MLK Day 2014: Humanizing a King to Celebrate Him

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala., March 22, 1956. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses in a campaign to desegregate the bus system, but a judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

On March 22, 1956, the 27-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was having a horrible day. He’d just been convicted for his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and sentenced to pay $1,000 or spend 386 days in jail. After the ruling and motion to appeal, he walked out of the courthouse a temporarily free man, but his spirit was shaken.

All of a sudden, his wife Coretta rushed at him, threw her arms around him, and kissed him in front of about 300 people who’d gathered outside. The biggest smile ever captured on King swept across his face, and his eyes lifted to the heavens with the giddiness of a young man in love.

In the photo that caught this moment, we see a side of him that sometimes gets lost in our remembrances. For all the important things that Dr. King would go on to do in his life, that day he was just a regular young man whose rough day was made better by a little sugar from the one he loved.

Remembering King as a man, not just a legend

Today, the nation pauses for a moment to pay homage to the legacy of Dr. King. During his less than fifteen years in the national spotlight, he became the voice and embodiment of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Our perception of him is deeply influenced by the iconic pictures and films of King delivering powerful speeches, leading marches in the Deep South, and with his hand outstretched towards the sea of people at the 1963 March on Washington.

These many images and the society-shifting changes that his efforts helped bring about have elevated him to a heroic status with a larger-than-life character. This deification pushed him into a place in our memories that sometimes feels beyond our reach of comprehension as fellow mortals. Continue reading

Alabama Panel Targets State Constitution To Strike Out Racist Language

Alabama State Capitol Building

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A state panel has proposed striking segregationist language from Alabama’s 1901 constitution that mandates separate schools for “white and colored children.”  The Anniston Star reports the Alabama Constitutional Review Commission voted 9-7 Monday (http://bit.ly/165Hc57) to propose that Section 256 of the document instead say the state will maintain a system of public schools and to drop references to segregation.

The passage hasn’t had legal authority since the civil rights movement. Some state leaders say they’d like to strike the passage because it’s an embarrassment to Alabama.  Commissioner Carolyn McKinstry told the newspaper it’s disappointing more people didn’t agree on the topic.  Two prior attempts at striking the passage have failed. In 2004, opponents said dropping the language could allow courts to demand equal funding for the state’s school districts.

article by Associated Press via huffingtonpost.com

Alabama Legislation Proposing to Finally Exonerate Scottsboro Boys

scottsboro(3)MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — In 1931, Alabama wanted to execute the black Scottsboro Boys because two white women claimed they were gang-raped. Now, state officials are trying to exonerate them in a famous case from the segregated South that some consider the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

Two Democratic and two Republican legislators unveiled proposals Monday for the legislative session starting Tuesday. A resolution labels the Scottsboro Boys as “victims of a series of gross injustice” and declares them exonerated. A companion bill gives the state parole board the power to issue posthumous pardons.

Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur said Alabama can’t change history, “but that does not that mean we should not take steps today to address things that we can here in the 21st century that might not have been as they should have been.”

Gov. Robert Bentley’s press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said he supports the effort to pardon the Scottsboro Boys and believes “it’s time to right this wrong.”

Sheila Washington, founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in Scottsboro, started organizing the effort after the museum opened in 2010.

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Rosa Parks’ Stamp on American History

George Bridges/Getty Images

Today, to honor the Feb. 4 centennial of the birth of Rosa Parks, the United States Postal Service has issued a Rosa Parks stamp. Last year, a stone carving of Parks was added to the National Cathedral. In 2005, she became the first woman and second African American to lie in honor in the nation’s Capitol and, through a special act of Congress, a statue of her was ordered placed in the Capitol.

Yet these tributes to Rosa Parks rest on a narrow and distorted vision of her legacy. As the story goes, a quiet Montgomery, Ala., seamstress with a single act challenged Southern segregation, catapulted a young Martin Luther King Jr. into national leadership and ushered in the modern civil rights movement. Parks’ memorialization promotes an improbable children’s story of social change — one not-angry woman sat down, the country was galvanized and structural racism was vanquished.

This fable diminishes the extensive history of collective action against racial injustice and underestimates the widespread opposition to the black freedom movement, which for decades treated Parks’ political activities as “un-American.” Most important, it skips over the enduring scourge of racial inequality in American society — a reality that Parks continued to highlight and challenge — and serves contemporary political interests that treat racial injustice as a thing of the past.

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Rosa Parks Statue to be Added to Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill

Rosa Parks Statue Will Be Added to Capitol Later This Year

Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks (Photo: CBS/Landov)

The late Rosa Parks continues to make history. Her likeness will be depicted in a statue later this year at Capitol Hill’s Statuary Hall, making her the first African-American woman to achieve the mark.

Each of the 50 states donates two statues of their most prominent citizens to Statuary Hall. Rosa Parks will be representative of the state of Alabama where she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and became the “mother of the civil rights movement.”  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced the statue would be revealed in late 2013. As chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, he is also in charge of artwork in the Capitol.

Congress passed an order to place the statue in the hall in 2005. In 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a design competition calling artists to submit designs for the statue.  The U.S. Postal Service is also commemorating the life of Rosa Parks. On Feb. 4, the postal service is issuing a special “Historic Forever” stamp in honor of Parks’ 100th birthday.

Detroit will be the first city to sell the Rosa Parks stamp.

 article by Natelege Whaley via bet.com

R.I.P. James Hood, Student Activist Who Fought Segregation at University of Alabama

FILE - In this June 9, 1963 file photo, James A. Hood and Vivian J. Malone of Alabama pose in New York. Alabama Gov. George Wallace said he would personally bar them from registering at the University of Alabama despite a restraining order. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)
In this June 9, 1963 file photo, James A. Hood and Vivian J. Malone of Alabama pose in New York. Alabama Gov. George Wallace said he would personally bar them from registering at the University of Alabama despite a restraining order. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One of the first black students who enrolled at the University of Alabama a half century ago in defiance of racial segregation has died. James Hood of Gadsden was 70.  Officials at Adams-Buggs Funeral Home in Gadsden said they are handling arrangements for Hood, who died Thursday.

Then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace made his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” in a failed effort to prevent Hood and Vivian Malone from registering for classes at the university in 1963.  Hood and Malone were accompanied by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach when they were confronted by Wallace as they attempted to enter the university’s Foster Auditorium to register for classes and pay fees.

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