some photos and news for black history month

Jack Johnson, Black heavyweight boxing championat wheel of sports car wth his manager, Little. (This photo and the ones that follow have their original titles as published.) I have quite a few historical photos that would suit this post, but as my storage space is finite I had to make some editorial decisions. I was torn between this one and the famous Woolworth lunch counter ( for whites only) photo. I decided on Johnson because he does not seem to get as much credit as he deserves in the history of the civil rights movement. More then anything else that probably has to do with his fame and acheievments being pre-TV and modern history’s tendency to place so much emphasis on the well documented civil rights movement of the 1960s. Johnson was the first black heavyweight boxing champion(1908-1915). Johnson, more then any other black artist, writer, scholar, performer of his time broke through the color barrier. Historian Ken Burns did a great documentary on Johnson called Unforgivable Blackness. There was a stageplay and movie based on a fictionalized account of Johnson’s life called The Great White  Hope – the stage and  film role was played by a young actor named James Earl Jones ( the voice of Darth Vader) .

“African American voters, able to vote for the first time in rural Wilcox County, Alabama, line up in front of a polling station at The Sugar Shack, a local general store. After the passage of the federal voting rights law in 1965, there were almost twice as many black voters than whites. Photo-May 3, 1966″

Things have changed, yet the tea bagger movement yearns for the good old days, Tea Party opening speaker suggests law that kept blacks be kept from voting be reinstated.

“Prior to passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965, Southern (and some Western) states maintained elaborate voter registration procedures whose primary purpose was to deny the vote to those who were not white,” a website for civil rights veterans explains. “In the South, this process was often called the ‘literacy test.’ In fact, it was much more than a simple test, it was an entire complex system devoted to denying African-Americans (and in some regions, Latinos) the right to vote.”

“Because the Freedom Movement was running “Citizenship Schools” to help people learn how to fill out the forms and pass the test, Alabama changed the test 4 times in less than two years (1964-1965),” the site adds. “At the time of the Selma Voting Rights campaign there were actually 100 different tests in use across the state. In theory, each applicant was supposed to be given one at random from a big loose-leaf binder. In real life, some individual tests were easier than others and the registrar made sure that Black applicants got the hardest ones.”

What former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo seems to forget is those same tests were frequently failed by illiterate rural whites, but voting boards would say they passed and let them vote anyway. I wonder if Tancerdo and his fellow tea baggers could pass a literacy test.

Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school.  She was one of the nine negro students whose integration into Little Rock’s Central High School was ordered by a Federal Court following legal action by NAACP. – Sept. 4, 1957″  M’s Eckford went on to get a BA in history.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holds his two-year old son Martin Luther King III as he stands near a burnt cross in front of his home in Atlanta, Georgia. April 27, 1960″

You can’t get more Anglo-Saxon then Martin Luther King, but it didn’t do Dr. King much good in deflecting the hatred. What kind of name is it then that would pass muster with the haters. Not Martin Luther King and not Barack  Obama, Glenn Beck breaks down the president’s un-American, African name

Glenn Beck has been known to bristle at the suggestion that he might have a problem when it comes to issues of race. His incredulity is matched only by his crippling lack of self-awareness — he seems to think that a reasoned discussion of race includes calling the first black president a “slavemaster” and a “racist” who is scheming to enact “reparations.”

But I’m feeling charitable today, so I’ll offer Beck a bit of advice. If you really are that upset at people constantly accusing you of being, let’s say, insensitive when it comes to race, don’t say things like this, as you did on the radio earlier this morning:

BECK: He chose to use his name, Barack, for a reason. To identify, not with America — you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.

OK, let’s break down the problematic parts of this, just so there isn’t any room for confusion. First, the suggestion that certain names, such as the African name Barack, are un-American. Second, the idea that Obama, in embracing his African name, was doing so at the expense of his American identity, as if the two are mutually exclusive (someone relevant to this discussion once talked about the “the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too”). And third, the implication that Obama’s father’s Kenyan roots are linked to his “radical”-ness.

Obama is the new kind of radical – the kind that has spent most of the Recovery Act funds dispersed thus far on saving banks, and infrastructure projects to create jobs.