Why I Yelled at the Kara Walker Exhibit: "Anger shot up my body like a hot thermometer. Face flushed, I walked to the Mammy sphinx. Couples posed in front of it, smiling as others took their photos. So here it was, an artwork about how Black people’s pain was transformed into money was a tourist attraction for them... Something snapped... I yelled that this was our history and that many of us were angry and sad that it was a site of pornographic jokes." [more inside]
James Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Michael Schwerner. Murdered by the KKK 50 years ago today, in one of the galvanizing events of the struggle for civil rights in the South. (previously 1, 2, 3) [more inside]
The song "Turkey In The Straw" is one known to millions of Americans as well as many, many others around the world. Here's a National Public Radio article that shines some light on the virulently racist lyrics that attended that familiar old melody in its earlier incarnation. WARNING: Do not go to the link if you wish to avoid racist imagery and slurs.
As part of the bicentennial celebrations of the constitution of Norway, two artists are recreating the "human zoo" featured at the 1914 Oslo World Fair. [more inside]
10 Examples of Asian American and Pacific Islander's Rich History of Resistance counters the notion that "there is a prevailing notion out there that, in contrast to other minorities, Asian Americans “lack a history of resistance” (or that we think we do), and that this invisibility and dearth of civil rights history actually confers upon the Asian American community a form of racial privilege."
Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, has died. McCain was a freshman at North Carolina A&T College when he, along with fellow students Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond (who died in 1990), walked into their local Woolworth's on February 1, 1960, and sat down at a whites-only lunch counter. This spontaneous act of civil disobedience (previously) sparked what would come to be known as the sit-in movement to dismantle Jim Crow.
I Married A Jew. Published January 1, 1939 in the Atlantic.
"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
Fifty years after the March on Washington, Dr. King’s most famous speech, like his own political legacy, is widely misunderstood.
In the 1920's, the Ku Klux Klan operated a resort for Christian white supremacists called Kool Koast Kamp near Rockport, TX. For just a dollar a day per family, they offered swimming and "big game fishing" in "deep blue surf," educational activities and "watermelon parties." All under the protection of a "fiery cross" and "an officer of the law, the same Christian sentiment." (Brochure pages 1, 2, 3, 4) [more inside]
The first thing we learned about war re-enactment is that it's fucking terrifying having guns fired at you, even ones loaded with blanks. The second thing we learned is a common re-enactor's dilemma called "The G.I. Effect", which is basically that people playing Americans don't like to die. So sometimes they just don't.It's Like Vietnam All Over Again, pt 1. Part 2
Anyone familiar with the contemporary Russian humorous folklore (jokelore, or in Russian anekdoty) knows that one of the most popular series of such jokes revolves around the Chukchis, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia. These jokes, especially popular in 1990s and 2000s, fit the international genre of ethnic stupidity jokes . . .
The Burns Archive is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
Images of a People's Movement - more than 18 pages of photos and dozens of first-hand narratives, interviews & recollections of the 1951-1968 Southern Freedom Movement by the Civil Rights Movement Veterans. (These are just samplings - it's a deep and rich site.) [more inside]
Racebox.org A history of racial classification on the U.S. Census from 1790 to 2010.
After a fruitless hunt for Pancho Villa, General Pershing and his forces withdrew from northern Mexico in early 1917. But, "[w]hat to do with 300 Chinese who have associated themselves with the punitive expedition?" [more inside]
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is a directory of historic sites that interpret themes related to ethical, political, and social issues worldwide.
900 caricatures of noted Victorian and Edwardian personages from British society magazine Vanity Fair which ran from 1868 to 1914. Among those pictured are Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Alfred Dreyfus, Teddy Roosevelt, Gustave Eiffel and Charles Boycott (from whose name comes the word). A couple are mildly not safe for work, a few quite racist, as was the prevalent attitude of the time, and at least one is both.
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*]
Through a Lens Darkly - on September 4, 1957, when 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Little Rock Central High, she was blocked by the National Guard and surrounded by a screaming mob of 250: "Lynch her! Lynch her!" "No nigger bitch is going to get in our school! Get out of here!" "Go back to where you came from!" Looking for a friendly face, she turned to an old woman, who spat on her. Photos. Dramatic news footage. Ernest Green, another of the Little Rock 9 recalls the first day of school. [more inside]
Eliminationism in America. A ten-part series by David Neiwert. [More inside.]
Spots Before Your Eyes, an award-winning series of animated shorts promoting tolerance and human relations, produced in the 1950s by the American Jewish Committee (at AJC Archives)
Bought from a slave trader and put on display at the Bronx zoo: the strange, sad story of Ota Benga, a Pygmy with filed teeth brought from the Congo to America in 1906. Here are a couple of contemporary news accounts of the controversial exhibit. After the zoo, Benga tried to make a life in America, studying to be a missionary. "But what he really wanted to do was to tell everyone in this country that his people were dying, and why. I think he thought that eventually they'd listen. But they never did. That, to me, is the real tragedy." In 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth, performed a final tribal dance, and shot himself with a stolen pistol. Creationists say the story illustrates "the racism of evolutionary theory" and "the horrors that evolutionary theory has brought to society."
Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of Racism in America, by James Loewen (author's site; Dallas Morning News; Washington Post; Dallas Historical Society; Washington City Paper; Wikipedia)
"Approximately 250,000 persons viewed and passed by the bier of little Emmett Till. All were shocked, some horrified and appalled. Many prayed, scores fainted and practically all, men, women and children wept". Chicago Defender, September 1, 1955. Federal officials this morning erected a white tent over the grave of Emmett Till in Alsip, Ill., in preparation to exhume the body to shed light on the Chicago teenager's death 50 years ago. Till, 14 years old at the time, was killed in a hate crime in Money, Miss., that sparked the Civil Rights movement. (previous Emmett Till MeFi threads here and here)
"I am an American, so that is why I make films about America. America is sitting on our world, I am making films that have to do with America (because) 60% of my life is America. So I am in fact an American, but I can't go there to vote, I can't change anything. We are a nation under influence and under a very bad influence… because Mr. Bush is an asshole and doing very idiotic things." Lars Von Trier introduces his new film at the Cannes Film Festival: «Manderlay» picks up where «Dogville» left off, with the character originated by Nicole Kidman -- now played by Bryce Dallas Howard -- stumbling onto a plantation that time forgot, where slavery still operates in the 1930s. The film (5 MB .pdf file, official pressbook) ends, as Dogville did, with David Bowie’s Young Americans played over a photomontage of images that range from a Ku Klux Klan meeting to the Rodney King beating, George Bush at prayer and Martin Luther King at his final rest, American soldiers in Vietnam and the Gulf, the Twin Towers. More inside.
Rebecca's Revival. Rebecca Protten, born a slave in 1718, gained her freedom and joined a group of proselytizers from the Moravian Church. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, West Indies. Weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas. University of Florida historian Jon Sensbach has written a book about Protten's life -- the interracial marriage, the trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, the travels to Germany and West Africa. Later in her life, after she moved to Germany, Rebecca was ordained as a deaconess: "a former slave now administered Communion and practiced other claims to spiritual authority over white women, including European aristocrats." More inside.
Sarah Roberts vs. Boston In 1848, five-year-old Sarah Roberts was barred from the local primary school because she was black. Her father sued the City (.pdf file). The lawsuit was part of an organized effort by the African-American community to end racially segregated schools. The book "Sarah's Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America" tells the story of the case of Roberts v. City of Boston, that remains a little-known landmark in the civil rights movement.
Call her Madame. Among the old-timers, the story went like this: a woman known to everyone as Madame came to California from Kentucky with her children and her husband. But once they were in the Gold Rush State, her husband left her. Desperate to find work, she introduced herself to a movie director named D. W. Griffith. He not only cast her in his movie, but the two became friends for life. And with this woman, called Madame Sul-Te-Wan, what we now call Black Hollywood began -- as a new book by historian Donald Bogle explains. (more inside)
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.
Peekskill, 1949. "The mob was rolling toward us for the second attack. This was, in a way, the worst of that night. For one thing, it was still daylight; later, when night fell, our own sense of organization helped us much more, but this was daylight and they poured down the road and into us, swinging broken fenceposts, billies, bottles, and wielding knives..." Howard Fast's account of a terrifying evening that was supposed to be an outdoor concert near Peekskill, NY. You can think about the political implications ("...it illustrates how easily, when terror is unleashed in a nation, it can take hold, and how thin the line is that separates constitutional government from tyranny and dictatorship...") or just enjoy the riveting tale. (Related song and picture here.)
Tulsa Race Riots of 1921: Who pays? I don't think Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating's pledge to fundraise for a memorial/museum will suffice as a remedy -- or cut much mustard with survivors and their families. (Background info here.)
The Pornography of Racist Violence: NYT Columnist Margo Jefferson reviews "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America", and says the book is a "record of what we can call civil war crimes." She goes on to say:
"The images are also what the historian Leon F. Litwack calls, in his introduction, race pornography: they were often made into picture postcards that were mailed, with curt, gleeful or venomous messages to friends and foes with nary a peep from the United States postal authorities."
"We apologize for any involvement in the terrible practice of buying and selling human beings." The Hartford Courant, the oldest newspaper in continuous publication in the United States, ran a front page apology for slavery on the 4th of July. What will it take for the U.S. Congress to do the same?