"If I allow the fact that I am a Negro to checkmate my will to do, now, I will inevitably form the habit of being defeated".
The Jackie Robinson of architecture. An orphaned African American boy from downtown Los Angeles, Paul Revere Williams wanted to be an architect, and when he mentioned his career goal the high school guidance counselor ”stared at me with as much astonishment as he would have had I proposed a rocket flight to Mars... Whoever heard of a Negro being an architect?”. Therefore, Williams learned to read and draw upside down -- he knew that white clients would not sit next to him -- graduated from USC and in 1924 became the first certified African American architect west of the Mississippi. In a 50-year long extraordinary career, he designed landmarks like the Theme restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport (with Welton Becket), the LA County Courthouse, the Hollywood YMCA, Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, restored the Beverly Hills Hotel. Some of his most interesting buildings, like the La Concha Motel in Las Vegas have either been razed to the ground or, like the "Batman house", aka 160 S San Rafael mansion in Pasadena, have been destroyed by fire. Now, Williams' historic Morris Landau House has been cut into 21 separate pieces and sits in a Santa Clarita storage yard, rotting away. More inside.
He complained to [Kingsley] Amis in 1943...that "all women are stupid beings" and remarked in 1983 that he'd recently accompanied Monica [Jones] to a hospital "staffed ENTIRELY by wogs, cheerful and incompetent." ...His views on politics and class seemed to be pithily captured in a ditty he shared again with Amis. "I want to see them starving,/The so-called working class,/Their wages yearly halving,/Their women stewing grass..." For recreation he apparently found time for pornography, preferably with a hint of sado-masochism".
John Banville on Philip Larkin.
John Banville on Philip Larkin.
"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.
Suburban sweatshops. Jorge Bonilla is hospitalized with pneumonia from sleeping at the restaurant where he works, unable to afford rent on wages of thirty cents an hour. Domestic worker Yanira Juarez discovers she has labored for six months with no wages at all; her employer lied about establishing a savings account for her. In 1992, Fordham law professor Jennifer Gordon founded the Workplace Project to help immigrant workers in the underground suburban economy of Long Island, New York. She has written a book ,"Suburban Sweatshops", to describe the experiences of these immigrants. 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)
Stand Up, Speak Up -- Against Racism (and for Nike) A new campaign against the ugly, very present problem of racism in the game of soccer, with soccer stars like Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand. An elegant (if more than a bit tame and unimaginative) new ad by Wieden+Kennedy. The campaign aims to encourage fans to wear interlocked black-and-white wristbands as a symbol of their stand against racism, which can be bought for €2, or £1.50 in the UK. In every Nike store near you. (more inside)