Tag: March On Washington

BHM: Extra! Extra! Read All About Ethel Payne, “First Lady of the Black Press”

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Now that the government shutdown is over and national museums are open again (unless that mess happens again), Black History Month is an especially poignant time to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) if you are in the D.C. area.

I had the good fortune to visit NMAAHC two years ago, and still remember acutely its “Making a Way out of No Way” exhibit, which focusses on the six avenues African-Americans pursued post-slavery to gain equity and agency in the United States – Activism, Enterprise, Organization, Education, Faith, and… the Press.

Because of my lifelong interest in journalism, I am personally drawn to stories about the Black Press, which has existed in some form since antebellum times (the first black publication of record is the Freedom Journal in 1827), and exists to this day.

Yet so many don’t know about its rich history and how its presence and its reporters not only served often unrecognized communities, but also were (and still are) deeply involved in activism and social justice at every turn in every era on local, state and national levels.

Enter Ethel Lois Payne.

Long before former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempted to call out American Urban Radio Networks’ correspondent April Ryan for giving him what he thought was a disrespectful headshake while simply trying to do her job, Ethel Payne was agitating White House officials in the press room on a daily.

Payne set the standard in the 1950s when she became one of only three black journalists to be credentialed as a member of the White House Press Corps.

Known as the “First Lady of the Black Press,” Payne was a columnist, lecturer, and freelance writer. She combined advocacy with journalism as she reported on the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, and was known for asking questions others dared not ask.

It was just unheard of for blacks to be standing up and asking presidents impertinent questions and particularly a black woman. – Ethel Payne

Payne became the first female African-American commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her in 1972. In addition to her reporting of American domestic politics, she also covered international stories, and questioned every president from Eisenhower to Reagan.

As Payne’s biographer, James McGrath Morris, who wrote Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press says, “Her not being known today is really a legacy of segregation, in that she was iconic to a large segment of the U.S. population, but like most black institutions, the Chicago Defender was entirely invisible to white Americans. So the notion of discussing civil rights with the President of the United States, in that case Eisenhower, she felt she was part of ‘the problem’ and couldn’t pursue typical objective reporting. Instead she adopted a measure of being fair. It may seem like a small distinction but it wasn’t. Her questions were laden with an agenda.”

Born in Chicago, Illinois, the granddaughter of slaves, Payne’s father worked as a Pullman Porter, one of the best jobs open to African Americans in those times. He died at age forty-six after contracting an deadly infection from handling soiled linens and clothes on the train, when Ethel was fourteen years old. Her mother then took various domestic jobs to support the family, which made it difficult to educate all of her children.

Ethel spent her childhood in the predominantly black neighborhood of West Englewood bit attended Chicago public schools, notably the mostly white Lindblom Technical High School. Payne longed to be a writer and pushed to continue her education at Crane Junior College and the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions.

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U.S. Navy To Name Ship After Civil Rights Leader and Congressman John Lewis

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, left, talks with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday to announce that the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers will be named the USNS John Lewis, after the civil rights movement leader and Georgia's 5th District representative. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, left, talks with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday to announce that the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers will be named the USNS John Lewis, after the civil rights movement leader and Georgia’s 5th District representative. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The U.S. Navy will honor civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis in a big way — by naming a replenishment oiler ship after the leader.

The announcement — delivered by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus — was made Wednesday afternoon in Washington D.C. Lewis, who tweeted he was “grateful” for the honor, reportedly cried when he was informed of the idea months ago.

According to NBC:

“As the first of its class, the future USNS John Lewis will play a vital role in the mission of our Navy and Marine Corps while also forging a new path in fleet replenishment,” said Mabus. “Naming this ship after John Lewis is a fitting tribute to a man who has, from his youth, been at the forefront of progressive social and human rights movements in the U.S., directly shaping both the past and future of our nation.”

Lewis cried when Mabus stopped by his office a few months ago to share what was then an idea, he told NBCBLK. “He said, ‘I have been so moved and inspired by your work and others during the civil rights movement. My idea is to name a ship in your honor,’” Lewis said. When the surprised congressman asked him, “How can you do this,” Mabus responded, “I am the Secretary of the Navy; I have the power.”

https://twitter.com/repjohnlewis/status/684841235807354881/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Naming the ship after the civil rights leader is a first in many ways — the USNS John Lewis is said to be the “first of the next generation” of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO-205), measuring more than 677 feet long and 97.5 feet wide. They are responsible for providing fuel and fleet cargo to ships at sea, NBC reports. The new generation of ships will all be named after Civil Rights heroes, a first also announced by Lewis’ office.

The irony of a ship donning his name is not lost on Lewis, 75, who told NBC he never actually learned to swim.

“In Troy, we couldn’t use the swimming pool, so I never learned to swim,” he said. “All these years later, to hear the Secretary of the Navy say he wanted to name a ship after me — we cried a little together and we hugged.”

I believe in freedom. I believe so much that people should be free. I was prepared to give it everything I had,” he said. “I didn’t do anything special. I just got in trouble. It was good trouble. It was necessary trouble. My parents would tell us, ‘Don’t get in the way.’ I just tried to help out.”

It is that focus on freedom that Mabus says will live within USNS John Lewis.

“T-AO 205 will, for decades to come, serve as a visible symbol of the freedoms Representative Lewis holds dear, and his example will live on in the steel of that ship and in all those who will serve aboard her, ” said Mabus.

Lewis, who is widely known for his role in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and for serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was elected to Congress in 1986. The leader, who often demonstrated alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was also a keynote speaker at 1963’s March on Washington.

It is Lewis who, bloodied and beaten, can be seen in historic and disturbing photographs from Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. State troopers beat Black activists attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 into Montgomery. Lewis, only 24 at the time, led the march with activist Hosea Williams.

SOURCE: NBC

article by Christina Coleman via newsone.com

Early Recording Found of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

“It is awe-inspiring and gives you goosebumps on your arms,” Jason Miller, a poetry professor at North Carolina State University, told USA TODAY Network about hearing the recording for the first time.

King gave the speech on Nov. 27, 1962, before a crowd of about 1,800 people in Rocky Mount, N.C. While the Rocky Mount speech is not as well known, it includes many similarities to the famous August 1963 version King gave from the Lincoln Memorial.

The Rocky Mount speech was covered by local newspapers, but an audio recording was not known to exist until Miller found it while researching his book Origins of a Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s RhetoricThe book explores the connection between Langston Hughes’s poetry and King’s speeches.

The box where the tape was found was rusted and the plastic reel was broken, but the recording itself was in great shape and has been digitized, Miller said. The tape is 55 minutes long and includes three of King’s most famous phrases — “Let freedom ring,” “How long, not long,” and “I have a dream.”

Miller said that kind of intentional rhetorical practice is a sign of a “master orator.”  In the process of researching, Miller was able to confirm that Hughes’ work, and specifically the poem “I dream a world,” influenced King’s speeches.  “They knew each other, exchanged letters and Dr. King incredibly revered Langston Hughes,” he said.

Understanding what inspired King’s words and how they changed over time is important, according to Miller. “It sheds light on what is easily the most recognizable speech in American history,” he said.

And the message of King’s Rocky Mount speech holds up today, he said.  “The central part of Dr. King’s speech was talking about access to the ballot and voting rights,” he said. “And as you know that’s as important today as it was in 1962.”

Miller is working on an online annotated version of the Rocky Mount speech that will be published for the public in November.

article by Lori Grisham via usatoday.com

Thousands March on Washington to Protest Police Killings

Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All march. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 10,000 protesters converged on the U.S. capital Saturday to help bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and call for legislative action.

Led by several civil rights organizations, the crowd will march to the Capitol on Saturday afternoon with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights advocate, also will be part of the march. The groups and marchers — with signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve” — are calling for law enforcement reforms after several high-profile cases of what they call police brutality.

At Freedom Plaza, the rally was interrupted briefly by a group of protesters who took the stage with a bullhorn. They announced that they were from Ferguson, Missouri — where Brown died — and demanded to speak.

Rally organizers called the interruption unnecessarily divisive. Speakers were delayed about five minutes as supporters of the interruption chanted, “Let them speak.”

Protests — some violent — have occurred around the U.S. since grand juries last month declined to indict the officers involved in the deaths of 18-year-old Brown and Garner, 43, who gasped “I can’t breathe” while being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in New York. Some protesters held signs and wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” Saturday.

Politicians and others have talked about the need for better police training, body cameras and changes in the grand jury process to restore faith in the legal system.

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Eric Garner’s Daughter Stages “Die-In” at Same Spot Where Her Father Died

erica garner

Erica Garner organized and led a protest in Staten Island on Thursday in memory of her father Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who died in July after he was placed in a prohibited chokehold by a white police officer.

Erica, 24, was joined by a group of protesters who marched through the city and collectively staged a die-in at the site where her father was slain.

Upon their arrival, Garner lay on the ground in the exact spot where he father died. It was a moment that was captured in these powerful photos:

Garner’s family has spoken out since a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who said he “felt very bad” about Garner’s death and sent his condolences. 

However, Garner’s widow, Esaw, rejected his offer in statements she made shortly after Pantaleo issued his statement.  “Hell no! The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe,” Esaw said during a live press conference at the headquarters of the National Action Network on Dec. 3.

“No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences,” she continued. “He’s still working. He’s still getting a paycheck. He’s still feeding his kids, when my husband is six feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.”

Protests have occurred in major cities nationwide since the grand jury’s indictment eight days ago and more are planned for the coming days.  Garner’s family, along with families of other victims of police killings, will join Rev. Al Sharpton in leading a march in Washington on Saturday to speak out against racial profiling and police brutality.

“Do not be silent. Do not be complacent. Do not continue to live with police misconduct and violence as somehow acceptable,” Sharpton wrote on The Huffington Post. 

“Those who came before us sacrificed so that we may have a more just future. Now we must do the same for the generations that will come after us.”

article by Lilly Workneh via huffingtonpost.com

R.I.P. Oscar-Nominated Acting Legend and Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee, best known for her role in 1961’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and latterly for her Oscar-nominated turn as Denzel Washington’s mother in 2007’s “American Gangster,” died Wednesday in New York. She was 91.

Dee’s Oscar nomination in 2008 for her performance as the feisty mother of a Harlem druglord played by Washington in Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” was particularly impressive because the actress made an impression on the Motion Picture Academy with only 10 minutes of screen time. She won a SAG Award for the same performance.  Dee also won an Emmy in 1991 for her performance in the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” movie “Decoration Day.”

She and her husband, Ossie Davis, who often performed together, were among the first generation of African-American actors, led by Sidney Poitier, afforded the opportunity for significant, dignified dramatic roles in films, onstage and on television.

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Fifty Years Ago Today: Martin Luther King Jr. Leads March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

martin-luther-king

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom turns 50 today.  A new PBS documentary reveals the details of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described would be considered the “greatest demonstration for freedom” in American history.  Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Denzel WashingtonThe March dedicates the majority of the 55 minute running time to the build-up of the momentous event (see clip below).

Some 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, to raise awareness of the poor economic realities of African-Americans and to demand the passage of strong civil rights legislation.  Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, was just 19 when he attended the march.  “Every time I think back, I draw different meanings from it because of my subsequent experiences,” Carson told theGrio.com. “At the time I would not have fully understood the significance of what Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.” 

Carson, whose commentary is featured in The March, is also the director of Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He says America does not have a good track record when it comes to understanding what King stood for.  “The main thing we’ve gotten right is that he deserves a national holiday,” Carson said. “He was the most prominent figure in one of the most important movements in American history.”

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Whitney Young Documentary On PBS Tells Story Of Unsung Civil Rights Leader

 Whitney Young Documentary

WASHINGTON — Just before the March on Washington in 1963, President John F. Kennedy summoned six top civil rights leaders to the White House to talk about his fears that civil rights legislation he was moving through Congress might be undermined if the march turned violent.

Whitney Young Jr. cut through the president’s uncertainty with three questions: “President Kennedy, which side are you on? Are you on the side of George Wallace of Alabama? Or are you on the side of justice?”  One of those leaders, John Lewis, later a longtime congressman from Georgia, tells the story of Young’s boldness in “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a documentary airing during Black History Month on the PBS series “Independent Lens” and shown in some community theaters.

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US Postal Service Commemorates 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with New Stamp

Emancipation Proclamation Stamp dedication

Emancipation Proclamation Stamp dedication at The National Archives by (left to right) Danny Davis, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ronald Stroman, David Ferriero, A’Leila Bundles, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service)

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, creating what Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman called, “a powerful symbol of President Lincoln’s determination to end the war, to end slavery, and to reconstruct the economy of the country without slave labor.

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Smithsonian Exhibit Parallels Emancipation, Civil rights

Smithsonian parallels Emancipation, Civil Rights

Smithsonian parallels Emancipation, Civil Rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Civil Rights were 100 years apart, but both changed the nation and expanded freedoms.

Beginning Friday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is presenting a walk back in time through two eras. A new exhibit, “Changing America,” parallels the 1863 emancipation of slaves with the 1963 March on Washington.

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