Saturday November 30, 2013
One of my favorite paintings is Banjo Lesson. Created by
Henry Ossawa Tanner circa 1891, the painting was inspired by Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, Banjo Song. Recently, I was looking at the painting, which often offers me a moment to remain calm, to think of childhood and all the lessons I learned from my elders, and thought of other African-American artists who lived and worked in the same time period as Tanner.
And so, I have done something new on the African-American history site--I've created an image gallery of 19th Century African-American Artists complete with short biographies.
I hope you enjoy this image gallery--I plan to include a lot more images on the site in months to come!
Saturday November 30, 2013
Confession: I originally wanted to create a timeline of African-American History from 1960 to 1969 but this decade was so full of news and events that I knew it would too long for one article. So instead, I broke this decade, filled with Civil Rights Movement highs and lows, African-American firsts, and a clear resurgence of African-American nationalism, into two separate articles.
The first article, African-American History Timeline: 1960 to 1964 highlights some important moments in African-American culture and society. For instance, in addition to major Civil Rights Movement events such as the March on Washington and the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, several artists such as the Supremes, Temptations and Stevie Wonder were signed to Motown Records. The songs performed by these acts became the soundtrack for the Civil Rights Movement.
The second article, African-American History Timeline: 1965 to 1969 illuminates that assassination of black nationalist leader Malcolm X, the establishment of Kwanzaa as an African-American cultural holiday and college students' demand for African-American studies programs on campuses throughout the United States. It was also interesting to note the philosophical shift in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when Stokely Carmicheal took leadership and the emergence of the Black Panther Party.
I hope you read, learn and enjoy these articles!
Saturday November 30, 2013
The 1950s are often synonymous with the start of the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools was unconstitutional.
The following year, Emmett Till , a fourteen year old Chicagoan is murdered by white men while visiting family in Mississippi. His mother, Mamie Till, demands an open casket funeral, allowing the world to see the way her son was murdered. Also in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus. Her actions and subsequent spur the Montgomery Bus Boycott, placing a young minister from the Dexter Street Baptist Church into the public eye.
Yet, the decade of the 1950s should not only be remembered for key moments in the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
Gwendolyn Brooks, a poet based out of Chicago becomes the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. James Baldwin published his semi-autobiogrpahical debut novel, Go Tell It On The Mountain and Ralph Ellison published the classic novel, Invisible Man.
And finally, music would begin its transcendence in this decade.
Chuck Berrry recorded Maybellene for Chess Records, which became an early Rock & Roll hit.
And in 1959, a Detroit-based record company named Motown is established by Berry Gordy. In the decade to follow, the company's music will record the unofficial soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement.
Thursday November 21, 2013
Earlier today the Alabama parole board voted to grant pardons to several men wrongly convicted of rape more than 80 years ago.
In March of 1931, nine young African-American men ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen were accused of raping two white women. Each were tried, convicted and sentenced in a matter of days.
These young men were known as the Scottsboro Boys and their story illuminates the discriminatory practices of not only the criminal justice system, but also society.
As a result, African-American newspapers published news accounts and editorials of the events of the case. Civil rights organizations followed suit, raising money and providing defense for these young men. However, it would take several years for these young men's cases to be overturned.
And for three of these young men—Haywood Patterson, Charlie Weems and Andy Wright—it would take more than eighty years before they were granted posthumous pardons by the state of Alabama’s parole board.
Alabama Governer Robert Bentley praised the parole board’s decision in a statement, saying “While we could not take back what happened to the Scottsboro Boys 80 years ago, we found a way to make it right moving forward. The pardons granted to the Scottsboro Boys today are long overdue.”
Yet many others feel the pardon is not enough.
Fred Gray, a civil rights attorney was quoted in a New York Times article as saying, “I’d like to see my state do more proactive things and get to a point where we don’t have to be correcting mistakes. We should set up a procedure to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and we just haven’t really done that.”
In an article appearing in USA Today, James Miller, a professor at George Washington University and author of Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial, argued that “retrospective indignation” did not negate the trials and tribulations that the nine young men in the Scottsboro case suffered.
I’m left to wonder the same: is this pardon too little, too late?