Monthly Archives: May 2012

“To Form A More Perfect Union”, United States Postal Service Stamp Issue Recognizing Civil Rights Landmark Events


Executive Order 9981
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 mandating full integration in all branches of the U.S. military. By the time the Korean conflict ended in the following decade, this had largely been achieved. William H. Johnson's Training for War, a silk-screen print made circa 1941, recalls President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order.

Brown v. Board of Education

A unanimous ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate educational facilities for black and white children are inherently unequal. The landmark ruling is suggested by Romare Bearden's lithograph, The Lamp (1984).

Montgomery Bus Boycott
After Rosa Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955 for refusing to let a white passenger take her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, African Americans began a prolonged boycott of the bus company by walking or carpooling for more than a year. On Dec. 21, 1956, black passengers once again rode Montgomery City Lines. The Boycott is represented by a detail from Walking, a painting made in 1958 by Charles Alston.

Little Rock Nine
After the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), many public school systems were slow to adapt to the new legal reality. In 1957, nine courageous students became the first African Americans to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they endured virulent harassment and received the protection of federal troops. George Hunt's painting America Cares (1997) remembers the nine courageous students.

Lunch Counter Sit-Ins
When four African-American college students placed an order at a "whites only" lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, in 1960, they sparked acts of civil disobedience in many other cities. The sit-in movement to integrate "whites- only" lunch counters is recalled by an exhibit created for the National Civil Rights Museum by StudioEIS, a design and fabrication firm in New York.

Freedom Riders

To test a ruling that outlawed segregation of bus stations and terminals serving interstate travelers, biracial groups of men and women volunteered to take bus rides through the South, using the "wrong" facilities at stops. Several Freedom Riders were injured because of mob violence instigated by segregationists, eliciting an outpouring of support and concern. A gouache by May Stevens, Freedom Riders, made in 1963, honors the men and women.

March on Washington

More than 250,000 people marched in Washington, DC for racial justice in 1963, and Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. March on Washington, painted in 1964 by Alma Thomas, commemorates the great demonstration.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Designed to provide broad protections against discrimination on the basis of race, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Among its other provisions, the law prohibited discrimination in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants and theaters. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is suggested by Dixie Cafe, a brush-and-ink drawing made in 1948 by Jacob Lawrence.

Selma March

In the spring of 1965, demonstrators demanding an end to discrimination gathered in Selma, Alabama, to march to the state capital, Montgomery, fifty miles away, This is represented by Selma March, an acrylic painting made in 1991 by Bernice Sims.

Voting Rights Act of 1965
With leaders of the civil rights movement standing by, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, strengthening the federal government's ability to prevent state and local governments from denying citizens the right to vote because of their race. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is suggested by Bruce Davidson's photograph Youths on the Selma March, 1965.

These stamps were issued as a group (of 10) in 2005. A Great Recognition of the Movement! RLHSR.

Mr. Thurgood Marshall…Hero


Led by Thurgood Marshall (middle of picture in coat) and a host of 'Dream Team' Attorneys as lawyers for the Plaintiffs, the United States Supreme Court issued its monumental ruling on school segregation in the Brown versus the Topeka Kansas Board of Education on May 17, 1954, with a unanimous (9–0) decision stating that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself, drawing on research conducted by Kenneth Clark assisted by June Shagaloff. This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were "equal", which under Plessy they nominally should have been, but whether the doctrine of separate was constitutional. The justices answered with a strong "no".

It also held that school segregation violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The following year the Court ordered desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Thurgood Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His exclusion from the University of Maryland's Law School due to racial discrimination, marked a turning point in his life. As a result, he attended the Howard University Law School, and graduated first in his class in 1933. Early in his career he traveled throughout the South and argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court, winning twenty-nine. Charles H. Houston persuaded him to leave private law practice and join the NAACP legal staff in New York, where he remained from 1936 until 1961. In 1939, Marshall became the first director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as Solicitor General in 1965 and nominated him to a seat on the United States Supreme Court in 1967 from which he retired in 1991. Justice Marshall died in 1993.

An open letter from Rev. Otis Moss III to the Black Clergy

My Brother:

Tell your brethren who are part of your ministerial coalition to “live their faith and not legislate their faith” for the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of all. We must learn to be more than a one-issue community and seek the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.

There is no doubt people who are same-gender-loving who occupy prominent places in the body of Christ. For the clergy to hide from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance of a theological position. When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we run the risk of adopting a doctrinal position of deep conviction but devoid of love. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but it is the ethic of love that forces us to prayerfully reexamine our position.

The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, “Should all Americans have the same civil rights?” This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, “Does the church have the right to perform or not perform certain religious rites.” There is difference between rights and rites. We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective. These two questions are answered in two fundamentally different arenas. One is answered in the arena of civic debate where the Constitution is the document of authority. The other is answered in the realm of ecclesiastical councils where theology, conscience and biblical mandates are the guiding ethos. I do not believe ecclesiastical councils are equipped to shape civic legislation nor are civic representatives equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.

The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words. Marriage was under attack years ago by men who viewed women as property and children as trophies of sexual prowess. Marriage is under attack by low wages, high incarceration, unfair tax policy, unemployment, and lack of education. Marriage is under attack by clergy who proclaim monogamy yet think nothing of stepping outside the bonds of marriage to have multiple affairs with “preaching groupies.” Same-gender couples did not cause the high divorce rate, but our adolescent views of relationships and our inability as a community to come to grips with the ethic of love and commitment did. We still confuse sex with love and romance with commitment.

My father, who is a veteran of the civil rights movement and retired pastor, eloquently stated the critical nature of this election when speaking to ministers this past week who claim they will pull support from the President as a result of his position. He stated, “Our Ancestors prayed for 389 years to place a person of color in the White House. They led over 200 slave revolts, fought in 11 wars, one being a civil war where over 600,000 people died. Our mothers fought and were killed for women’s suffrage, our grandparents were lynched for the civil rights bill of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965…my father never had the opportunity to vote and I believe it is my sacred duty to pull the lever for every member of my family who was denied the right to vote. I will not allow narrow-minded ministers or regressive politicians the satisfaction of keeping me from my sacred right to vote to shape the future for my grandchildren.”

“The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words.”

Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures, and attack upon health care. Poor underfunded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law. We have much work to do as a community, and to claim the President of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is President of the United States of America not the President of the Baptist convention or Bishop of the Sanctified or Holiness Church. He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, Gay and straight, black and white, Atheist and Agnostic. It should be noted the President offered no legislation, or executive order, or present an argument before the Supreme Court. He simply stated his personal conviction.

If we dare steal away from the noise of this debate, we will realize as a church we are called to “Do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.” Gay people have never been the enemy; and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.

I am not asking you to change your position, but I am stating we must stay in dialogue and not allow our own personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from seeing the possibilities of a beloved community.

November is fast approaching, and the spirits of Ella Baker, Septima Clarke, Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, A. Phillip Randolph, James Orange, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther, King Jr. stand in the balcony of heaven raising the question, “Will you do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with our God?” Emmitt Till and the four little girls who were assassinated in Alabama during worship did not die for a Sunday sermonic sound bite to show disdain for one group of God’s people. They were killed by an evil act enacted by men who believed in doctrine over love. We serve in ministry this day because of a man who believed in love over doctrine and died on a hill called Calvary in a dusty Palestinian community 2,000 years ago. Do not let the rhetoric of this debate keep you from the polls, my friend.

Asking you to imagine a beloved community, your brother and friend,

Otis Moss, III
Senior Pastor
Trinity UCC

SPECIAL NOTE…The video of Rev. Moss is located in the "Links" Section on the right of this Front Page.  RLHSR.