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On This Day: The Murder Of Emmett Till

Throughout America’s sordid history, there have been many children murdered but the Murder in Money, Mississippi is the most infamous. It was this incident, the murder of a black child, fourteen year old Emmett Till that sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement. On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago supposedly whistled at a white woman in a grocery store.

The crime sounded clarion calls for a nation to wake up – just look at the photo. Till’s mutilated corpse circulated around the country mainly because of John Johnson, who published the gruesome photographs in Jet magazine, a predominately African American publication. The photo drew intense public reaction.

Till didn’t understand or knew that he had broken an unwritten law of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. That night the door to his grandfather’s house was thrown open, and Emmett was forced into a truck and driven away never again to be seen alive again. Till’s body was found swollen and disfigured in the Tallahatchie river three days after his abduction and only identified by his ring.

Till’s body was sent back to Chicago, where his mother insisted on leaving the casket open for the funeral and having people take photographs because she wanted people to see how badly Till’s body had been disfigured. This courageous mother was famously quoted as saying, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby” and over 50,000 people came to view the body.

On the day he was buried, two men — the husband of the woman who had been whistled at and his half brother — were indicted of his murder, but the all white male jury from Money (some of whom actually participated in Till’s torture and execution) took only an hour to return ‘not guilty’ verdict. The verdict would have been quicker, remarked the grinning foreman, if the jury hadn’t taken a break for a soft drink on the way to the deliberation room. To add insult to injury, knowing that they would not be retrial, the two accused men sold their stories to LOOK Magazine and gleefully admitted to everything.

Elsewhere in Mississippi at the time things weren’t going terribly well for blacks either. Just before Till was murdered, two activists Rev. George Lee and Lamar Smith were shot dead for trying to exercise their rights to vote, and in shocking testimony to the lack of law and order, no one came forward to testify although both murders were committed in broad daylight.

1aThe next year, a former army sergeant, Clyde Kennard, tried to enroll at Mississippi South College in Hattiesburg and was sent away, but came back to ask again. For this ‘audacity’, university officials — not students, or mere citizens, but university officials — planted stolen liquor and a bag of stolen chicken feed in his car and had him arrested. Kennard died halfway into his seven year sentence.

But times were slowly a-changing: Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Three months after the Till murder Rosa Parks would refuse to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Sit-ins and marches would follow, and soon the civil rights movement itself would be in full-swing. It’s been over sixty-years since the events of that fateful night, and I simply cannot find the words to describe this heinous crime that has yet to receive justice.

I’ll end by sharing these words by Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Negro League Baseball

1-There is an old saying that “it happens every spring”. A reference to baseball, a game black people ruled and a game black people were not allowed to play with white people. They called it segregation, I call it a disgrace. The good thing was that black people had their own league called the Negro League. It was spectacular, the greatest game on earth.

The only vestige of Negro League baseball, today, is remembered in Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. All of us, should be proud of the honor bestowed upon the league and the legendary stars that played in the league. Such as the great Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and the great Willie Mays. Of course, we cannot forget Jackie Robinson who was credited with breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.

This is where I have a problem – “Breaking the Color Barrier”. Could it be that this is a polite or a sanitized way of disguising the wretchedness imposed upon a race of people as a result of the Plessey Supreme Court decision that made segregation the law of the land for more than fifty years? This decision was so wretched that Blacks were not allowed to drink from the same water fountain or use the same toilet facilities, let alone play a game. Let’s be clear baseball is a game, but it is also a business. This is simply what this event was about – business.

A few years after Mr. Robinson, who was not the best player in the Negro Leagues, crossed over and won the Major League’s most valuable player award, which means he was better than all the white players playing that year. To put this into perspective, the Major Leagues were losing money, and the Negro Leagues were flourishing. Therefore, the “scheme” was to take the Negro players and bring them into the Major Leagues, and as history shows by doing so; the Negro Leagues was put out of business because all the great players followed.

Again, I want to be clear, and I take nothing away from Mr. Robinson or any of the other greats because they were GREAT, which was why they were marketable from a business standpoint. To prove my point; when was the last time you saw a baseball player successfully steal home in a game, which was something that Jackie Robinson was able to do and did regularly.

Let me close by paying homage to the greatest man in Negro Leagues history, its founder Andrew “Rube” Foster, whose vision has become little more than a footnote to the Leagues history. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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His-Story

FotoFlexer_PhotoThe French Philosopher Voltaire famously wrote “History is a pack of lies played on the dead”. If you don’t believe it, just go to the library because that’s where all the lies are buried! History is my thing! Therefore, I have searched for the truth, answers and studied the past as thoroughly as anyone, which means I am a reasonable enough thinker to know “BS”. I said that to say, “If what I have witnessed and know to be true has been altered or changed. How can I believe anything His-Story ever told?”

Let’s start with the story of black people! Those who held us in bondage did not record any of our history; except the bill of sale for the purchase of these souls. It was the wretchedness of these people who erased a long, proud, and distinguished history. In fact, it was not until around nineteen-twenty [1920] that Negroes even had the courage to ask about their past. Then, it was not until the nineteen-sixties [1960s] or so that we were able to learn the truth about any of the stories of our past.

Yet, while being educated by the oppressor in his schools, we were taught to praise the slave owning so-called founding fathers! You know the stories; George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, and that Ol’ Abe never told a lie. His-Story made heroes out of fools and misrepresented every historical fact. Let’s take the life and work of Dr. King. He was a radical and at the time of his death he was the most hated man in America. Today, his life has been rewritten and reduced to one paragraph of a forty-five-minute speech and of that all we remember is these three famous words – “I have a Dream.”

There are countless examples I can quote to make my point or to reference the lies used to make us believe something other than what is actually true. Just know what you’ve been taught, you know His-Story, the so-called truth, is nothing more than “fiction”. Let me remind you of the most profound quote ever recorded. “If you control what a man thinks, you never have to worry about what he’s thinking.” And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Who Was Jim Crow?

The generation of today cannot relate to the dehumanizing indignities of the Jim Crow Era that were imposed upon black people and their forefathers for centuries. Nor do they have any idea of the origins of certain terms that were used to identify those indignities. One such term was like Jim Crow that qualified and was the identity of segregation.

First, let me go back to the genesis and tell you who and where the concept began. Jim Crow originated in a song performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830’s. Rice covered his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork to resemble a black man as he sang and danced a routine in the caricature of a silly black person.

By the 1850’s, this belittling black-face character, one of several stereotypical images of black inferiority in American popular culture, was the standard act in minstrel shows of the day. Shortly after the Civil War, the term Jim Crow became more and more synonymous with the concept of segregation directed specifically at African Americans in the late nineteenth-century. It is not clear why this term was selected. However, what is clear is that by 1900, the term was generally identified with those racist laws and actions that deprived African Americans of their civil rights by presenting them as inferiors and subordinates.

It was around this time that the term entered into the lexicon of racial bigotry, after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896); a suit brought by the New Orleans Committee of Citizens. It appeared as many southern states tried to thwart the efforts and gains made during Reconstruction following the Civil War.

The Committee of Citizens arranged for Homer Plessy’s arrest to challenge Louisiana’s separate-but-equal segregation laws. Their argument was “we, as freemen, still believe that we were right, and our cause is sacred,” referring to the Confederacy. Does this sound a little like today’s “Tea Party”? The Supreme Court agreed; as a result of that fateful decision, a policy of segregation became the law of the land that lasted more than sixty years.

Reconstruction allowed African Americans to make significant progress in building their own institutions, passing civil rights laws, and electing officials to public office. In response to these achievements, southern whites launched a vicious, illegal war against southern blacks and their white allies. In most places, whites carried out this war under the cover of secret organizations, such as the KKK. Thousands of African Americans were killed, brutalized, and terrorized in those bloody years. Remember that anywhere south of Canada was considered south as this was the law of the land.

The federal government attempted to stop the bloodshed by sending in troops and holding investigations, but its efforts were far too limited and frankly were not intended to solve the problem. Therefore, black resistance to segregation was difficult because the system of land tenancy, known as sharecropping, left most blacks economically dependent upon planter landlords, and merchant suppliers. Also, white terror at the hands of lynch mobs threatened all members of the black family – adults and children alike. This reality made it nearly impossible for blacks to stand up to Jim Crow because such actions might bring the wrath of the white mob on one’s parents, brothers, spouse, and children.

Few black families were economically well off enough to buck the local white power structure of banks, merchants, and landlords. To put it succinctly: impoverished and often illiterate southern blacks were in a weak position to confront the racist culture of Jim Crow. To enforce the new legal order of segregation, southern whites often resorted to even more brutalizing acts of mob terror including race riots. And ritualized lynchings were regularly practiced to enforce this immoral agenda.

Some historians see this incredibly brutal and endemic commitment to white supremacy as breaking with the south’s more laissez-faire and paternalistic past. Others view this “new order” as a more rigid continuation of the “cult of whiteness” at work in the south since the end of the Civil War. Both perspectives agree that the 1890’s ushered in a more formal racist south and one in which white supremacists used law and mob terror to define the life and popular culture of African American people as inferior. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 

 


Segregated By Law: Plessy Vs. Ferguson

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On Labor DayWeekend, I am reminded of a man who fought and lost a great battle. This could very well apply to many men, but it is Homer Adolphe Plessy that brings me to the topic of this post. It has often been said, “There are no perfect men, only those with perfect intentions.”

Homer Plessy’s decision to buy a railroad ticket for a train trip from New Orleans to Covington, which is on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain affected every person in the country for more than sixty years. It was this event on that fateful day that resulted in a national policy of segregation that became known as “Separate but Equal.”

It was a setup from the start says New Orleans historian Keith Weldon Medley in his book “We as Freemen”. He describes how the Comite des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens), an organization of freemen of color, planned the legal strategy for more than a year. They meant to challenge the segregation law using the post-Civil War 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Plessy, a shoemaker from the Treme neighborhood, volunteered for the job and was the perfect candidate. Seven-eighths white, he was “colored” in the eyes of the law. He bought a first-class ticket, sat in the white rail car and when asked to leave, he answered that he was colored, refused to leave and was arrested by a private detective. It had all been worked out in advance.

Homer Plessy’s paternal grandfather was Germain Plessy, a white Frenchman, arrived in New Orleans with thousands of other Haitian expatriates who fled Haiti in the wake of the slave rebellion led by Toussaint L’Ouverture that wrested Haiti from Napoleon in the 1790’s. Homer Plessy was born less than three months after the issuance of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The New Orleans city directory from 1886-1924 listed his occupations as shoemaker, laborer, clerk, and insurance agent.

As a young man, Plessy displayed a social awareness and served as vice president of the 1880’s educational reform group. At age thirty, shoemaker Homer Plessy was younger than most members of the Comité des Citoyens. His only attribute to this effort was being white enough to gain access to the train and black enough to be arrested for doing so. He volunteered for a mission rife with unpredictable consequences and backlashes. This shoemaker sought to make an impact on society that was larger than simply making its shoes. When Plessy was a young boy, his stepfather was a signatory to the 1873 Unification Movement—an effort to establish principles of equality in Louisiana.

The Comité des Citoyens (“Citizens’ Committee”) was a civil rights group made up of African Americans, whites, and Creoles. The committee vigorously opposed the recently enacted Separate Car Act and other segregation laws. They retained a white New York City attorney, Albion Winegar Tourgée, who had previously fought for the rights of African Americans.

In 1892, the Citizens’ Committee asked Plessy to agree to violate Louisiana’s Separate Car law that required the segregation of passenger trains by race. On June 7, 1892, Plessy, then thirty years old and resembling in skin color and physical features a white male, bought a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad running between New Orleans and Covington, the seat of St. Tammany Parish. He sat in the “whites-only” passenger car. When the conductor came to collect his ticket, Plessy told him that he was 7/8 white and that he refused to sit in the “blacks-only” car. Plessy was immediately arrested by Detective Chris C. Cain, put into the Orleans Parish jail, and released the next day on a $500 bond.

Plessy’s case was heard before Judge John Howard Ferguson one month after his arrest. Tourgée argued that Plessy’s civil rights as granted by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution had been violated. Ferguson denied this argument and ruled that Louisiana, under state law, had the power to set rules that regulated railroad business within its borders speaking to what segregationist call “States Rights.”

The Louisiana State Supreme Court affirmed Ferguson’s ruling and refused to grant a rehearing, but did allow a petition for writ of error. This petition was accepted by the United States Supreme Court and four years later, in April 1896, arguments for Plessy v. Ferguson began. Tourgée argued that the state of Louisiana had violated the Thirteenth Amendment, that granted freedom to the slaves, and the Fourteenth Amendment, that states, “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law.”

On May 18, 1896, Justice Henry Billings Brown delivered the majority opinion in favor of the State of Louisiana. In part, the opinion read, “The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to the either. … If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of voluntary consent of the individuals.”

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Justice John Marshall Harlan, a Kentucky Republican. In his dissenting opinion, the first Justice Harlan wrote: “I am of the opinion that the statute of Louisiana is inconsistent with the personal liberty of citizens, white and black, in that state and hostile to both the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States.”

The “Separate but Equal” doctrine, enshrined by the Plessy ruling, remained valid until 1954, when it was overturned by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and later outlawed completely by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though the Plessy case did not involve education, it formed the legal basis of separate school systems for the following fifty-eight years.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy faded back into relative anonymity. He fathered children, continued to participate in the religious and social life of his community, and later sold and collected insurance for the People’s Life Insurance Company. Plessy died in 1925 at the age of sixty-one, with his obituary reading, “Homer Plessy — on Sunday, March 1, 1925, at 5:10 a.m. beloved husband of Louise Bordenave.” He was buried in the Debergue-Blanco family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1.

Know and understand where you came for in order to know where you are going. History often repeats itself and with the makeup of today’s Supreme Court, who knows what might develop. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Ferguson, Missouri: A Perfect Example Of What Happens When Blacks Don’t Vote

Guest Blogger: George Cook of the AfricanAmericanmReports.com

10514657_10202131902970802_7641807366571926388_nWhen I first started blogging I had a blog titled Let’s Talk Honestly, and I think it’s time to talk honestly about the town of Ferguson Missouri. First I want to give my condolences to the young man’s family and to voice my support for those who are PEACEFULLY protesting.

But now back to talking honestly. How is it possible that a town that is predominantly black only have one black elected black official? There is an answer, and it’s one some may not like but I think it’s a sad truth.

In light of the Michael Brown shooting, we are hearing a lot about the town of Ferguson Missouri. It is a town of about 20,000 people that is 70% black. It is also a town with only ONE elected black official.

During an interview on NPR the town’s democratic chair Patricia Bynes made the following statement when asked why there was only one black elected official.

…Well, anything other than a presidential election there is low voter turnout. And the African-American community has been disenfranchised for a very long time. When you have people who are worrying about can I get a job – can I get to work – can I put food on the table – when election day on Tuesday comes around, that is the furthest thing from their minds. And the whites that live in the community – they participate. And so they vote for who they want for council and mayor, and they don’t always put practices in place that are best for the majority population there.

While Bynes made what some may consider some valid excuses they are just that, excuses. Our ancestors faced death, and some did die get us the right to vote and if nothing else we should repay that sacrifice by voting. How can you have tremendous power and cede it to someone else?

The only way a town that is 70% black can only have one black elected official is a complete lack of political involvement and engagement in the black community.

We know that black voters are there because in the chairs statement she says that they come out for presidential elections. But they obviously don’t understand that local elections are the ones that impact your daily life.

Some will say that because of racism or the gold boys network it’s hard for people to get involved politically. I’m not going to deny that, but the low voter turnout in Ferguson shows that racist don’t have to hold blacks back because they are not trying to move forward.

Because of that low voter turnout they have a police force that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the community it serves and a local government that seemingly is not worried about the black communities concerns.

The people in Ferguson have to do better; if they want better and stop with the damn excuses on election day. I sincerely hope that the tragic death of Michael Brown spurs more political involvement in Ferguson and other communities. I also it becomes an example of what happens when African Americans don’t participate politically.

See more at: http://www.africanamericanreports.com/2014/08/ferguson-missouri-perfect-example-of.html#sthash.S8bIZeVT.dpuf


Please Mr. President

1549544_10201525536561628_1876359458_nI want to preface this writing by saying I have been one of the most-ardent supporters of the First Black President. I happen to believe that no event in history was more significant than the election of a black man to the office of “President of these United States.” Having said that, I, like many people of color are losing faith in you! You came to office telling us that we have entered an era of “post-racial” America and preached hope. But Mr. President, we see no hope and now feel more hopeless than on your first day as the most-powerful man in the world.

You held a news conference after the Trayvon Martin’s tragedy and told us you know what it’s like to be black; being followed around like a criminal in stores, and that before you got secret service protection women clinched their purses when you came near. We understood and know this to be true because it still happens to most black men, and you statement came from a man raised by a white family. You told us, vociferously, not to worry and that you were the president of all Americans. With all due respect, you do know we are also American people!

We see every other group, particularly those not brown and black, having benefited from your power. Not to mention, people around the world; why not us? As we have witnessed the horrifying atrocities of racism escalate and the blatant killings at the hands of authorities – black people have yet to see this power you hold. If I am wrong sir, I apologize! But African Americans are in the worst position, living or health wise, than any other cultural group in America.

The people in Iraq stuck on that mountain, or anyone anywhere in the world, get your help within hours. In Detroit, the government deprives its citizens of the second most-important commodity needed to live –“water.” You sent million of gallons to the mountain half-way around the world, while you sent no relief to Detroit. Every week, you witness, like the rest of us, murders by the police around the country of unarmed black men. Is this hope we can believe?

I am not expressing my grievance without a solution. With respect to the brutal police actions that are blatantly inflicted upon people living in black communities, and all too often, where people live who look like you. It is this simple: “Instead of sending billions of dollars to Iraq and other places, or sending tanks and armaments from the war to these police forces to occupy these communities. Use your power and that of the Justice Department to order that every police office wear a camera to record their activities and to have every police car equipped with a dashboard camera.”

On the issue of race, I can only recall you talking about it a few times and it saddens me to say, you have done nothing for us and that is troubling. The African American community is only asking that you pay attention to their needs, and these needs are worsening. Policing or the occupation of black communities, when you have the power to intervene is not the legacy of how you should be remembered.

We know the GOP, the right-wing, and for that matter many whites are against you, and they are against us too. But, we have never left you. Don’t leave us! I must respectively ask, is the genocide of the Iraqi people more serious than the genocide of your own black citizens? And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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