Friday, May 26, 2017

Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Carmichael was born in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 29th June, 1941. Carmichael moved to the United States in 1952 and attended high school in New York City. He entered Howard University in 1960 and soon afterwards joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

In 1961 Carmichael became a member of the Freedom Riders. After training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they travelled through the Deep South. Local police were unwilling to protect these passengers and in several places they were beaten up by white mobs. In Jackson, Mississippi, Carmichael was arrested and jailed for 49 days in Parchman Penitentiary. Carmichael also worked on the Freedom Summer project and in 1966 became chairman of SNCC.

On 5th June, 1966, James Meredith started a solitary March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, to protest against racism. Soon after starting his march he was shot by sniper. When they heard the news, other civil rights campaigners, including Carmichael, Martin Luther King and Floyd McKissick, decided to continue the march in Meredith's name.

When the marchers got to Greenwood, Mississippi, Carmichael and some of the other marchers were arrested by the police. It was the 27th time that Carmichael had been arrested and on his release on 16th June, he made his famous Black Power speech. Carmichael called for "black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, and to build a sense of community". He also advocated that African Americans should form and lead their own organizations and urged a complete rejection of the values of American society.

The following year Carmichael joined with Charles Hamilton to write the book, Black Power (1967). Some leaders of civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), rejected Carmichael's ideas and accused him of black racism.

Carmichael also adopted the slogan of "Black is Beautiful" and advocated a mood of black pride and a rejection of white values of style and appearance. This included adopting Afro hairstyles and African forms of dress. Carmichael began to criticize Martin Luther King and his ideology of nonviolence. He eventually joined the Black Panther Party where he became "honorary prime minister". 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. 

Black Power Between Heaven and Hell
by Tony Chapelle
During the middle girth of this century, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was the equivalent of the rap group Public Enemy, the protest politician Jesse Jackson, and the Congressional Black Caucus all in one.
Like Public Enemy, Powell "dissed" white America for its racism and hypocrisy, with one of his clearest refrains being akin to "You Can't Trust 'Em." When he demanded changes in society, Powell, as Jackson would years later, commanded so much attention in Washington and with the media that he became known as "Mr. Civil Rights." And as the first African-American congressman from the northeast, and for decades the only militant African American on the Hill, Powell had the guts to push through laws that forced America to stop locking African Americans out of industries and institutions.
He didn't behave like most African-American politicians. "I'm the first bad Negro they've had in Congress," he bragged. He made more enemies on Capitol Hill than perhaps any legislator before or since.
He didn't behave like a typical African-American minister. "I believe only in the teaching of Jesus," he said, "I am not a full-Bible Christian." And he felt this distinction gave him wide moral latitude. He openly drank alcohol, smoked, and had adulterous affairs. When he strode up the aisle of his packed church to preach, women parishioners later admitted to being distracted from thoughts of God by enrapture with the tall playboy- minister.
Powell was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1908. His father, who missed by one month being born into slavery, pastored the most prestigious African-American church in New York City, Abyssinian Baptist.
He stopped and started through a checkered college career, first attending City College of New York. Eventually, he flunked out. After that, Adam went into a serious party mode. These were the Roaring '20s. Harlem, with hundreds of speakeasies, rent parties, and dance halls, was a wild bachelor's paradise. The little money he made as a kitchen helper, he spent on gambling, women, and liquor.
But Adam's father pushed him back into college, this time to almost all-white Colgate University in up-state New York. Young Powell began studies to become a surgeon but, later, with some prodding, realized that one day his father's well-off church could be his for the asking, so he changed his mind about medicine to become a healer of souls.
Upon graduation, his parents gave him a present of a trip to Europe, the Holy Land, and Egypt. When he returned, he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary, then later in Columbia University Teachers' College, where he eventually took a master's degree in religious education.
While he worked on postgraduate studies, Powell helped thousands in his community to eat and find clothes and jobs. The Great Depression had America on the dole and in despair. As assistant pastor under his father at Abyssinian, Powell helped operate a free food pantry, job referral service, and literacy classes. His compassion became legendary when it was rumored that Adam once took the shoes from his own feet and gave them to a poor man for whom the church clothing bin had no proper sizes.
As he matured into adulthood, Powell began speaking out against the institutional racism ingrained in New York. In a short time, he racked up successes in getting jobs back for doctors, forcing bus companies to hire African-American drivers and mechanics, as well as squeezing white store owners with the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaign.
"It's in your hand," he admonished his people. "Just like little David had those smooth stones and killed big Goliath with them. Use what you have right in your hand. That dollar...that ten cents. Use your vote. The Negro race has enough power right in our hands to accomplish anything we want to."
In 1941, he became New York City's first African-American councilman. By 1944, he had won a seat in Congress. It was heady, but lonely as one of the only two African Americans in the U.S. House; particularly since the other, William Dawson of Chicago, was more seen than heard, careful to not upset the status quo.
Adam immediately ripped into Congress for allowing lynching of African-American men to continue. He railed against the unconstitutional Southern practice of charging would-be, African-American voters "poll taxes." Even Democratic presidents Roosevelt and Truman, who owed African Americans for having voted for them, had to be dragged into issuing executive orders ending discrimination in military bases and war factories. If his colleagues ignored him and voted down his proposals; if Truman, or Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Johnson wouldn't grant him a personal session to discuss civil rights or helping the poor, Powell made vicious public statements or sent embarrassing "open" telegrams to the press describing their insensitivity.
Powell perfected a role as agitator. "Whenever a person keeps prodding, keeps them serves a purpose. It may not in contemporary history look so good, but...future historians will say, 'They served a purpose."'
He was African-American pride personified. He swaggered into the congressional dining room and barber shop Knowing full well that African Americans were not served there, and demanded service. He won it. He badgered racist congressmen and stopped their habit of saying the word "nigger" in sessions of Congress.
One of his most dangerous legislative weapons was the "Powell Amendment," a rider he tried to attach to any proposals for federal funds. The beauty of the Amendment was that, if successfully attached to a bill, it would nullify federal grants to state or local governments if the agencies receiving the money discriminated. This meant, for example, that even school districts in the deepest South had to open their doors to African-American teachers and students or I risk losing funds set aside for them.
Voters from Harlem elected Powell as their representative nearly two dozen times. With long service in Congress comes seniority and ultimately the chance to head one of the powerful committees that draft bills that the full House and Senate eventually vote on. After the election of 1960, Powell took over as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. In that role, he had more concrete power than any African- American man on the planet. His little club, as it were, could initiate proposals worth billions of dollars and decisions affecting millions of Americans, and hundreds of schools, labor unions, and employment practices.
Here was where Powell made his greatest contributions. He oversaw passage of the backbone of President Kennedy's "New Frontier" and President Johnson's "Great Society" social programs: A sweeping anti- poverty bill, an increased minimum wage, a National Defense Education Act that benefitted generations of high school and college students.
Yet in the new book, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma, Columbia University professor Charles V. Hamilton, an African American, courageously addresses old allegations that Powell misused his clout to clean up consequences of his personal excesses.
The extravagant New Yorker suffered more than a decade of court cases over tax fraud, and for taking kickbacks from employees who no longer worked for him. Hamilton presents evidence that Powell supported Republican president Dwight Eisenhower for re-election in 1956 in exchange for a promise that Ike would kill the investigation.
There is no denying, however, that despite his commitment to civil rights for his people, Adam Powell Jr. was no paragon of virtue. He was egocentric, self-indulgent, and often treacherous. To keep Martin Luther King Jr. From picketing at the Republican convention where Eisenhower was to be nominated, Powell threatened to publicly (and surely, falsely) announce that King was having a homosexual relationship with another civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin.
He had no permanent friends, only permanent interests. At some points, he aligned with traditional civil rights groups, then when it suited his purposes he'd accuse them of being made up of Uncle Toms not worthy of African Americans' support.
Ultimately, Powell used up his political currency. Members of the House, happy to find a reason to silence him, expelled him for pocketing congressional employment paychecks to his wife, and for taking junkets abroad with female staffers. The fighter in him took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. He won back his seat. Even then, he was docked $25,000 to repay the illegal kickback. But the people of Harlem grew tired of Powell's unbelievable record of roll call absences and endless litigations. In 1970, they finally voted him out. Two years later, he died of prostate cancer at the age of 63.
Today, he isn't as ubiquitous a symbol of African-American determination as Malcolm X; you seldom find his likeness on t-shirts, or see film clips of his speeches within music videos. Nor is his picture reverently displayed in magazine ads during Black History Month like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s. But African Americans with a knowledge of their history remember Powell as the risk taker who made it possible for later generations of African-American politicians such as Jesse Jackson, Rep. Ron Dellums, and Willie Brown of the California Assembly to stand unbowed in the arena of political horse trading.
And in Harlem, where a state office building and a broad boulevard are named for him, you can occasionally still visit an apartment home where his picture adorns a place of honor.
Tony Chapelle is a freelance writer in New York City.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Malcolm X

Occupation: civil rights leader
Malcolm X was initially known for his controversial stance of racial separatism, but after his pilgrimage to Mecca, while he still advocated Black Nationalism, he also accepted a more orthodox Islam view of the "true brotherhood" of man. He came to believe that there was a potential for cross-racial alliance.
Malcolm X’s Childhood
Named Malcolm Little by his parents, Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm’s father, Earl Little, was an outspoken supporter of the Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey. As a result, he received numerous death threats and was forced to move his family several times.
While the family was in Lansing, Michigan, their home was burned down. Two years later, Malcolm’s father was murdered. Malcolm’s mother had an emotional breakdown and was unable to care for Malcolm and his siblings. The children were split up and sent to foster homes.
By the time that Malcolm was a teenager, he had dropped out of high school. At first, he worked odd jobs in Boston, Massachusetts, but he soon moved to Harlem, New York and became involved in criminal activity. Malcolm moved back to Boston and shortly thereafter, he was convicted of burglary in 1946.
Malcolm X’s Conversion to the Nation of Islam
While Malcolm was in prison, he converted to the Muslim religious sect, the Nation of Islam. When he was released in 1952, he changed his last name to X because he considered the name “Little” to have been a slave name. The Nation of Islam’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, made Malcolm a minister and sent him around the country on speaking engagements. Malcolm spoke about black pride and separatism, and rejected the civil rights movement’s focus on integration and equality.
Malcolm was a charismatic speaker, and soon was able to use newspaper columns, television, and radio to spread the Nation of Islam’s message. Membership to the Nation of Islam increased dramatically because of Malcolm's speeches. However, while many blacks were embracing his message, civil rights leaders rejected him. Malcolm also became a concern of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation began surveillance of him and infiltrated the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm X’s Disillusionment with Elijah Muhammad
While Malcolm had garnered increasing attention, his relationship with Elijah Muhammad became strained in 1963. Malcolm learned that contrary to Muhammad’s teaching of celibacy until marriage, Muhammad was having sexual relations with six women. Malcolm felt that Muhammad was committing fraud, and he refused to keep it a secret.
Malcolm X’s relationship with Muhammad became even more strained when he made some controversial statements. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Malcolm publicly described it as “the chickens coming home to roost.” Because of this comment, Muhammad silenced him for ninety days.
Malcolm X’s Departure from the Nation of Islam
In March 1964, Malcolm left the Nation of Islam and founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. A month later, he took a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It was there that his view of separatism changed. He discovered that white and black Muslims could coexist together. While he still advocated Black Nationalism, he also accepted a more orthodox Islam view of the "true brotherhood" of man and believed that there was a potential for cross-racial alliance.
When he returned to the United States, he stopped advocating separatism, and instead relayed the message of integration and world brotherhood. However, he discovered that the Nation of Islam wanted to assassinate him. On February 14, 1965, his home was firebombed, but no one was hurt.
A few days later on February 21, 1965, while Malcolm was on stage at the Manhattan Audubon Ballroom, three gunmen shot him to death. The gunmen were arrested and convicted. It was later discovered that they were members of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was buried on February 27, 1965 in Hartsdale, New York.
Since his death his popularity has continued, and is partly due to the publication of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Spike Lee’s 1992 movie, Malcolm X.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bishop Joseph A. Johnson, Jr.

Bishop Joseph A. Johnson Jr. was Vanderbilt University’s first Black student and graduate. The late theologian was admitted to the Nashville, Tenn. school on this day in 1953, and then earned a Ph.D. from the university as well.
Johnson was born on June 19, 1914 in Shreveport, La. The future bishop graduated with honors from Texas College in 1938, and then earned a master’s and doctorate degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colo. Details about why Johnson chose Vanderbilt are sparse, but it appears he applied as a joke. At 38 years of age and with three children, Johnson was far older than even some of the graduate students.
As he had already earned advanced degrees, it’s not known why Vanderbilt had him go through the process of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in divinity from its school. But In 1958, while working as a minister at Nashville’s Capers Memorial Church, he also obtained his Ph.D there.
The clergyman wrote several books about theology, including 1971’s The Soul of The Black Preacher. As a prominent representative of the Christian Methodist Church, Johnson mentioned in passing that his desire to become a minister was to be an asset to Black people and follow in the footsteps of his minister father. Johnson didn’t talk much about his time at Vanderbilt, but he endured some of the school’s racist segregation policies.
Johnson passed from a sudden illness in 1979, but his name lives on in a variety of awards and honors bestowed upon him by Vanderbilt. His granddaughter, Rev. Cynthia Johnson-Oliver, is an elder of the C.M.E. church and is reportedly writing a biography about her grandfather.
PHOTO: Bishop Johnson official website
(Source:  )

Monday, May 8, 2017

From Footnote to Fame in Civil Rights History

Claudette Colvin

click on the link below to read the NYTimes article.

Monday, May 1, 2017

100 Black Men of American Inc

100 Black Men Organization in Nassau, The Bahamas
Image Courtesy of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.

100 Black Men of American Inc. is a civic organization dedicated to the improvement of quality of life in the African American community through fostering the development of young African American men.  In 1963, a group of African American men met in New York to discuss concerns about the cultural and financial obstacles that have limited the achievements of African Americans, particularly young males. Among these founders were David Dinkins, Robert Mangum, Dr. William Hayling, Nathaniel Goldston III, Livingston Wingate, Andrew Hatcher, and Jackie Robinson. These men eventually formed 100 Black Men.  They sought to nurture the intellectual development of black youth and enhance the economic empowerment of the African American community based on the following precepts: respect for family, spirituality, justice, and integrity.  Their programs include leadership development, youth mentoring, educational scholarships, health and wellness, and economic development.  
Originally the group was exclusively a New York City organization. In 1976, however, Dr. William Hayling, a member of the New York 100 Black Men organization, relocated to Newark, New Jersey and established a New Jersey chapter of 100 Black Men.  Soon thereafter chapters were established in Los Angeles (California), Indianapolis (Indiana), St. Louis (Missouri), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Atlanta (Georgia), San Francisco/ Oakland Bay Area, the Nassau/ Suffolk area of Long Island, New York, Alton, Illinois, and Sacramento.  In 1986, the Black Men chapters organized nationally at a meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.  They called the group the National Organization for 100 Black men but later change the name to “100 Black Men of America, Inc.”
By 2008 the organization had grown to over 105 chapters with more than 10,000 members who continue to strive to improve the quality of life in African American communities and enhance the educational and economic opportunities for African Americans.  100 Black Men of America, Inc. has also more than 100,000 youth participants annually in its mentoring and youth development programs.  All members are volunteers and represent various sectors including education, engineeringlawbusiness, health, and politics.
Official website:; Ervin Dyer, “100 Black Men links teens to high tech,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 27, 2001.
University of Washington
- See more at: