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"I do not expect the white media to create a positive black-male image." -
Huey P. Newton
The NorthStar News & Analysis -
July 21, 2011
(Photo: Margaret Bourke-White/Getty Images)
The “Recession” Appears to Be Destroying the Black Middle Class
Economic Hard Times Mounting for African Americans
The recession is not over for black folks, said Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, which is based in Washington, D.C.
A recent analysis of Federal Reserve data conducted by EPI appears to show that a growing number of African Americans are being knocked out of the middle class by the current “Great Recession” which the experts say ended officially in June of 2009.
The disturbing figures indicate an increasing concentration of wealth among the wealthiest members of society while the middle class, both white and black, is suffering tremendous loses of net worth. The black middle class has suffered more. Here are the figures. In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280 compared to a net worth of just $13,450 for black households.
In other words, for every dollar of wealth held by the typical white household, the typical black household held roughly 10 cents. By 2009, the median net worth of white households had fallen by 24 percent and stood at $97, 860. But the net worth of black households had fallen by a whopping 83 percent between 2004 and 2009 and stood at only $2,170.
By 2009 black household wealth had fallen from 10 percent of white household wealth to around 2 percent of white household wealth. Most of this loss of wealth has taken place among middle-class blacks, pushing thousands into poverty. The major cause of the decline in black wealth has been the loss of jobs and homes.
The 16.2 percent unemployment rate among African Americans is twice the jobless rate of 8.1 percent for whites (
The NorthStar News & Analysis, July 14th, 2011
Further, according to an estimate by the Center for Responsible Lending, which tracks home mortgages, reported that nearly 8 percent of African Americans who purchased homes from 2005 to 2008 have lost them to foreclosure. This compares to 4.5 percent of whites who purchased homes during the same period.
Is the black-middle class disappearing? What should we do about it? Let us hear from you at
Million Father March Founder Now Wants Fathers To Volunteer At Their Children's Schools
Frederick H. Lowe
Black Star Project, a Chicago-based organization that launched the Million Father March, which encourages fathers to escort their children to school on the first day of class, now wants fathers to make an additional commitment to their children's education.
"We are asking fathers and other significant male figures, uncles, cousins, older brothers, to volunteer 10 hours during the academic year in their children's schools, " said Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project. "The men can tutor, serve as mentors, hall monitors, chaperones and perform other jobs around the school to assist the students, faculty members and the principals."
Jackson believes that fathers' participation in their children's schools will help improve academic achievement and reduce discipline problems. The National Fatherhood Initiative, a Germantown, Md.-based organization whose goal is to improve the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible and committed fathers, agrees with Jackson's assessment.
According to a fact sheet, titled "Father Factor in Education," the National Fatherhood Initiative said father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student earning mostly "A's." "This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers and for fathers heading single-parent families," the National Fatherhood Initiative reported. On the other hand, fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school, the National Fatherhood Initiative reported.
This is the 8th year of the Million Father March, which begins Aug. 1 and ends Sept. 15. The Million Father March is not a mass gathering like the Million Man March, where one million men assembled in Washington D.C. Because the nation's schools open at different times during the academic year, fathers are encouraged to escort their kids to school on the first day of classes. Schools in the South and West open the earliest, followed by schools in the Southeast. Schools in the Midwest and Northeast open in September, the latest school openings of the academic year.
Jackson is excited about the number of school systems and fathers participating in this year's Million Father March. He predicts that 700 school districts and more than 800,000 men will participate in Million Father March.
"Can you imagine if all of those men volunteered to work 10 hours in their children's school. That would have a dynamic effect on the school system," Jackson said. He added, however, that some schools may not want fathers involved because it would be "one more thing" that faculty members would have to manage.
The Million Father March has grown nationwide because it is being pushed by individual schools and individual classrooms. In Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the district embraced the Million Father March, said Charles Webster, the district's coordinator of public relations and government affairs.
As a result, participation in the Million Father March continues to grow. In the 2009 school year, 28,391 fathers participated. Turnout in 2009 was particularly surprising because school was delayed a day because of Tropical Storm Fay, Webster said. In 2010, the number of participants climbed to 36,875. Last year, 38,081 signed up for the Million Father March, Webster said. "It's important that men participate, not just the ladies, because it shows men care about their children," he added.
Webster added that the presence of men on school grounds prevents student violence. "At one high school, there were fights after school. Men showed up and stood on the school grounds and the fights stopped," he said. And Webster added that many of the men ask school officials what else they can do to improve the schools. The first day of classes this year for the Broward County Public Schools is August 22.
Jackson also wants Chicago churches to become involved with their neighborhood schools. "There are 650 schools in Chicago and 10,000 churches," Jackson said. "We want the churches to partner with their neighborhood schools and at 9 AM on September 6, we want the ministers wearing their church robes to hold prayer vigils outside the schools and pray for a productive, successful and safe school year."
Are you willing to become more involved in your children's school? Let us hear from you at
ColorOfChange Seeks Apology From Airline That Had A Black Man Arrested For Wearing Saggy Pants
ColorOfChange on Monday launched an online petition drive, demanding that officials of US Airways apologize to a black college student who airline employees ordered off a plane and had police arrest for wearing saggy pants.
Deshon Marman, a 20-year-old student at the University of New Mexico, was physically removed from a June 15 flight to Albuquerque from San Francisco International Airport for wearing pants that revealed the top of his underwear. After Marman, a native of San Francisco, had taken his seat and had pulled up his pants, the airline's pilot and cops from the San Francisco Police Department confronted him.
"I am just like everybody else on this plane," Marman told the pilot. The pilot yelled, " 'You are not.' " Marman agreed to leave the plane after being told his ticket would be refunded, but San Francisco cops grabbed both of his arms and handcuffed him. They charged him with a felony count of battery of a police officer and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and trespassing, although he had purchased a plane ticket that allowed him to be abroad the craft. A San Francisco Police Department spokesperson said Marman's pants were just above his knees, positioning that would have made it impossible for him to walk. He was taken to the jail in San Mateo County, Calif. The district attorney refused to pursue the charges.
Although officials of U.S. Airways have not talked with ColorOf Change, they have been meeting with members of the NAACP since the Marman's arrest, according to Valerie Wunder, a spokesperson for the Tempe, Ariz.-based airline. "We have been in regular discussions with the NAACP and we're trying to hold discussions with Marman," Wunder told
The NorthStar News & Analysis
. Joe O'Sullivan, Marman's attorney, told the
San Francisco Chronicle
that his client plans to sue the airline and the plane's crew.
ColorOfChange, a black online progressive political organization based in Oakland, Calif., said U.S. Airways officials still have not refunded Marman's ticket, and the airline is standing by the staff's behavior, which they called "professional." Six days before Marman's arrest, the
San Francisco Chronicle
reported that a transgendered white man, wearing only women's lingerie was allowed to fly the airline without incident from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Phoenix.
"We don't have a dress code policy," Wunder told the
San Francisco Chronicle
. "Obviously, if their private parts are exposed that's not appropriate…So if there are not exposing their private parts, they are allowed to fly." ColorOfChange said it is necessary to challenge U.S. Airways' treatment of Marman.
"If U.S. Airways gets away with this, it sets a dangerous precedent. We can't let it become acceptable for a corporation to target and criminalize young black men because of their appearance," said ColorOfChange, which has launched an online letter writing campaign against US Airways.
ColorOf Change's petition to US Airways CEO W. Douglas Parker reads:
I was disturbed to learn of your company’s decision to have Deshon Marman arrested and removed from one of your flights, apparently because of his dress. The treatment of Marman was grossly unprofessional and discriminatory. I’m asking that you apologize to Marman and his family and that you explain the changes you will make to ensure that none of your passengers are subjected to such treatment in the future.
Targeting and criminalizing a young Black man because of his appearance is a shocking and unacceptable practice for any business. As a business that serves the public, you have the obligation to have a high standard of conduct which does not tolerate racial discrimination in any form. Regardless of my personal views on sagging pants, they should never trigger measures that lead to removal from an aircraft, arrest and incarceration.
I urge you to issue a public apology and detail the measures you’ll take to ensure this doesn't happen again.
We want to hear from you. What do you thing of this incident? Please send your comments to
Clyde McElvene, CEO and founder
of Hurston/Wright Foundation
National Black Writers' Award Will Not Be Affected By Borders' Liquidation
Now that Borders Group Inc. has decided to write its final chapter as a nationwide bookseller, the retailer's' decision will not affect the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a financial prize awarded annually for exemplary works by African-American writers.
Borders, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., had provided $60,000 annually to Hurston/Wright Foundation since the prize was launched in 2003. Over time, however, Borders' financial support dwindled and later completely dried up, said Clyde McElvene, CEO, executive director and co-founder of the Hurston/Wright Foundation which is based in Bowie, Md.
The Hurston/Wright Foundation, which is named in honor of authors Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, awarded $10,000 each to the best fiction, poetry, nonfiction and debut fiction writers. Runners up in the categories each received $5,000, he added. The foundation recently announced nominees for its 2011 awards (
The NorthStar News & Analysis, June 30th, 2011
In 2006, Borders cut its financial support in half and 2008 and 2009, the Hurston/Wright Foundation did not receive any funds from Borders, McElvene said.
"We attempted to get in touch with a vice president, who supported the Legacy Awards, and an operator told us that 180 employees had been let go. It was at that point, we knew that the company [Borders] was in trouble," he said.
In February, Borders Group filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The filing enabled the company to keep creditors at bay, raise funds, reorganize and sell to a willing buyer. On Monday, however, Borders Group decided not to sell the company to Najafi, a Phoenix-based private-equity firm that owns the Book-of-the-Month Club, for $215.1 million.
Instead, Borders Group officials said they will ask the court to approve a proposal by Hilco Real Estate LLC in Northbrook, IL, and Gordon Brothers Group LLC in Boston to sell the assets of Borders' 399 stores that employ approximately 10,700 workers. If the court approves Borders' request, liquidation of the stores' assets could begin as early as Friday. In its heyday, Borders owned 1,249 stores nationwide.
McElvene said five major book publishers support the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards. They are: Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Putnam, Random House and Hachette Book Group. In addition to the awards, the Hurston/Wright Foundation offers writing workshops in fiction, nonfiction and poetry for black writers. The foundation's website:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963
March on Washington.
Dedication Of Monument To Dr. Martin Luther King Scheduled For August In Washington
A monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be dedicated August 28 on the Mall in Washington, D.C., 48 years after the March on Washington at which the civil rights leader delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.
Although the monument's backers have raised millions of dollars for construction, Harry Johnson, Sr., president and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., wrote in an undated fund-raising letter that the organization still needs to raise additional funds.
"And while I am pleased to tell you that we have raised $112 million, the truth is we still must raise an additional $8 million to finish construction," Johnson wrote. The correspondence was marketed to individuals, who had been solicited previously but had not responded to requests for donations.
"While you didn't respond to my earlier letters, I am still reserving a space for your name on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Founder's Roll of Honor, which will be kept permanently at the Memorial," Johnson wrote.
Johnson is seeking contributions of $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, $150, $50 and $25 to complete the monument's construction. The 30-foot tall granite statue of Dr. King is the central element of the memorial to the slain civil rights leader. The statue is titled Stone of Hope. The National Memorial Project Foundation's website is
The schedule of events for the dedication begins August 24 with a dinner. There are several other events leading up to the dedication ceremony, which will be held at 11 AM on August 28.
Dr. King gave his speech during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, before crowd of more than 250,000. Bayard Rustin, an ally of labor leader A. Philip Randolph, organized the March on Washington before the invention of the Internet or social media, using 3x5 cards.
Association For Black Culture Centers Schedules 21st Annual Conference
The Association for Black Culture Centers (ABCC), a Galesburg, IL-based organization that celebrates, promotes and critically examines the culture of people of African descent, has issued a call for presentations for its 21st annual conference at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
The theme of the conference, which will held October 27-30, is "Going Back to our Future: The Importance of Black Culture." There are 11 subthemes, which include: immersion of staff in black culture; black culture and gender issues; centers and Africana arts; centers, identity and retention; black culture and the hip hop movement; black culture and student leadership; centers and Africana arts; centers contributing to curriculum changes; Africana history, diversity in higher education; centers, Greeks, athletes; black culture and generation gaps and centers, black culture and community.
Individuals must submit their presentations to Fred L. Hord, Ph.D., executive director of the Association for Black Culture Centers, and chair of Black Studies at Knox College in Galesburg. Applications for the presentations must be postmarked by Aug. 15 and successful applicants will be notified by September 12. The organization's website is
. Dr. Hord's email address is
, but presentations must be submitted to
. More than 300 individuals are expected to attend the conference.
Dr. Hord founded The Association for Black Culture Centers in 1987. The organization's first conference was held two years later at Knox College, which became its national headquarters in 1994. The Association for Black Culture Centers is a growing organization with more than 700 colleges and universities in all 50 states, the Caribbean and West Africa. The organization also is becoming more involved with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, museums, community centers and multicultural centers. The organization has a speakers bureau, traveling art exhibits and it co-published a book on the centers, which is titled
Black Culture Centers: Politics of Survival And Identity
, which can be purchased through
Third World Press
The Association for Black Culture Centers also publishes
, a biannual newsletter.
Spring 2011 edition featured a front-page article on Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Barack Obama's former pastor, who spoke at Wright State University's Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center. Other articles focused on the Boston Black Theater Collective at the University of Massachusetts and the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale University.
The newsletter also lists new book titles, including
The Harlem Renaissance Revisted: Politics, Arts and Letters
The Black History of the White House
Dreaming Blackness: Black Nationalism and African American Public Opinion
NorthStar News & Analysis Briefs
Lawyers Want Department Of Justice To Quash South Carolina's Photo ID Law
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has launched an online letter-writing campaign to persuade the U.S. Justice Department to deny South Carolina preclearance for the state's voter identification law.
South Carolina's law, which would require voters to show a photo ID to vote, would deny the vote to blacks, recently married women, students and disabled persons who don't have photo identification cards, said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee, which is based in Washington D.C. The Lawyers Committee's website is
Arnwine called the photo ID requirement " the most blatant attempt to suppress voters' rights since the days of poll taxes and literacy tests." A growing number of states recently have passed photo identification laws (
The NothStar News & Analysis, June 30th, 2011
South Carolina is one of nine states that has a history of denying blacks the right to vote. The states must submit any changes in their voting requirements to the Department of Justice for approval in what is known as preclearance. Preclearance is contained in Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Nikki Haley, South Carolina's Republican governor, signed photo identification legislation into law in May.
Group Takes Issue With U.S. Representative's Comments Regarding Black Farmers
Dr. John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, on Monday blasted U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, for criticizing the U.S. Agriculture Department's two financial settlements with black farmers, who historically have been denied federal government loans for their farms.
During a tour of flooded areas along the Missouri River in Iowa, Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, said two settlements, which were agreed to in 1999 and 2010, were subject to widespread fraud. "When money is diverted to inefficient projects, like the Pigford Project, where there seems to be proof-positive of fraud, we can't afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and Missouri River, " Bachmann said.
On Aug. 14, 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman signed a $1 billion settlement, ending a class-action lawsuit by Timothy Pigford and other black farmers who were denied loans because of their race by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year, President Barack Obama signed a $1.15 billion settlement for black farmers who did not participate in 1999 agreement (
The NorthStar News & Analysis, December 14th, 2010
). That settlement is known as Pigford II.
Boyd called Bachman's criticism unfair. "Why continue to take from those people who haven't taken part in federal programs equally and give to another group of farmers who have taken part in federal program?" he asked. "I think taking resources from a group of people who have been historically denied any relief at the Department of Agriculture is a bad idea."
Boyd added that there are anti-fraud provisions in the legislation signed last year and the legislation requires each claim of discrimination to be judged individually to determine its merit. "The process still has not begun," he added.
Essence Names White Managing Editor; Chase Buys Stake In Ebony Owner
, a magazine that targets African-American women, shocked the media world last week when it named Michael Bullerdick, a white man, to run the magazine’s day-to-day operations. Bullerdick becomes managing editor.
Editor Constance White stressed that Bullerdick would have no say as far as the editorial content of
was concerned. However, the publication has come in for harsh criticism for failure to name a black woman to the post.
In his blog, commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins declared, “Do I buy White’s statement completely? No. It’s hard to imagine that a managing editor would not have an impact on which voices are reflected and how they are presented.”
Johnson Publishing Company, which is based in Chicago, recently announced that JPMorgan Chase&Co., one of the world's largest banks based on assets, has purchased a major stake in the publisher and will have a seat on the company's board of directors. Johnson Publishing publishes
NAACP Convention Begins Saturday
The NAACP 102nd Annual Convention opens Saturday, July 23, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The theme of this year's gathering is "Affirming America's Promise." The conference is scheduled to close July 28.
Michele Bachmann Once Again Distorts the History of Slavery; Is It Racism or Ignorance?
Robert N. Taylor
Conservative Republicans like Representative Michele Bachmann both anger and scare me. First, they anger me because they have a tendency to totally distort history, especially black history, in order to score cheap political points. Secondly, they scare me because their overly simplistic and usually incorrect analyses appear to attract a substantial number of white voters by telling them what they want to hear – even when it is wrong.
It was Bachmann, a major contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, who recently signed a “Marriage Pledge” which while promoting the social benefits of marriage also suggested that slavery had the positive benefit of keeping black families together.
This is perhaps Bachmann’s grossest distortion of African American history to date. First, the institution of slavery did not recognize marriage among blacks. In many Southern states, it was illegal for a black woman and a black man to marry. Second, slave families were routinely broken up as plantation owners sold men, women and children to other plantation owners to make money.
If a black family remained intact during slavery it was a result of extraordinary effort on the part of the slaves and just plain luck.
Indeed, the historical record is clear that blacks did not rush to get married until after slavery ended in 1865. Prior to that time, it was almost impossible for a family to remain intact.
A study co-authored by Dr. Lorraine Blackman concludes that by 1880, 56.3 percent of black households were nuclear, headed by a man and a woman. And by 1950, a whopping 80 percent of black families were headed by married couples. That percentage is now down to around 30 percent.
But why would Bachmann and other conservative Republicans intentionally distort the historical impact of slavery on the black family? It is just another example of their tendency to place politics over facts. In one respect the “Marriage Pledge” is actually an attack on President Obama because in promoting marriage, it suggests that there was a higher percentage of married blacks during slavery than there are since Obama’s election.
In other words, they are trying to blame the plight of the black family on Obama. It makes little difference to them that what they are saying is historically inaccurate. They just want to score a cheap political point even if it necessitates telling a lie.
However, to their credit, since the Bachmann controversy erupted, the Iowa-based Christian group, The Family Leader, responsible for the “Marriage Pledge” has withdrawn the section about the benefits of slavery, saying it “can be misconstrued.”
But misconstruing facts is not the concern. It is the deliberate distortion of facts that is at issue.
Robert Taylor is editor of the blog
Daily Black News Journal
. Visit him by logging onto
NorthStar News & Analysis Book Review:
The Eyes Of Willie McGee: A Tragedy Of Race, Sex, And Secrets In The Jim Crow South
Susan M. Miller
On April 28 of this year the nominees for the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, generally known as the Edgar Awards and bestowed annually by the Mystery Writers of America, were announced, marking the 202nd anniversary of the birth of the classic mystery writer and poet. One of the five books nominated in the Best Fact Crime category was journalist Alex Heard’s
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South
Heard’s well-researched book offers a compelling portrait of the pre-civil-rights South and is a riveting account of the protracted legal battle that ensued when Willie McGee, a black man, was accused of raping Willette Hawkins, a married white woman. The alleged rape occurred in Laurel, Miss., in 1945. World War II had just ended.
The rape case and trial are reminiscent of Harper Lee’s iconic 1960 novel,
To Kill a Mockingbird
, but the McGee-Hawkins case, trial and tale, skillfully told by Heard, was a far more complicated case, nuanced and political, one in which it was impossible to determine where the truth lay in the matter.
Did a rape take place as Hawkins contended, or as McGee contended, was he seduced by a married woman with whom he had an affair that was disavowed by Hawkins and then characterized by her as an instance of rape when her husband learned of the liaison?
McGee's attorneys did not reveal until late in the trial that McGee and Hawkins had an affair. (Or did they?) Attorneys feared McGee would be taken from the courtroom and lynched if the this information were made public.
The case became a five-year legal battle and an international cause célèbre. Before the case ended in 1951 with a guilty verdict, death sentence and execution for McGee, there had been three circuit court trials, several reversals and stays and four failed attempts to secure a hearing by the U. S. Supreme Court. The death penalty in rape cases applied only to black men at the time; no such sentence was ever conferred on a white man similarly charged.
The Civil Rights Congress (CRC), the legal branch of the Communist Party USA, supported Willie McGee’s defense. Bella Abzug, who later became a feminist activist and a New York City congresswoman, served as defense counsel. The governor of Mississippi received no less than 15,000 letters, pleading for McGee’s release, and President Harry Truman received more than 10,000 letters from Americans as well as from citizens of dozens of foreign countries, decrying McGee as a victim of racism and injustice. Among blacks and white progressives the McGee verdict constituted death by racism.
Albert Einstein, a life-long member of the NAACP, wrote a letter in support of McGee that was published in
The New York Times
. Novelists Howard Fast and Norman Mailer rallied support for McGee as did Paul Robeson, William Faulkner, Frieda Kahlo, Jessica Mitford and many other prominent persons of the day, all expressing outrage over the controversial case.
Author Alex Heard is an editor at
magazine. He has contributed often to
The New York Times Magazine
The New Republic
. He also manages a website created for his book.
Included on this website is a recording in three parts of the live broadcast made by a small crew from radio station WFOR, Hattiesburg, Miss., of the events at Jones County Courthouse the night Willie McGee was executed. This haunting historic recording was made possible by Jim Leeson, a then 20-year old student at Southern Mississippi College who recorded the radio broadcast from his home, preserved it carefully and many years later shared it with journalism students he taught and advised at Vanderbilt University.
Heard was one of Leeson's students. He was moved deeply when he listened to the recording. Writing
The Eyes of Willie McGee
gave Heard an opportunity to re-open the McGee-Hawkins case, to explore it and to share it with us. Don’t miss this fascinating, disturbing and absorbing read.
The Eyes of Willie McGee
is now available in a Harper Perennial paperback edition and is sold at
To learn more about
The Eyes of Willie McGee
and to listen to the recording of the broadcast made on the night of McGee’s execution, visit
Henry Sylvester Williams
Saturday Marks The 111th Anniversary Of The First Pan African Congress
One hundred eleven years ago this Saturday, blacks from around the world held a three-day conference in London that would become a landmark event in the history of the black Diaspora.
The event was the first Pan African Conference, and it was held in 1900 on July 23, 24 and 25 to give men and women of African descent a platform to challenge the European colonization and exploitation of Africa.
The conference was the precursor of the Pan African congresses. Henry Sylvester Williams, a British barrister born in Trinidad, an elected city official and writer, organized the first Pan African Conference.
The meeting was noted for a number of other important firsts. It was the first time "Pan-African" was placed in the lexicon, according to the website
. The word "Africans," which had often been used by racists as a derogatory description, became a source of pride for early black nationalists.
The event attracted 30 delegates, mostly from England and the West Indies. Only a few African Americans attended. One of the American delegates was intellectual and activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Sylvester Williams influenced Du Bois. He was named chairman of a committee to the nations of the world. The address included Du Bois' famous and prophetic statement, "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." Du Bois would later become the torchbearer of subsequent Pan-African congresses as they were later called.
The London meeting attracted global attention because it was the first time blacks of the African Diaspora gathered to oppose colonialism and racism in an international meeting. Attendees read papers on social, political and economic conditions of blacks in the Diaspora. The papers' topics focused on a wide range of subjects, including the importance of independent nations governed by people of African descent, such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia; the legacy of slavery and European imperialism; the role of Africa in world history and the impact of Christianity on the African continent. Du Bois also drafted an address, "To the Nations of the World," demanding moderate reforms in Africa.
Although Du Bois has become synonymous with the Pan African movement, the idea for the Pan Africa Conference was Sylvester Williams.' He earned a law degree in from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and King's College in London.
Sylvester Williams became the first black barrister to practice law in South Africa. He practiced there from 1903 to 1905 before returning to England. In 1906, voters in Westminster, England, elected Sylvester Williams the city's first black city council member. He was the second black elected official in England. Westminster officials announced this month that they will dedicate a plaque in Sylvester Williams honor on Oct. 12. He died on March 26, 1911, at the age of 42 in his native Trinidad.
Prior to organizing the Pan African Conference, Sylvester Williams founded the African Association to challenge paternalism, racism and imperialism. Williams said, "The Time has come when the voice of black men should be heard independently in their own affairs."
(photo by Motfemme Photostream)
This Week in Black History
For the Week of July 23 to July 29
1948 – The Progressive Party Convention begins in Philadelphia. The convention nominates Henry Wallace for president, and he makes the strongest showing of virtually any third party candidate in American history. More than 150 blacks were at the convention and dozens ran for office on the Progressive Party ticket. They were attracted by the party’s call for an end to segregation, full voting rights for blacks and universal government-sponsored health care insurance. The party’s membership consisted primarily of liberals and leftists. Wallace’s candidacy was even endorsed by the then relatively strong American Communist Party. The party came under vicious attack during the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era of the 1950s. Positions taken by the Progressive Party forced the Democratic Party to adopt meaningful changes in order to retain the black vote.
1984 – The first black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, is forced to relinquish her crown as a result of
magazine publishing sexually explicit photographs, which she had posed for years earlier. She was replaced by the first runner-up, another African-American woman, Suzette Charles. Williams triumphed later, however, and became a successful singer and actress.
1651 – Anthony (or Antonio) Johnson, a free black man who had purchased freedom for himself and his wife, is awarded 250 acres of land in North Hampton, Va. Johnson was among the first group of 20 black indentured servants brought to America in 1619. Indentured servitude was a form of slavery which allowed the person to either work for or purchase his freedom. After becoming free, Johnson became the first wealthy black person in America. He even purchased five indentured servants of his own. He probably picked up the name “Johnson” from his original owner but in official records from the period he is simply referred to as “Antonio the Negro.”
1802 – Famed French writer Alexander Dumas is born. He was born to a French general and a light-complexioned black Haitian woman. Dumas would later become one of the world’s greatest and most prolific writers. He is best known for his classics,
The Three Musketeers
The Count of Monte Cristo.
His blackness caused him some difficulties in French society but by and large his fame and the money from his books enabled him to live an extravagant life.
1904 – This is the day it is believed that actor Ira Aldridge was born in Africa. He would come to America, learn English and German, and develop into one of the world’s most accomplished Shakespearean actors. He played the role of the Moor Othello on many occasions.
1916 – The black inventor of America’s first gas mask, Garrett T. Morgan, made national headlines on this day when he and a team of volunteers used his invention to rescue 32 workers trapped in a gas-filled tunnel 250 feet below Lake Erie. Morgan called his device “the Morgan safety hood and smoke protector,” but it has become known simply as the gas mask. Morgan also invented America’s first traffic light. He was born in 1877 and did most of his inventing while living in Cleveland, Ohio. He died in 1963.
1972 – Faced with possible exposure by the media, the federal government--- specifically the U.S. Public Health Service---finally acknowledges its involvement in the horrific and immoral Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. During the experiment, 399 black men, mostly poor sharecroppers from Alabama, were led to believe they were being treated for syphilis while the doctors and nurses involved, some of whom were African-American, deceived the men by inducing the disease instead in order to discover the long-term effects of syphilis on the human body. The “experiment” lasted from 1932 to the time it was exposed in 1972. Finally, on May 16, 1997, President Clinton issued an official apology to the eight surviving members of the experiment saying, “The United States government did something that was wrong--- deeply, profoundly, morally wrong--- and clearly racist.”
1847 – President Joseph J. Roberts declares the West African nation of Liberia an independent republic. The nation was primarily founded by former U.S. slaves returning to Africa. Roberts was born in Virginia. Three factors gave rise to the founding of Liberia beginning around 1821: Free blacks were experiencing increasing discrimination in America; pro-slavery forces felt the presence of free blacks would encourage rebellion within the slave population; and friendly whites, like those in the American Colonization Society or ACS, felt blacks would never be treated fairly in America and should return to Africa. The ACS helped more than 13,000 blacks to return to Africa with most relocating to Liberia.
1926 – The NAACP awards its prestigious Spingarn Medal to Carter G. Woodson for his work in Black History. Woodson became known as the “Father of Black History.” The historian, author and journalist founded Negro History Week, the precursor to today’s Black History Month. Woodson felt knowing black history would be an inspiration to people of African ancestry. He once wrote: “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
1919 – The infamous Chicago Race Riot of 1919 begins. It would last for several days and require 6,000 National Guardsmen to quell it. The Chicago disturbance was the most bloody of 25 race riots which took place in cities throughout the country. In fact, the summer of 1919 became known as the “Red Summer” because of the wide spread incidence of racial conflicts. In Chicago, the rioting was started by white gangs harassing the large number of blacks who had moved to the city for war-time jobs created by World War I. In addition to harassing and beating blacks, the white gangs invented “drive-by shooting” as they drove through black neighborhoods, firing rifles and pistols. Young blacks formed mobs and began retaliating. When it was all over, 15 whites and 23 blacks were dead; over 500 people had been injured and another 1,000 were left homeless.
1868 – The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified formally making former black slaves citizens of the United States. Many scholars consider this the most important amendment to the Constitution. In addition to recognizing blacks as full citizens, it contains both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. These clauses have been used to guarantee a wide range of rights for all U.S. citizens. The 14th Amendment was passed, in part, to overturn the “Black Codes” being adopted in many Southern states after the Civil War. The Black Codes were an attempt to give blacks official second class status in America by, among other things, limiting their rights to vote, to sue a white person or to testify in court.
1915 – United States Marines initiate the first American occupation of Haiti. The official justification was that disturbances on the predominantly black island might allow Germany to station troops in the Americas. The U.S. invasion was driven in large measure by a desire to put down a popular rebellion that threatened the rule of Haiti’s dictator and American business interests. Over 2,000 Haitians were killed in the early weeks of the occupation which did not end until August of 1934.
1917 – The NAACP organizes an 8,000-person strong “silent march” down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and other brutalities against African Americans. The marchers were particularly outraged by the July 2, 1917 massacre of blacks in East St. Louis, IL. President Woodrow Wilson, considered by many blacks to be a racist, had just taken America into World War I under the theme of “Making the World Safe for Democracy.” Thus, many of the marchers carried signs reading “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?”
2009 – Death of the flamboyant Rev. Ike is announced. At the peak of his success in the mid-1970s, Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter reached an estimated 2.5 million African Americans with his New York-based spiritual and financial betterment radio program. Critics often described him as a “hustler” and a “scoundrel” who exploited poor blacks by selling “healings” and “prayer clothes.” Born in Ridgeland, S. C., Rev. Ike died in California.
1870 – Pioneering boxer George Dixon is born in Nova Scotia, Canada. Little known today, Dixon developed an extraordinary boxing career. He pioneered much of modern boxing training techniques, including the suspended punching bag and shadow boxing. He was the first black person to win a world boxing title. Dixon was known as “Little Chocolate” because he stood only 5’3” tall and weighed approximately 90 pounds. Despite his diminutive stature, he won 78 fights, 30 by knock out. He was known for his lighting speed. Dixon died in New York in 1909. He is buried in Boston.
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