African-American History Profiles

African-American History Profiles

African-Am erican History Pro files PART II Carter Woodson Carter Woodson was born after slavery had come to an end, but both of his parents had been enslaved, and they valued his education. Although unable to afford formal schooling as a youth, he nevertheless applied himself to studying and eventually earned a high school diploma by proxy in West Virginia. He attended Berea college in Kentucky before and earned a Bachelors degree being accepted into the University of Chicago. He earned a Masters degree at Chicago before being accepted into Harvard University. There, he became the second AfricanAmerican to ever earn a doctorate in History. W.E.B. DuBois had been the first. Woodson worked as a teacher in the public schools

of Washington D.C. before publishing his dissertation and becoming a member of the faculty at Howard University. While living in Washington, D.C. he worked with the local NAACP branch for several years; but eventually quit the organization because he found them to shrink from confrontation with white authority figures. Woodson sought a more radical stance, which would boycott businesses that engaged in racist practices or enforced segregation. Woodson began Black History Month humbly it was called Negro History Week for many, many years. He chose February for the celebratory week, largely because it was the birth week of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In the 1970s, the celebration was expanded to Black History Month. The Tulsa Riot of 1921 The Tulsa Riot of 1921 Tulsas Greenwood section an AfricanAmerican community which was known as

Black Wall Street by some was one of the most thriving and prosperous AfricanAmerican communities in America during years following the First World War. It had competing grocery stores and movie theatres, a public transportation system, and an entrepreneurial spirit which had resulted in many well of residents. The community also consisted of diverse churches. Many of the men in the community had served in the American Expeditionary Force during the Great War, and came home with the expectation that their service would be acknowledged, and that they and future generations would be better treated and respected than former generations of African-Americans.

The Tulsa Riot of 1921 The Tulsa Riot started in 1921 innocently enough. A young shoeshine boy named Dick Rowland stepped onto an elevator so that he could use the restroom. In the segregated part of the town he was working, the only restroom available for African-Americans was at the top floor of a nearby building. When he stepped in, one of two things happened. Either Rowland stepped on the foot of a girl named Sarah Page, or he brushed his hand on her behind. Accounts differ, and Page never pressed any charges regarding the matter. Some claim that the girl screamed out, others claim that another person in the elevator intervened first; but this much is certain. Dick Rowland was arrested, and taken to the local jail that day. By the afternoon, word was out that a black man had assaulted a white girl. The local newspaper advertised his location, and a lynch mob was organized directly. The Tulsa Riot of 1921 When the word got out that Dick Rowland was to be lynched, a group of African-American

men were sent to the prison in order to protect Rowland. There expectation was that Rowland should get a fair trial; however, they were also determined to prevent a lynching, and brought their guns. When the mob of whites who came to remove Rowland from prison and put him to death refused to leave the prison, shots were fired. Both whites and blacks were killed and injured. Over the next three days, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma became a virtual war zone. Fires were set in the Greenwood district of the city, and the firefighters who came to put out the flames were attacked. Men and women were murdered on the street arbitrarily. Church arsons took place. At one point, reports from the Chicago Defender indicate that a crop-duster was used to drop dynamite on the black neighborhoods of Tulsa, and the incendiary fires resulting killed dozens more. Although newspapers accounts from the period confirmed near one hundred deaths, rumors of a mass grave containing at least three times that number of African-Americans have persisted to the present. The Oklahoma state militia opened up machine gun fire on a handful of African-Americans who refused to lay down their arms during the third day of the fighting, ending the riot. Between two and three thousand African-Americans who had lived in Tulsa would never appear on the citys census reports again. It is presumed that the vast majority of these people simply left the destroyed

city and vowed never to return. However, with so many African-Americans unaccounted for in the city, the plausibility of a higher number of deaths is certainly not able to be ruled out. Langston Hughes of the Harlem Renaissance The Harlem Renaissance was a blossoming of African-American culture during the 1920s which took place in the New York neighborhood from which the movement gets its name. Writers like Countee Cullen, Zora Neal Hurston, and James Weldon Johnson all gained recognition for their works, which spent more time celebrating the virtues of African American culture than they did lamenting the legacy of slavery and oppression in the United States. But of all these writers, the author and poet Langston Hughes

distinguished himself as the most influential. His career was long and he was a prolific writers. His most famous works are probably, I, Too Dream America and Dream Deferred. Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above. (It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe. (There's never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.") Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one's own greed! Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet todayO, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That's made America the land it has become. Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore, And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa's strand I came To build a "homeland of the free. The free? Who said the free? Not me?

Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes For all the dreams we've dreamed And all the songs we've sung And all the hopes we've held And all the flags we've hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay Except the dream that's almost dead today. O, let America be America again The land that never has been yet And yet must bethe land where every man is free. The land that's minethe poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME

Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes Sure, call me any ugly name you choose The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain All, all the stretch of these great green states And make America again Josh Gibson of the Negro Leagues Everyone knows about Jackie Robinson, number 42, who integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. His role should not be underestimated as a contribution to greater equality in America. In fact, the sports world itself the ultimate meritocracy has always capture American attentions. But for many, many years, segregated sports worlds existed simultaneously. Major League Baseball forbid African-Americans to play, by gentlemans agreement until the 1940s; meaning that some of the greatest

baseball players in American history never had the opportunity to play against one another. Today, then, we consider the career of Josh Gibson, who played in the Negro Leagues. He was known as the black Babe Ruth; many, however, called Babe Ruth the white Josh Gibson. Since statistics were not kept for many Negro League contests, Gibsons overall numbers are in doubt; the contention that he hit between 800 and 900 homeruns during career is often put forth. If he did, he would have been the greatest homerun hitter in all baseball history. Gibson played ball in the United States, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic during his career. Josh Gibson An apocryphal account from the Wikipedia page: In the last of the ninth at Pittsburgh,

down a run, with a runner on base and two outs, Gibson hits one high and deep, so far into the twilight sky that it disappears from sight, apparently winning the game. The next day, the same two teams are playing again, now in Washington. Just as the teams have positioned themselves on the field, a ball comes falling out of the sky and a Washington outfielder grabs it. The umpire yells to Gibson, "You're out! In Pittsburgh, yesterday! The Freedom Riders In May of 1960, the law already stated the discrimination along interstate highway

systems or the bus depots, motels, and restaurants that served them was illegal. In the summer of 1960, a group of white and black students led by James Farmer of CORE the Congress of Racial Equality attempted to test these laws. For their troubles, they were attacked, assaulted, firebombed, and eventually imprisoned by the state of Mississippi, before Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy intervened to help them make their way to their destination, New Orleans. Although they attempted to take busses the entire way to New Orleans, they eventually were forced to compromise and flight the last portion of the journey, from Jackson, MS to New Orleans.

The Freedom Riders Attacked in Anniston, Alabama, the Freedom Riders almost lost their lives when their bus was halted and firebombed along an interstate in Alabama. Jim Zwerg and John Lewis of the Freedom Riders, Summer 1960 John Lewis stands near his friend Jim Zwerg, who had just taken a savage beating from white supremacists bend on ending the Freedom Rides of 1960. Lewis was eventually arrested for failure to comply with police orders. Instead of paying the fine for the offense, Lewis chose to go to jail, fearlessly, figuring that Mississippi would lose out. The Detroit Riots of 1943 The Detroit Riots of 1943 Many thousands of African-Americans chose to leave the South and take

jobs in the military industrial complex during World War II. When they arrived in Northern cities, they often encountered segregation and racist hostilities, and no where was this more evident than in Detroit. In the middle of World War II, most American automobile manufacturers had completely converted their assembly lines to generate war materials: jeeps, tanks, airplanes, amphibious vehicles, and weaponry. AfricanAmericans took some of the most dangerous jobs in this field, hoping to achieve what they called the Double V for victory. All Americans tended to flash a V to one another during this period, signifying victory over the Axis Powers. But for African-Americans, the Double V signified victory over fascism abroad and victory over segregation and discrimination at home! When African-Americans protested unfair treatment by the white citizens of Detroit and business owners, violence erupted. The Detroit Riots The Double V was intended to mean victory against Hitler abroad and victory against racism at home.

Never was the need for a double victory more apparent than when a massive race riot took place in Detroit in the middle of the war. When 50,000 African Americans moved into the city of under 300,000 mostly white residents, racism reared its ugly head. Over the course of three days that summer, 34 people were killed including 25 African-Americans, most of whom were killed by police officers. The Detroit Riots of 1943 Political Cartoon Commentary

Actor and Activist Paul Robeson The actor Paul Robeson was graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey, and later attended graduated law school at Columbia. But he would not go on to be a lawyer. Robeson was more devoted to the stage, and dedicated his life to performance. He was both a singer and an actor, playing Othello in one of the longest running stage productions of the Shakespeare play, while starring in many feature films for both white and black audiences. Paul Robeson, though, was more than just an actor. He was also a voice for oppressed people around the globe. He was a leader of the so-called Double V campaign for African Americans demanding victory over Hitler abroad and over racism and segregation at home. Robeson had always opposed fascism, speaking out against Hitler as early as the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. But he also railed against colonialism, and supported the Pan-African movement of the 1950s, organizations which openly sympathized with communists.

Robesons support for communist tactics in this regard got him blacklisted in Hollywood. During he height of the Red Scare any actor or actress labeled as pro-communist found it impossible to find work. Robeson who was an internationally famous man also had his passport revoked, preventing him from working abroad. In spite of all this, Robeson remained a leading voice for social justice in America throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Medgar Evers Medgar Evers was a member of the United States Army during World War II, and participated in the invasion of Normandy during 1944. When he came home from serving his nation, however, he was not even able to vote in his home state of Mississippi. Evers used the GI Bill to attend school at Alcorn State University in Mississippi,

where he studied business administration. He used his skills as an organizer and leader of men, however, to fight for greater social justice. After the Supreme Court ruling in Brown V. Board of Education, Topeka, KS, Evers was devoted to the long process of desegregation in his home state. He soon became the first NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) field marshal in the state of Mississippi, a position which brought him much fame, but also exposed him to much danger. Medgar Evers, NAACP In Mississippi in 1955, a young man named Emmett Till was murdered in the town of Money, Mississippi by two white men. His crime? He had said the words, Bye, baby! to a white woman keeping shop in the local candy store. He was dragged out of his home in the middle of the night,

shot to death, and then tied to a large metal rotor, where his body sank to the bottom of a nearby river. An all white jury acquitted the men who committed the crime. But during the trial, it was Medgar Evers who organized the black community to testify against the criminals, and it was he who snuck them out of town after they had testified, so they would not be killed. Evers attempted to keep constant media pressure on racist organizations in the South. Evers played a key role in insisting that the Brown V. Board of Education decision was enforced in Mississippi. When James Meredith attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi Ole Miss in 1962, it was Evers who organized the NAACP lawsuit and Evers who insisted that he receive protection. By the early 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was at full force. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was won. Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas was integrated. The Freedom Riders had made their historic attempt to integrate the interstate highway system, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had founded the SCLC and started non-violent confrontational tactics in Birmingham, AL. Evers had

begun agitating for greater voter registration for African-Americans in Mississippi. It was in the summer of 1963 that Evers was gunned down in his own driveway after returning from work. The man who murdered him, Byron de la Beckwith, was never punished. When he died, he was wearing a t-shirt that read Jim Crow Must Go. Victor Hugo Greens Green Book Prior to the Supreme Courts Brown V. Board of Education decision, discrimination against AfricanAmericans was legal. African-American travelers along the United States interstates and highways never knew where strict segregation laws might prevent them from entering a restaurant or finding a hotel room. Hence, the need for Victor Hugo Greens publication, The Green Book. In the publication, hotels, motels, and restaurants which were known to accept African-American

customers and lodgers were listed all across the country. Many African-American travelers relied upon the publication in order to travel safely. Thurgood Marshall Before Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, he was prankster of a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he was twice suspended for his boorish behavior. He decided to pursue the law during his college years, earned his law degree from Howard University, where he was much influenced by the great Charles Hamilton Houston. After college returned to his native Baltimore, where

he took up work with the local NAACP. Still under Houstons tutelage, he would become on of the most influential lawyers before the Supreme Court in all American history. Thurgood Marshall, Brown V. Board of Education, Topeka, KS In 1954, Thurgood successfully argued the Brown V. Board of Education, Topeka, KS case, winning the integration of all public schools in the United States, with all deliberate speed. The ruling would have

longstanding implications across the United States of America. Marshalls reputation was established. Thurgood Marshall and Affirmative Action In the 1960s, Lyndon Baines Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall as the first ever African-American Supreme Court justice. His interpretation of the Constitution as a living document and one which had been deeply flawed upon ratification brought a unique and new perspective to the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall was a strong

advocate for minority rights, womens rights, the rights of the accused, and affirmative action while he was in office. When he decided to retire from the bench in the 1990s, George H.W. Bush replaced him on the Court with Clarence Thomas, a man who shares virtually none of Marshalls views and rarely comments on any of his decisions with the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshalls Bicentennial Speech I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a

concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago. For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: 'We the People." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons." On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at three-fifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years. These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers' debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the "carrying trade" would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States. Despite this clear understanding of the role slavery would play in the new republic, use of the words "slaves" and "slavery" was carefully avoided in the original document. Political representation in the lower House of Congress was to be based on the population of "free Persons" in each State, plus three-fifths of all "other Persons." Moral principles against slavery, for those who had them, were compromised, with no explanation of the conflicting principles for which the American Revolutionary War had ostensibly been fought: the self-evident truths "that all men are created equal, that

they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

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