Category: History

Historic Shelley House in St. Louis Gets Official Recognition on New U.S. Civil Rights Trail

When J.D. Shelley and Ethel Shelley attempted to buy this house at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis in 1948, they were told it could not be sold to blacks. Their fight went to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in a ruling that struck down racial covenants in housing. (Photo: FrancisNancy via commons.wikipedia.org)

The historic “Shelley House” at 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis was dedicated yesterday by the National Park Service as Missouri’s first official site on the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail. U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay and Aurelia Skipwith, deputy assistant Secretary of Interior, headlined the event.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, created by legislation written by Clay, aims to preserve significant places that had critical roles in the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Shelley House was at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision (Shelley v. Kraemer) which struck down restrictive racial covenants in housing in 1948. The nationally impactful decision pitted J.D. and Ethel Shelley, a black couple who wanted to buy the house, against Louis and Fern Kraemer, white neighbors who tried to keep them out.

Other notables in attendance were St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt, and members of the Shelley family.

Source: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/joe-holleman/historic-civil-rights-house-in-st-louis-gets-official-u/article_2c7013a7-11db-511e-8955-80d61b1e85cf.html

Inaugural HBCU World Series Starts May 24th, Aims to Diversify College Baseball

According to Yahoo! Sports, the first of what organizations intend to be an annual event will feature the North Carolina A&T Aggies and Southern Jaguars at the Chicago White Sox Guaranteed Rate Field. It will join The Andre Dawson Classic as ways to promote HBCU schools, which are slowly watching their baseball programs fold.

Erwin Prentiss Hill, CEO of Black College Sports Group 360 (BCSG), told HBCU Sports he wants the event to “promote education opportunities to urban youth” who may not know of the schools or how to navigate the college admissions process.

 From HBCU Sports:

“Greatness comes from historically black colleges and universities. The bottom line is to get more urban youth back to our HBCU’s, so that talented young men and women can add to the legacy of our outstanding predominantly black universities.”

Baseball’s decline in lower-income communities

The cost of playing sports can add up quickly for families. It’s especially difficult to have to pay for a glove, cleats, bats and even uniform costs, now that there are fewer programs supported through park or school programs.

Participating on a travel team is even costlier and can require more shuttling around from parents, who might already be working multiple jobs to get by. Little League is so high-stakes it’s must-see TV in August.

Billy Witz covered the lack of African-American players on HBCU rosters Monday for the New York Times and noted the decline of baseball through the eyes of Bethune-Cookman athletic director Lynn Thompson. Thompson said places where he played sandlot ball in the 1960s were paved over for basketball courts and parking lots.

Recently, however, the percentage of black players on Major League Baseball‘s opening-day rosters in 2018 was the highest in six years at 8.4 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, 20 percent of first-round draft picks were African-American. Those numbers are in part due to MLB’s focus on its Urban Youth Academies that started in Compton, California, in 2006 and its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, launched in 1989.

“It’s been a huge investment for us,” Renee Tirado, MLB’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said last spring. “Obviously growing the game amongst our players is a priority, so that uptick has definitely been from a concerted effort.”

Perhaps a focus on HBCU baseball will bring those numbers even higher in the coming years.

To read more: https://theshadowleague.com/ncat-southern-inaugural-hbcu-world-series/

DOCUMENTARY: “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” Tells Story of Marion Stokes, Activist and Archivist Who Single-Handedly Preserved Over 30 Years of TV History

Marion Stokes privately recorded television twenty-four hours a day for over thirty years.

Stokes is the subject of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, a new documentary that highlights her work as an archivist, but paints a complex picture of a woman who was brushed off as an eccentric for most of her life. For thirty-plus years, multiple tapes (sometimes as many as eight) would record concurrently across multiple televisions as Stokes personally watched two monitors at once.

Former librarian Stokes, who became independently wealthy through technology and real estate investments, began casually recording television in 1977 and taped a variety of programs, but thought news was especially important.

In 1979 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which coincided with the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle, Stokes began recording MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CNBC, and CSPAN around the clock by running as many as eight television recorders at a time. Marion single-handedly built an archive of network, local, and cable news from her Philadelphia home, one tape at a time, recording every major (and trivial) news event until the day she died.

The taping ended on December 14, 2012 while the Sandy Hook massacre played on television as Stokes passed away from lung disease at the age of 83. In between, she recorded on 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, lies, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows, and commercials that tell us who we were, and show how television shaped the world of today.

“She was interested in access to information, documenting media, making sure people had the information they needed to make good decisions,” says the film’s director, Matt Wolf.

Stokes was no stranger to television and its role in molding public opinion. An activist archivist, she had been a librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia for nearly 20 years before being fired in the early 1960s, likely for her work as a Communist party organizer.

From 1968 to 1971, she had co-produced Input, (which itself was recently recovered and digitized) a Sunday-morning talk show airing on the local Philadelphia CBS affiliate, with John S. Stokes Jr., who would later become her husband.

Input brought together academics, community and religious leaders, activists, scientists, and artists to openly discuss social justice issues and other topics of the day. Marion also was engaged in civil rights issues, helping organize buses to the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, among other efforts.

“Our vision is really aligned with Marion’s,” says Roger Macdonald, director of the television archives at the Internet Archive. “It’s really bold and ambitious: universal access to all knowledge.” Marion’s son had contacted the Internet Archive when he was trying to find a home for her tapes in 2013.

Macdonald immediately seized the opportunity. Those tapes were soon donated to the Internet Archive and are still in the process of being organized and digitized.

To read more about Marion Stokes and Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (https://recorderfilm.com):

https://www.fastcompany.com/3022022/the-incredible-story-of-marion-stokes-who-single-handedly-taped-35-years-of-tv-news

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/marion-stokes-television-news-archive

https://theoutline.com/post/7370/recorder-documentary-marion-stokes-interview-matt-wolf?fbclid=IwAR3eFB6ld4rxYoKnFfEgR19qbBk76OAD1P_Ok2NcgQQeYylgacCKyoIBm0M&zd=3&zi=g25ve4g2

Upcoming screenings of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project:

Montclair Film Festival
May 8, 12

Maryland Film Festival
May 9, 10

SF DocFest
June 8, 10

MCA Chicago
June 21

Interview with Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project director Matt Wolf, which includes clip from film at 6min mark:

Delaware State University Establishes Center for Global Africa to Educate Descendants of Enslaved People on Their African Past

via jbhe.com

HBCU Delaware State University has announced that it will soon establish a Center for Global Africa. The goal of the new center is to re-educate the descendants of enslaved people on not only their African past, but also to renew and strengthen their present connection to the continent of their ethnic origin.

Ezrah Aharone (photo via linkedin.com)

Ezrah Aharone, an adjunct professor of political science, has been the driving force behind the establishment of the center. He believes it will be a major conduit that connects scholars from HBCUs to Africa, where they will collaborate with the intellectual assets on that continent.

“The Center for Global Africa at DSU is designed to be a centralized location and agency to coordinate the diaspora involvement in the affairs of Africa,” Aharone said. “It is a coordinating institution that will involve other HBCUs, as well as corporation sponsors who will be directly involved in the economic facilitation in what we do.”

The new center already has plans to conduct an African economic development project involving asset mapping. Scholars from the center will travel to different African countries, evaluate their assets, and assist the country’s leaders in developing strategic plans for economic growth.

Faculty and students from the College of Business are also planning on contributing to the center’s efforts.

Dr. Akwasi Osei (via twitter.com)

Dr. Akwasi Osei, associate dean of the College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences, was a key contributor in the initial work for establishing the center. He believes that it is a great example of the global outreach and service that is happening at Delaware State.

“The idea of the descendants of Africa helping their kith and kin on the continent is not new; it has a long history,” said Dr. Osei. “The Center for Global Africa’s activities, therefore, represent a 21st Century contribution to this noble cause.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/04/delaware-state-university-establishes-the-center-for-global-africa/

New Basquiat Exhibit at Guggenheim in NY to Center His Cultural Activism and Identity

Jean-Michel Basquiat Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983 Acrylic and marker on wood, framed, 63.5 x 77.5 cm Collection of Nina Clemente, New York © Estate of Jean-Michael Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar Photo: Allison Chipak © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

An exhibition of rarely-seen work by famed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat will be on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from June 21 to November 6 this year.

The Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story exhibition will be supplemented with work by other artists of Basquiat’s generation and will explore a formative chapter in the artist’s career and the role of cultural activism in New York City during the early 1980s.

The exhibition takes as its starting point the painting Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), created by Basquiat in 1983 to commemorate the fate of the young, Black artist Michael Stewart at the hands of New York City transit police after allegedly tagging a wall in an East Village subway station.

Originally painted on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio, Defacement was not meant to be seen widely and has rarely been exhibited in a public context. With approximately twenty paintings and works on paper by Basquiat and his contemporaries, this presentation around Defacement will examine Basquiat’s exploration of Black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular aesthetic language of empowerment.

The works on view by Basquiat will further illustrate his engagement with state authority as well as demonstrate his adaptation of crowns as symbols for the canonization of historical Black figures. Also featured will be archival material related to Stewart’s death, including diaries and protest posters, along with samples of artwork from Stewart’s estate.

Paintings and prints made by other artists in response to Stewart’s death and the subsequent criminal trial of the police officers charged in his killing to be presented include Haring’s Michael Stewart—U.S.A. for Africa (1985); Andy Warhol’s screenprinted “headline” paintings from 1983 incorporating a New York Daily News article on Stewart’s death; David Hammons’s stenciled print titled The Man Nobody Killed (1986), and Lyle Ashton Harris’s photographic portrait Saint Michael Stewart (1994), all of which are testaments to the solidarity among artists at the time and the years following.

To learn more: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/basquiats-defacement-the-untold-story

Intersection in Harlem Renamed in Honor of Acting Legends and Activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (photo via Facebook)

According to New York Amsterdam News, on Saturday the northeast corner of 123rd Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue in Harlem was renamed in honor of famed acting and civil rights couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (Purlie Victorious, Countdown At Kusini, Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever).

The Dwyer Cultural Center hosted the ceremonial unveiling of ‘Ruby Dee Place’ and ‘Ossie Davis Way’. Dee and Davis’ children, Nora Day Hasna Muhammad and Guy Davis, attended the event, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton, former New York City mayor David Dinkins, Assemblywoman Inez Dickens and State Sen. Brian Benjamin.

The Dwyer opened its gallery to the public to view an exhibit dedicated to Dee and Davis with numerous storyboards displayed related to the work of the couple and Cliff Frazier. The public also participated in a community mosaic mural.

To learn more about Dee and Davis’ lives, work, philanthropy and scholarships, go to: https://ossieandruby.com or follow @EverythingOssieandRuby

Or check out their story in their own words:

To see video of the street re-naming, watch below:

And The Children Shall Lead Them: Georgetown University Students Vote to Pay Fee to Benefit Descendants of Enslaved People Sold By School

Georgetown University Healy Hall (photo via wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, the student body of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. recently voted on a proposal to add a semester fee of $27.20 that would go toward a fund to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved persons once owned and then sold in 1838 by the university to pay off debt. The referendum passed by a vote of 2,541 to 1,304, which means nearly two-thirds of enrolled students are in favor of the new fee.

“The university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday’s election,” said Todd Olson, Georgetown’s Vice President for Student Affairs, in an official statement. “Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”

Georgetown administrators, however, have said the student referendum is nonbinding, and the school’s 39-member board of directors would have to vote on the measure, according to the school’s student newspaper, the Hoya.

If Georgetown’s board approves, reports The Huffington Post, it would be one of the first major U.S. institutions to create a fund for slavery reparations.

Critics of the reparations fund have argued that it should not be current students’ responsibility to atone for the school’s past.

Like many American institutions in recent years, Georgetown has been grappling with its role in slavery. Last year, Georgetown issued a formal apology to the descendants of the 272 slaves and announced a policy to give them priority in admissions. The university also renamed two campus buildings, including one in honor of Isaac Hawkins, the first person listed in the 1838 sale.

Nationally, the issue of reparations has been in the spotlight lately. Earlier this week, the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled “When Slaveowners Got Reparations”, pointing out how President Lincoln signed a bill in 1862 that paid up to $300 to slaveholders for every enslaved person freed when he emancipated those in bondage in Washington D.C. In 2014, journalist and best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations,” for The Atlantic, highlighting the topic, and even typically conservative NY Times writer David Brooks wrote in March why he’s come around to the cause.

Several 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have expressed support, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who this week announced legislation to study the issueSens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also have called for a closer look at the issue.

“Jamestown to Jamestown”: NAACP to Commemorate 400 Years of African Diaspora this August

At the 50th NAACP Image Awards, the NAACP announced its historic Jamestown to Jamestown” event partnership with Ghana, marking the 400th year enslaved Africans first touched the shores of what would become the United States of America.

An official event of Ghana’s “Year of Return,” Jamestown to Jamestown will allow for NAACP leadership, NAACP members, and members of the African American community to honor both ancestors and the struggle for Black liberation in a groundbreaking trek from Jamestown, Virginia to Jamestown in Accra, Ghana in August of this year.

“Jamestown to Jamestown represents one of the most powerful moments in the history of the Black Experience,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We are now able to actualize the healing and collective unity so many generations have worked to achieve in ways which bring power to our communities in America, Africa and throughout our Diaspora.”

The Jamestown to Jamestown events kickoff August 18 in Washington D.C., where participants will travel via bus to Jamestown, Virginia for a prayer vigil and candle- ighting ceremony marking the African “Maafa,” a term describing the horrific suffering embedded in the past four centuries related to the enslavement process.

Participants will then travel back to DC for a gathering at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (which was designed by Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye) prior to departing to Ghana on a direct flight for 7 to 10 days of cultural, spiritual and cathartic experiences designed to connect the present to the African past.

Some trip events include:

• Prayer Vigil at Jamestown, VA Settlement

• Direct Chartered Flight to Ghana from Washington, DC

• Ancestral Healing Ceremony at Jamestown, Accra

• Business, Investment & Development Summit

• Black Tie Gala

• AfricanAncestry.com DNA Reveal Ceremony

• Cape Coast and Elmina Castle Visit

• Assin Manso Last Bath Slave River

• Akwasidae Festival @ Manhyia Palace in Kumasi

To learn more about Jamestown to Jamestown, visit: jamestown2jamestown.com

To learn more about The Year of Return, visit: http://www.yearofreturn.com

Jamestown to Jamestown Partners:

South African Airways

AfricanAncestry.com

Ministry of Tourism Arts & Culture

Ghana Tourism Authority

Diaspora Affairs, Office of The President – Ghana

Sunseekers Tours

The Adinkra Group

Princeton Seminary Students Call for Reparations and Creation of Black Church Studies Program for School’s Role in Slavery

Alexander Hall at Princeton Theological Seminary (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to the Washington Post, the Association of Black Seminarians, who are comprised of Princeton Theological Seminary students, have petitioned for and are calling on the institution to offer reparations for its role in and past ties to slavery. To quote the Post:

“A group of black seminarians has collected more than 400 signatures in an online petition calling on the institution to “make amends” by setting aside $5.3 million annually — or 15 percent of what the seminary uses from its endowment for its operating expenses — to fund tuition grants for black students and establish a Black Church Studies program.

As a progressive seminary, Princeton could become a pioneer by distributing reparations, said Justin Henderson, president of the Association of Black Seminarians, the group behind the petition. The school has confessed and repented for the “sin” of its role in slavery, but “repentance doesn’t end with confession,” said Henderson, who will finish his master of divinity studies in May.

“Restitution is evidence of the repentance,” he said. “This is how we know the person has repented.”

To read further, click here.

Winton Hills Academy Students in Cincinnati Win National Contest with Book about Civil Rights Icon Marian Spencer

Congratulations to fourth-grade students Serenity Mills, Janyia New, Aliyana O’Neal and Nakiyah Ray at Winton Hills Academy in Cincinnati!

These ambitious young women  won a national book-writing contest for authoring and illustrating “Marian Spencer: A Light in the Darkness” about Ohio civil rights pioneer Marian Spencer.

To learn more, go to: wcpo.com