For more than a decade, Scott fought for not only his emancipation, but for his wife and children as well. And although he lost the case in Supreme Court, in the end Scott was victorious--within months his family was freed.
Throughout Morris' career, he worked with earnest to provide civil rights for freed African-Americans. Trying the first civil rights cases to desegregate schools, Morris argued, "It is very hard to retain self-respect if we see ourselves set apart and avoided as a degraded race by others.. Do not say to our children that however well-behaved their very presence is in a public school, is contamination to your children."
In addition, Morris worked to aid fugitive slaves from returning to bondage. In 1850, he helped Shadrack Minkins and Anthony Burns remain free African-Americans.
For Morris' efforts, he will always be honored in not just African-American, but American history.
Macon Bolling Allen was the first African-American to be granted a license to practice law in the United States. He was also the first to hold a judicial post.
Yet, although he achieved greatness in a time when African-Americans were enslaved in the South and fighting for rights in the North, Allen's ability to work as a lawyer did not make things easy for him. Initially granted the right to practice in the state of Maine, Allen relocated to Boston after he could not find clients. Once in Boston, he became involved in the abolitionist movement and opened the first African-American law firm with Robert Morris Sr.
Following the Civil War, Allen moved again--this time to Charleston. He believed that through the fifteenth amendment he would be able to become actively involved in politics. And for a time he was an active member of local and state politics. However, following the Reconstruction period, his rights, like other African-American men were revoked through poll taxes, literacy tests and Grandfather clauses.
Although Allen was able to achieve greatness just by being "the first," it was not any easier for him. Allen's life, like so many other African-Americans of this time, proves the consistent need to fight oppression and overcome societal obstacles.
On March 25, 1931, nine African-American teens--ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen--were riding the Southern Railroad freight train. Some were traveling together, others were alone. But within a few moments, the lives of these young men would change forever.
Soon after reading Point Rock, Ala, all nine young men were charged with raping two white women. They were arrested and transported to Scottsboro.
As a result, they would be known throughout history as the Scottsboro Boys.
The story of these young men is a painful example of systematic racism.
Although organizations such as the NAACP fought tirelessly for their freedom, it seems that the freedom that came for these young men came a little too late.
Earlier this month, Freedom's Journal, the first African-American newspaper, celebrated its 176th Anniversary.
I find it remarkable that the publication's first editorial is so timeless. The simple words: "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly." These words, written by Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm would give power to the hundreds of African-American newspapers, magazines and even blogs that would be published over the next two hundred years.
I often wonder if Cornish and Russwurm understood the profundity of their work when they published that four-page, four column weekly newspaper in 1827.
What do you think? Why is the work of Cornish and Russwurm still so powerful?
The Negro Baseball Leagues were professional leagues in the United States for players of African descent. At its height of popularity--from 1920 through World War II, Negro Baseball Leagues were an important part of African-American life and culture during the Jim Crow Era.
There were many factors that led to the success of the Negro Baseball League. Local African-American newspapers published stories about games and its players. In addition, the Great Migration provided population growth in Northern, Midwestern and Western cities that set the stage for the National Negro League to become lucrative.
In April of 1947, Jack "Jackie" Robinson broke the baseball color line to become the first African-American to play in the Major Baseball League. For the next nine years, Robinson would play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, boasting the following achievements:
- Recipient of the inaugural Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award in 1947.
- Awarded the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.
- Selected for six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954.
- Contributed to the Brooklyn Dodgers' 1955 World Championship.
- Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that Robinson was a "legend and a symbol in his own time" who "challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration." What do you think? Was Robinson able to challenge racism and push the door of desegregation open a little wider?
On March 16, 1827, the first African-American newspaper was published.
It's name was Freedom's Journal and its publishers, John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish wanted nothing more than to allow African-Americans a forum to speak for themselves. On the front page of the newspaper, Russwurm and Cornish's first editorial began with these words:"We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us."
Although Russwurm and Cornish only edited the paper together for six months, the publication stayed in circulation for two years--providing local, national and international news to African-Americans in eleven states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe and Canada.
When Freedom's Journal closed its doors in 1829, Cornish began publishing The Rights of All.
Suggested ReadingDigitized "Freedom's Journal"
When Mary Mcleod Bethune died in May of 1955, her life was honored through lengthy obituaries in African-American newspapers across the United States. The Oklahoma City Black Dispatch characterized Bethune as "Exhibit NO. 1 for all who have faith in America and the democratic process. The fiery Pittsburgh Courier said, "In any race or nation she would have been an outstanding personality and made a noteworthy contribution because her chief attribute was her indomitable soul."
Even mainstream national newspapers such as The Washington Post proclaimed that Bethune's "dynamism and force" were so great that it was "almost impossible to resist her... Not only her own people, but all America has been enriched and ennobled by her courageous, ebullient spirit."
Reading these excerpts of Bethune's obituaries reminds me of the greatness of fighting for justice and fighting for the right to become educated. Through Bethune's great legacy, Americans--black and white--learn everyday that have a vision is important to humanity.