Monday, April 03, 2017

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The Birmingham Movement

The Birmingham movement was one of the most important parts of the Civil Rights Movement. Afterwards, the civil rights movement would be changed forever. Before that movement, there was little progress legislatively in America involving civil rights. Afterwards, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act would be passed. Courage defined the efforts of African Americans and others who fought for the freedom of black people in America. Diverse organizations were involved in this campaign like the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), ACHMR (the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights), and SNCC. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, Wyatt Tee Walker, Dorothy Cotton, and other human beings were involved in this audacious campaign. The goal of this campaign was explicitly clear of eliminating Jim Crow in Birmingham, Alabama (which was the most segregated large city of the South back then). This program was called Project C. The protests would involve lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall, and boycotts on downtown merchants who promoted segregation. Months later, racist police used water hoses and police dogs (as sent by the racist person Bull Connor) to harm black men, black women, and black children. Those images were shown worldwide and it showed the hypocrisy of the American establishment and the vicious oppression that black people experienced in American society. This came after the failed SCLC campaign in Albany, Georgia. The Birmingham, Alabama movement would be a victory. It lasted from April 3, 1963 to May 10, 1963.

Young people, adults, and elderly human beings fought for justice. The city’s discrimination laws were changed. These events in the South caused President John F. Kennedy to be more progressive in public involving race and civil rights. After this campaign, President Kennedy would call for federal civil rights legislation which would not be passed until after he was unfortunately assassinated. Ultimately, it was the masses of the people who caused the Birmingham campaign to be successful. The Birmingham campaign was turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, which signaled the beginning of the end of Jim Crow apartheid. Soon, more demonstrations came about throughout the South. The March on Washington existed in August of 1963. Unfortunately, the bombing of the Baptist church existed in Birmingham in September of 1963, which killed 4 little girls. There was more attention sent in fighting racial segregation in the southern United States. Dr. King expanded his movement and forced desegregation ended in Birmingham.

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The Start of the Movement

Back then in 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was the most segregated city in America. Violence and harassment were experienced by black residents of Birmingham for years and decades. Interracial unions during the 1930’s were red baited and many union members were even assaulted by racists. Bull Connor was a commissioner of public safety in the city back in 1937. By 1963, Birmingham was almost 350,000 people with 60% white people and 40% black Americans. Yet, it had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks in department stores, bus drivers, bank tellers, or store cashiers. The majority of jobs available to black people were manual labor in the Birmingham's steel mills, work in household service and yard maintenance, or work in black neighborhoods. When layoffs were necessary, black employees were often the first to go. The unemployment rate for blacks was two and a half times higher than for whites. The average income for blacks in the city was less than half that of whites. Significantly lower pay scales for black workers at the local steel mills were common. Racial segregation of public and commercial facilities throughout Jefferson County was legally required, covered all aspects of life, and was rigidly enforced. Only 10 percent of the city's black population was registered to vote in 1960. Birmingham’s economy stagnated. The reason was that the city shifted from blue to white collar jobs. There were 50 unsolved racially motivated bombings between 1945 and 1962. Black people fought back too. Alabama banned the NAACP in 1956.

So, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). In that same year, the ACMHR fought to end segregation and discrimination via lawsuits and protests. The courts overturned the segregation of city parks and then Birmingham responded by closing them. Shuttlesworth's home was repeatedly bombed, as was Bethel Baptist Church, where he was pastor. In 1958, he was beaten with chains and his wife was stabbed when he tried to enroll his child to an all-white school.

After Shuttlesworth was arrested and jailed for violating the city's segregation rules in 1962, he sent a petition to Mayor Art Hanes' office asking that public facilities be desegregated. Hanes responded with a letter informing Shuttlesworth that his petition had been thrown in the garbage. Looking for outside help, Shuttlesworth invited Dr. Martin Luther King and the SCLC to Birmingham, saying, "If you come to Birmingham, you will not only gain prestige, but really shake the country. If you win in Birmingham, as Birmingham goes, so goes the nation.” Eugene “Bull” Connor was a racist and had a contentious personality. He wanted segregation. He believed in the slanderous lie that the Civil Rights Movement was a Communist plot. Churches were bombed in the city too. In 1958, police arrested ministers organizing a bus boycott. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a probe amid allegations of police misconduct for the arrests, Connor responded that he "[hadn't] got any d___ apology to the FBI or anybody else", and predicted, "If the North keeps trying to cram this thing [desegregation] down our throats, there's going to be bloodshed."

Connor was known to delaying sending police to intervene when the Freedom Riders were beaten by local mobs. Connor was so antagonistic towards the Civil Rights Movement that his actions galvanized support for black Americans. President John F. Kennedy later said of him, "The Civil Rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln." Connor was an extreme conservative. A group of white moderates worked to defeat him politically, because of economically slow progress in the city. The Citizens for Progress was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other white professionals in the city, and their tactics were successful. In November 1962, Connor lost the race for mayor to Albert Boutwell, a less combative segregationist. However, Connor and his colleagues on the City Commission refused to accept the new mayor's authority. They claimed on a technicality that their terms would not expire until 1965 instead of in the spring of 1963. So for a brief time, Birmingham had two city governments attempting to conduct business.

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Buying Policy

The protest actions in Birmingham started in 1962. Activists modeled this plan on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The events started when students from local colleges arranged for a year of staggering boycott. This caused downtown business to decline by as much as 40 percent. It attracted attention from the Chamber of Commerce president Sidney Smyer. He said that the "racial incidents have given us a black eye that we'll be a long time trying to forget.”  In response to the boycott, the City Commission of Birmingham punished the black community by withdrawing $45,000 ($350,000 in 2016) from a surplus-food program used primarily by low-income black human beings. The result, however, was a black community more motivated to resist. The SCLC believed that economic pressure on Birmingham businesses would be more effective than pressure on politicians. This was a lesson learned in Albany as few black people were registered to vote in 1962. In the spring of 1963, before Easter, the Birmingham boycott intensified during the second-busiest shopping season of the year. Pastors urged their congregations to avoid shopping in Birmingham stories in the downtown district. For six weeks supporters of the boycott patrolled the downtown area to make sure that black people were not patronizing stores that promoted or tolerated segregation. If black shoppers were found in these stores, organizers confronted them and shamed them into participating in the boycott. Shuttlesworth recalled a woman whose $15 hat ($120 in 2016) was destroyed by boycott enforcers. Campaign participant Joe Dickson recalled, "We had to go under strict surveillance. We had to tell people, say look: if you go downtown and buy something, you're going to have to answer to us." After several business owners in Birmingham took down "white only" and "colored only" signs, Commissioner Connor told business owners that if they did not obey the segregation ordinances, they would lose their business licenses.

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Project C

Later, Project C existed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came into Birmingham. His presence wasn’t welcomed by everyone in the black community. A local black attorney complained in Time that the new city administration didn’t have enough time to confer with the various groups invested in changing the city’s segregation policies. At one time, black hotel owner A.G. Gaston agreed. A white Jesuit priest assisting in desegregation negotiations believed that the demonstration were poorly timed and misdirected. Yet, the protesters continued to heroically stand up for justice. Protest organizers knew that violence would come to them from the Birmingham Police Department. They chose a confrontational approach to get the attention of the federal government. Wyatt Tee Walker was one of the SCLC founders and the executive director from 1960 to 1964. He planned the tactics of the direct action protests. He targeted Bull Connor’s tendency to react to demonstrations with violence:  "My theory was that if we mounted a strong nonviolent movement, the opposition would surely do something to attract the media, and in turn induce national sympathy and attention to the everyday segregated circumstance of a person living in the Deep South." He headed the planning of what he called Project C, which stood for "confrontation". Organizers believed their phones were tapped, so to prevent their plans from being leaked and perhaps influencing the mayoral election, they used code words for demonstrations. The plan called for direct nonviolent action to attract media attention to "the biggest and baddest city of the South." In preparation for the protests, Walker timed the walking distance from the 16th Street Baptist Church, headquarters for the campaign, to the downtown area.

He surveyed the segregated lunch counters of department stores, and listed federal buildings as secondary targets should police block the protesters' entrance into primary targets such as stores, libraries, and all-white churches. The campaign used a variety of nonviolent methods of confrontation like sit-ins at libraries and lunch counters. People used kneel-ins by black visitors at white churches. There was a march to the county building to mark the beginning of a voter registration drive. Most businesses responded to these events by refusing to serve demonstrators. Some white spectators at a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter spat upon the participants. A few hundred protesters, including jazz musician Al Hibbler, were arrested, although Hibbler was immediately released by Connor. The SCLC wanted to fill the jails up that would force the city government to negotiate as demonstrations continued. Yet, not enough people were arrested to affect the functioning of the city. Many black people questioned this tactic. The editor of The Birmingham World, the city's black newspaper, called the direct actions by the demonstrators "wasteful and worthless", and urged black citizens to use the courts to change the city's racist policies. Most white residents of Birmingham expressed shock at the demonstrations. White religious leaders denounced King and the other organizers, saying that "a cause should be pressed in the courts and the negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets." Real change comes in the streets beyond the courts. Some white Birmingham residents were supportive as the boycott continued. King promised a protest every day until "peaceful equality had been assured" and expressed doubt that the new mayor would ever voluntarily desegregate the city.

On April 10, 1963, Bull Connor obtained an injunction. This banned the protests and subsequently raised bail bond for those arrested from $200 to $1,200  ($2,000 to $9,000 in 2016). Fred Shuttlesworth called the injunction a "flagrant denial of our constitutional rights" and organizers prepared to defy the order. The decision to ignore the injunction had been made during the planning stage of the campaign. Dr. King and the SCLC had obeyed court injunctions in their Albany protests and reasoned that obeying them contributed to the Albany campaign's lack of success. In a press release they explained, "We are now confronted with recalcitrant forces in the Deep South that will use the courts to perpetuate the unjust and illegal systems of racial separation." Incoming mayor Albert Boutwell called King and the SCLC organizers "strangers" whose only purpose in Birmingham was "to stir inter-racial discord." Connor promised, "You can rest assured that I will fill the jail full of any persons violating the law as long as I'm at City Hall." Many in the movement found themselves out of the required bail money. Dr. King was one the major fundraisers. His associates wanted him to travel the country to raise bail money for those arrested. He had previously promised to lead the marchers in jail in solidarity. He hesitated as the planned date arrived.

Some SCLC members grew frustrated with his indecisiveness. "I have never seen Martin so troubled", one of King's friends later said. After King prayed and reflected alone in his hotel room, he and the campaign leaders decided to defy the injunction and prepared for mass arrests of campaign supporters. To build morale and to recruit volunteers to go to jail, Ralph Abernathy spoke at a mass meeting of Birmingham's black citizens at the 16th Street Baptist Church: "The eyes of the world are on Birmingham tonight. Bobby Kennedy is looking here at Birmingham; the United States Congress is looking at Birmingham. The Department of Justice is looking at Birmingham. Are you ready, are you ready to make the challenge? I am ready to go to jail, are you?" With Abernathy, King was among 50 Birmingham residents ranging in age from 15 to 81 years who were arrested on Good Friday, April 12, 1963. It was King's 13th arrest.

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Dr. King Jail and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama on Good Friday, April 12, 1963. He was held in jail and denied a consultation with an attorney from the NAACP without guards present. News of his incarceration spread quickly. It was spread by Wyatt Tee Walker according to the historian Jonathan Bass (who wrote of this in 2001). His supporters sent telegrams about his arrest to the White House. He could be bailed out at any time. Jail administrators wanted him to be released as soon as possible to avoid media attention while King was in custody. Yet, the campaign organizers offered no bail in order "to focus the attention of the media and national public opinion on the Birmingham situation." A day later after his arrest, Dr. King was allowed to see local attorneys from the SCLC. When Coretta Scott King did not hear from her husband, she called Walker and he suggested that she call President Kennedy directly. Mrs. King was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child when she received a call from President Kennedy the Monday after the arrest. The president told her she could expect a call from her husband soon. When Martin Luther King called his wife, their conversation was brief and guarded as he correctly assumed that his phones were tapped. Several days later, Jacqueline Kennedy called Coretta Scott King to express her concern for King while he was incarcerated. During this time, many white moderate clergymen criticized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for promoting civil disobedience against unjust laws.

Many of these clergymen falsely accused Dr. King of promoting unnecessary racial tensions when Dr. King wanted racial justice. A jailer give him an article from the April Birmingham News article where those white clergymen criticized him. The clergy people wanted the demonstrations to end. Later, Dr. Martin Luther King was inspired to write the historic, eloquent “Latter from Birmingham Jail.” He refuted and responded to the 8 “moderate” white clergymen who criticized him. Dr. King wrote that freedom should never be given to people via delay or by gradual tokenism. Freedom should be given to oppressed people ASAP. His letter was a defense of the civil rights movement in general, its aims, and its strategies of boycotts, sit-ins, protests, and civil disobedience. Dr. King wrote on scarps of paper from a janitor. He wrote notes on the margins of a newspaper, and later a legal pad given to him by SCLC attorneys. Clarence Jones removed the handwritten words on 20 pages of paper to be edited by Wyatt. More than a million copies of the letter spread nationwide, especially in churches. Many publications quoted the letter in full like Liberation, the Christian Century, and The New Leader. Dr. King wrote that people have the right to oppose injustice and resist unjust laws. He wrote that he would resist Hitler and be willing to go to jail to resist oppressive laws against innocent Jewish human beings back during the days of Nazi Germany. He wrote that black people waiting for freedom for over 3 centuries is over and demonstrations must be enacted in order for freedom to come to black people. He wrote about the indignities of black people and the rejection of waiting for equality. King's arrest attracted national attention, including that of corporate officers of retail chains with stores in downtown Birmingham. After King's arrest, the chains' profits began to erode. National business owners pressed the Kennedy administration to intervene.

Dr. Martin Luther King was released on April 20, 1963.

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Children Recruited (The Children's Crusade)

During this time, Connor had used police dogs to arrest demonstrations. The media didn’t report on it as much in the beginning. The organizers wanted to re-energize the campaign. SCLC organizer James Bevel did promoted a controversial alternative plan called D Day. This was called the “Children’s Crusade” by Newsweek magazine. D Day wanted students from Birmingham elementary and high schools as well as nearby Miles College to take part in the demonstrations. Bevel worked in the nonviolent Nashville Student Movement. He worked with SNCC. He was SCLC’s Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education. Bevel talked about the education of students in nonviolent tactics and philosophy. Dr. King approved the use of children with hesitations. Bevel believed that children placed in jail would not hurt families economically as much as the loss of a working parent. He said that adults in the black community were divided about how much support to give the protests. Bevel knew that high school students were a more cohesive group. They knew each other as classmates since kindergarten. He recruited girls who were school leaders and boys who were athletes. When the girls joined, the boys were close behind to join them. Bevel and the SCLC created workshops to help the students overcome their fear of dogs and jails.

They showed films of the Nashville sit-ins organized in 1960 to end segregation at public lunch counters. Birmingham's black radio station, WENN, supported the new plan by telling students to arrive at the demonstration meeting place with a toothbrush to be used in jail. Flyers were distributed in black schools and neighborhoods that said, "Fight for freedom first then go to school" and "It's up to you to free our teachers, our parents, yourself, and our country." On May 2, 1963, more than 1,000 students skipped school. They gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The principal of Parker High School attempted to lock the gates to keep students in, but they scrambled over the walls to get to the church.

Demonstrators were given instructions to march to the downtown area to meet with the Mayor. They wanted to integrate the chosen buildings. They were to leave in smaller groups and continue on their courses until they were arrested. They marched in disciplined ranks, some of them using walkie-talkies, they were sent at timed intervals from various churches to the downtown business area. More than 600 students were arrested. The youngest of these children was reported to be 8 year old. Children left the churches while singing hymns and “freedom songs” like “We Shall Overcome.” They clapped and laughed while being arrested and awaiting transport to jail. The mood was compared that to a school picnic. Although Bevel informed Connor that the march was to take place, Connor and the police were dumbfounded by the numbers and behavior of the children. They assembled paddy wagons and school buses to take the children to jail. When no squad cars were left to block the city streets, Connor, whose authority extended to the fire department, used fire trucks. The day's arrests brought the total number of jailed protesters to 1,200 in the 900-capacity Birmingham jail.

The use of children was very controversial. Incoming mayor Albert Boutwell and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy condemned the decision to use children in the protests. Kennedy was reported in The New York Times as saying, "an injured, maimed, or dead child is a price that none of us can afford to pay", although adding, "I believe that everyone understands their just grievances must be resolved." Malcolm X criticized the decision, saying, "Real men don't put their children on the firing line." King, who had been silent and then out of town while Bevel was organizing the children, was impressed by the success of using them in the protests. That evening he declared at a mass meeting, "I have been inspired and moved by today. I have never seen anything like it." Although Wyatt Tee Walker was initially against the use of children in the demonstrations, he responded to criticism by saying, "Negro children will get a better education in five days in jail than in five months in a segregated school." The D Day campaign received front page coverage by The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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Police Brutality against Children

One of the most cowardly actions of the Birmingham police back in 1963 was when they used fire hoses and police dogs on innocent men, women and children. Connor found out that the Birmingham jail was full. On May 3, he changed police tactics. That was done in order for the police to keep the protesters out of the downtown business area. Another thousand students gathered at the church and left to walk across Kelly Ingram Park while chanting, "We're going to walk, walk, walk. Freedom ... freedom ... freedom." As the demonstrators left the church, the police told them to stop and turn back, “or you’ll get wet.” When they continued, Connor ordered the city’s fire hoses. They set them at a level that would peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar to be turned on the children. Boys’ shirts were ripped off. Young women were pushed over the tops of cars by the force of the water. When the students crouched or fell, the blasts of water rolled them down the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks.  Connor allowed white spectators to push forward, shouting, "Let those people come forward, sergeant. I want 'em to see the dogs work." During this time, A.G. Gaston was on the phone with the white attorney David Yvann. He disagreed and was appalled at the use of children in the protest. He tried to negotiate a resolution to the crisis.  When Gaston looked out the window and saw the children being hit with high-pressure water, he said, "Lawyer Vann, I can't talk to you now or ever. My people are out there fighting for their lives and my freedom. I have to go help them", and hung up the phone.

Black parents and adults who were observing cheered the marching students, but when the hoses were turned on, bystanders began to throw rocks and bottles at the police. To disperse them, Connor ordered police to use German shepherd dogs to keep them in line. James Bevel wove in and out of the crowds warning them, "If any cops get hurt, we're going to lose this fight." To the contrary, crooked police officers assaulting innocent black people are evil. Black people have every human right to use self-defense against terrorist cops assaulting innocent black men, women, and children. At 3 p.m., the protest was over. During a kind of truce, protesters went home. Police removed the barricades and re-opened the streets to traffic.  That evening King told worried parents in a crowd of a thousand, "Don't worry about your children who are in jail. The eyes of the world are on Birmingham. We're going on in spite of dogs and fire hoses. We've gone too far to turn back." A battle hardened Huntley-Brinkley reporter later said that no military action he had witnessed had ever frightened or disturbed him as much as what he saw in Birmingham. 2 out of town photographers in Birmingham during that day were Charles Moore (he previously worked with the Montgomery Advertiser and was working for Life magazine) and Bill Hudson (with the Associated Press).

Moore was a Marine combat photographer who was "jarred" and "sickened" by the use of children and what the Birmingham police and fire departments did to them. Moore was hit in the ankle by a brick meant for the police. He took several photos that were printed in Life. The first photo Moore shot that day showed three teenagers being hit by a water jet from a high-pressure firehose. It was titled "They Fight a Fire That Won't Go Out". A shorter version of the caption was later used as the title for Fred Shuttlesworth's biography. The Life photo became an "era-defining picture" and was compared to the photo of Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima. Moore suspected that the film he shot "was likely to obliterate in the national psyche any notion of a 'good southerner'." Hudson remarked later that his only priorities that day were "making pictures and staying alive" and "not getting bit by a dog." Right in front of Hudson was Parker High School senior Walter Gadsden.

The police officer grabbed Gadsden’s sweater and a police dog charged him. Gadsden had been attending the demonstration as an observer. He was related to the editor of Birmingham's black newspaper, The Birmingham World, who strongly disapproved of King's leadership in the campaign. Gadsden was arrested for "parading without a permit", and after witnessing his arrest, Commissioner Connor remarked to the officer, "Why didn't you bring a meaner dog; this one is not the vicious one." Hudson's photo of Gadsden and the dog ran across three columns in the prominent position above the fold on the front page of The New York Times on May 4, 1963. Television cameras broadcasted to the nation images and scenes of fire hoses knocking down schoolchildren and police dogs attacking innocent unprotected demonstrators. This coverage and photos shifted international support in favor of the protestors. Bull Connor was a villain. President Kennedy told a group of people at the White House that The New York Times photo made him "sick.” Kennedy called the scenes "shameful" and said that they were "so much more eloquently reported by the news camera than by any number of explanatory words." The images caused a great effect in Birmingham.

The black community had differences, yet black people solidified in support behind Dr. King. Horrified at what the Birmingham police were doing to protect segregation, New York Senator Jacob K. Javits declared, "the country won't tolerate it",  and pressed Congress to pass a civil rights bill. Similar reactions were reported by Kentucky Senator Sherman Cooper, and Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, who compared Birmingham to South Africa under apartheid. A New York Times editorial called the behavior of the Birmingham police "a national disgrace." The Washington Post editorialized, "The spectacle in Birmingham ... must excite the sympathy of the rest of the country for the decent, just, and reasonable citizens of the community, who have so recently demonstrated at the polls their lack of support for the very policies that have produced the Birmingham riots. The authorities who tried, by these brutal means, to stop the freedom marchers do not speak or act in the name of the enlightened people of the city." President Kennedy sent Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall to Birmingham to help negotiate a truce. Marshall faced a stalemate when merchants and protest organizers refused to budge.

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The Birmingham movement continued with courage by the protesters and activists. On May 5, 1963, a new era started. This was when black people in the area of Kelly Ingram Park used self-defense and act of rebellion against racist tyranny. Many spectators taunted the police. The SCLC leaders begged them to be peaceful or go home. James Bevel borrowed a bullhorn from the police and shouted, "Everybody get off this corner. If you're not going to demonstrate in a nonviolent way, then leave!"  The racist Commissioner Connor was overheard saying, "If you'd ask half of them what freedom means, they couldn't tell you." To prevent further marches, Connor ordered the doors to the churches blocked to prevent students from leaving. On May 6, the jails were so full that Connor transformed the stockade at the state fairgrounds into a makeshift jail to hold protesters. Black people arrived at white churches to try to integrate services. They were accepted in Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches, but they were turned away at others. Some knelt and prayed until they were arrested by churches that turned them away.

Well known national figures arrived in Birmingham gave support to the protesters. Singer Joan Baez arrived to perform for free at Miles College and stayed at the black owned and integrated Gaston Motel. Comedian Dick Gregory and writer for the Nation Barbara Deming were both arrested. The young Dan Rather reported on this story for CBS News. The car of Fannie Flagg, a local television personality and recent Miss Alabama finalist, was surrounded by teenagers who recognized her. Flagg worked at Channel 6 on the morning show, and after asking her producers why the show was not covering the demonstrations, she received orders never to mention them on air. She rolled down the window and shouted to the children, "I'm with you all the way!" Birmingham’s fire department refused orders from Connor to turn the hoses on demonstrators again. They went through the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to clean up water from earlier fire hose flooding. White business leaders met with protest organizers to try arrange an economic solution but said they had no control over politics. Protest organizers disagreed, saying that business leaders were positioned to pressure political leaders.

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City Crisis or Paralysis

By May 7, 1963, the crisis continued. Breakfast in the jail took 4 hours to distribute to all the prisoners. 70 members of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce pleaded with the protest organizers to stop the actions. The NAACP asked for sympathizers to picket in unity in 100 American cities. 19 rabbis from New York flew to Birmingham, equating silence about segregation to the atrocities of the Holocaust. Local rabbis disagreed and asked them to go home. The editor of The Birmingham News wired President Kennedy and pleaded with him to end the protests. Fire hoses were used once again, injuring police and Fred Shuttlesworth, as well as other demonstrators. Commissioner Connor expressed regret at missing seeing Shuttlesworth get hit and said he "wished they'd carried him away in a hearse." Connor is a callous, wicked male. Another 1,000 people were arrested, bringing the total to 2,500.

News of the mass arrests of children had reached Western Europe and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union caused 25 percent of its news broadcast to cover the demonstrators. They sent much of the coverage to Africa (which is where the Soviets and the U.S. interests competed with each other). Soviet news people accused the Kennedy administration of neglect and inactivity. Alabama Governor George Wallace sent state troopers to assist Connor. Attorney General Robert Kennedy prepared to activate the Alabama National Guard and notified the Second Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Georgia that it might be deployed to Birmingham. No business of any kind was being conducted downtown. Organizers planned to flood the downtown area businesses with black people. Smaller groups of decoys were set out to distract police attention from activities at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Protesters set off false fire alarms to occupy the fire department and its hoses. One group of children approached a police officer and announced, "We want to go to jail!" When the officer pointed the way, the students ran across Kelly Ingram Park shouting, "We're going to jail!" Six hundred picketers reached downtown Birmingham. Large groups of protesters sat in stores and sang freedom songs. Streets, sidewalks, stores, and buildings were overwhelmed with more than 3,000 protesters.  The sheriff and chief of police admitted to Burke Marshall that they did not think they could handle the situation for more than a few hours.

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The Resolution

On May 8, 1963, at 4 am, white business leaders agreed to most of the protesters’ demands during the Birmingham movement. Political leaders held fast, however. The rift between the businessmen and the politicians became clear when business leaders admitted they could not guarantee the protesters' release from jail. On May 10, Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King Jr. told reporters that they had an agreement from the City of Birmingham to desegregate lunch counters, restrooms, drinking fountains and fitting rooms within 90 days, and to hire blacks in stores as salesmen and clerks. Those in jail would be released on bond or their own recognizance. Urged by President John F. Kennedy, the United Auto Workers, National Maritime Union, United Steelworkers Union, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) raised $237,000 in bail money ($1,830,000 in 2016) to free the demonstrators. Commissioner Connor and the outgoing mayor condemned the resolution. On the night of May 11, a bomb heavily damaged the Gaston Motel where Dr. King was staying at. He had left only hours before.

Another bomb damaged the house of Rev. A.D. King or Dr. Martin Luther King’s brother. When the police came to inspect the motel, they were met with rocks and bottles from neighborhood African Americans. The arrival of state troopers only angered the crowd. In the early hours of the mornings, thousands of black people initiated a historic rebellion in Birmingham, Alabama (which was long before the Watts rebellion in 1965). Many buildings and vehicles were burned. Many people were stabbed. By May 13, three thousand federal troops were deployed to Birmingham to restore order, even though Alabama Governor George Wallace told President Kennedy that state and local forces were sufficient. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Birmingham to stress nonviolence. Outgoing mayor Art Hanes left office after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled that Albert Boutwell could take office on May 21, 1963. Upon picking up his last paycheck, Bull Connor remarked tearfully, "This is the worst day of my life." Connor was an evil racist who didn't win. In June 1963, the Jim Crow signs regulating segregated public places in Birmingham were taken down.

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The Birmingham Campaign changed everything in America and throughout the world. During the aftermath, desegregation existed slowly after the demonstrations. Some people criticized Dr. King and the SCLC for ending the campaign too soon, for making the vague promises, and for settling less than even moderate demands. In fact, Sydney Smyer, president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, re-interpreted the terms of the agreement. Shuttlesworth and King had announced that desegregation would take place 90 days from May 15. Smyer then said that a single black clerk hired 90 days from when the new city government took office would be sufficient. In July of 1963, most of the city’s segregation ordinances had been overturned. Some of the lunch counters in department stores complied with the new rules. City parks and golf courses were opened again to black and white citizens. Mayor Boutwell appointed a biracial committee to discuss further changes. Yet, no hiring of black clerks, police officers, and firefighters had yet been completed and the Birmingham Bar Association rejected membership by black attorneys. The whole campaign caused national and international attention to the racist violence in Birmingham. There was a meeting among Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and other Black leaders to talk about racial issues. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s reputation increased massive after the protests in Birmingham. Many people lauded him as a hero. During the summer of 1963, Dr. King and many men and women led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He gave his historic speech entitled, “I Have a Dream.” Dr. King became Time’s Man of the Year for 1963 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. John F. Kennedy acted too. After the Birmingham Campaign, George Wallace’s refusal to admit black students to the University of Alabama caused President Kennedy to address the nation in his own historic speech on civil rights on June 11, 1963. In his speech, JFK addressed the inequalities between black and white Americans. He said the words of, “The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.”

Despite the apparent lack of immediate local success after the Birmingham campaign, Fred Shuttlesworth and Wyatt Tee Walker pointed to its influence on national affairs as its true impact. President Kennedy's administration drew up the Civil Rights Act bill. After being filibustered for 75 days by "diehard southerners" in Congress, it was passed into law in 1964 and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The Civil Rights Act applied to the entire nation, prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and in access to public places. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, however, disagreed that the Birmingham campaign was the primary force behind the Civil Rights Act. Wilkins gave credit to other movements, such as the Freedom Rides, the integration of the University of Mississippi, and campaigns to end public school segregation. Medgar Evers was murdered in June 12, 1963 outside of his home. He was organizing demonstrations, which were similar to Birmingham, to pressure Jackson, Mississippi’s local city government.  In September 1963, Birmingham’s public schools were integrated. Governor Wallace sent National Guard troops to keep black students out but President Kennedy reversed Wallace by ordering the troops to stand down. Violence continued to plague the city, however. Someone threw a tear gas canister into Loveman's department store when it complied with the desegregation agreement; twenty people in the store required hospital treatment. Four months after the Birmingham campaign settlement, someone bombed the house of NAACP attorney Arthur Shores, injuring his wife in the attack.  On September 15, 1963, Birmingham again earned international attention when Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and killed four innocent young black girls. Their names are Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. The Birmingham campaign inspired and grew the Civil Rights Movement in many parts of the South plus nationwide.  In 1965, Shuttlesworth assisted Bevel, Dr. King, and the SCLC to lead the Selma to Montgomery marches, intended to increase voter registration among black human beings.

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The Struggle Continues

The struggle continues. After the Birmingham movement, more radical changes existed in America and in the world. The March on Washington existed which called for civil rights laws, decent housing, full and fair employment, and other progressive policies. The 16th Street Baptist church was bombed by a racist coward. Also, there was the evil assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 22, 1963. The new President was Lyndon Baines Johnson who supported Kennedy’s legislative agenda. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also worked in the St. Augustine movement. St. Augustine was a very old city and it is found in the northeast coast of Florida. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565. Dr. Robert B. Hayling was a black dentist and Air Force veteran (who had ties to the NAACP) who protested segregated local institutions since 1963 in the city. Many civil rights leaders like Dr. Hayling and three companions, James Jackson, Clyde Jenkins, and James Hauser, were brutally beaten at a Ku Klux Klan rally in the fall of that year of 1963. Nightriders shot in black homes constantly in St. Augustine. Many people were arrested for sit ins. Some were teenagers like Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson, Samuel White, and Willie Carl Singleton (who came to be known as "The St. Augustine Four").  It took a special action of the governor and cabinet of Florida to release them after national protests by the Pittsburgh Courier, Jackie Robinson, and others.

Many black people in St. Augustine used armed self-defense and nonviolent direct action to fight for justice. In June 1963, Dr. Hayling publicly stated that "I and the others have armed. We will shoot first and answer questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers." The comment made national headlines. When Klan nightriders terrorized black neighborhoods in St. Augustine, Hayling's NAACP members often drove them off with gunfire, and in October, a Klansman was killed (in self-defense). By 1964, Dr. Hayling and the other activists urged the SCLC to come to St. Augustine. They did. They worked in the spring of 1964. People fought for freedom. Dr. King was arrested in Florida. He sent a “Letter from the St. Augustine Jail” to a northern supporter, Rabbi Israel Dresner of New Jersey, urging him to recruit others to participate in the movement. This resulted, a week later, in the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history—while conducting a pray-in at the Monson. There was a settlement in St. Augustine. Later, the Freedom Summer event came in 1964, which promoted voting and social rights for black people in Mississippi. The Civil Rights Act was passed in July 4, 1964, there was the election of 1964 (including the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with Ella Baker and others being disrespected by the Democratic Party establishment. Dr. King opposed Barry Goldwater), and Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 10, 1964. These events represent the transitional phrase of the movement from the early age to the later age of the modern civil rights movement. In January of 1965, black players of the American Football League boycotted New Orleans, because of discrimination. The AFL All-Star Game was moved into Jeppesen Stadium in Houston. By 1965, the Selma Rights movement came and the fight for voting rights persisted in America. Malcolm X continued to be revolutionary in his life by early 1965 too. So, the events of the past influence our current movement for justice in 2017 and beyond.

By Timothy

Saturday, December 03, 2016

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A New Generation (in the 21st Century)

We certainly live in a new generation. The groups from Hands Up Coalition, Black Alliance for Justice Immigration, Black Lives Matter, and to Jackson Rising have made many people to recognize the serious problems of police brutality, racism, economic injustice, sexism, and other evils in the world. We desire justice and accountability. The Washington Post reports that police officers are safer under the Obama Administration than they have been over the last three-plus decades. The paper found that: “Under Obama, the average number of police intentionally killed each year has fallen to its lowest level yet—an average of 62 deaths annually through 2015. If you include the 2016 police officer shootings year-to-date and project it out to a full year that average of 62 deaths doesn’t change.” While, there is an epidemic of Americans being killed by the police (a disproportionate amount of people being killed are black people), we will continue to intrepidly stand for real principles. Quess Moore wants the statue of the racist Andrew Jackson to come down, which is great. Andrew Jackson was a far right President, who was a slave owner and permitted the Trail of Tears (which is about the forcible removal of Native American men, women, and children from the South into Oklahoma). Quess also received death threats, but he is continuing onward in his cause. Sisters like Bree Newsome, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, etc. are doing inspirational, great work as well. Society can only change when structures of injustice are gone and investments to build communities and other progressive actions are taken.

Black human lives matter. The current system doesn’t work comprehensively to help the masses of the people, so a better system must be instituted in its place. Various movements are diverse. Some work in the grassroots communities of America and in the world. Some work in the courtroom. Some work in helping the poor. Some are working in education or health care services. Some work in various causes. Yet, all of these groups want the same goal, which is the liberation of black people.  Groups like the Advancement Project, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Black Youth Project 100, Blackout for Human Rights, and tons of other organizations are doing great work daily in making sure that our voices are heard (and that it shows that we are fighting in this struggle for our freedom). We respect our heroic grandparents and ancestors who fought injustice. Therefore, we shouldn't get caught up in a generational fight. Regardless of which generation that we're born into, we are all black people deserving of respect and human justice. Also, we acknowledge the actions of the youth who are standing up against police brutality, racial injustice, and economic oppression. The youth ought to realize the heroism and wisdom of the elders and the elders should always honor the strength and courage of the youth who are doing what is right too. Mutual respect among the elders and the youth is crucial for going into the next level. I believe in respecting the elders and the youth doing what is right at the same time. Therefore, the younger generation isn’t in the shadows. They exist today to call for justice just like the older generation is fighting the good fight too. Black activism is global.

Standing on Principles (Solutions)

We should embrace principles. Ideologies are based on principles and legitimate views on life. With the events going on in the world, the handwriting is on the wall. We witnessed Eric Garner being killed by an NYPD officer. We know about the black woman Natasha McKenna being brutally and unjustly tasered to death by deputies while she was cuffed, shackled, and masked in February 8, 2015. You have a white supremacist that brutally killed a black teenager in Oregon. The white murderer was egged on by his wife. We know about Leopold II of Belgium who murdered over 10 million black people in Congo. We have the epidemic of black women, and black children being raped, abused, and murdered. We have many black men and black women being unjustly killed by the police and other vigilantes. Therefore, these facts document the truth that white racism as not only evil, but a nefarious disease that must be eradicated by any means necessary. This disease of white racism and economic oppression ought to be eradicated by activism, building our infrastructure, and doing a wide spectrum of other progressive actions. We don’t want justice for some. We want justice for all. Also, I am not a permanent pessimist. I believe in hope for the future, but we have to fight in order for us to achieve a future where justice is made real. We certainly believe in the following precepts:

1). One is the concept of the Knowledge of Self. That precisely means that we know to honor and love our being in order for us to love others. It is very important for all of us to love our Blackness. We love our Black identity as Black is Beautiful. Our hair, our hips, our bodies, and our souls are beautiful. Heroes like Susan L. Taylor, Patrice Lumumba, Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, and other Brothers and Sisters show us the intellectual power of black people. We must know ourselves and respect ourselves. Respecting ourselves additionally means that we reject anti-black slurs, we reject anti-black women slurs, and we believe in true community growth and development. We believe in the growth of self-esteem. The Knowledge of Self will always be important in our lives.

2). I always respect true revolutionaries and revolutionary politics as well. Revolutionaries in our communities exist in diverse nationalities, sexes, ages, and classes. They inspire us, motivate us, and teach us about black empowerment, black liberation, and true unity. They include people like Steve Biko, Tarika Lewis, Assata Shakur, Barbara Easley-Cox, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other visionaries who spoke the truth and organized for liberation. Also, we must do the work. We have to build with poor and working class black people. Poor and working class black people (among our community) experience the worst oppression in this current system. It is always vital for us to organize, strategize, and execute, so we can win during this struggle for human liberation. Black communities should be respected period. Political Independence is the way to go too. We're intelligent, we are free thinking, and we have the right to not accept the dogma of the status quo. We believe in education, health care, civil liberties, improving the environment, and help to the poor and the oppressed. This is what we will fight for.

3). Human beings have the right to join independent organizations. We should use discernment to make sure that organizations are held accountable for their actions. Likewise, in order for us to be free, grassroots organizing is very important. Supporting groups, where our interests are respected and promoted, is key to make progressive change happen.

4). We all believe in health and exercise in the black community globally. Enumerable benefits exist from healthy eating and exercise like heart development, decreasing the chances of diseases, the growth of intellectual development, the improvement of emotional strength, a better functioning of body development, etc. Exercise eases stress and it can make people feel good. Healthy foods are like fuel to develop the human body. Fruits, vegetables, etc. can work wonders to extend human longevity. That is why I do believe in exercising and eating great foods which will enrich our daily lives.

It is crucial to build our infrastructure into the next level too. We are a community in America including the world filled with organizations, religious buildings, businesses, social activist groups, various celebrations, and other institutions. That is why we should go into the next level and create more strategies to grow up infrastructure in order for protect and defend black people. This doesn’t mean we support elitism. Some people believe in the discredited notion of a “Talented Tenth” or a select group of black people running our community. I reject that notion, because the black community should be run and controlled by the masses of black people in an egalitarian fashion. The masses of black people ought to be treated with dignity and with respect. Poor black people especially should receive compassion, opportunities, and dignity not scapegoating. Many white racists and even some black people (some of whom claim to be “conscious”) make it a pastime to degrade black poor people and blame them for their own oppression. I find that to be disgraceful and evil. Black poor people are great human beings.

5). Black Love and Black Unity must be promoted. Without Black Love, none of us would be born in the world. Black Love is Beautiful and Black Love is the first of Human Love point blank period exclamation point. Black Love deals with romance, eternal commitment, and glorious human relationships among black people. Black married couples, black people kissing each other, and black people having fun all encompass the glorious nature of Black Love. Black Love isn’t just about romance, sex, and relationships. Black Love can deal with friendship, love among relatives, and love among acquaintances who are black. So, Black Love is Beautiful and diverse. Black Unity has been distorted by many. Black Unity has nothing to do with co-signing evil acts done by some black people. Black Unity has nothing to do with one sided reciprocity or unconditionally supporting all actions done by all black people. Black Unity deal with voluntary unity among black people in a positive way in order for black liberation to exist. Black Unity is always important since unity builds up strength and power. With power, solutions can come into reality. That is why I will forever believe in Black Love and Black Unity.

6). It will take a village to solve our problems. Our problems deal with the mass incarceration state, intraracial violence, the War on Drugs, education, the epidemic of the abuse of black women, black immigrant rights issues, etc. Therefore, it will take a community effort in solving our own problems. There is nothing wrong with direct, democratic community control of how we enact policies in our own black communities.

7). I believe in self-determination in that we have the power to solve our own problems. Our ancestors created inventions, universities, governmental structures, and other trailblazing institutions for thousands of years. That is why we can create more energy to fix our own issues. A stronger community leads into a stronger black people.


8). As black people, we are family. We are dispersed throughout the world from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, etc. Yet, we are on black people. That is why developing our families are important. Parents definitely should have the adequate resources to take care of their own children. Also, we recognize that not all black families will be nuclear families. There is nothing wrong with a nuclear family, but there are plenty of normal, healthy single families, extended families, and other types of families. Those families should be respected and honored as we are not totally monolithic. We are one people and we should respect our different nationalities, personalities, and familial arrangements as human beings. Investments in child care, the growth of mentorships, the respect given to black mothers and black fathers, and policies to combat economic injustices are crucial ways to grow the black family.

9). Self-determination, Self Defense, and Self Preservation are human rights. We are black people. We have every right to defend ourselves, our families, and our people in general. When a racist tries to attack our people, then we have the self-defense right to defend our people. That is why there is nothing wrong with black children, black women, and black men to be involved in self-defense training, in gun training in a legitimate way, and studying ways of survival. We live in a very cruel world and the days of naiveté are over. We want the black population of the world to flourish and increase in population. We want people of black African descendant to thrive in the future, so they can have the pursuit of happiness and liberty that they should have by birthright.

10). In our time, many young and middle aged black people have increasingly talked about economic empowerment. I have no problem with this. Regardless of what economic philosophy that we believe in as black people, we should have an understanding of financial issues. Finances and economics directly affect our community every single day. Therefore, black communities deserve economic justice. That means that black people should have living wages, opportunities to build their own economic enterprises, and the fight to end poverty in our communities once and for all. There is no liberation without ending poverty. Social justice is intertwined with economic justice. That means that black people of any background should have their human rights respected and that will cause economic justice too when the structures of economic inequality come down. There has been promotion by many black people of economic cooperatives, trusts, and black owned banks (as banks should serve the interests of the people. Banks can allow credit and other investments to build homes, businesses, and other resources in the black community). I have no problems with these actions either. Economic democracy is part of parcel of the human rights tradition. Boycotts have worked too. If any corporations disrespects or discriminates black people unfairly, we have the right to use economic boycotts. We have the mind and the strategies to use our economic power to build as building causes civilizations to flourish.

11). We are humans, so we believe in integrity and courage. Many famous people are speaking to truth to power about opposing police brutality, racism, and classism. Integrity builds character and also courage is very important as well. Integrity means that we treat each other right. It also means that we condemn and oppose murder, abuse, unjust assault, and any mistreatment period. We believe in humane treatment for all people. Younger and older black people now have shown courage in their lives. Courage isn’t always popular. Many courageous people face ridicule and unfair slander, but we should always enact courage, because courage is about standing up for something that is right despite the odds or the criticism. In that sense, maintaining integrity, character, and promoting courage is part of the black revolutionary tradition.

12). We are blessed. Those who read these words can afford or have access to Internet access. You are blessed to have food, water, and shelter. A lot of people in the world don’t have those things readily available to them. Therefore, we have to show empathy with the suffering and realize that we should teach our people the truth. We have the responsibility to help others and inspire others every single day. We can learn from others and we can teach others too. Helping our neighbors as ourselves is an eternal, sacrosanct principle.

13). Pan-African solidarity is very vital in our lives. We are an international people. We live globally. To study Afro-Cubans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-French, Afro-Iranians, etc. is inspiring. The more that we know about our Brothers and our Sisters overseas, the more that we learn about ourselves as black people.

14). Helping the poor is right. The poor suffer much more than the wealthy and the great leaders of old always defended the human rights of the poor. The poor don’t need patronize. They need respect resources, and opportunities in order for their lives to be more blessed. The poor are never inferior; therefore, I reject social Darwinism. I believe in the liberation of black people.

15). Traveling can broaden one’s horizons and views. Therefore, I do recommend anyone to travel the world if they can. Going into different places can allow people to learn more about cultures, to meet new friends, and to see the world in a more interdependent fashion. When Malcolm X traveled in Africa, Asia, and Europe, he saw how the struggle for freedom and justice wasn’t just a national issue. It was an international issue as people who desire equality exist globally. So, the international mindset along with a social consciousness can go a long way in creating the necessary changes that we desire.

16). It is very important to defend the human rights of Black Women. Black Women are the Mothers of Humanity. Their courage, their strength, and their sacrifice can never be measured. Their humanity is beautiful, their wisdom is incredible, and their humanity must always be honored period. We can’t be revolutionaries unless we defend Black Women. That is a requirement. Black women are under attack not only by vicious white racists but by some male misogynists who believe in patriarchal supremacism instead of black liberation. Therefore, we are in solidarity with Black Women forever. Black women are beautiful.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm was a great hero of black people and of humanity in general. For decades, she fought for freedom and justice. Now, in our generation, we give honor to her life and legacy. She was not only a political person. She was an educator and an author. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968. She represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1973. She was born in November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York City. Her parents were immigrants from the Caribbean. She had three younger sisters. Two of them were born within three years after Shirley, one later. His mother was Ruby Seale from Barbados. His father was Charles Christopher St. Hill and he was born in British Guiana and lived in Barbados for a while. Shirley Chisholm lived in Barbados at the age of 5 to live with her material grandmother’s farm. Her name was Emaline Seale. They lived on the grandmother's farm in the Vauxhall village in Christ Church, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse that took education seriously. She returned to New York on May 19, 1934 from the SS Nerissa. She spoke with a West Indian accent throughout her life. Shirley Chisholm would consider herself a Barbadian American. She talked about her grandmother in glowing terms. She attended Girls’ High School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1939. The school was an integrated school that girls from throughout Brooklyn attended. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College in 1946, where she won prizes for her debating skills. During the late 1940’s, she met Conrad O. Chisholm. He came to America from Jamaica in 1946 and he would later be a private investigator. He worked in negligence-based lawsuits.

Shirley Chisholm and Conrad O. Chisholm married in 1949 in a West-Indian style wedding. Shirley Chisholm taught in a nursery school while furthering her education, learning her MA in elementary education from Teachers at Columbia University in 1952. She loved education. That is why from 1953 to 1959, she was the director of the Friends Day Nursery in Brownsville, Brooklyn and of the Hamiliton-Madison Child Care Center in lower Manhattan. From 1959 to 1964, she was an educational consultant on issues involving early education and child welfare. She was interested in politics too. She worked in political clubs as a volunteer in Brooklyn. She worked with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League and the League of Women Voters. Shirley Chisholm later was the Democratic member of the New York State Assembly from 1965 to 1968. She was in the 175th, 176th, and 177th New York State Legislatures. She was successful in the legislature to get unemployment benefits extended to domestic workers. She also sponsored the introduction of a SEEK program (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) to the state, which provided disadvantaged students the chance to enter college while receiving intensive remedial education.

In August of 1968, Shirley Chisholm was elected as the Democratic National Committeewoman from New York State. Soon, she became a member of the United States Congress. In 1968, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 12th Congressional district. This was done by a court mandated reapportionment plan. Reapportionment means the changing of seats of a legislative body depending on the changes in population involving the results of an election. This plan redrawn to focus on Bedford-Stuyvesant and it was expected to result in Brooklyn’s first black member of Congress. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in 1945 was the first black member of Congress from New York City as a whole. Edna F. Kelly sought re-election in a different district.

Chisholm announced her candidacy in January of 1968. She received organizational support. Her slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.” During the Democratic primary, she defeated 2 other black opponents. They were Senator William S. Thompson and labor official Dollie Robertson. In the general election, she staged an upset victory over James L. Farmer, Jr., the former director of the Congress of Racial Equality who was running as a Liberal Party candidate with Republican support, winning by an approximately two-to-one margin. Chisholm thereby became the first black woman elected to Congress.  In Congress, she worked in the House Agricultural Committee. She helped to promote programs to help the hungry and poor. She supported the food stamp program and was involved in the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (or WIC) program. Chisholm would credit Rabbi Menachem M. Scheneerson to the fact that many poor babies now have milk and poor children have food. She worked in the Veterans’ Affairs Committee too. She faced discrimination, but she continued to fight onward. She joined the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 as one of its founding members. She was one the founding members of the National Women’s Political Caucus too in the same year. She along with New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced a bill to provide $10 billion in federal funds for child services by 1975. They did this on May 1971. A less expensive version was introduced by Senator Walter Mondale. It was passed by the House and Senate as the Comprehensive Child Development Bill. Then President Richard Nixon vetoed it in December of 1971 (he claimed that it was too expensive and would undermine the institution of the family, which is ludicrous). Shirley Chisholm ran for President in 1972. She explored her candidacy as early as July of 1971.

She officially announced her presidential bid on January 25, 1972 in a Baptist church in her district in Brooklyn. She wanted a bloodless revolution in the Democratic nomination convention. Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. presidential election, making her also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic (U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith had previously run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964). Her campaign wasn’t funded greatly. She struggled to get votes, but she was viewed as a symbolic political person. She was disrespected and ignored by much of the Democratic political establishment and received little support even among some of her black colleagues. Her husband supported her 100 percent though. In May 1972, the Secret Service protected her because of threats made against her life. Previously, Conrad Chisholm was her bodyguard. She won a lot of votes in California. She won 28 delegates in the primaries. Her supporters were people from NOW, African Americans, women, Latinos, etc. The 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida was the rise of the progressives in a high level. Senator George McGovern was nominated as the nominee. He was defeated by Nixon during the Presidential election. Among the volunteers who were inspired by Shirley Chisholm’s campaign was Barbara Lee, who continued to be politically active and was elected as a progressive congresswoman 25 years later.

Later, Chisholm promoted more progressive policies like reductions in military spending, education funding, health care, opposition to the draft, opposition to the Vietnam War, women rights, etc. She wanted better treatment of Haitian refugees when Jimmy Carter was President. She wanted to end the Internal Security Act of 1950. Chisholm's first marriage ended in divorce in February 1977. Later that year, she married Arthur, a former New York State Assemblyman. She retired from the Congress in 1982 and she was dissatisfied with the course of liberal politics in the wake of the Reagan Revolution. In other words, she opposed the many far right policies of Reagan and the compromising of many politicians who claimed to be “liberal.” She taught politics and sociology from 1983 to 1987 in Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts. She campaigned for Jesse Jackson’s Presidential campaigns in 1984 and in 1988. She continued to speak out for freedom and justice. She passed away on January 1, 2005 in Ormond Beach near Daytona Beach, Florida. In February 2005, "Shirley Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed," a documentary film, aired on U.S public television. It chronicled Chisholm's 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was directed and produced by independent African-American filmmaker Shola Lynch. The film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. On April 9, 2006, the film was announced as a winner of a Peabody Award. Shirley Chisholm was a hero and a legend.

RIP Sister Shirley Chisholm.

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Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers was a black man who was a hero. He stood up against white racism and he desired freedom and justice for all black people. He was a great father and an excellent husband to his wife Myrlie Evers. He not only wanted social justice and voting rights. He worked with organizations involved in the civil rights movement like the NAACP. He worked hard to promote voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and an end to Jim Crow apartheid completely. His wife Myrlie Evers is still an activist for justice. She once was the national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers was the first African American mayor elected in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era when he won in 1969 in Fayette. Medgar Evers was born in July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He was the third of the give children. His older brother was Charlie Evers. The Evers family owned a small farm. James Evers or his father worked at a sawmill. Medgar Evers walked 12 miles to attend segregated schools and he earned his high school diploma. Medgar Evers was a World War II veteran. He was in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945. He was sent to the European Theater and he fought in the Battle of Normandy in June of 1944. After the end of the war, Evers was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (a historically black college, now Alcorn State University) majoring in business administration. He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1952. On December 24, 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley. Together they had three children: Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise, and James Van Dyke Evers. The couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi. This was a town developed by African Americans, where Evers became a salesman for T.R.M. Howard’s Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Howard was also president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). Evers helped to organize the RCNL’s boycott of gasoline stations that denied black people the use of the stations’ restroom. Evers and his brother Charles also attended the RCNL's annual conferences in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1954, which drew crowds of ten thousand or more. In 1954, Evers applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School, but his application was rejected because of his race. He submitted to the NAACP as a test case. During that year, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that segregation of public schools (which included state universities) was unconstitutional. In late 1954, Evers was named the NAACP's first field secretary for Mississippi.

In this position, he helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP. He was involved with James Meredith's efforts to enroll in the University of Mississippi in the early 1960's. Evers also helped Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., organize the Biloxi wade-ins, protests against segregation of public beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His civil rights leadership and investigative work made him a target of evil white supremacists.  The Council was founded in Mississippi, with numerous local chapters, to resist integration of schools and civil rights goals. In the weeks before Evers' death, the leader encountered new levels of hostility. His public investigations into the 1955 lynching of teenaged Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard had made him a prominent black leader. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home. On June 7, 1963, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the NAACP office in Jackson. In the early morning of June 12, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s famous nationally televised Civil Rights Address, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. After he left his car and carrying NAACP T-shirt read “Jim Crow Must Go,” he was shot in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917 rifle; the bullet ripped through his heart. He staggered 30 feet (9.1 meters) before collapsing. He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson, Mississippi where he was initially refused entry because of his race. His family explained who he was and he was admitted; he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. After Evers was assassinated, an estimated 5,000 people marched from the Masonic Temple on Lynch Street to the Collins Funeral Home on North Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi.

Allen Johnson, Reverend Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders led the procession. His passing was mourned nationally. Medgar Evers was buried on June 19, 1963 in Arlington National Cemetery where he received full military honors before a crowd of more than 3,000. On June 21, 1963, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens' Council (and later of the Ku Klux Klan), was arrested for Evers' murder. District Attorney and future governor Bill Waller prosecuted De La Beckwith. All-white juries twice that year deadlocked on De La Beckwith's guilt and failed to reach a verdict. At the time, most blacks were disenfranchised by Mississippi's constitution and voter registration practices. This meant they were also excluded from juries, which were based on registered voters. In 1994, De La Beckwith was prosecuted by the state based on new evidence. Bobby DeLaughter was the prosecutor. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for an autopsy. De La Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived without long term prison time for much of the three decades following the killing. (He had been imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 on separate charges: conspiring to murder A.I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed his conviction in the Evers' case, but died at age 80 in prison in January 2001. Medgar Evers have been remembered and memorized by Mississippi and national authors (they include Eudora Wetty, James Baldwin, Margaret Walker, and Anne Moody).  In 1963,  Brother Medgar Evers was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. In 1969, College was established in Brooklyn, New York, as part of the City University of New York.

Evers's widow, Myrlie Evers co-wrote the book For Us, the Living with William Peters in 1967. In 1983, a movie was made based on the book. Celebrating Evers's life and career, it starred Howard Rollins Jr. and Irene Cara as Medgar and Myrlie Evers, airing on PBS. The film won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Drama. I saw the movie before too. On June 28, 1992, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, erected a statue in honor of Evers. All of Delta Drive (part of U.S. Highway 49) in Jackson was renamed in Evers' honor. In December 2004, the Jackson City Council changed the name of the city's airport to "Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport" (Jackson-Evers International Airport) in his honor. Mylie Evers continues to be a civil rights activist to this very day. In June 2013, a statue of Evers was erected at his alma mater, Alcorn State University, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death. Alumni and guests from around the world gathered to recognize his contributions to American society. Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, spoke on his contributions to the advancement of civil rights: "Medgar was a man who never wanted adoration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people."

RIP Brother Medgar Evers.

Ella Baker

Ella Baker was a heroic icon. She stood up from the truth and believed in justice for all. In order for us to understand the past, the present, and fight for a better future, then we must understand the life story of the courageous Sister Ella Baker. Ella Baker promoted leadership based on consensus, community organizing, strategy, and democratic power sharing. She didn’t want a hierarchal system where one person dominated people. She wanted bottom up development of power and she always respected the youth. She encouraged the youth to form their own independent organizations. That is why she is the Mother of SNCC or the Student Non-violent Coordinating SNCC from April of 1960. She was one of the Mothers of the Civil Rights Movement in general. For over 50 years, she organized, developed strategies, and gave eloquent speeches that gave hope, inspiration, and guidance to humanity. She worked with some of the famous civil rights leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to A. Philip Randolph, but she was also key in helping unsung heroes as well. She was a mentor to many activists like Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, Bob Moses, Kwame Ture, etc. She is without question the most influential woman of the Civil Rights Movement. She was born in December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. Her parents were Georgiana and Blake Baker. By the age of 7, her family moved into Littleton, North Carolina, which was her mother’s hometown. It was a rural area. As a girl, Baker listened to her grandmother tell stories about slave revolts. Baker's maternal grandmother Josephine Elizabeth "Bet" Ross, had been enslaved and was whipped for refusing to marry a man chosen for her by the slave master. Ella Baker always questioned and opposed unjust authority. She graduated from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina as valedictorian in 1927 at the age of 24. She fought against unfair school policies. She moved to New York City after her graduation. She was an editorial staff member of the American West Indian News from 1929-1930. She also was the editorial assistant at the Negro National News. Ella Baker joined the YNCL or the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League to promote black economic power via collective planning. She became a friend of George Schuyler (or the founder of the YNCL in 1930). Later, Schulyer would be an arch conservative. Ella Baker was the group’s national director. She also involved herself with several women's organizations.

She was committed to economic justice for all people and once said, "People cannot be free until there is enough work in this land to give everybody a job."

Ella Baker also worked for the Worker’s Education Project of the Works Progress Administration. In that organization, she taught courses in consumer education, labor history, and African history. Ella Baker loved Harlem. There was a strong cultural and political milieu in Harlem during the 1930’s from the growth of the Harlem Renaissance to the development of political movements in Harlem. She protested Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. She supported the campaign to free the Scottsboro persons in Alabama. These were a group of young black men accused of raping two white women. These young men were innocent.  She also founded the Negro History Club at the Harlem Library and regularly attended lectures and meetings at the YWCA. During this time, she lived with and married her college sweetheart, T. J. (Bob) Roberts; interestingly, most people did not know she had ever married. Their respective work schedules kept them often apart, and they finally divorced in 1958. Her life in Harlem was very exciting, and she befriended the future scholar and activist John Henrik Clarke and the future writer and civil rights lawyer Pauli Murray, and many others who would become lifelong friends. Ella Baker was greatly influenced by the Harlem Renaissance. She wanted widespread local action as a way to get change to come. She wanted a grassroots approach to promote equal rights, which definitely influenced the successes of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

During the 1960’s she promoted “participatory Democracy.” That means that democracy must be innovative and promote broader participation. That means that decisions must not be bureaucratic and direct action along with allowing a grassroots of people to make their own decisions. She wanted fear, isolation, and intellectual detachment to end. She rejected patriarchy, messianic leadership, and the status quo. Ella Baker didn’t want the Civil Rights movement to mimic the organization model of the Black church (as the Black church back then was largely female membership and male leadership). Ella Baker and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were SCLC members. They agreed on the same goal, but differed in opinion and philosophy on many issues. She once claimed that the "movement made Martin, and not Martin the movement." Another speech she made, in which she urged activists to take control of the movement themselves, rather than rely on a leader with "heavy feet of clay", was widely interpreted as a denunciation of King. Ella Baker allowed worked in the NAACP to organize members, raised money, and promoted egalitarian ideals. She wanted the NAACP to decentralize its leadership structure and aid members in the local level in activist campaigns. She believed that bottom up power was more effective than top down power. Ella Baker was right to oppose elitism. She wanted young people and women to have a big role in social movements as the masses of the people are critical in getting results. She worked in the South and wanted the NAACP to be more democratic.

By the 1950’s, Ella Baker was the President of the NAACP in New York and she opposed school segregation and police brutality. She also advocated for giving greater responsibility and autonomy to local branches. Between 1944 and 1946, Baker directed revolutionary leadership conferences in several major cities such as Chicago and Atlanta. She got top officials to deliver lectures, offer welcoming remarks, and conduct workshops. She resigned in 1953 to run unsuccessfully for the New York City Council on the Liberal Party ticket. She was in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1957 to 1960. The SCLC was formed in January 1957 to form a group dedicated to justice and equality after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ella Baker was involved in the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, which the SCLC promoted. She worked in voter registration in America. Baker worked closely with southern civil rights activists in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi and was highly respected for her organizing abilities. She helped initiate voter registration campaigns and identify other local grievances. After John Tilley, director of the SCLC resigned, she remained in Atlanta for two and a half years as interim executive director of the SCLC until the post was taken up by Wyatt in April 1960. Ella Baker wanted a faster progress in civil rights and she felt than King back then didn’t go far enough in democratic organizing. She was the Mother of SNCC. She was a teacher and mentor to the young people of SNCC like Julian Bond, Diane Nash, Kwame Ture, Curtis Muhammad, Bob Moses, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. Ella Baker supported the Freedom Rides. Ashe helped to organize the MFDP or the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to oppose the racist all white Mississippi Democratic Party.

She worked as the coordinator of the Washington office of the MFDP and accompanied a delegation of the MFDP to the National Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1964. The group's aim was to challenge the national party to affirm the rights of African Americans to participate in party elections in the South. When MFDP delegates challenged the pro-segregationist, all-white official delegation, a major conflict ensued. The MFDP delegation was not seated, but their influence on the Democratic Party helped to elect many black leaders in Mississippi and forced a rule change to allow women and minorities to sit as delegates at the Democratic National Convention. After 1964, SNCC members would increasingly embrace black power and Black Nationalism. Ella Baker was sick during this time, but she said (a cording to Barbara Ransby) Baker saw black power as a relief from the "stale and unmoving demands and language of the more mainstream civil rights groups at the time."  Ella Baker would support self-defense. She didn’t believe in unconditional nonviolence. Sincere people are pacifists and those who believe in self-defense. From 1962 to 1967, Baker worked on the staff of the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), which aimed to help people to form social justice.

Ella Baker viewed socialism as a more humane alternative to capitalism but she had mixed feelings about communism. Still, she became a staunch defender of Anne Braden and her husband Carl and encouraged SNCC to reject red-baiting because she viewed it as divisive and unfair. During the 1960's, Baker participated in a speaking tour and co-hosted several meetings on the importance of linking civil rights and civil liberties. Ella Baker worked with the socialist organization in 1972 in NYC called the Mass Party Organizing Committee. She traveled in America to free Angela Davis from prison. She supported the Puerto Rican independence movement. She spoke up for women’s rights. She opposed apartheid in South Africa allied herself with many peace organizations. She remained an activist until she passed in 19786 on her 83rd birthday. She was a private person and she was courageous. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a non-profit strategy and action center based in Oakland, CA, was founded in 1996. Historian and longtime activist Barbara Ransby wrote an acclaimed biography of Baker, titled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, which was published in 2003 by the University of North Carolina Press. Ransby continues to be an active voice on popular movements, Black feminism, and issues of Black freedom, frequently invoking how Baker's ideas can be applied to the work of contemporary activists. Ella Baker wanted all people to be free and I agree with her.

Rest in Power Sister Ella Baker.


The struggle, the strength, and the resiliency of black people is real and it’s true. For thousands of years, we have developed civilizations and inspired the world in social movements and in other parameters of human life. Black excellence persists during the past, continues to flourish in the present, and will exist in the future forevermore. The more people study people of black African descent, the more we connect with our souls as human beings. The reason is that when black people are truly liberated, then the rest of the human family are liberated indeed. We live in a crossroads in our history. The world is changing. There is a new President that was elected in 2016. Also, black people are diverse in our nationalities, our political philosophies, our sex, our age, and our other backgrounds. We may not agree all of the time. Yet, we can find common ground in desiring freedom, justice, and equality. We cherish our families, we breathe the same air in the world and we care for our descendants’ future. We honor the diversity of our cultural heritage and we honor the unity that we all share as human beings. Harriet Tubman taught us about perseverance and heroism. Ella Baker taught us about organization and democratic power. Malcolm X taught us about courage in confronting injustice and racism. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us about love and compassion. Assata Shakur taught us about independent thinking and liberation. Fannie Lou Hamer taught us about unity, the love of the poor and opposing war. So, we learn from our ancestors, our elders, and the youth in order for us to continue in this audacious journey for freedom. The glory of Africa lives on in us too. We have the influence of the ancestors in our souls and in our minds. Therefore, we will always promote care for the environment, and pan-African unity. We are all in this together and nothing will turn us around. Our cause is just and our hearts are aligned with truth and wisdom. The struggle continues, but we will be victorious in the end.

By Timothy