The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
"So I'm literally walking around and talking to people, "Is there a black-owned restaurant, or a black-owned dry cleaner?" and folks are looking at me like I'm insane. And if I didn't know this, I'm sure that folks outside the black community don't have this as part of their reality or part of their picture for black America. When we talk about black people, the black situation, problems in the black community, you know, we start with, "Black kids are least likely to graduate from school; black unemployment is four times higher than the national average," all these numbers. But why can't we include that over 90 percent of businesses in the black community are not owned by black people or local residents? If we were to add that to the conversation, maybe folks would say, "Oh, well no wonder things are so bad there," and start thinking about things in a different way instead of allowing those awful numbers to be a reflection of our propensities. Why is it that my people are just supposed to be the perpetual consumer class, and everyone else is supposed to benefit from our money?"
If you hadn't heard of Jim Crow before, this is where you can find a brief history on the subject (along with a radio broadcast of some of the people who were involved). Bayard Rustin's Journey of Reconciliation: America's First Freedom Ride (You Don't Have To Ride "Jim Crow") was a precursor [audio and video] to the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's. (Also, a look at the Jim Crow Museum and a walk down Jim Crow Road today.) [previously*]
Only in 1967 did Loving v. Virginia overturn vigorously-enforced laws against interracial marriage in these 15 states--Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Only in 1964 did the Civil Rights Act overturn laws against equal access to voting, public accommodation, and public education. Only in 1963 did the Equal Pay Act mandate that men and women be paid the same wage for the same work at the same job. History isn't a superhighway, leading us in straight lines toward utopia. We fall back and we move forward, but over the past fifty years, the United States has become considerably more inclusive and equality of access to opportunity has widened. Take a look at this article from the Atlantic Monthly in 1956--1956!--if you don't believe me.
I See the Promised Land "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord"---MLKing Jr.