school year.)

A foster child and street hustler who went on to become a world leader.
Born as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, Malcom X would never know, nor would he ever imagine that he’d be remembered as one of the most influential African- American leaders through the periods of 1950’s and 60’s.

Louis Norton Little, a homemaker occupied with the family’s eight children and Earl Little, an outspoken Baptist Minister who strongly supported Black Nationalist leader, Marcus Gravey, raised Malcolm. Because of Earl’s belief in the movement for black independence, the family became a target of the Ku Klux Klan. Soon death threats drove the Littles out of town. The family later settled in Lansing Michigan, but Earl still continued to make public speeches in favor of the (UNIA) Universal Negro improvement Association, and in 1929 the result of this led to the family’s house being burned down be members of the Black Legion.
Two years later in 1931, Earl’s body was found lying across the town's trolley tracks. Police ruled both incidents as accidents, but the family was left to believe that members of the black Legion were at fault again.

Several years later, Louis had an emotional breakdown and was committed into the State Mental Hospital of Kalamazoo in 1937, where she would reside for the next twenty-six years of her life. It was reported that Louis never fully recovered from Earl’s death.

This left Malcolm, only at six, and his other seven brothers and sisters to be split up amongst different orphanages and foster homes.

Malcolm was said to be a very bright and focused student, graduating at the top of his class his junior high year. However when a favorite teacher of Malcolm’s told him that his dream of becoming a lawyer was “ no realistic job for a nigger,” Malcolm lost interest in school later leaving him to drop out, never getting to high school.

Boston Massachusetts was Malcolm’s escape.

Living with his half sister on his father’s side, Malcolm began working several peculiar jobs. Shoeshine boy, soda jerk, busboy and waiter. Eventually he landed a job with the New Haven railroad, which gave him an opportunity to meet very educated African-Americans. But after some time Malcolm was fired from this job and at around this time he began committing petty acts of crime. He soon started to go by the name of “Detroit Red” and

1942 was coordinating various, narcotics prostitution and gambling rings while selling drugs and hustling on the streets.

Eventually Malcolm and his buddy “shorty”, also known as Malcolm Jarvis, moved to Harlem, New York, where they were arrested with burglary charged and for carrying concealed weapons. Their sentence was ten years.

It was 1946. Malcolm was now being held in prison, but as others thought of jail as just a place to serve their time. Malcolm used his time in solitude to further his education. During this period of self-enlightenment, Malcolm’s younger brother visited to discuss his recent conversion to the Muslim religious organization, The Nation of Islam. Malcolm became very intrigued with his brother’s words and stories and began studying the teachings of, Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad, faithfully.

Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the Nation of Islam fought for a state of its own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname "X." He considered "Little" a slave name and chose the "X" to signify his lost tribal name.

Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm used newspaper columns, radio and television to communicate the Nation of Islam's message across the United States. His character, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.
In all of this, Betty Sanders stood by Malcolm’s side to marry him on January 14th in Lansing, Michigan in 1958.

The crowds and controversy surrounding Malcolm made him a media magnet. He was featured in a week-long television special with Mike Wallace in 1959. But was later faced with the uncomfortable reality that his fame was upsetting his mentor, Elijah Muhammad.

Racial tensions ran increasingly high during the early 1960s. In addition to the media, Malcolm's personality had captured the government's attention. As membership in the Nation of Islam continued to grow, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted as Malcolm's bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps and cameras to monitor the group's activities.

And after the civil rights movement in 1962, Malcolm discovered that Elijah was having secret, sexual relations with as many as six women. Some even resulted in kids. Deeply hurt by Elijah’s hypocrisy and deception, Malcolm refused Elijah’s request to keep the matter quiet.

Then when Malcolm received criticism after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for saying, "[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon," Muhammad "silenced" him for ninety days. Even though Malcolm suspected he was silenced for another reason. In March 1964, he terminated his relationship with the Nation of Islam and organized the OAAU.. Organization of Afro-American Unity.

In that same year, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The trip proved life altering, as Malcolm met "blonde-haired, blue-eyed men I could call my brothers." He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration. This time, instead of just preaching to African-American’s he had a message for all races.. This outraged Muhammad. The Nation of Islam even warned Malcolm that he had been marked for assassination. After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965, the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was firebombed. Everyone escaped injury free, but it wasn’t the case on February 21st, 1965. when Malcolm was assassinated when he started to address a rally in New York City.

From the New York Times:
Malcolm X, the 39-year old leader of a militant Black Nationalist movement, was shot to death yesterday afternoon at a rally of followers in a ballroom in Washington Heights. Malcolm, a bearded extremist, had said only a few words of greeting when a fusillade rang out. The bullets knocked him over backward. The police said a total of seven bullets struck Malcolm. About two hours later, police said the shooting had apparently been in a result of a feud between followers of Malcolm and members of the group he broke from last year, the Black Muslims.
Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Buttler and Thomas 15X Johnson, were charged with the first-degree murder of Malcolm X, on March 1966. All were later found out to be members of Nation of Islam.

Fifteen hundred people attended the funeral for Malcolm in Harlem on February 27th, 1965 at the Fait Temple Church of God in Christ. Friends of Malcolm buried him themselves. Later that year Betty gave birth to their twin daughters, Malaak and Malikah.

“It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.”
-Malcolm X.

"You know, right before Malcolm was killed he came down to Selma and said some pretty passionate things against me, and that surprised me because after all it was my territory there. But afterwards he took my wife aside, and said he thought he could help me more by attacking me than praising me. He thought it would make it easier for me in the long run."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

THe Montgomery Bus Boycott: an important event in the civil rights movement

(Abby Bass was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2008-2009 school year.)

Rosa Parks slowly walked to a seat, tired from a long day. A white man was left standing after everyone had found a seat. The bus driver told Rosa and three other black passengers in the row to move so that the white man could sit there. At first, no one moved. Then, the bus driver finally convinced the three black passengers to move. Rosa Parks stayed sitting. The bus driver ordered her to move again. She refused. The bus driver then threatened that he would have her arrested. Rosa Parks still refused to move from her seat. She was arrested. (

This is just one of the events that this paper will explore. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Browder vs. Gayle case, Martin Luther Jr., and the segregation rules and policies there was in the 1950’s are also all topics included in this paper.

On December 1st, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a forty-two year old seamstress, got on one of the city buses. She sat in the row after the ten seats. One of the rules on the bus was that the first ten seats on the bus were reserved for whites only. A couple stops after Mrs. Parks had gotten on, there were no seats left. A white man had nowhere to sit. The bus driver, James Blake, ordered everyone in that row to move. All the passengers had to move because in the 1950s a black person could not sit by or in the same row as a white person. Jim Crow Laws were segregation laws. This rule about blacks and whites in the same row was one of Jim Crow Laws. Three of the passengers ended up moving, but Rosa Parks refused to move. When James Blake told her that he would have her arrested if she didn’t move, she told him to go ahead and do that. He had her arrested and fined ten dollars. (Stein, pg.5) ( ( (,9171,861809,00.html)

While at the station she wasn’t treated well, but was allowed to call home. E.D. Nixon, president of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) came to post bond for Mrs. Parks. He wanted to use her case to go against segregation on buses. She ended up agreeing. A group formed, called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), to plan a one-day boycott to go against segregation on buses. Some of the members of this group were Ralph David Abernathy, Edgar Nixon, Bayard Rustin, Jo Ann Robinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a preacher at a Baptist Church in Montgomery. The group scheduled the boycott for Monday December 5th. To spread the news to the people, the committee passed out leaflets. (Nobelman, pg. 34) (King, pg.33) ( ( (

When Monday came around, the MIA was glad to see many nearly empty buses go through Montgomery. Africans Americans made up almost sixty percent of the people who rode buses. In fact, the boycott was such a success that they met on that night and decided to continue the boycott. Since the buses were a main way to travel, the citizens participating in the boycott had to find other ways to get to school, the store, and work. Some churches started using station wagons to transport people, some black cab services charged only ten cents so more people could ride, carpools were formed, bicycles were ridden, and more people walked. People in other states began to donate shoes to help the boycott. The city was angered that the boycott was such a success. They were rapidly losing money because of the boycott. ( ( (

Many attempts were made to stop the boycotts. City officials announced that the any cab service charging less than forty-five cents would be prosecuted, and more people were arrested for small traffic offenses. The city had laws against boycotts and Martin Luther King, Jr. was fined five hundred dollars for being involved in the boycott. Both E.D. Nixon’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s houses were bombed. (
Montgomery black citizens did not give up, though. The boycott continued until December 20, 1956. The Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws about bus seating is unconstitutional and violates the 14th amendment. (

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech shortly after it was announced that the segregation law was unconstitutional and would no longer be a law. “All along, we have sought to carry out the protest on high moral standards…rooted in the deep soils of the Christian faith. We have carefully avoided bitterness. [The] months have not been easy…Our feet have often been tired and our automobiles worn, but we have kept going with the faith that our struggle we had cosmic companionship, and that, at bottom, the universe is on the side of justice. [The Supreme Court’s decision was] a revelation of the eternal validity of this faith, [and] came to all of us as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of enforced segregation in public transportation.”
‘Just Sit Down.’ When the court order comes through. Dr. King urged his followers, act sensibly but without pride. On the one hand, ‘we have been going to the back of the bus for so long there is danger that we instinctively will go straight back there again and perpetuate segregation. Just sit down where a seat is convenient.’ On the other hand, ‘I would be terribly disappointed if any of you go back to the buses bragging, ‘We the Negroes, won a victory over the white people’…I hope nobody will go back with undue arrogance. If you do, our struggle will be lost all over the South. Go back with humility and meekness.” 10,000 African American people listened to this speech in of Montgomery’s streets and two largest churches. (,9171,867317,00.html)
Police Chief G. J. Ruppenthal told his 159 officers in Montgomery that they would no longer enforce the segregation laws. (,9171,867481,00.html)

Another case, called Browder vs. Gayle, helped end bus segregation laws. While Rosa Park’s case was being looked at, Browder vs. Gayle was decided on June 4th,1956. The plantiffs were Claudette Colvin, Mary louise Smith, Aurelia Browder, and Susie McDonald. All four women had refused to give up their seats on Montgomery buses months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old at the time she refused her seat. Mary Louise Smith was 18 years old at the time if her arrest. ( NAACP looked at her case, but didn’t use it to fight segregation laws because rumors said that her father was an alcoholic. ( Aurelia Browder was the lead plantiff in the case Browder vs. Gayle. Her arrest was seven months before Rosa Park’s arrest. ( Susie McDonald was a woman in her seventies who refused to give up her seat. These four women testified before judges Frank M. Johnson, Seybourn h. Lynne, and Richard T. Rives. (
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one very important event in the Civil Rights Movement. It was one of the earlier events. It gave hope that both white and black people could get along and have the same rights.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Places you can look for more information on your research topics


1. Go to Eisenhower Presidential Library
2. Online documents
3. Civil Rights- Emmett Till Case


1. Go to Eisenhower Presidential Library
2. Online documents
3. Civil Rights- Little Rock School Integration


1. Go to American Experience: Eyes on the Prize
2. Primary sources
3. One Volunteer's Freedom Summer

1. Civil Rights Documentation Project
2. Oral history transcripts
3. Two Freedom Summer participants are on this page


1. Go to American Experience: Eyes on the Prize
2. Primary Sources
3. Patience is a Dirty and Nasty Word (John Lewis's speech)

1. Go to American Experience: Eyes on the Prize
2. Reflections
3. Politics and the March on Washington- John Lewis


1. Civil Rights Movement in the United States
2. Bottom of homepage- Civil Rights 1900 to 1982

1. Time Civil Rights Archive
2. Type any subject into search field.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Prosecutor of Medgar Evers' assassin to begin prison sentence

Bobby DeLaughter, the assistant prosecuting attorney who convicted Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, will begin serving an 18-month prison sentence for obstruction of justice Monday. From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

As an assistant district attorney, DeLaughter overcame improbable odds in pursuing a case against Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers, field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP.

In 1994, the world watched as DeLaughter, together with then-District Attorney Ed Peters, successfully prosecuted Beckwith for murder. Beckwith, sentenced to life in prison, died in 2001.

On July 30, DeLaughter stepped down as a Hinds County circuit judge and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a corruption investigation involving multimillionaire and former lawyer Dickie Scruggs.