Friday March 7, 2014
When I think of the Civil Rights Movement, I can't help but think of the everyday people who endured great pain for the greater good of a nation.
Today I'm thinking about Jimmie Lee Jackson, a deacon at a church in Marion, Ala. who tried unsuccessfully to register to vote for four years. Inspired by the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackson launched a campaign against voting restrictions in Alabama. Holding meetings at Zion's Chapel Methodist Church several nights a week, Jackson was helping other African-Americans build the courage to fight against voting restrictions. Yet, it was Jackson's work as a grassroots organizer that would lead ultimately lead to his death. On February 26, 1965, Jackson died after being shot by an Alabama State Trooper named James Bernard Fowler.
While Jackson's death might have created temporary fear in others fighting for voting rights, it didn't stop them.
On March 7, 1965, civil rights leaders Hosea Williams of the Souther Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) along with
John Lewis of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized and began leading an estimated 600 African-American marchers from Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma on a 50-mile march to Montgomery. The purpose was simple: to meet on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery and protest against voting restrictions and violence in their communities. However, as the marchers reached the Edmund PEttus Bridge, an estimated 100 State Troopers blocked the other side of the bridge. Although Williams and Lewis tried to speak with the troopers, they were told, "There is no word to be had...you have two minutes to turn around and go back to your church." Within moments, Williams, Lewis and the marchers were attached with tear gas and troopers on horses. By the end of the attack, 16 marchers were injured and another 50 received treatment for wounds.
Yet the attack was not a defeat. It was a minor setback--those marchers who willing to endure great pain for the greater good for the nation.
Two days later, King led a march to the Pettus bridge. Although he too was turned around, it did not stop the movement.
On March 21, an estimated 3,000 marchers walked from Selma to Montgomery with no opposition from state troopers. And four days later, 25,000 people joined the original marchers from Selma to Montgomery.
Within five months, Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, making it illegal to employ discriminatory voting requirements such as literacy tests before allowing someone to register to vote.
Friday February 28, 2014
Known as the "Queen Mother" or "Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement" Septima Poinsette Clark was an educator and civil rights activist who believed that "knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn't."
As director of more than 800 citizenship schools throughout the South, Clark was instrumental in helping thousands of African-Americans gain the literacy skills necessary to participate in the fight for voting rights.
One of her students, a seamstress from Montgomery named Rosa Parks, was so inspired by the concepts learned at the citizenship workshops that she returned home and refused to give up her seat on a segregated public bus. Parks' actions started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Yet Parks always acknowledge Clark and the citizenship schools for her courage, saying, "I only hope that there is a possible chance that some of Septima's great courage and dignity and wisdom has rubbed off on me."
Friday February 28, 2014
The years between 1700 and 1799 can be considered a transformative period in American History.
For residents of the thirteen colonies--both black and white, freed and enslaved--the desire for autonomy was present in every law and every event that occurred.
In this month's African-American history timeline, we feature this time period--1700 to 1799--and realized that like the previous century, that enslavement "happened one law at a time, one person at a time." And as laws were established to transform enslavement from indentured to lifetime servitude, the abolition movement was slowly yet surely starting to build up steam in places such as New York City and Philadelphia.Quakers such as Anthony Benezet established institutions such as free public schools for African-American children residing in Philadelphia.
And African-American men and women, both freed and enslaved, are making their presence known in society. Benjamin Banneker works with surveyors to build the nations capitol while a young poet named Phillis Wheatley will become the first African-American woman to publish a collection of poetry.
Monday February 24, 2014
In 1920, scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois launched The Brownies' Book, a supplement to The Crisis magazine, which highlighted literature for African-American children.
In doing so, DuBois helped to establish African-American children's literature as a genre.
Working with the news publication's literary editor, Jessie Redmon Fauset, DuBois printed a monthly magazine for children whose mission was to "teach Universal Love and Brotherhood for all little folk--black and brown and yellow and white."
Today the mission that DuBois and Fauset developed through The Brownie's Book is coming true as there is a wide selection of children's books featuring African-American characters.
This month's edition of On the Bookshelf is dedicated to African-American children's literature. Written by elementary school educator, Nakita Carson, the article features four books that document American history through memoir, biography and autobiography. Entitled Four African-American Children's Books the list encourages readers to learn about everday people such as Leon Tillage,well-known author Walter Dean Meyers, trailblazing women such as Bessie Coleman and prominent figures such as Booker T. Washington.
When I asked Carson why including African-American children's literature was important in the classroom, she told me, "children miss out so much when they only know part of the story. If we want to live in a world where are known for their character and not their color, we have to give them the whole story and all of its characters. All children need to know that African Americans were not just slaves and they need to see that there is more to being black than what they see in the images portrayed in movies and on television."
I couldn't agree more with Carson. So, please, in the coming months, be on the lookout for more books to be highligthed on our site featuring African-American children and their history. I'm sure it would make DuBois, Fauset and other members of the Harlem Renaissance proud!