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!
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!
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.
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?
I totally agree with Rustin's statement. In a career that spanned more than fifty years--through the Harlem Renaissance and the modern Civil Rights Movement, Randolph worked with great fervor to protest against racial and social injustice.
Rounding out the decade was a young woman who escaped from a Maryland plantation. Her name was Harriet Tubman and in the coming decade, she would work to bring hundreds of other enslaved men and women to freedom.
Between 1940 and 1949, African-Americans made great strides in United States' society.
From men such Richard Wright, whose novel Native Son was the first bestselling novel by an African-American to Jackie Robinson, who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African-American to play in major league baseball, this decade is filled with acts of everyday people who do extraordinary things.
When Newark mayor Cory Booker is sworn in on October 31, as as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey, he will make history for many reasons.
Booker will be the first African-American to represent the state of New Jersey in this capacity.
He will also become the ninth African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate and the fourth to be elected by popular vote to the upper chamber.
Pretty remarkable, right?
But what's even more remarkable are the African-Americans who served in the U.S. Senate before Booker.
The article, African-American Senators highlights the eight African-American men and one woman, who have either been placed in the U.S. Senate or elected by popular vote.
Fact: Many people believe that the first Africans to reach North American shores were brought to Jamestown, Va. in 1619 by Europeans.
However, historian and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates reveals in the documentary, "The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" that almost one hundred years earlier, an African conquistador, traveling with Spanairds, was in present day Florida.
The documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. this evening on PBS, explores five centuries of African-American history.
Tonight's episode, "The Black Atlantic," traces the steps of early African-Americans--both freed and enslaved--who came to North America.
In a recent interview, Gates argues that this documentary is not just the story of African-Americans, but of "Americans." As such, the episode will explore the impact that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade would have on North America, Europe and Africa through the stories of everyday people such as Priscilla, who is brought to South Carolina from Sierra Leone.
Suggested ReadingThe Start of Slavery in North America
Rosa Parks is a well-known figure in U.S. History. In 1955, Parks decided that she would not give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. Her action began the Montgomery Bus Boycott and placed Martin Luther King, Jr. in the national spotlight.
But how many of you know about Mary Louise Smith?
On October 21, 1955--months before Parks refused to get up for a white passenger--Smith was also arrested for refusing to move out of her seat for a white passenger. Smith was only 18 at the time but she was jailed and fined $9. But that's not the end of the story.
While the Montgomery Bus Boycott was only two months old, Smith, along with four other women--Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald and Jeanette Reese--were plaintiffs in the Browder v. Gayle case, which challenged state and local laws concerning bus segregation. The case began in February of 1956. In June of 1956, the U.S. District Court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional because of the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendement . The case was appealed in both the city and state before finally reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, on December 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the desegregation public buses.