Tag: Jim Crow

The Obsidian Collection, an African-American Newspaper Archive, to Put Its Records Online For Free

Source: Screenshot, Google Arts and Culture
Source: Screenshot, Google Arts and Culture

by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs via chicagomag.com

Digitizing legacy. That’s the job of the curators behind The Obsidian Collection – archivists for The Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro American and other historically black newspapers in the United States. Their task is massive: digitize every image and article from newspapers that played a central role in the Great Migration, Civil Rights and Jim Crow eras. But they won’t have to do it all alone. Google Arts & Culture is working with the Obsidian group on creating digital exhibits that can be free and searchable by anyone around the world.

That’s just the first step, and it’s huge.

“More than just digitizing it for researchers, I’m passionate about the next generation seeing how awesome we are and in changing the narrative permeating the American conversation right now about African Americans,” says Angela Ford, who is helming the project and is excited about how it will add a more accurate variety of African American image metadata to the Google brain trust.

chicago defender harold washington
Harold Washington and Charles Hayes with a young Carol Moseley Braun cropped from the original published image, 1983 PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO DEFENDER—OBSIDIAN COLLECTION

“What happens is a lot of these archive collections speak in an echo chamber of libraries and archives where it just doesn’t get out to the laypeople.  What I love about Google Arts and Culture is you could be standing in line at the grocery store and viewing our archives. We’ll  keep rotating them in and out and keep pushing them through social media. We want everyone to see us.”

Eight exhibits are live on Google, giving people access to a wide range of images, from famed boxer Joe Louis at home in Chicago to coverage of a 1959 housewares show that illustrates how middle class black families lived at the time.

Obsidian already has an image of Harold Washington sitting with a young Carol Moseley Braun, except she was cropped out the image. There’s a water splattered image of children running through the spray of an open fire hydrant on 44th and Champlain, circa 1987. Even the mundane is fascinating, says Ford.

“The Defender had a housewares show in October 1959 and it was a big deal,” says Ford. “It cost a quarter to get in and we have pictures of all the black people promoting their products and Whirlpool was there with their miracle kitchen. We were separate from mainstream America and a lot of things went on in our community that shows a black middle class home.”

Ford is also working with her board—which includes people who have worked with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—on the larger issues that include the creation of virtual reality online exhibits.

“Google Culture Institute in Paris has invented the capacity to create virtual 3D spaces from a photograph,” says Ford, discussing the possibilities involved in using old picture to create virtual realities. “The question is, are we altering the art?”

chicago defender joe louis
Joe Louis and young fans, c. 1945 PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO DEFENDER—OBSIDIAN COLLECTION

A lot of this work is already on microfilm, but moving it to an online space will make it easier to access via smartphone, which is the end goal. Obsidian will slog through uploading everything to their own website and meanwhile, visitors will soon be able to head to Google Arts & Culture for a taste of what’s to come.

“Google’s arts and culture strategy is that everybody in the world can access everybody in the world and that will create a new world,” says Ford. “We want to make sure we are part of that conversation.”

Source: http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/June-2018/How-the-Obsidian-Collection-Is-Bringing-Black-Newspapers-to-Google/

New Orleans City Council Votes to Remove Confederate Monuments

Confederate Symbols
The Robert E. Lee Monument is seen in Lee Circle in New Orleans.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

New Orleans‘ leaders on Thursday made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets.

The council’s 6-1 vote allows the city to remove four monuments, including a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood at the center of a traffic circle for 131 years.

It was an emotional meeting — often interrupted by heckling — infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.”

City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws.  “If anybody wins here, it will be the South, because it is finally rising,” Williams, who is African-American, said.

Stacy Head, a council member at large, was the lone vote against the removal. She is one of two white council members.  She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.

Fixing historic injustice is “a lot harder work than removing monuments,” she said, even as many in the packed council chambers jeered her.  She said the issue was dividing the city, not uniting it. “I think all we will be left with is pain and division.”

The decision came after months of impassioned debate. On Thursday, four preservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to stop the city from taking down the monuments by challenging the city’s removal process.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu first proposed taking down these monuments after police said a white supremacist killed nine parishioners inside the African-American Emanuel AME Church in CharlestonSouth Carolina, in June.

Continue reading “New Orleans City Council Votes to Remove Confederate Monuments”

HISTORY: Schomburg Center Digitizes Jim Crow Era “Green Books” Created to Help Black Travelers Avoid Racist Towns and Businesses

Green Book (photo via Schomburg Center Archive)
The Negro Travelers’ Green Book (photo via Schomburg Center Archive)

Before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 — and decades before the Internet and smart phones existed — black travelers relied on the “Green Book” to find hotels, restaurants and other establishments willing to accept their business.

The travel guide was published between 1936 and 1966 to help black motorists avoid racial harassment, arrest and violence as they traveled through the U.S. during the Jim Crow era.

All but two of those editions — the inaugural edition in 1936 and the one from 1952 — have been digitized and posted online by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culturereported DNA Info.

“Carry The Green Book with you. You may need it,” reads the cover of the 1949 edition, followed by a quote from Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

Victor Green, a U.S. Postal Service worker, started publishing the books from his New York City apartment after his wife decided they should scout all the black-friendly businesses on the way to visit her family in Virginia.

“The idea crystallized when, not only himself but several friends and acquaintances complained of the difficulties encountered; oftentimes painful embarrassments suffered which ruined a vacation or business trip,” wrote Novera C. Dashiell in the spring 1956 edition.

Green and other mail carriers shared their experiences in racially segregated America, and they helped black travelers avoid “sundown towns,” where they weren’t welcome after dark, and other racist areas or businesses.

“It’s not just which places are clean and which places serve good food — it’s places that you would be welcomed and you would be safe,” said Maira Liriano, associate chief librarian at the Schomburg Center.

The books were immediately popular, and they serve as a fascinating document of mid-century cultural history.

Continue reading “HISTORY: Schomburg Center Digitizes Jim Crow Era “Green Books” Created to Help Black Travelers Avoid Racist Towns and Businesses”

108-Year-Old Woman to Vote for the First Time

Joanna Jenkins: 108-Year-Old Woman to Vote for the First Time
Joanna Jenkins, a 108-year-old woman from Beaufort, South Carolina, is about to vote for the first time in her life.  After passing up her right for decades, she was finally compelled to cast her ballot after following this year’s presidential election and debates. Not only does she suddenly want to vote, but Jenkins’ cousin Shirley Lee says she’s excited about doing so and sharing the good news with everyone who visits.
The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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