Tag Archives: black history

Remembering Medgar Evers: The First Civil Rights Martyr

11Medgar Wiley Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi on July 2, 1925; dying the victim of a racially motivated assassination on June 12, 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi after attending a rally. He was the third of four children of a small farm owner who also worked at a nearby sawmill. His social standing was impressed upon him every day, but Evers was determined not to cave in under such pressure. He once said his mission was evident at the age eleven or twelve when a close friend of the family was lynched.

He walked twelve miles each way to earn his high school diploma and joined the Army during the Second World War. Perhaps it was during the years of fighting in both France and Germany for his and other countries’ freedom that convinced Evers to fight on his own shores for the freedom of blacks. After serving honorably in the war, he was discharged in 1946; he began working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1952. Evers traveled throughout the state of Mississippi trying to encourage voter registration and worked tirelessly to enforce federally mandated integration laws.

On 12 June 1963, hours after President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech condemning segregation, Evers was shot in the back by a high-powered rifle while returning home. He crawled to the house and collapsed in front of his wife and three children; he died an hour later. The rifle found at the scene belonged to Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the all-white Citizens’ Council, a statewide group opposed to racial integration akin to the KKK.

Beckwith was tried twice but nearly thirty years later, thanks to the persistence of Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the case was reopened and Beckwith was tried and convicted in 1994, and the conviction was upheld by the state supreme court in 1997. Evers-Williams published “For Us, The Living in 1967”; Beckwith’s trial was the basis for the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi that starred Whoopi Goldberg.

Medgar Evers position in the civil rights movement was that of field secretary for the NAACP and recognized as one of the first martyrs of the civil rights movement. His death prompted President John Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the following year.

The Mississippi in which Medgar Evers lived was a place of blatant discrimination where blacks dared not even speak of civil rights; much less actively campaign for them. Evers, a thoughtful, and committed member of the NAACP wanted to change his native state. He paid for his convictions with his life, becoming the first major civil rights leader whose death was called an assassination.

Evers was featured on a nine-man hit list in the Deep South as early as 1955. He and his family endured numerous threats and other violent acts, making them well aware of the danger surrounding his activism. Still he persisted in his efforts to integrate public facilities, schools, and restaurants. He organized voter registration drives and demonstrations. He spoke eloquently about the plight of his people and pleaded with the all-white government of Mississippi for some sort of progress in race relations. To those people who opposed such things, he was thought to be a very dangerous man.

In some ways, the death of Medgar Evers was a milestone in the hard-fought integration war that rocked America in the 1950s and 1960s. While the assassination of such a prominent black figure foreshadowed the violence to come, it also spurred other civil rights leaders, also targeted by white supremacists, to new fervor. They, in turn, were able to infuse their followers with a new and expanded sense of purpose; one that replaced apprehension with anger.

Evers must have also had a sense that his life would be cut short when what had begun as threats turned increasingly to violence. A few weeks prior to his death, someone threw a firebomb at his home. Afraid that snipers were waiting for her outside, Mrs. Evers put the fire out with a garden hose. The incident did not deter Evers from his rounds of voter registration or from his strident plea for a biracial committee to address social concerns in Jackson. His days were filled with meetings, economic boycotts, marches, prayer vigils, and picket lines and with bailing out demonstrators arrested by the all-white police force. It was not uncommon for Evers to work twenty hours a day.

The NAACP posthumously awarded its 1963 Spingarn medal to Medgar Evers. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had given so much to the organization and had given his life for its cause. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Medgar Evers’ story lies in the attitudes of his two sons and one daughter.

Though they experienced firsthand the destructive ways of bigotry and hatred. Evers’ children appear to be very well-adjusted individuals. Myrlie Evers remarked, “it has taken time to heal the wounds [from their father’s assassination, and I’m not really sure all the wounds are healed. We still hurt, but we can talk about it now and cry about it openly with each other, and the bitterness and anger have gone.”

As a fitting tribute, Evers was interred at Arlington National Military Cemetery in Washington DC. How many of you are willing to give your life for something greater than yourself? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


Remembering: The Great Satchel Paige

2It happens every summer, America’s pastime celebrate the best in the game of baseball called the All Star Game where they supposedly present us with the best baseball player of each season. It is no secret that I am one who loves history and this game too. However, in today’s Major League baseball world I see a vastly different type of stars in the sport and frankly all sports with very few worth looking up too. Actually, I call this new breed – million dollar slaves.

In my youth, there were Murray Wills, Willie Mays, Josh Gibson, and many who played in the Negro League. The Negro League had the best baseball players of all-time and perhaps the greatest man to ever play the game of baseball – the incomparable Satchel Paige.

Satchel Paige was born around July 7, 1906, I say around because no one really knows for sure. However, we know it was in Mobile, Alabama, at a time of extreme racial unrest. Paige honed his pitching talents in reform school and made his professional baseball debut in 1926, moving up through various teams in the Negro Southern League, amassing a reputation as an ace pitcher. He made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in July 1948, at the age of 42, and he continued playing for another 20 years.

A run-in with the law, a petty theft and truancy, got Satchel “enrolled” in reform school at age 12. But the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama, may have been a blessing in disguise. His baseball talent, coupled with big hands and feet on his long, lanky frame were recognized by the coach there, Edward Byrd, as assets that could be developed.

Byrd taught Paige to pull back, and then kick his foot high in the air and as he came down, bring his arm from way behind and thrust his hand forward as he released the ball. This gave the ball maximum power as it hurtled forward. Satchel later said, “You might say I traded five years of freedom to learn how to pitch.”

He played for teams all over the country, from California to Maryland to North Dakota and even outside the country—in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. In between contracts, he had quite a following through barnstorming tours, sort of orchestrated pick-up exhibition games that included a wide array of talent. In one such game, against white ball players he pitched to Joe DiMaggio, who called him “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”

Because Negro League records were sketchy Paige insisted that he kept his own records. Reportedly, pitching in more than 2,500 games and winning more than 2,000, played for 250 teams and thrown 250 shutouts – staggering statistics. Paige was prone to some flamboyance, but experts believe much of it can be borne out. In July 1948, on his 42nd birthday, after 22 years in the Negro leagues, Paige became the oldest man ever to debut in the major leagues.

He even pitched part of an inning when they went to the World Series that year with the Cleveland Indians. Paige was the first Negro pitcher in the American League and the seventh Negro big leaguer overall. Paige pitched for two other major league teams, the St. Louis Browns and the Kansas City Athletics, with whom he ended his career on September 25, 1965, at the age of 59. Although all during that time, he continued exhibition games and even did a baseball “skit” with the legendary basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters.

Paige died of a heart attack in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 8, 1982—less than a month before his 75th birthday.

Paige was famous for his hard fastballs, and he also developed his signature “hesitation” pitch, but he could do anything with the ball that he wanted. He held a number of firsts, most notably the first black pitcher to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, which he was fortunate to be able to see. He was also the oldest rookie and working player in the game.

I find it interesting that Paige rarely addressed the issue of his age, often quoting Mark Twain: “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Maybe that’s why he was the greatest pitcher ever to play the game and lives in the heart of a kid who thought of him as his hero. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Remembering: Fannie Lou Hamer

1Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the most courageous civil rights activist who was famous for saying she was sick and tired of the condition of black people, stood up and took a stand. She used a passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African Americans throughout the South. While working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1964; Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi.

Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi the daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry. In the summer of 1962, she made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote.

Hamer became active in helping with the voter registration efforts, which few in Mississippi were brave enough to do. Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after going involved with the struggle. This organization was comprised mostly of African American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites.

At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation. For her devotion and commitment she paid a heavy price. She was beaten within an inch of her life. So brutally that it took months for her to recover but she never gave up the fight.

During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at but none of these things deterred her from her work. In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to the state’s all-white delegation to that year’s Democratic convention. She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention.

The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi but was unsuccessful in her bid. Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community. She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services.

Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977 from cancer. The encryption on her tombstone denotes her famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I’ll ask, when will this statement impact your life, whereas you will affect change. Mrs. Hamer put her life on the line for freedom. The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself – WOULD YOU? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Media Kit


The Great Mr. Ruffin

B6Abw9_CQAABg5qI’ve been blessed to have lived during a time when the music of our culture reached center-stage and changed the world. Of all of the great voices, I’ve heard during my time, I can say none has been more distinctive and profound than that of David Ruffin. I’ll gladly say, I feel blessed to have had my life enhanced by his music.

As we are about to celebrate Black History Month, I want to pay homage to this man whose music was a huge influence on my life, particularly my young life, to which I am grateful. In an interview after Temptation movie, something his son said struck me as profound. He said, “My daddy wanted love, but he got fame.” We know from the many talented artists to leave us of late that there is a line between triumph and tragedy. That line is often thin and frequently ends sadly. David Ruffin walked that line with tragic consequences.

Ruffin will always be remembered as the mightiest of all the Temptations’ lead singers. He was one of “the voices” that made the Temptations, and his legacy will live on in the depths of our souls as long as there is time. We will remember that sexy, gritty voice, those trademark glasses, and that stage charisma that sums up the one and only David Ruffin, and even that little crack in his voice was ok, well it wasn’t ok, but that was David Ruffin. To put his legacy into context; he achieved legendary status after only being with the Temptations for about four years.

His songs were like windows into his soul, exposing his greatest fears as a lover and a man. Even “happy” songs like “My Girl” brought out vulnerability in his voice. His relationship with the Temptations was a stormy one, but the marriage produced defining moments in 1960s soul, and his voice inspired just about every male vocalist – his influence is everlasting. We’ll never know how good he might have been, but we can rejoice in what he left behind.

Born Davis Eli Ruffin, on January 18, 1941, in Whynot, Mississippi. A sickly child inflicted with both rheumatic fever and asthma. His mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by his father, a Baptist Minister. He was a complex man and master vocalist with a gospel-trained voice that would gain him the affection of several generations of listeners, but Ruffin had more than a voice – he had a persona.

In the best of his music, there was a dark, terrible, tragic, and personal beauty. A good example would be in his self-penned composition “Statue of a Fool,” written when he was just 18 years old, in which he sees himself as a “man who lets love slip through his hands.”

My favorite line in that tune was “On his face, a gold tear should be placed to honor every tear he shed. And I think it would show, and everyone would know, concealed inside is a broken heart.” This was a powerful statement that spoke to the depth of his soul. However, as history would record he would share his most private pain in the Temptations’ biggest hits; “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and the chilling “I Wish It Would Rain.

All of these songs were rooted in gospel where David began, singing in The Ruffin Family and The Spiritual Trying Four with his father, his sister Rita Mae and older brothers Jimmy and Quincy. David left home at 13 following his father’s footsteps to practice the ministry but was sidetracked, singing in Memphis talent shows where he met a young Elvis Presley. He later sang with the gospel group; The Dixie Nightingales out of Memphis, Tennessee, and toured with The Womack Brothers, The Swan Silvertones, and The Staple Singers.

It was with these gospel groups that Ruffin would develop his stage personality, dropping to his knees and doing splits just like the late Jackie Wilson before him. David’s show-stopping performances within the group would be enough to get him noticed on the secular side.

Then, in 1964, when problems arose between the Temptations and group member Elbridge Bryant, David would be invited to join the group. Shortly after David’s arrival, the group would record “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” a Smokey Robinson number with Eddie Kendricks on lead. Gone for a three-week gig in Saginaw, Michigan, the group would return home to find themselves with their first hit. It is said, when David saw the chart standings, he sat down on the long chaise lounge in the Motown lobby, took off his glasses, and cried like a baby.

Ruffin would turn out be an electrifying and dynamic force and set a course for stardom with their first universal #1 hit, “My Girl,” recorded just before Christmas in 1964, a tune that would turn the group into a household word and legends. The group began turning out one hit after another, and when David took such up-tempo hits as “(I know), I’m Losing You,” to the stage, he became a magnetic field of charisma. His greatness would then shine, and his permanent mark on the pages of history was sealed.

At his home-going service, Stevie Wonder told the audience: “We’re confronted with a problem that touches everyone of us. We’re confronted with the most devastating slave owner of all times.” Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, who spoke at his funeral told the mournful audience, “In David there is a lesson. We should not clap our hands and mourn, for he is out of trouble now. You are still in it.” It is not my intent to rewrite history or to re-tell a story that we all know. Rather to simply to remind us that he is gone – but not forgotten. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Rest In Peace

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“Just a Season”

On This Day: The Massacre Of Black Wall Street

462_160I am very glad that John Legend is bringing the story of horror to the movie screen for all to see. This story like the Nat Turner story should be seen and understood like many other atrocities that have been hidden for far too long. These stories and many others are not taught or even spoken about for the people who inflicted the pain and evil upon black people that would make Hitler blushI’m the author of the phenomenal novel “Just a Season” titled from the religious knowledge referring to a period of time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon called life. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that we must encounter. This speaks loudly to the challenges of black people in America.

“Black Wall Street” is a history lesson that may cause some not to believe something so dastardly could happen in America. It is intended to inspire, enlighten, empower, and share the history of a people at a time when the odds were against all odds. It was during a time called segregation when Jim Crow ruled and separate but equal was the law of the land. Because of this de facto Apartheid-like system African American were forced to live in communities dependent upon each other in order to survive and survive they did. Every town had such a place and during this series of articles, I will visit those communities to sharing their rich histories.

Let me ask you never forget – Tulsa Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street” and what white folk did to this community. The name was fittingly given to the most affluent all-black community in America. This community was the epitome of success proving that African Americans had a successful infrastructure known as the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900’s. Although, it was in an unusual location Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business far beyond expectations.

Let me explain, the state of Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state that included over 28 Black townships. Another point worth noting, nearly a third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians from 1830 to 1842 were Black people. The citizens of Oklahoma chose a Black governor; there were PhD’s, Black attorneys, doctors and professionals from all walks of life contributing to the successful development of this community. One such luminous figure was Dr. Berry, who also owned the bus system generating an average income of $500 a day in 1910. During this time physicians owned medical schools to empower and develop African Americans.

The area encompassed 36 square blocks, over 600 businesses with a population of 15,000 African Americans. There were pawn shops everywhere, brothels, jewelry stores, churches, restaurants and movie theaters. Their success was monumentally evident in that the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. Just to show how wealthy many Black people were, there was a banker in a neighboring town who had a wife named California Taylor. Her father owned the largest cotton gin west of the Mississippi. When California shopped, she would take a cruise to Paris every three months to have her clothes made.

There was also a man named Mason in nearby Wagner County, who had the largest potato farm in the west. When he harvested, he would fill 100 boxcars a day. Another Black man not far away was doing the same thing with a spinach farm. The typical family averaged five children or more, though the typical farm family would have ten kids or more who made up the nucleus of the labor.

What was significant about Black Wall Street was they understood an important principle – they kept the money in the community. The dollars circulated 36 to 1000 times within the community, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Something the African America community of today does not fully appreciate or practice because a dollar will leave the Black community today in 15 minutes. This community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand because they were dependent upon one another as a result of Jim Crow laws.

Another powerful image, and extremely significant, was education. The foundation of the community was to educate every child because they understood that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. When students went to school, they wore a suit and tie because of the morals and respect they were taught at a young age. Also, nepotism contributed greatly to the success of this community as a way to help one another – a tactic that needs to be instilled in our culture today.

A postscript to Tulsa’s legacy is the world renowned R&B music group the GAP Band. The group of brothers Charlie, Ronnie & Robert Wilson, chose the group’s name taken from the first letters of the main thoroughfare Greenwood Avenue that intersects with Archer and Pine Streets; from those letters you get G.A.P. Another legendary figure from Tulsa is their favorite son, basketball great and jazz musician the late Wayman Tisdale. These are just a few luminaries that Tulsa has produced, surely the most recognized today.

An unprecedented amount of global business was conducted from within the Black Wall Street community, which flourished from the early 1900 until 1921. Then the unthinkable happened, and the community faced a valley or more accurately stated fell off a cliff. The Black Wall Street community suffered the largest massacre of non-military Americans in the history of this country. As you might well imagine, the lower-economic Europeans looked over and saw how prosperous the Black community had become and destroyed it. I don’t know the true reason; jealousy was mentioned, but racism was certainly at its core. Lead by the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in concert with ranking city officials, and many other sympathizers.

The destruction began Tuesday evening, June 1, 1921, when “Black Wall Street,” the most affluent all-black community in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of resentful whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering. A model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused. The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among them were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even the bus system.

You would think this historic event would be common knowledge, but not so. One would be hard-pressed to find any documentation concerning the incident, let alone an accurate accounting of it. Not in any reference or any American history books documenting the worst incidents of violence ever visited upon people of African descent. This night of horror was unimaginable. Try if you will to imagine seeing 1,500 homes being burned and looted, while white families with their children standing around the borders of the community watching the massacre much, in the same manner, they would watch a lynching. It must have been beyond belief for the victims.

I wonder if you are aware of this little-known history fact; this is where the word “picnic” came from? It was typical to have a picnic on a Friday evening in Oklahoma. The word was short for “pick a nigger” to lynch. They would lynch a Black male and cut off body parts as souvenirs. This went on every weekend in many parts of the country with thousands lynched in the first part of the last century. Unfortunately, that is where the word actually came from.

The riots weren’t caused by anything Black or white. It was caused as a result of Black prosperity. A lot of white folks had come back from World War I and they were poor. When they looked over into the Black Wall Street community and saw that Black men who fought in the war came home as heroes also contributed to the destruction. It cost the Black community everything – justice and reconciliation are often incompatible goals because not a single dime of restitution was ever provided, to include no insurance claims have been awarded to a single victim.

As I began, there are milestones, mountains, and valleys which surely encompassed this community and its people. This is why it is so important to teach these lessons because those who neglect the lessons of the past are doomed to see it repeated. Life is not a race you run, it is a relay and it is your responsibility to pass the baton. Our youth, the next generation, must be prepared and know when they look at our communities today that they came from a people who built kingdoms. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Source:
“A Black Holocaust in America.”
Ron Wallace, Jay Jay Wilson

JUST A SEASON


The Mother Of Mankind

2His-Story would have you believe, and you are taught that the earth and all that’s in it was decreed to one race of people. This version has wrongly led us to believe all that we know originated from European people and culture; disregarding the FACT that all that those folks obtained came out of Africa. This is why it’s no coincidence that Africa, the cradle of all creation, is called “the Motherland.” It is a fact, and even His-Story tells us that the oldest remains of modern humans (homo sapien – translated black man) were found in Africa.

In the beginning, this place was called Pangaea where the first black man was born and walk the earth. Pangaea, if you don’t know, was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras, forming approximately 300 million years ago. It began to break apart around 100 million years after it formed. The single global ocean which surrounded Pangaea was accordingly named Panthalassa. Forget what the many versions of the Bible tell you. The beginning of life and mankind was formed in this place on the planet.

The first thing that ever existed came from a single thought. Therefore, that first thought came from the mind of the original man and the foundation of everything that ever was. This is where the consciousness of life was formed, and the system of survival began. These people developed and practiced medicine, brain surgery, astronomy, and who knows what they did not tell us about. More significantly was that these Africans built one of the world’s most profound structure – the pyramid – that man cannot duplicate such a feat today.

These people created the earliest known colleges and institutions of learning established on the planet before the European’s wore a shoe or had a window. Places like Kemet, Timbuktu, Mali, Goa, and I could go on and on. These people were scientists, priests, and warriors. The continent of Africa was the richest continent on earth prior to the coming of European’s and still is today. Through the media and religion, we have been convinced that people of the Motherland were absent of color, meaning of another hue! They have gone further to make us believe that Egypt is not in Africa. The Nile Valley was the most fertile land on the planet.

On this Mother’s Day, my thought is for all of mankind is that you learn your history and not his-story because the evidence of what you and I have been told is not true. Earth is the mother of all things. For example, if I have witnessed in my lifetime events that I know to be true is later changed to something than what I know to be true. I cannot believe anything “they” have ever told. I can say it this way: “there is a lot of water in the ocean, but a boat can only sink if the water gets inside!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all but particularly to all black women and if you missed the point, you are the mother and creators of life! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Black Codes

6White Supremacist established code to keep that system alive. I say that because after all the oppression and abuse inflicted upon people of African descent and Africans, maybe it is time black people have codes or a code of conduct to combat their aggression! This is how they did it and although the system does it milder in today’s world, but they still do it nonetheless!

There have always been ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, black people have endured the brunt of these sanctions rules, and laws. Of course, as you know, the history of America reports that it was not only our race subjected or affected by these laws. What I can report is that it was always a minority and usually, African Americans specifically, that were the most affected by these laws to ensure that black people would remain a permanent underclass whereas others moved out of their station – all but the Indians. The roots of this ideology began as indentured servants, then slavery, segregation, and now could it be conservatism.

Black Codes were laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American on the state and local levels. This is the reason Conservatives desire a return to “States Rights” and speak of taking back their country because at the state level they can be unimpeded in turning back the hands of time.

Although, most of the discriminatory legislation, regarding Black Codes, were used more often by Southern states to control the labor, movements and activities of newly freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. But as Malcolm X once said, “Anywhere south of Canada was south” meaning wherever you were in America you were subjected to discrimination in terms of the “separate but equal” laws of the land.

The Black Codes of the 1860’s are not the same as the Jim Crow laws. The Black Codes were in reaction to the abolition of slavery and the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Southern legislatures enacted them during Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era began later, nearer to the end of the 19th century after Reconstruction, with its unwritten laws. Then there were sundown laws, which meant Blacks, could not live or be caught in certain towns after dark.

In some cases, signs were placed at the town’s borders with statements similar to the one posted in Hawthorne California that read “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne” in the 1930’s. In some cases, exclusions were official town policy, restrictive covenants, or the policy was enforced through intimidation.

After the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that African Americans were considered 3/5’s human. Therefore, all former slave states adopted Black Codes. During 1865 every Southern state passed Black Codes that restricted the Freemen, who were emancipated but not yet full citizens. While they pursued re-admission to the Union, the Southern states provided freedmen with limited second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Southern plantation owners feared that they would lose their land. Having convinced themselves that slavery was justified, planters feared African Americans wouldn’t work without coercion. The Black Codes were an attempt to control them and to ensure they did not claim social equality.

The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to evade the results of the war. After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republicans put the South under military rule. They held new elections in which the Freedmen could vote. Suffrage was also expanded to poor whites. The new governments repealed all the Black Codes; they were never reenacted – OFFICIALLY.

Many of these things are unknown to the generations of today because these injustices have been erased from our history, and very little of it is taught in today’s classroom. For example, a sundown town was a town that was all white on purpose. The term was widely used in the United States and Canada in areas from Ohio to Oregon and well into the South. Even in Canada many towns in Southern Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec were sundown towns prior to 1982 when it was outlawed. The term came from signs that were allegedly posted stating that people of color had to leave the town by sundown. They were also sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns”. Let me ask if you have ever been to a million dollar community – sound familiar.

The black codes that were enacted immediately after the Civil War, though varying from state to state, were all intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labor and all continued to assume the inferiority of the freed slaves. The black codes had their roots in the slave codes that had formerly been in effect. The premise behind chattel slavery in America was that slaves were property, and, as such, they had few or no legal rights. The slave codes, in their many loosely defined forms, were seen as effective tools against slave unrest, particularly as a hedge against uprisings and runaways. Enforcement of slave codes also varied, but corporal punishment was widely and harshly employed.

Let me highlight this example: In Texas, the Eleventh Legislature produced these codes in 1866. The intent of the legislation was to reaffirm the inferior position that slaves and free blacks had held in antebellum Texas and to regulate black labor. The codes reflected the unwillingness of white Texans to accept blacks as equals. You do remember “Juneteenth”? Also, the Texans also feared that freedmen would not work unless coerced. Thus, the codes continued legal discrimination between whites and blacks. The legislature, when it amended the 1856 penal code, emphasized the continuing line between whites and blacks by defining all individuals with one-eighth or more African blood as persons of color, subject to special provisions in the law.

Minorities were systematically excluded from living in or sometimes even passing through these communities after the sun went down. This allowed maids and workmen to provide unskilled labor during the day. Sociologists have described this as the nadir of American race relations. Sundown towns existed throughout the nation, but most often were located in the northern states that were not pre-Civil War slave states. There have not been any de jure sundown towns in the country since legislation in the 1960’s was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, although de facto sundown towns and counties, where no black family lives – still exist.

Therefore, we see hints of it in the racism that has raised its ugly head and risen to the surface of society’s consciousness, particularly in this political climate.

Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and especially since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing, the number of sundown towns has decreased.

However, as sociologist suggest it is impossible to count precisely the number of sundown towns at any given time because most towns have not kept records of the ordinances or signs that marked the town’s sundown status. It is important to note that sundown status meant more than just African Americans not being able to live in these towns. Essentially any African Americans or other groups who came into sundown towns after sundown were subject to harassment, threats, and violent acts; up to and including lynching.

As one historian has noted, “Racial segregation was hardly a new phenomenon because slavery had fixed the status of most blacks, no need was felt for statutory measures segregating the races. These restrictive Black Codes have morphed in one form or another to achieve its desired effect to maintain a superior status by those powers – whites. I am only suggesting that we know and understand history for it will open the mind to what the future may present. Frankly, if you don’t know where you came from you will never get to where you are going. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


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