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Black History: The Temptations

11(2)Some tunes stand the test of time, like “My Girl” and the same can be said about some groups. When you hear the melodies and incomparable classic of the Temptations today you immediately think of the greatest group of voices that ever sang a song.

The Grammy-Winning Temptations achieved their legendary fame as one of the most successful acts to record for Motown Records. It’s rare for someone to change the course of time but this group changed the face of music. Often imitated but rarely duplicated!

The original group included second tenor/baritone Otis Williams, first tenor Elbridge “Al” Bryant, bass Melvin Franklin, first tenor/falsetto Eddie Kendricks and second tenor/baritone Paul Williams (no relation to Otis). Among the most notable future Temptations were lead singers David Ruffin and Dennis Edwards both of whom became successful Motown solo artists after leaving the group. Other members included Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, G.C. Cameron and about fifty members total over time.

The history of the Temptations started in Detroit the home of Motown Records around 1961 as the Elgins. Overtime, as members came and went the new members carried the torch with finesse for decades. I would say this was accomplished because of the group’s mantra was “no one member is bigger than the group” and although the lineup frequently changed their impeccable sound did not.

A Motown-centric biography on the Temptations would start pretty glumly. Success eluded the group at first. Working at Motown was a “Dream Come True,” but even that song didn’t bring lasting fame. In 1963, a violent scuffle between Elbridge Bryant and Paul Williams preceded “Al’s” exit. Enter David Ruffin whose weathered tenor injected intriguing angst into the sweetest songs.

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The Temptations with David Ruffin and new tunes by Smokey Robinson was the injection of magic and the just kept coming. The Kendricks led song, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” broke pop’s Top 20 and “My Girl,” 1964 became their signature. Meanwhile, Ruffin switched off with Kendricks at lead was like nothing that has come before or since.

Norman Whitfield, a rival producer, offered brawnier hits than Robinson’s, like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” By the late ’60s, his collaborations with Eddie Holland, and Barrett Strong, had earned him exclusive control over the music of the Temptations.

The group developed its own recognizable style. The Temptations wardrobe ran the fashion gamut: tuxedos, capes, leather, linen, blues, limes, you name it. But the Tempts always looked sharp and fun in their costumes. Eddie Kendricks held some sway over this easy sophistication.

Under the direction of Broadway hoofer Cholly Atkins, the Temptations became renowned dancers, as well. Daily two-hour rehearsals ensured their movements were precise and spectacular enough to rivet fans from bare stages. Paul Williams’ choreography, including the Temptation Walk, oozed sheer erotic energy.

Onstage, group harmony ruled. Offstage, conflicts abounded, particularly between Ruffin and the others. Too much ego and flakiness cost him his membership in 1968. Though he released his own smash, “My Whole World Ended,” solo super-stardom was not meant to be.

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Enter, ex-Contour Dennis Edwards’ convincing vocals, new songs by the Temptations re-emphasized the ensemble. Whitfield’s ambitious “psychedelic soul” phase fused denser grooves with sociopolitical observations, helping fans dance and think at once. Commercially, the Tempts stayed put on “Cloud Nine.”

In 1971 brought both returns and departures after “Just My Imagination,” a throwback to their tender ballads. Exit Eddie Kendricks for a solo career and the disco-esque hits, “Keep on Truckin'” and “Boogie Down.” Exit Paul Williams died as a result of suicide. Two new tenors, Richard Street and Damon Harris gamely met the challenge and held their own against the older classics.

In 1975 things shifted from Harris to Glenn Leonard. Then from Dennis Edwards to Louis Price to Dennis Edwards (who’d leave and come back several times). Then from Motown to Atlantic in 1977, then back to Motown in the early ’80s. Just in time for a reunion tour with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks!

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Enter the great Ali Ollie Woodson who played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s, the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” They soared once again with Ali!

In 1989, in flesh and in spirit, the six classic members shared the stage once more at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smooth spokesman Otis Williams, beloved Batman fanatic Melvin Franklin, ethereally elegant Eddie Kendricks, dynamic David Ruffin, and hard-hitting Dennis Edwards all accepted the award post harmoniously for the late Paul Williams.

All I can say is thanks for the spirit of these great men for their contribution to the world. The Temptations will live for all times. Thank you fellas! And that’s my thought Provoking Perspective…

 


Honoring El-HAJJ MALIK SHABAZZ AKA Malcolm X

012_1000Remembering the prophet and revolutionary on the day he was taken from us. Although your message and words are still with us; we miss you and need you now. On February 27, 1965, Ossie Davis gave this moving eulogy at the Faith Temple Church of God in Harlem, NY. Your greatness will never die.

RIP Brother Minister!

Here, at this final hour, in this quiet place, Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes, extinguished now and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought. His home of homes where his heart was and where his people are. And it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again in Harlem to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who loved her, have fought for her and have defended her honor even to the death.

It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us, unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to: Afro-American. Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over the minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a ‘Negro’ year’s ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted so desperately that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans, too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee even, from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain. And we will smile. Many will say turn away, away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man. And we will smile. They will say that he is of hate, a fanatic, a racist who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him:

Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man but a seed which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is. A prince; our own black shining prince who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.

And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Black History: These Brave Courageous Men

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nIn the 1960s, there was a group of courageous black men from the communities of the southern states called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. It was an armed organization practicing self-defense methods in the face of racist oppression carried out under the Jim Crow Laws by local/state government officials and racist vigilantes. I remember this group of brave black men but because of their stance the Deacons are not written about or cited in the history book or by the Civil Rights leadership.

Their agenda of self-defense of the community did not fit the image of strict non-violence that leaders such as Dr. King espoused. The Deacons are a segment of the larger tradition of the Black Power movement a tradition dating back to slavery when Africans were chattel slaves to continue the fight for freedom. This refers to the idea that the traditional ideas and values of the Civil Rights Movement placated to the emotions and feelings of White liberal supporters rather than Black Americans, who had to live consistently with the racism and other acts of violence that were shown towards them.

Stokley Carmichael defines Black Power as: “The goal of black self-determination and black self-identity, Black Power, is full participation in the decision-making processes affecting the lives of black people and recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people… Those of us who advocate Black Power are quite clear in our own minds that a ‘non-violent’ approach to civil rights is an approach black people cannot afford, and a luxury white people do not deserve.”

The Deacons were a driving force of Black Power that Stokely Carmichael echoed. Carmichael speaks about the Deacons when he writes, “Here is a group which realized that the ‘law’ and law enforcement agencies would not protect people, so they had to do it themselves…The Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” The Deacons, according to Carmichael and others were the protection that the Civil Rights needed on local levels, as well as, the ones who intervened in places that the state and federal government fell short.

The Deacons were not the first champions of armed defense during the Civil Rights Movement. Many activists and other proponents of non-violence protected themselves with guns. Fannie Lou Hamer, the eloquently blunt Mississippi militant who outraged LBJ at the 1964 Democratic Convention, confessed that she kept several loaded guns under her bed. Even Martin Luther King Jr., an icon of nonviolence, employed armed bodyguards and had guns in his house during the early stages of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In many areas of the “Deep South,” the federal and state governments had no control of local authorities and groups that did not want to follow the laws enacted. One such group, the KKK, is the most widely known organization that openly practiced acts of violence and segregation based on race. As part of their strategy to intimidate this community Negroes, the Ku Klux Klan initiated a “campaign of terror” that included harassment, the burning of crosses on the lawns of African-American voters, the destruction by fire of five churches, a Masonic Hall, a Baptist center, and murder.

Therefore, the Negro community felt it was crucial to have its own protection to curb this terrorism given the lack of support and protection by State and Federal authorities. Enter Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Kirkpatrick, founders of the Deacons of Defense in November 1964 to protect civil rights workers, their communities and their families against the Klan. Most of the Deacons were war veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II.

There are many accounts of how the group’s name came about, but according to Lance Hill the most plausible explanation is: “the name was a portmanteau that evolved over a period of time, combining the CORE staff’s first appellation of ‘deacons’ with the tentative name chosen in November 1964: ‘Justice and Defense Club.’ By January 1965, the group had arrived at its permanent name, ‘Deacons for Defense and Justice.’” The organization wanted to maintain a level of respectability and identify with traditionally accepted symbols of peace and moral values portraying the organization as an innocent church group….”

Scholar Akinyele O. Umoja speaks about the group’s effort more specifically. According to Umoja, it was the urging of Stokely Carmichael that the Deacons were to be used as security for many marches and protection of many civil rights leaders. The Deacons had a relationship with nearly all civil rights groups working in the south that advocated and practiced non-violence. The willingness of the Deacons to provide low-key armed guards facilitated the ability of groups such as the CORE, SNCC, and NAACP to stay, at least formally, within their own parameters of non-violence.

An example of the need for self-defense to enable substantial change in the Deep South took place in early 1965. Black students picketing the local high school were confronted by hostile police and fire trucks with hoses. A car of four Deacons emerged and in view of the police, calmly loaded their shotguns. The police ordered the fire truck to withdraw.

This was the first time in the 20th century, as Lance Hill observes, “an armed black organization had successfully used weapons to defend a lawful protest against an attack by law enforcement.” Hill gives as another example: “In Jonesboro, the Deacons made history when they compelled Louisiana Governor John McKeithen to intervene in the city’s civil rights crisis and require a compromise with city leaders — the first capitulation to the civil rights movement by a Deep South governor.”

Roy Innis has said the Deacons “forced the Klan to re-evaluate their actions and often change their undergarments.” With the shift to Northern Black plight and the idea of Black Power emerging in major cities across America. The Deacons became yesterday’s news and organizations such as The Black Panther Party gained notoriety and became the publicized militant Black organization. However, let us not forget the impact of being the precursors and the empowerment of our people. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Deacons Of Defense


Black History: Dr. John Henrik Clarke

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nJohn Henrik Clarke was one of the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. He was born January 1, 1915, in Union Springs, Alabama and died July 16, 1998, in New York City. His mother was a washerwoman who did laundry for $3 a week, and his father was a sharecropper. As a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley “long before they became Generals or President,” Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.

Ms. Harris, his third-grade teacher, convinced him that one day he would be a writer, but before he became a writer, he became a voracious reader inspired by Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” about a veteran who enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Master Sergeant. After mustering out, Clarke moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters.

His literary accomplishments are very significant, but he was best known as a historian. He wrote over two hundred short stories with “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” being his best known. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.

Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited “Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A”. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron’s “portrait” of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke’s work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.

What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence. Thereby, offering an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. Clarke understood the necessity for us to affirm our belief in and respect for radical leaders such as Malcolm X and Nat Turner. It is interesting to note that Clarke’s work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past; he also was proactively involved with history in the making.

As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited “Africa, Lost and Found” (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and “African People at the Crossroads”, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations, he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist historian, he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was “Who Betrayed the African Revolution?”

In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.

During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophiles. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert. All of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.

From the sixties on, John Henrik Clarke stepped up and delivered the full weight of his own intellectual brilliance and social commitment to the ongoing struggle for Black liberation and development. Clarke became a stalwart member and hard worker in (and sometimes co-founder of) organizations such as The Harlem Writers Guild, Presence Africaine, African Heritage Studies Association, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the National Council of Black Studies and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.

Formally, Clarke lectured and held professorships at universities worldwide. His longer and most influential tenures were at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and in African and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City. He received honorary degrees from numerous institutions and served as consultant and advisor to African and Caribbean heads of state. In 1997, he was the subject of a major documentary directed by the noted filmmaker Saint Claire Bourne and underwritten by the Hollywood star Westley Snipes.

John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of the self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary, he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted “little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. …they called me ‘Bubba’ and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the ‘e’ to the family name ‘Clark’ and change the spelling of ‘Henry’ to ‘Henrik,’ after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.”

I like his spunk and the social issues he addressed in ‘A Doll’s House.’ …My daddy wanted me to be a farmer; feel the smoothness of Alabama clay and become one of the first blacks in my town to own land. But, I was worried about my history being caked with that southern clay, and I subscribed to a different kind of teaching and learning in my bones and in my spirit.”

Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us with a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration born out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his black people through knowledge. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Black History is American History
“Just a Season”

Stokely Carmichael AKA Kwame Ture

11The man, Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, is credited with the term “Black Power” being a rallying cry for the movement. He was a Trinidadian born black activist, civil rights leader, and the fourth Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a notable activist during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He was preceded as Chairman of SNCC by John Lewis and followed H. Rap Brown as leader of the group. Ture later became an Honorary Minister of the Black Panther Party. The noted scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Carmichael as one of his 100 Greatest African Americans.

Carmichael was a well-educated man attending the elite, selective Bronx High School of Science in New York and graduated from Howard University with a degree in philosophy. His professors included Sterling Brown, Nathan Hare, and Toni Morrison, a writer who later won the Nobel Prize. While at Howard, Carmichael joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), the Howard campus affiliate of the SNCC, where he was introduced to Bayard Rustin who became an influential adviser to SNCC. Inspired by the sit-ins in the South, Carmichael became more active in the Civil Rights Movement. He once remarked that he was arrested many times for his activism that he lost count; sometimes estimating at least 29 or 32.

In 1964 Carmichael, then one of the leaders of the SNCC and became Chairman of SNCC in 1966, taking over from John Lewis, who later became a US Congressman. A few weeks after Carmichael took office James Meredith was shot and wounded by a shotgun during his solitary “March Against Fear”. Carmichael became involved joined Dr. Marin Luther King, Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers and others to continue Meredith’s march.

He was arrested during the march where upon his release; he gave his first “Black Power” speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence. He is largely credited as the person who coined the phrase “Black Power”. He said during that speech “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”

While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael’s speech brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for young African Americans across the country. According to Carmichael: “Black Power meant black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs rather than relying on established parties”.

He was strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon’s landmark book Wretched of the Earth, along with others such as Malcolm X. Under Carmichael’s leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology. Reportedly he wanted to encourage whites to organize poor white southern communities, while SNCC focused on promoting African-American self-reliance through Black Power.

Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Carmichael became critical of civil rights leaders who called for the integration of African Americans into existing institutions of the middle-call mainstream.

During this period, Carmichael was personally targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro counter-intelligence program, which specialized in isolating and slandering black militants. Carmichael accepted the position of Honorary Prime Minister in the Black Panther Party, but also remained on the staff of SNCC, and attempted to forge a merger between the two organizations.

In July 1968, Hoover stepped up his efforts to divide the black power movement. Declassified documents show a plan was launched to smear Carmichael as a CIA agent, as well as to undermine the SNCC-Panther merger. Both efforts were largely successful. Carmichael was formally expelled from SNCC that year, and rival Panthers began to denounce him.

Carmichael was present in D.C. the night after King’s assassination and led a group through the streets, demanding that businesses close out of respect. Although he tried to prevent violence, the situation escalated beyond his control. Due to Carmichael’s reputation as a provocateur, the news media blamed him for the ensuing violence as mobs rioted along U Street and other areas of black development.

Carmichael held a press conference the next day, at which he predicted mass racial violence in the streets. Now, living in Washington, Carmichael had been under nearly constant surveillance by the FBI. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI director instructed a team of agents to find evidence connecting Carmichael to the rioting.

A 1968 memo from Hoover suggests his fears that Carmichael would become a Black Nationalist “messiah”. He was also subjected to COINTELPRO bad-jacketing techniques which led to Huey P. Newton suggesting that Carmichael was a CIA agent. Carmichael soon began to distance himself from the Panthers. He disagreed with them about whether white activists should be allowed to help them. The Panthers believed that white activists could help the movement, while Carmichael had come to agree with Malcolm X, and said that the white activists should organize their own communities first.

Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Ture, to honor the African leaders Nkrumah and Touré, who had become his patrons. Amongst the turmoil of the time, Ture moved to Guinea to live in a self-imposed exile. At the end of his life, friends still referred to him interchangeably by both names, “and he doesn’t seem to mind.” I don’t think this man, as well as many others, have not received enough credit for the contributions made to the struggle and to the civil rights movement. May you rest in peace. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Black History: Chairman Fred Hampton

2On December 4th, 1969, Fred Hampton, an African American activist, deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party was murdered while sleeping in his apartment during a raid by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This activity was in concert by the infamous seditious FBI program known as COINTELPRO designed to eliminate activist deemed by its director as “subversive”.

“We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” FBI Special Agent Gregg York

Chairman Fred, as he was known, was successful and revered for organizing young African Americans for the NAACP. He was quickly attracted to the Black Panthers’ approach, which was based on a ten-point program of a mix of black designed for the survival of the black community. Chairman Fred joined the Party’s nascent Illinois chapter SNCC organizer Bob Brown in late 1967. Over the next year, Hampton and his associates made a number of significant achievements in Chicago. Perhaps his most important accomplishment was his brokering of a nonaggression pact between Chicago’s most powerful street gangs.

Emphasizing that racial and ethnic conflict between gangs would only keep its members entrenched in poverty, he strove to forge a class-conscious, multi-racial alliance between the Panther Party, the Young Patriots and the National Young Lords. Soon after the pact was formed they were joined by the Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers, the Brown Berets, and the Red Guard. In May 1969, Hampton called a press conference to announce that a truce had been declared among this “rainbow coalition,” a phrase coined by Hampton and made popular later by Jesse Jackson, who eventually appropriated the name in forming his own unrelated coalition, Rainbow/Push.

This achievement marked him as a major threat in the eyes of the FBI, signaled his death. Subsequent investigations have shown that FBI chief Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement in the United States “by any means necessary. Hoover saw the Panthers, and similar radical coalitions forged by Hampton in Chicago, as a frightening stepping stone toward the creation of just such a revolutionary body that could cause a radical change in the U.S. government.

They opened a file on Hampton in 1967 that over the next two years expanded to twelve volumes and over four thousand pages. By May of that year, Chairman Fred’s name was placed on the “Agitator Index” and he would be designated a “key militant leader for Bureau reporting purposes.

In late 1968, the Racial Matters squad of the FBI’s Chicago field office brought in an individual named William O’Neal, who had recently been arrested twice, for interstate car theft and impersonating a federal officer. In exchange for dropping the felony charges and a monthly stipend, O’Neal apparently agreed to infiltrate the Black Panther Party as a counterintelligence operative. He joined the Party and quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter Security and Hampton’s bodyguard.

In 1969, the FBI Special Agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that his investigation of the Black Panther Party revealed that in his city, at least, the Panthers were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the career ambitions of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view that the Panthers were “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means”. Hoover was willing to use false claims to attack his political enemies. In one memo, he wrote: “Purpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt the BPP, and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.”

By means of anonymous letters, the FBI sowed distrust and eventually instigated a split between the Panthers and the Rangers, with O’Neal himself instigating an armed clash between the two on April 2, 1969. The Panthers became effectively isolated from their power base, so the FBI went to work to undermine its ties with other radical organizations.

O’Neal was instructed to “create a rift” between the Party and Students for a Democratic Society, whose Chicago headquarters was only blocks from that of the Panthers. The Bureau released a batch of racist cartoons in the Panthers’ name, aimed at alienating white activists, and launched a disinformation program to forestall the realization of the “Rainbow Coalition.” In repeated directives, J. Edgar Hoover demanded that the COINTELPRO personnel “destroy what the Black Panther Party stands for” and “eradicate its ‘serve the people’ programs”.

In early October, Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson, pregnant with their first child Fred Hampton, Jr., rented a four-and-a-half room apartment on 2337 West Monroe Street to be closer to Black Panther Party headquarters. O’Neal reported to his superiors that much of the Panthers’ “provocative” stockpile of arms was being stored there. None of which was true but the paid government informant played the role of Judas bringing the powers of the state to kill him.

To see how far great powers will go is shocking and a moral shame. Yet, it continues today. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


The Birth Of Black History Month

007_1000I love Black History Month because we have so much to be proud of during the month-long celebration of the legacy of Black History. However, it should be celebrated all year long! Therefore, it is important and we should be celebrate black history 365 days a year. This is a time for the world to know the tremendous contributions people of color, i.e. black people have made and contributed to mankind and the world. During the month of February, I will be posting an article each day resurrecting the greatness of a history denied, untold, and will feature the ghost of the greats who paved a mighty path.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to witness what no one living or dead ever thought possible. It was and is the most significant historical event since the resurrection of our Lord – the election of the first African American President of these United States and the leader of the free world. In spite of the wretched history of slavery and oppression, this man was elected twice.

This, notwithstanding, all of the storied achievements made by so many, I am proud of the many contributions African Americans have made to this great country and dare I say to the world. I am equally as confident that there is an abundance of history yet to be made. However, most people do not know the origins of Black History Month so that I will share that information.

February is dedicated to this proud annual observance for the remembrance of those important people and events honoring the African America Diaspora. The idea of Black History Month was conceived in Chicago during the summer of 1915. Dr. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago with many friends in the city hosted a convention to give honor to the untold history of black people and their accomplishments. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known to be the father of Black History Month, traveled from Washington DC to participate. It was a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the so-called emancipation, sponsored by the State of Illinois.

Thousands of African Americans traveled from all across the country that summer to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the extermination of slavery. Awarded a doctorate at Harvard University three years earlier, Dr. Woodson joined other exhibitors with a black history display. He was so enamored with the idea that he began the process of making this exhibit an annual event. For this reason, we owe the celebration of Black History Month, including the study of black history, to Dr. Woodson.

In 1924, his group responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. Their outreach was significant, but Dr. Woodson desired a greater impact. He told students at the Hampton Institute, “We are going back to that beautiful history, and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” In 1925, he decided that the Association had to shoulder the responsibility. He felt going forward with this idea would both create and popularize knowledge about black history.

He sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February of 1926. Dr. Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African Americans: Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass. For this reason, the myth, that the month of February was selected because it is the shortest month, is simply not true.

Dr. Woodson also founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied or even documented when the tradition originated. Further, it is important to remember that blacks had been in America since August of 1619 when a Dutch man-of-war ship rode the tide into Jamestown, Virginia, and the first slaves were dragged onto its shores. However, it was not until the 20th century that African American history gained a respectable presence in the history books.

From the beginning, Dr. Woodson was overwhelmed by the response to his call. Negro History Week appeared across the country in schools and in many public forums. The expanding black middle class became participants in and consumers of black literature and culture. Black history clubs sprang up, teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive whites supported their efforts. They set a theme for the annual celebration providing study materials such as pictures, lessons for teachers, plays for historical performances, and posters of important dates and people.

The 1960’s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of black history. Before the decade was over, Negro History Week would be well on its way to becoming Black History Month. The shift to a month-long celebration began even before Dr. Woodson’s death. As early as the 1940’s, blacks in West Virginia, a state where Dr. Woodson often spoke, began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. By the late 1960’s, as young blacks on college campuses became increasingly conscious of links with Africa, Black History Month replaced Negro History Week.

Within the Association, younger intellectuals, part of the awakening, prodded Woodson’s organization to change with the times. They succeeded and in 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to black history.

Since the mid-1970, every American president, Democrat, and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme because black history is American history. The profound legacy of our past should never be forgotten and always embraced for we are merely the sum of the whole. Thank you, Dr. Woodson! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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