Tag: History

The History of Black History Month

During the dawning decades of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that black people had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Today, it is clear that blacks have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world. Credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of blacks in history can, in large part, be bestowed on one man, Carter G. Woodson. And, his brainchild the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. is continuing Woodson’s tradition of disseminating information about black life, history and culture to the global community.

Recognizing the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Under Woodson’s pioneering leadership, the Association created research and publication outlets for black scholars with the establishment of the Journal of Negro History (1916) and the Negro History Bulletin (1937), which garners a popular public appeal.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience. ASALH views the promotion of Black History Month as one of the most important components of advancing Dr.Woodson’s legacy.

In honor of all the work that Dr. Carter G. Woodson has done to promote the study of African American History, an ornament of Woodson hangs on the White House’s Christmas tree each year.

*Originally posted on ASALH.org


#SaturdayStamps: The 13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

On January 31, 1865, the House of Representatives passed the proposed amendment with a vote of 119-56, just over the required two-thirds majority. The following day, Lincoln approved a joint resolution of Congress submitting it to the state legislatures for ratification.

The year after the amendment’s passage, Congress used this power to pass the nation’s first civil rights bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The law invalidated the so-called black codes, those laws put into place in the former Confederate states that governed the behavior of blacks, effectively keeping them dependent on their former owners.

Congress also required the former Confederate states to ratify the 13th Amendment in order to regain representation in the federal government. Together with the 14th and 15th Amendments, also ratified during the Reconstruction era, the 13th Amendment sought to establish equality for black Americans. Despite these efforts, the struggle to achieve full equality and guarantee the civil rights of all Americans would continue well into the 20th & 21st century.

Remembering Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018)

With more than 20 No. 1 R&B hits, singles sales that have long since surpassed the $10 million mark, nearly 50 Top 40 hits and 18 Grammy awards to her name, Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” is easily reckoned as one of the greatest musical icons of all time. Though her passing at age 76 leaves behind family, friends and a music world in mourning, it also bequeaths an inheritance of one of the finest catalogs in modern history and the chance to reflect on the life of the woman behind such songs as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Born on March 25, 1942, it could be said of Aretha Franklin that music was woven into the fabric of her being. Not only was her birthplace — Memphis, Tennessee — one of the most important cities in the history of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, but her father, C. L., was a Baptist minister and gospel singer known nationwide as “The Man with the Million-Dollar Voice.” He moved the family to Detroit — another musical hotbed — in 1944. Aretha’s mother, Barbara, was a singer as well, although she left the family when Aretha was just six and died four years later, the first in a long string of heartaches that would run through her life.

By the middle of the 1950s, Aretha had learned to play piano and, along with her sisters, was singing in her father’s church choir. She also toured the gospel circuit with C. L. during this time and became acquainted with the likes of Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson and Smokey Robinson, as well as civil rights figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson, who were among her well-connected family’s many notable friends.

But soon life began to move quickly for Aretha. In 1956, at age 14, she released her first album, a gospel recording called Songs of Faith. Two years later after being courted by Sam Cooke to sign with RCA Records and Berry Gordy with his Motown label, in 1960 she signed to Columbia Records and moved to New York to begin her career.

Working with producer John Hammond, over the next five years Aretha would find moderate success, releasing nine albums and several R&B hits but only one Top 40 pop offering, 1961’s “Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody.” That same year, she married a man named Ted White, with whom she would have her third son, Teddy Jr. But Aretha had yet to reach her full potential, and it would take a label move and a new producer to allow her to fully tap the wellspring of her talent and usher in the greatest period of her lengthy career.

In 1966 Aretha signed with Atlantic Records. Working with producer Jerry Wexler and backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, she finally found the right chemistry to make magic happen, setting the passion of gospel into a framework of pop. In 1967 her I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You was released to great acclaim, with the title track giving Aretha her first Top 10 hit.

The albums Aretha Arrives (1967), Lady Soul (1968) and Aretha Now (1968) followed, bringing the world such legendary offerings as “Respect,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby, I Love You,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and earning Aretha several Grammy Awards, the cover of the June 1968 issue of Time magazine and her “Queen of Soul” nickname. Transcending her popularity as a singer, she also became a symbol of pride for black Americans at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and a symbol of strength for women as the feminist movement began to gain traction.

Franklin  carried her Midas touch into the 1970s, with hits like “Don’t Play That Song” and her reworking of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” giving Aretha more million-sellers than any woman in history. Additionally, her 1972 album, Amazing Grace, became the best-selling gospel album of all time.

She also began to branch out in the studio, working with legendary producers Curtis Mayfield and Quincy Jones, and continued her awards success with her eighth consecutive Grammy, for 1975’s “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” With the new decade came new beginnings for Aretha. In 1980 she signed a contract with Arista Records and also appeared in the popular film The Blues Brothers. A return to the top of the charts followed with the Luther Vandross–produced Jump to It (1982), whose title track gave Aretha her first Top 10 hit in more than five years. Now back in the spotlight, she parlayed her renewed popularity, working again with Vandross for 1982’s Get It Right and with Narada Michael Walden for 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who, which became her first platinum album and produced three hit singles, including the Grammy Award–winning “Freeway of Love.”

In recognition of her ongoing chart-topping and award-winning output, in 1987 Aretha Franklin became the first woman to earn induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She underlined the honor with the release of her No. 1 duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me).”

Though her popularity as a contemporary artist began to wane following her Hall of Fame induction, Aretha Franklin remained both active and successful. Her 1989 album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, received a Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Album, and in 1994 she received both a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and Kennedy Center Honors. A lucrative three-album deal with Arista two years later would lead to the gold record A Rose Is Still a Rose, whose title track — produced by Fugees star Lauryn Hill — gave Aretha yet another Top 40 hit, while her much-anticipated autobiography, Aretha: From These Roots, was published in 1999.

The new millennium brought new projects, new honors and more accolades. Aretha’s 2003 album, So Damn Happy, produced two charting singles — giving her the distinction of having chart hits in five consecutive decades — and in 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After releasing the duet album Jewels in the Crown in 2007, she left Arista to start Aretha Records, and following surgery in 2010 she released her debut on her new label, Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love (2011). Three years later, with her cover of the Adele song “Rolling in the Deep,” she became the first woman in history to have 100 songs in the R&B charts. In fitting tribute to her astronomical career, that same year asteroid 249516 was named “Aretha.”

Although Aretha had continued to record and tour until the end, performing publicly at everything from President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration to Super Bowl XL to the Late Show with David Letterman.

Franklin passed away from advanced form of pancreatic cancer on August 16th, 2018. She is survived by her four sons.

*Excerpts taken from Biography.com



#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Herbert “Pop” Gilbert?

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reviewing a deputy’s fatal shooting of a 37-year-old African American man in Thomasville, Georgia, about 30 miles from Tallahassee.

A GBI press release says agents from the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics and Vice Division were executing a search warrant in the Magnolia and Fern Street area around 4:20 p.m. when Herbert “Pop” Gilbert was shot.

The incident involved police vehicles and Gilbert’s vehicle prior to the shooting.

The deputy involved has been identified as agent Josh Smith, who is white. He started at TCSO in June 2012. Sheriff Carlton Powell said the officer is on temporary administrative leave, the Thomasville Times-Enterprise reported. In a separate 2015 incident, Smith was suspended for not adhering to proper arrest procedures, the paper reported.

TCSO said it could not comment on the situation as long as it’s under active investigation.

Thomasville Mayor Greg Hobbs said the incident was “a tragic event for our community.”

Hobbs’ office and the Chief of Police issued a joint statement Wednesday.

“On behalf of the Thomasville City Council and the entire City family, we want to begin by expressing our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased,” said Mayor Hobbs. “This was a tragic event for our community.”

The latest deadly shooting of a black man by law enforcement triggered demonstrations. Holding signs that read “Justice for Herbert” and “We are Pop,” dozens of protesters marched through downtown Thomasville Wednesday and Thursday morning.  A community vigil was also held on Magnolia Street.

*Excerpts taken from Tallahassee.

#FridaySmarts: Nobel Prize Winner Ralph Bunche

Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1904-1971) was born in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Fred Bunche, was a barber in a shop having a clientele of whites only; his mother, Olive (Johnson) Bunche, was an amateur musician; his grandmother, «Nana» Johnson, who lived with the family, had been born into slavery. When Bunche was ten years old, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the hope that the poor health of his parents would improve in the dry climate. Both, however, died two years later. His grandmother, an indomitable woman who appeared Caucasian «on the outside» but was «all black fervor inside»1, took Ralph and his two sisters to live in Los Angeles. Here Ralph contributed to the family’s hard pressed finances by selling newspapers, serving as house boy for a movie actor, working for a carpet-laying firm, and doing what odd jobs he could find.

His intellectual brilliance appeared early. He won a prize in history and another in English upon completion of his elementary school work and was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, where he had been a debater and all-around athlete who competed in football, basketball, baseball, and track. At the University of California at Los Angeles he supported himself with an athletic scholarship, which paid for his collegiate expenses, and with a janitorial job, which paid for his personal expenses. He played varsity basketball on championship teams, was active in debate and campus journalism, and was graduated in 1927, summa cum laude, valedictorian of his class, with a major in international relations.

With a scholarship granted by Harvard University and a fund of a thousand dollars raised by the black community of Los Angeles, Bunche began his graduate studies in political science. He completed his master’s degree in 1928 and for the next six years alternated between teaching at Howard University and working toward the doctorate at Harvard. The Rosenwald Fellowship, which he held in 1932-1933, enabled him to conduct research in Africa for a dissertation comparing French rule in Togoland and Dahomey. He completed his dissertation in 1934 with such distinction that he was awarded the Toppan Prize for outstanding research in social studies. From 1936 to 1938, on a Social Science Research Council fellowship, he did postdoctoral research in anthropology at Northwestern University, the London School of Economics, and Capetown University in South Africa.

Throughout his career, Bunche has maintained strong ties with education. He chaired the Department of Political Science at Howard University from 1928 until 1950; taught at Harvard University from 1950 to 1952; served as a member of the New York City Board of Education (1958-1964), as a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University (1960-1965), as a member of the Board of the Institute of International Education, and as a trustee of Oberlin College, Lincoln University, and New Lincoln School.

Bunche has always been active in the civil rights movement. At Howard University he was considered by some as a young radical intellectual who criticized both America’s social system and the established Negro organizations, but generally he is thought of as a moderate. From his experience as co-director of the Institute of Race Relations at Swarthmore College in 1936, added to his firsthand research performed earlier, he wrote A World View of Race (1936). He participated in the Carnegie Corporation’s well-known survey of the Negro in America, under the direction of the Swedish sociologist, Gunnar Myrdal, which resulted in the publication of Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (1944). He was a member of the «Black Cabinet» consulted on minority problems by Roosevelt’s administration; declined President Truman’s offer of the position of assistant secretary of state because of the segregated housing conditions in Washington, D. C.; helped to lead the civil rights march organized by Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965; supported the action programs of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and of the Urban League. Bunche has not himself formed organizations, nor has he aspired to positions of administrative leadership in existing civil rights organizations. Rather, he has exerted his influence personally in speeches and publications, especially during the twenty-year period from 1945 to 1965. His message has been clear: Racial prejudice is an unreasoned phenomenon without scientific basis in biology or anthropology; «segregation and democracy are incompatible»; blacks should maintain the struggle for equal rights while accepting the responsibilities that come with freedom; whites must demonstrate that «democracy is color-blind»2.

Ralph Bunche’s enduring fame arises from his service to the U. S. government and to the UN. An adviser to the Department of State and to the military on Africa and colonial areas of strategic military importance during World War II, Bunche moved from his first position as an analyst in the Office of Strategic Services to the desk of acting chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs in the State Department. He also discharged various responsibilities in connection with international conferences of the Institute of Pacific Relations, the UN, the International Labor Organization, and the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission.

In 1946, UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie «borrowed» Bunche from the State Department and placed him in charge of the Department of Trusteeship of the UN to handle problems of the world’s peoples who had not yet attained self-government. He has been associated with the UN ever since.

From June of 1947 to August of 1949, Bunche worked on the most important assignment of his career – the confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. He was first appointed as assistant to the UN Special Committee on Palestine, then as principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission, which was charged with carrying out the partition approved by the UN General Assembly. In early 1948 when this plan was dropped and fighting between Arabs and Israelis became especially severe, the UN appointed Count Folke Bernadotte as mediator and Ralph Bunche as his chief aide. Four months later, on September 17, 1948, Count Bernadotte was assassinated, and Bunche was named acting UN mediator on Palestine. After eleven months of virtually ceaseless negotiating, Bunche obtained signatures on armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States.

Bunche returned home to a hero’s welcome. New York gave him a «ticker tape» parade up Broadway; Los Angeles declared a «Ralph Bunche Day ». He was besieged with requests to lecture, was awarded the Spingarn Prize by the NAACP in 1949, was given over thirty honorary degrees in the next three years, and the Nobel Peace Prize for 1950.

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Antonio Martin?

Antonio Martin’s family was in shock Wednesday as more details emerged about the fatal shooting by a Berkeley police officer of the 18-year-old they described as a nonviolent person.

“This doesn’t make any sense for them to kill my son like this,” Toni Martin-Green said early Wednesday in an interview at her home near the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. “I am trying to be calm.”

She said initial video provided by police didn’t offer enough information to answer her questions. It appears to show Martin pointing a gun at a police officer seconds before the officer fatally shot him.

Martin-Green, who is married to Antonio’s stepfather, Jerome Green, said Antonio was the oldest of their four children.

“He’s like any other kid who had dreams or hopes,” said Green. “We loved being around him. He’d push a smile out of you.”

*Originally published on St. Louis Today.