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Happy 94th Birthday, Nineteenth (19th) Amendment!
On this August 18th, in the year 2014, we celebrate 94 years of women federally getting the right to vote through the passage of the Nineteenth (19th) Amendment!!
Over the course of these 94 years, women have helped to produce a better America. From the pioneering faces of strength and resolve like Queens Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to courageous women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all the way to generations of fantastic collegians joining forces with the Women’s Suffrage Movement such as the “sorority girls” of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (1920), and the other women of the Divine Nine–Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (1908), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (1913), and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated (1922), women have always been on the front lines urging for political inclusion.
To the young 18 year-old girl who will register and then cast her vote on Election Day in 78 days on November 4th, 2014 because she has watched earlier generations of women vote–she is adding her vote to create a better America.
To the Baby Boomer, that walked with her mother to the polls while watching her cast many votes, and has now decided to pick up the baton to cast her own votes, in her own voice, while her children look on–she is making America better.
To the Octogenarian that has never known a world of not being able to vote and who will hopefully live to cast a few more votes–she is continuing to make America better.
To every woman in the home and the classroom, driving the school bus and in the boardroom, folding laundry and flying the airplanes, shopping for perfume and creating the next new formula, making us all look beautiful and helping to save our lives, lobbying for equal pay and passing legislation, today is for each of us. While we have impacted the world since the beginning of time, it is great to celebrate having the right to vote by the American government for the past 94 years.
Women make America better.
Happy 94th Birthday, Nineteenth Amendment!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Marcus Garvey!
“The whole thing, my friends, is a bloody farce, and that the police and soldiers did nothing to stem the murder thirst of the mob is a conspiracy on the part of the civil authorities to condone the acts of the white mob against Negroes.” Marcus Garvey
With a few minor changes in the words, one would think this quote was in reference the unrest happening right now in Ferguson, Missouri due to the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, but it isn’t.
The quote above by Marcus Garvey was delivered when he responded to the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot, nearly 100 years ago.
Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, historically known as the UNIA, responded to the race riot of East St. Louis by calling it a “crime against humanity.” This riot occurred after 470 African Americans has been hired to fill positions left abandoned by white workers that had gone on strike against the local Aluminum Ore Company. The angry whites of the town filed formal complaints to the Mayor against Black migration to the city of East St. Louis. Soon after the formal complaints, an alleged attempted robbery of a white man by an unarmed Black man began to circulate. As a result, an angry white mob began beating and violating the Blacks of the city—these actions resulted in the National Guard being called in to quell the violence, but it only grew worse. The end result of the St. Louis Race Riots, amidst all of the violence and the maimed and murdered African Americans, was that several officers of the East St. Louis police force were indicted for not doing enough to eradicate the mob violence.
Marcus Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay Jamaica on August 17, 1887 was a fearless, enterprising man of great conviction. Highly inspired by the formerly enslaved American hero, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey set out to establish a united Black people. He encouraged repatriation to Africa, the industrialization of Blacks and the establishment of an organization that would help Blacks to meet his goals, the UNIA formed in 1914. Further inspired by the large numbers of Black people living in Harlem, Marcus Garvey relocated the UNIA to Harlem’s 138th Street in 1917, and was a leading voice against racial injustice every time these injustices arose. As demonstrated above, Marcus Garvey spoke against the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, and his vigilance against the killings that occurred during the Red Summer of 1919 led to the continued growth of the UNIA.
Using Madison Square Garden as his venue, Marcus Garvey attracted 25,000 people to hear him deliver the Declaration of Rights the Negro Peoples of the World at the UNIA International Convention of 1920.
This man was on a mission.
To fulfill his dream of Blacks repatriating to Africa, Marcus Garvey and the efforts of the UNIA purchased a fleet of ships, The Blackstar Steamship Line. Although the ships were never able to fulfill the purpose intended by Garvey and the UNIA, purchasing the ships was a promising move by any Black leader, and a clear testament to the UNIA’s economic prowess.
Like most leaders of his time, Marcus Garvey was not devoid of controversy that would taint his reputation among Black followers and other Black organizations. The point, however, is that Marcus Garvey was a visionary and he was emphatic about the direction he thought would suit Black people best. He had an “All Black Everything” vision; under the banner of Red, Black and Green he envisioned a Black Army. He lauded Black women as “queens” that gave “color to the world.” He also was clear and staunch in this assertion that he was equal to the white man and he wanted other Blacks to feel and know the same thing.
Marcus Garvey, having been consumed by the poetic and political potential of the United States, specifically Harlem (He was in Harlem in the height of the Harlem Renaissance), as well as the ideas of Black Unity and a Black nation, Marcus Garvey was a true Renaissance Man.
Marcus Garvey died in 1940 while in London, England after having two strokes.
He has influenced people who still follow his teachings, Garveyites. Rastafarianism is highly influenced by Garveyism. The man heralded by Ossie Davis as “our own Black shining Prince,” El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), was raised by a Garveyite, his father Earl Little. And, all around the world we can find many examples of people holding true to Marcus Garvey’s call, “Up you mighty race; you can conquer what you will.”
On this Centennial (100 years!) of the UNIA and on what would have been the 127th year of Mr. Garvey’s birth, we say HAPPY BIRTHDAY Marcus Garvey!
Robert Mugabe: Facing the Book of History
Facebook has proven to be worth all of the hype it has earned—it has connected childhood friends, helped friends become lovers, and it has even been a great stage for [healthy] political and historical debates.
My friends of Facebook have contributed to a rich conversation about President Robert Mugabe’s latest decision to remove about 35 white landowners from landownership, but not from owning businesses and other properties in the Southeast African nation of Zimbabwe.
According to a July 2014 article called, “Mugabe Orders White Farmers Off Of Land” written by Abena Agyeman Fisher on Face2FaceAfrica, President Mugabe is planning to make major changes in the distribution of land ownership in Zimbabwe. Not everybody is happy about it, and my Facebook friends have a lot to say about it.
Some of them view Mugabe’s policies as “ignorant” and they assert that he is no longer the “independence hero” he was once thought to be. In addition, some of them present that he is establishing a “two wrongs make a right precedent” while others maintain that the people of Zimbabwe, represented by the leadership of Robert Mugabe, have a “God-given right to put changes in place…”
Clearly there are no easy solutions to correcting the wrongs of histories past and rightfully so. History is a very convoluted concept of facts, memories, rights and wrongs. It is filled with vantage points, imposters, oppressors, victims and survivors. And ultimately, each of us, whether in positions of power, or as conscious citizens, supports the concept of history we construct and the role we play.
Robert Mugabe is no saint, and of course, like each of us, is a sinner. And now, he will face the book of history for this recent decision and for his legacy of as a leader.
While Mugabe may no longer be a hero to all, he may certainly become one again to many.
One of my commenters wrote the “…sins of the father don’t pass on like bank accounts and to attempt to correct historical injustices using today’s players sets a bad “two wrongs make a right” precedent.”
When the sins involve racial injustice that have been systemically implemented and violently enforced over the course of prejudicial / discriminatory, unjust, inhumane, dehumanizing laws, the posterity (next generations) of the purveyors (creators) of those laws reap the benefits, and the subjects reap the disadvantages of those laws. These sins absolutely pass on like bank accounts. Even worse, most of us, especially when you’re on the beneficial end, never question why these sins are so advantageous—it is just passed on as “the way that it is.”
And, those in power often run away from explaining the origins of these de facto benefits.
The reality of Zimbabwe is that it is a country that has not resolved its racial and political issues—the roots run deep. The other reality is that the generations of white families that have “owned” its land have done so through illegal occupation. There is no statute of limitations on doing what is right, no matter how many generations pass. The whites of Zimbabwe today are reaping the benefits of the crimes of their ancestors, just like the Africans have reaped the disadvantages of theirs.
Just because the “Star of Africa”, the largest diamond ever to be found in the world, has been in possession of England since 1905, does not make England its rightful owner. Because Africa was invaded and illegally occupied by European nations through violent means and war via the Berlin Conference of 1884, none of what Europe has taken in Africa makes Europe Africa’s owners. The same is true for the whites in Zimbabwe.
The theft of land is a horribly debilitating offense, and it is directly tied to a people’s sustenance, the sustainability of their generations, and acquisition of [future] wealth–ask any of the Blacks that endured Jim Crow America and were forced to abandon their hard-earned, formerly-sharecropped, and former plantation lands in places like Alabama and Mississippi due to vicious, legal and uncontested racial violence; and, without delay, they would attest that their stolen land has created major communal, familial and financial setbacks in their lives. Remember Mose Wright–Emmet Till’s uncle that testified against the men that killed is nephew? He was run off of his Mississippi land and there are many more stories like his. He and the others are entitled to reparations.
In his very craftily written article, The Case for Reparations, TaNehisi Coates presented a pristine argument for reparations for Blacks that had been unfairly denied access to wealth-building and the acquisition of property due to Chicago’s unfair red-lining and housing laws. These laws were established by an American government that refused to recognize the rights of all of its citizens. Blacks were left out. And, we are entitled to reparations because the policies were wrong.
The whites in Zimbabwe are not entitled to own Zimbabwe’s land because the policies that made them “owners” were wrong. The Blacks were denied access to Zimbabwe’s land during imperialism, and history has a way of correcting those wrongs. It’s called reparations; and, Robert Mugabe is leading that charge for Zimbabwe on his watch.
Over the course of nearly 60 years, Germany has paid some $89 billion in reparations to Holocaust survivors, survivors’ children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–and they’ve even paid the survivors living in Russian-occupied territories. The policies that savagely killed Holocaust victims and left some scarred for life were wrong; and, the German government of today says that its people are entitled to reparations.
In all issues of race and racial injustice, we must speak plainly, openly and honestly. The whites of Zimbabwe do not “own” the land. No matter how many generations have been on the land, they are in Zimbabwe due to colonial occupation and racial subjugation.
Robert Mugabe does not have all of the answers, but we cannot be so quick to condemn his policies as “ignorant” when they attempt on implement fairness for people for whom justice escaped. If Robert Mugabe is a villain for attempting reparations for his people, then all leaders that correct past wrongs are villains.
There is the implication that once the land gets [back] into the hand of the Zimbabweans that they will be very unproductive with it and the land will lose value because Zimbabweans will not industrialize the land for business. It is the same arguments America used to deny Black Americans access to land, property, politics, and education. The argument is wrong.
I am always intrigued by the use of semantics when there is an examination of white people being governed by the policies of Blacks. Arguments of morality and justice are quickly asserted in their cases whereas Blacks are usually only afforded a legal argument—about laws that are already unjust and immoral.
Robert Mugabe must face the book of history about the legacy of his leadership, and in the meantime, I look forward to reading more about his plan for implementing [land] reparations.
Celebrating Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Turns 50 TODAY!
It is always the strangest thing in the world to me when we celebrate milestone events in this country that are nuanced with a particular group of Americans in mind–especially when that group is African Americans. It is especially peculiar to think of celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the premier pieces of legislation that defined the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. But, today we commemorate it–Happy 50th Anniversary!
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a long and hard battle fought by African Americans to get Congress to pass a strong meaningful piece of legislation that would secure our ability to be treated fairly according to the law, and especially in places of public accommodation. Congress was not super sold on passing this bill as America was ultra polarized and the racial tensions of America were about to reach their boiling points during the decade of the 60s. Prior to Johnson’s passing of the bill, it had been introduced by former president John F. Kennedy. Congress had made attempts to kill this bill and the likes of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and organizer A. Phillip Randolph had organized and participated in the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington to underscore the need for African Americans’ fair and equal treatment under the law.
Although revised and arguably watered down by most analyses, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it so hotels that were once suddenly “vacant” when African Americans solicited them could no longer prevent our stays. Those very same Woolworth counters that refused groups like the Greensboro Four (4) of 1960, only four years earlier, now had to open their counters for African American patronage and dine-in participation and not just take out. With the passage of this bill African Americans were not ever going to move the backs of any buses unless we wanted to. And, certainly after this bill was passed, discriminatory practices still prevailed because bad habits and even worse beliefs and practices were not abandoned overnight, but at least they were easier to fight and criminalize due to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd.
Take a listen:
On Friday, July 4th, 2014, we will celebrate 238 years of American independence from the control of the British crown and King James. Long before American Independence was a conceivable idea in the mind of European immigrants looking for solace from their nations’ persecution, African Americans were here and even before Columbus–we were merchants, mariners, explorers, and of course, we were the labor that created this “land of the free” and “home of the brave.”
No matter how strange it is to have to even celebrate 50 years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 victory, especially in a country nearly two and a half centuries old and one that would have never seen the light of victory without its “native sons”, we celebrate this legislation nonetheless.
Happy Birthday Civil Rights Act of 1964!
Florida’s Civil War on Black Boys
In less than one year’s time, the jurors in the infamous state of Florida have released rabid, white males into the civilized world to maim other people and/ or to walk away with vindication of ridding our world of what they perceive as enemy combatants.
On July 13th, 2013 the self-admitted killer of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty in Martin’s death. On February 15th, 2014 another self-confessed killer, Michael Dunn, was a little less fortunate than his Black-boy-murdering fraternity brother, Zimmerman, as he was charged with 3 counts of 2nd Degree attempted murder and 1 charge for shooting into the vehicle four young Black males occupied. Of the four teenagers in the vehicle, three walked away and one, Jordan Davis, became another of the fatalities of Florida’s civil war on Black boys. As a result of Dunn’s actions, he faces at least 75 years in jail. On the more serious charge of murder, however, Judge Russell Healey declared a mistrial as Florida Jurors could not reach an agreement.
The war rages on.
In accordance with the law, these vicious beasts were afforded their Constitutional rights; and, despite the perpetrators’ lawlessness, we still remain a nation of laws. The killers were offered speedy trials by juries of their peers (6th and 7th Amendments). When the killers were arrested, they were issued writs of habeas corpus, explanations for why they were being held in jail. We even granted them Miranda Rights (5th Amendment) so as to not incriminate themselves for crimes, but these killers eagerly confessed!
Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, and others like them are vampires out for blood that wish to make us all feel afraid because they are insecure, racist bigots. We are not afraid of our humanity, but they are. These killers are restless deviants that patrol rainy nights as self-appointed neighborhood watchmen or noise pollution patrols in gas station parking lots. These killers and the jurors are in a civil war against young, teen, Black boys because Blacks boys don’t deserve to live in their eyes.
In Florida and the nation over, mothers train their boys to be quiet and to not exist in certain spaces. Fathers feel guilty for not
being in a position to help their boys because they know that despite their ages and experiences, criminality only sees their Blackness–what has happened to their sons, can, will, and has probably already happened to them. Black boys like Jordan Davis have no protection in Florida. And, in Florida’s civil war, no national guard has been ordered to guide these boys through life. No suspension of the writ of habeas corpus has been issued to pick up any suspecting, white male that could be a potential killer or worse, a juror that doesn’t believe crimes occur to Black boys, but are committed by them–even when they are dead. There is no Emancipation Proclamation promising Black boys protection for standing with their nation and leading us to victory by being upstanding teenaged citizens. Black boys wear red markers on their bodies and bullets travel where they are aimed when the trigger man is an angry, white male with a license to carry a gun. The luke-warm and not guilty verdicts issued by registered Florida voters serving jury duty are equally as lethal as the gun-wielding, angry, white-male killer–they also see red.
Justice is not blind.
There will be no Gettysburg Address to declare Florida consecrated land because there is no righteous indignation in shooting unarmed teenage boys before they are even old enough to become voters and enter into Florida’s jury pool. The only ground we stand is one that drags our nation further into a bloody civil war–Black boys are the enemy. Florida is just like South Carolina in 1861–it is defiant and eager to uphold states rights (10th Amendment) more than it values being a part of this nation. Fundamentally, Florida has already seceded. According to ThinkProgress.org, at least 26 children or teens have died as a result of this war-inducing, powder-keg law.
Stand Your Ground has to go! The Dream Defenders are leading the way.
If we have learned anything from the Civil War, it should be that in addition to the institution of slavery which is why the war began, the Civil War is our greatest stain. Black bodies, dead or alive, have always been the sacred prize in a land of cannibals and vampires. Nearly one million Americans were killed during the Civil War. America’s East coast became a hallowed cemetery between 1861-1865–that’s shameful! Not only did our soldiers die, but we also lost our president to assassination, Abraham Lincoln, by another gun-toting, racist, angry, white male.
When will we begin to hold angry, white men accountable for murder, cowardice and malicious behavior?
When will we declare a cease-fire on Stand Your Ground?
Happy 19th Birthday Jordan Davis!!
Hip Hop, Liberation & Outcasts
“There’s a fine line between love and hate you see…” ~Outkast
Outkast: Black, male, Atlanta Hip Hop, diamond platinum-selling duo making some of the hottest, consciously written music the world will ever hear, feel, and vibe to. Embraced. Accepted. Loved.
Outcast: an entity living outside of the realm of what is popular, cool, loved, and accepted. Blackness. Rejected. Hated.
On Outkast’s Aquemini album, they recorded a song called “Liberation” about the daily struggles of life, being accepted, pretentious love, and the freedom that comes when we don’t “worry ’bout what anotha nigga think.” In light of the recent Nicki Minaj / Malcolm X controversy, I traveled my memory to thoughts of Outkast and Mrs. Rosa Parks. Both instances made me question the liberties we take in honoring our historical heroes; and I couldn’t help but to ask, do we love them? Do we hate them?
We still do not even know them.
On this same album Outkast recorded a song called Rosa Parks and it resulted in a lawsuit by the Rosa Parks estate. In the song Outkast made references to the people going “to the back of the bus” and having a honky-tonk good time with Outkast to “get crunk.” The song was a declaration to naysayers that had written Outkast off as not having what was required to be the Hip Hop supergroup that they have become today. In 1999, Rosa Parks sued Outkast and by 2005, after a series of dismissals, the case was settled out of court; Outkast paid a cash settlement and agreed to educate people on the life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.
In 1955 Mrs. Parks became historically famous when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Because of Jim Crow laws, Blacks and Whites were separated in all settings, even buses. Blacks were required to enter and sit in backs of buses; and, if there were not anymore seats in the “White” section, Blacks in the “Colored” section nearest the “White” section were made to give up those seats, too. Mrs. Parks, a married seamstress and upstanding citizen seated in the “Colored” section, refused, became arrested, and her actions catapulted a virtually unknown Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into civil rights history and stardom as he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott on December 1st, 1955 at the tender age of 26.
I’m pretty glad she didn’t “hush that fuss” and “move to the back of the bus.” Mrs. Rosa Parks is no outcast.
Hip Hop artist, Nicki Minaj is now under fire for using the likeness of Malcolm X, a most revered historical hero, for the cover of her latest single, “Looking Ass Nigga.” She chose the image of Malcolm X holding a rifle as he looks out of the window of his home, more than likely to protect his family from another bombing or himself from an attempted murder. The song’s lyrics belittles men she considers the bottom dwellers of life; men that don’t have enough money to purchase over-priced bottles of liquor and are forced to share one bottle, men with an affinity for looking at her [enhanced] buttocks, men with small penises, men telling lies about their material gains, their street-life gimmicks, and men living life without a plan. While there are descriptors in this song that are easily relatable, what isn’t adding up is why Nicki Minaj chose to use the likeness of Malcolm X as the cover art for this song.
In her explanation, she said:
“What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an(sic) adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you”
The issue is that the image of our heroes is synonymous to the work of these heroes. These men and women are emblazoned within the images, texts and iconography of national and international communities because of their courage to be vessels of transformation in very tough social and political times. We don’t have the right to rewrite and politicize their works or images to suit perceptions that are not aligned with the archives of their lives. Nicki Minaj needs a comprehensive history lesson. I offer my classroom.
The issue is that Nicki Minaj is still unaware of the error in her choice of imagery. In her apology she stated, “I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued.” Sure she has eyes, but she doesn’t see. She has a brain, but she doesn’t know. She has ears, but she does not hear the hurt of communities for whom Malcolm X was and is a a guiding light out of immense social and political darkness; thus, her “What seems to be the issue now,” inquiry.
I cannot help but be reminded of Mister (Danny Glover) in The Color Purple and his reaction to Shug Avery (Margaret Johnson) when she informs him that Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) will be traveling with Shug and Shug’s new husband to Memphis. Mister’s question, through a smug grin is, “Now what’s wrong with you?” He doesn’t understand that since Celie has been his wife she has lived in his prison of abuse, misogyny and rejection just like Nicki Minaj doesn’t understand that it is not okay to imply that Malcolm X lives within the context of the men she described in her abusive and male-degrading song.
The issue is that Nicki Minaj does not realize how powerful a platform she has in music, especially within Hip Hop now. Since coming onto the scene some forty years ago, Hip Hop has always taught the masses–whether the lessons were of pain, rejection, fear, or new-found wealth, Hip Hop has always taught. But not all of Hip Hop’s artist have been well learned. Not that Nicki Minaj should bear all of the weight and be the voice for all women, she must understand that the same men she disses in her “Looking Ass Nigga” song are the same men with the capacity to be “hard-working men” or “truth-telling teachers” and “life-loving brothers” that she could groom through her image and work.
Malcolm X is continuously marred in controversy, but I wonder what is controversial about justice, rights and humanity for all people? What’s so controversial about our life’s journeys leading us to greater understandings about the reasons for which we live? Malcolm X was on a path of discovery like every other man and woman, yet we choose to disassociate our classrooms and other institutions with his history and legacy for false assertions and poor images. Let’s not.
Malcolm X is no outcast.
Our lives, how we live them, and the very essence of how we use them become our copyright. For another person to use our lives and likeness and misconstrue our body of work in any way, is akin to copyright infringement. And, it is simply wrong.
It has been nearly fifty years since the assassination death of Malcolm X and he still makes headlines whenever there is an attempt to dishonor and desecrate this “Black shining prince (Ossie Davis).” And every time it happens, the people will speak up and we will speak out because we will not stand for the assassination of his image, too.
American History is Black History
“No man knows what he can do until he tries.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
It’s officially Black History Month! This month we celebrate, in greater concentration, the phenomenal acknowledgement and representation of Black People in America.
I especially love this time of year because I get to experience potent lectures, panels, movie screenings, plays, performances, etc. with the common thread of showcasing Black excellence.
This is also the time of year in which I get to read commentaries on how Black History Month is racist and unnecessary since Blacks have not been the only contributors to America’s prominence, and because America has moved beyond slavery. Some of these arguments make me laugh and others just lead me to shake my head; none of these arguments ever get to the core of understanding how America gained the leverage to attract others’ continual immigration and pursuit of opportunity in America in the first place.
Black people have evolved the human race and some still insist on resisting this evolution.
“The bondage of the Negro brought captive from Africa is one of the greatest dramas in history, and the writer who merely sees in that ordeal something to approve or condemn fails to understand the evolution of the human race.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
I support that other races and ethnicities have contributed greatly to our America; Marcus Garvey’s work influenced one of America’s greatest, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), many Chinese workers constructed the trans-continental Railroad, and Hispanics like Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly for the advancement of Hispanics as they continue to come to America. But like historian and Black History Month Founder Carter G. Woodson, I also support that Black Americans have been terribly misrepresented, underrepresented, and ignored as contributors in the greater American success story.
In 1926, the Virginia historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which he founded, began Negro History Week to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. By 1976 (such a great year), Negro History Week had become federally recognized as Black History Month.
Carter G. Woodson was an academic who found it imperative for Black American history to serve a greater role within school curricula.
“As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.” –Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
He was a self-proclaimed radical; and, Woodson was a fearless man who was relentless in his pursuit to honor the contributions of Black America using the expertise he had gained from his education in Berea College, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. Mr. Woodson eventually wrote his acclaimed, The Mis-Education of the Negro in 1933 which has sold over a million copies and has been in print for 81 years.
He had numerous teaching stints in places like the Philippines and the prestigious Howard University. His greatest influencers, besides the history of his own parents’ enslavement and perseverance, were the relationships he developed with other self-determined Blacks like W.E.B DuBois, Arturo Schomburg, and what he felt he had not been learned properly about Black Americans.
There are institutions and organizations worldwide that celebrate and continue his work; my very own alma mater, Virginia State University, has a Carter G. Woodson Avenue on which sits our United States Department of Agriculture supported building, named in honor of the first Black governor of Virginia and any state since Reconstruction, Mr. Douglas Wilder.
American economics and politics were created as a result of the presence and citizenship of Black Americans, since colonial times. In the midst of the state’s rights argument was the issue of how states would be represented in Congress–that argument was fixed through the passing of the Three-Fifths Compromise. From Jamestown to the Constitution, from the Black Farmers to the Prison Pipeline conundrum plaguing urban communities to President Obama, there is more to learn about Black Americans than the untruths foreigners learn and bring with them to America. There’s more to learn about Black Americans than the scornful, resentful sentiment other Americas cast in our direction.
To love America is to acknowledge Black Americans.
Through Carter G. Woodson’s efforts, he has left an enduring and persistent legacy in how I define Black Americans.
- An elite and small group of descendants of indigenous Africans (mostly of Western Africa); native people BORN in the United States of America due to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade;
- NOT immigrants; Citizens.
- Architects and maintainers of America’s infrastructure; preservers of America’s food bank; innovators of American culture; creators of America’s multitudinous opportunities.
- Inheritors of racism, discrimination, prejudice, black codes, Jim Crow, the New Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex, mandatory sentencing drug laws, and all other disparate American behaviors; Stalwarts.
- Reflectors of why America is NOT a “more perfect Union.”
- Americans; Survivors;