Monthly Archives: December 2011
I wrote about Harry T. Moore and Harriette Moore in “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!” (pages 34-35). They took courage to another level and paid the ultimate price for standing up for what the believed. Unfortunately, very few Blacks or whites know of Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette…and that they are the first husband and wife to give their lives for the Struggle. Their lives and what they stood for should be etched in the annals of American History.
Noted journalist Tonyaa Weathersbee wrote the following piece in Blackamericaweb.com.
“Christmas of 1951 was anything but a season of peace for Evangeline Moore. And she’s still looking for peace today.
That was when Moore, who was 21 at the time, arrived home after a marathon train ride from Washington, D.C. to Mims, Florida to learn that her father, civil rights and NAACP leader Harry Moore, had been killed in an explosion on Christmas Day. Her mother, Harriette, had been severely injured – and she died nine days later.
Moore’s parents – the only husband and wife to die in the civil rights struggle – are viewed by many as the movement’s first martyrs. Harry Moore, in fact, put himself on the fast track to martyrdom when, among other things, he confronted Florida’s white power structure about lynchings. That took some serious intestinal fortitude.
Lynchings assured white people that they not only didn’t have to worry about lowly black people robbing them of their belongings, but that they also didn’t have to worry about uppity black people robbing them of their assumptions of privilege. Florida, in fact, had the most lynchings per capita between 1900 and 1930, and 61 black people were lynched in the state between 1921 and 1946.
Harry Moore didn’t sit and wait for the white power structure to come to Jesus about those injustices. He wrote letters demanding that they stop the killings, and even went as far as to investigate the lynchings himself.
Moore’s defiance of the social order is what lit the blast that killed him and his wife. “The whole course of my family’s history changed when they killed my parents,” Moore, who is now 81, told The Washington Post. “I won’t stop until someone is held accountable.”
But that could prove tough. The Justice Department recently closed the case because it believes the killers are dead. And to me, it’s one more reminder of how, for some reason, time and inconvenience always seems to get in the way of justice for black people.
I think of how now, while no black people are being killed today for fighting for civil rights in the way that Harry Moore did, many have to fight for their rights after being wrongly convicted.
And many are being convicted mostly by people who tend to see them as criminals first and citizens second – the same way that they did back in the days when Harry Moore was crusading against lynchings.
I think of people like Alan Crotzer, now 50, who spent 24 years of his life behind bars in Florida after being wrongfully convicted of rape, kidnapping and robbery in 1981. Two of the victims, who happened to be white, misidentified him.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Crotzer was freed by DNA evidence. He had to fight to get the state Legislature to give him $1.25 million in 2008 to compensate him for his lost years.
Crotzer wouldn’t get that now. After his case, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law which compensates the wrongfully convicted $50,000 a year for each year they spent behind bars – but only if they’ve had no prior felony convictions.
Crotzer had one. And that’s a loophole crafted by white politicians not on behalf of justice, but of convenience.
There may not be much that Moore can do to get the Justice Department to revisit her parents’ case. But she told the Post that she wants more recognition for them.
And those who run the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama don’t have to be saddled by time and inconvenience to help Moore do that. Moore said they told her they can’t include her parents’ names on the memorial because they were killed before the modern civil rights movement began in 1954 – after the Brown decision. But I think they ought to make an exception.
If anything, the memorial ought to commend martyrs like the Moores for being ahead of their time, not exclude them because they don’t fit a timeline.
Having her parents’ names on the memorial might bring Moore a bit of peace. And after losing them to violence at Christmastime 60 years ago, that might be her greatest holiday present ever”.
The Struggles Continues….Rodney
Robert L. Harris Jr., Ph.D., is professor of African-American History and vice provost emeritus at Cornell University in Ithaca. He is co-editor of “The Columbia Guide to African American History Since 1939.” Prof. Harris gave the keynote address Dec. 3 at the Founders’ Day Luncheon of the Syracuse alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He urged the audience to make it “cool to be a scientist who discovers and builds things.”
Prof. Harris is the national historian for Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which was founded at Cornell in 1906.
At The Post-Standard’s request, Prof. Harris adapted and condensed his remarks, “Soaring High: Teaching Our Young Men the Winning Combination.” The Father of Black History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote in his famous book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro”(1933), that:
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
“Unfortunately, we face similar problems today to those that Dr. Woodson addressed in 1933.
Too many of our young people do not know who they are, their heritage, and therefore have a difficult time determining who they want to become. Popular culture, in many respects today, controls too many young black men’s thinking. They have carved out an inferior space for themselves thinking that the deck in life is stacked against them, so why bother, and that achieving academic success is “acting white.”
I am surprised that many of my students assume that black people have always been the victims of white domination and oppression. They do not understand that Nubia and Egypt had a profound influence on Western Civilization, that Africans in the ancient world were not viewed as racially inferior. Europeans did not enslave Africans because they considered Africans inferior, but defined Africans as inferior to justify enslavement.
Black men have consistently struggled against stereotypes that would confine them to mediocre education, low-skilled employment and exclusion from certain high-status positions. When the country doubted the physical stamina and decision-making ability of black men to fly combat aircraft during World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen stepped forward to have the lowest loss record of all American escort fighter groups.
Like many young black men, he was primarily interested in basketball until he attended a summer educational opportunity program, which inspired him to seek a college education.
Shaun R. Harper and Charles H.F. Davis III, in “They (Don’t) Care about Education: A Counternarrative on Black Male Students’ Responses to Inequitable Schooling,” published in “Educational Foundations” (Winter-Spring, 2012) reveal: “the theory that blacks resist schooling has been embraced by educators and the general public and is practically regarded as common sense.” The dire statistics on low rates of high school completion for black males, academic and social disengagement, and a gap in earning college degrees have become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many of the young men in their study reported growing up having never met a black person who had gone to college or to graduate school. These young men displayed “optimism in the face of despair.”
The world-renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson‘s life story is an important example here. His work on separating conjoined twins has revolutionized neurosurgery.
A graduate of Yale and the University of Michigan Medical School, Carson was raised by a single mother in Detroit, Mich. In the fifth grade, he was teased by fellow students as the dumbest kid in the class. His mother, who had only a third-grade education, took matters into her own hands. Despite working two or three jobs as a domestic, she insisted that Carson and his brother read two books a week and write reports for her, which she couldn’t read, but they did not know that. Within a year and a half, he went from the bottom to the top of his class.
Carson has written in “The Big Picture” that the difference was: “in the fifth grade, I thought I was dumb, so I acted like I was dumb, and I achieved like a dumb person. As a seventh-grader I thought I was smart, so I acted and achieved accordingly.” He asked the critical question: “So what does that say about what a person thinks about his own abilities? What does this say about the importance of our self-image?”
If our young black men are to soar, if they are to achieve their potential, they must have examples of success around them, not just on the athletic field but in every endeavor. As R. Kelly sings in “I Believe I Can Fly”: “If I can see it, then I can do it; If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it.”
We need to let our young men know that there are more board-certified black cardiologists than black basketball players in the NBA. We are up against the power and might of popular culture and the tendency of young people to imitate what they see. We have an awesome responsibility to instill within them a sense of pride and to let them see the possibilities that will enable them to soar high”.
The Struggle Continues…Rodney
December 17, 2011
This country’s national legislative process is brazenly fractured.
Not since slavery, have we had such a contentious debate about the direction we are heading. 250 years ago, it was about the “haves” and the “have nots” with the “haves” hanging on to a vicious and violent free labor way of life that was beneficial to their 1% (or less) minority.
At that time,. Africans were chained literally to the Southern Heritage way of life against their will. Very little has changed today with the haves intent on subjecting the rest of this country to a subservient way of life while they make obscene profits in the process.
You might not call it slavery…and you might not see Africans in chains …but Tea Party Republicans …doing the bidding of the 1%…are still keeping millions of Americans in involuntary servitude.
The Struggle Continues…Rodney
The Confederate Flag is Black People’s Swastika Date: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 By: Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com
“So, Byron Thomas claims that he hung a Confederate flag outside of his dorm room at the University of South Carolina Beaufort because he wants his generation “to start forming our own opinions about things.”
I say he’s been exposed to too many Herman Cain-esque, GOP talking points which imply that black people who don’t acquiesce to their recasting of this nation’s racial history, or who don’t ignore racial reality, are brainwashed illiterates who don’t know any better.
For that, as well as a number of other reasons that caused him to fly the Confederate flag as some sort of symbol of him being liberated from his own history, Thomas ought to be ashamed.
Especially since the flag he’s defending represents a heritage that viewed people like him as a better fit for the cotton fields than for a state university.
Recently, Thomas, a 19-year-old black student from Augusta, Georgia, stirred controversy for hanging a Confederate flag from the window of his dorm room. He took it down before Thanksgiving, but for the wrong reasons: He told The Augusta Chronicle that he did so because the conversation had shifted from “holding to traditional views” to his right to free speech.
Talk about twisted.
Apparently, Thomas believes it’s his job to defend traditional views that ignore the pain of what happened when they were imposed upon people who look like him.
I’m not going to waste a lot of time here picking apart whatever research Thomas said he did that led him to conclude that the Confederate battle flag was merely a “communication symbol” during the Civil War. The only relevant truth here is that the flag was flown by people who were fighting to preserve the right to own slaves – and that’s the only fact that any intelligent black person ought to care about.
It’s here in the 1861 Cornerstone Speech in which Alexander Stephens, the vice-president of the Confederacy, said the following: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea (of racial equality); it’s foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.”
Apparently, Thomas missed that speech.
He also missed the lesson which tells us that most of the time, if a symbol evolves into something painful or offensive, it’s probably a good idea to shelve it.
The swastika, for example, is a symbol of good luck used in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and in various European cultures. But when the Nazis flew it during their reign, in which they exterminated more than 6 million Jews, it became a symbol of pain and racial hatred.
Yet, one would be hard-pressed to find a Jewish person Thomas’ age who’d attempt to defend flying a swastika flag based on what its original intent was. They’d laugh in Thomas’ face if he tried to defend the swastika based on his defense of the Confederate flag – if he told them that they shouldn’t just have a knee-jerk reaction to it.
That’s because too many of them know of family members who either suffered or died in Hitler’s concentration camps to do that.
So, I’m wondering: Did Thomas ever look at any photos of Ku Klux Klan marches or lynchings where Confederate flags appear? Did he look at footage of civil rights marches where segregationists almost always wielded Confederate flags as they were beating or hosing black protesters?
It doesn’t look like he did.
Sadly, it seems Thomas is buying into the idea that the racial unity rests on black people trivializing their past and their pain. It’s a view that says that we owe it to white people to behave ourselves while they revise history in a light that favors them.
And when I see young blacks like Thomas buy into that, I don’t see them doing it because they care about truth. I see them doing it because they see truth as an impediment to seeing themselves as being different or to getting attention.
From people who they shouldn’t be trying to impress”.
The Struggle Continues…Rodney