By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen—I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out. The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin’s prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans’ steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin’s only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now. History “is not the past,” the film quotes Baldwin as saying. “History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal.”
By Mona Chalabi for The Guardian – The civil rights pioneer and scholar is most famous for his book The Souls of Black Folk, but his use of data to show inequality is still profound today. Any African American to be admitted to Harvard University in 1888 had to be exceptionally gifted. But that description doesn’t come close to capturing the talent of WEB Du Bois, a man who managed to write 21 books, as well as over 100 essays while being a professor and a relentless civil rights activist.Du Bois saw no trade-off between those pursuits – his scholarship was protest and his protest was scholarship. He deeply understood something that every activist scrawling a banner in Washington knows today – messaging matters.
By Barbara Krauthamer for The Conversation – While the Constitution mainly called for the return of runaway slaves, the 1850 law vastly expanded the authority of federal law enforcement officials. The law criminalized helping or harboring a runaway slave and denied the accused person the right to offer testimony in her or his own defense. The 1850 law confirmed what generations of enslaved African-Americans knew too well: They existed as property, not persons, in the eyes of the law. Enslaved women and men could not enter legal marriages because slaveholders claimed their bodies, time, movement and even reproductive capacity.
By Kirsten West Savali for Newsome – Though the United States government has wrapped Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in the American flag, waving his words to symbolize racial harmony and patriotic solidarity even as institutionalized White supremacy remains embedded in policies detrimental to the very Black community he tirelessly strived to uplift, very little is spoken of the fact that a Memphis jury found the United States government guilty of conspiring to assassinate Dr. King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.
By Adam Sanchez and Jesse Hagopian for Common Dreams – Fifty years ago this month, the Black Panther Party was born. Its history holds vital lessons for today’s movement to confront racism and police violence, yet textbooks either misrepresent or minimize the significance of the Black Panthers. The first issue of the Black Panther newspaper, which at its height had a weekly circulation of 140,000 copies, asked, “WHY WAS DENZIL DOWELL KILLED?”
By Mandisa Routheni for US News – The past three Thursdays, I found myself in the midst of several different landscapes, all working towards real, transformational change. With hands open to the possibility of community wealth and land, I learned about the work of the Black Belt Justice Center. With hands in the soil with a community that creates healthy relationships with ecosystems, I visited the Black Dirt Farm Collective. With hands sore from tweeting about policies for freedom, I attended a racial justice forum led by the Movement for Black Lives.
By Shawn Leigh Alexander for AAIHS – Civil rights activist and journalist T. Thomas Fortune was one of the most eloquent and instrumental voices of black America from 1880 to 1928. In 1883 Fortune, who was born into slavery in Florida, relocated to New York and became the lead editor of the New York Globe (subsequently named the Freeman and the Age), which quickly became the most widely read black paper of the era.
By David Swanson for Let’s Try Democracy – The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened. This press and the museum’s own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn’t step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.
By Keisha N. Blain for Timeline – Fifty-two years ago, on August 22, 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer delivered arguably the most significant speech of her political career. The fiery civil rights activist known for her iconic line, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” spoke before a televised audience at the 1964 Democratic National Convention (DNC), held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She had traveled all the way from Mississippi on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) — an organization that was established in April 1964 to challenge the all-white Mississippi delegation to the DNC.
By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson for Other Worlds – When I heard about the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I thought back to another name etched into American history: Dred Scott. In 1857, the Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether Scott, an African American man born into slavery, should be granted his freedom. The justices not only denied Scott’s request, but also took the opportunity to send a chilling message to all African Americans, free and enslaved, that reverberates to this day.
By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson for Equal Voice – In the summer of 1955, Mamie Till lived what could be described as a classic American life in the predominantly African-American South Side of Chicago. She lived with her son Emmett, who was 14 years old at the time. Family had always been important to Till, and she hoped to use the summer to reconnect with relatives in Nebraska. She wanted Emmett to join her, but he insisted on visiting his cousins in his mother’s native Mississippi. Till relented and saw her son off on a train to Mississippi.
By Adam Sanchez for Zinn Education Project – Fifty years ago this week, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairperson Stokely Carmichael made the famous call for “Black Power.” Carmichael’s speech came in the midst of the “March Against Fear,” a walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, to encourage African Americans to use their newly won right to vote. But while almost every middle and high school student learns about the Civil Rights Movement, they rarely learn about this march—or the related struggles that continued long after the Voting Rights Act.
By Justin Block for The Huffington Post – Muhammad Ali’s most famous act of social activism — one that would strip him of his best fighting years, cost him millions of dollars, forever alter his image and eventually send him into debt — began with one off-hand quote: “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” It was March 1966, and the U.S. military was escalating its fight in Vietnam. It began substantially lowering its standards for the draft so it could conscript more men, and call up men with lower IQs for 1-A service.
By Ben Becker for Dominion of New York – What we now know as Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died for that cause. These days, Memorial Day is arranged as a day “without politics”—a general patriotic celebration of all soldiers and veterans, regardless of the nature of the wars in which they participated. This is the opposite of how the day emerged, with explicitly partisan motivations, to celebrate those who fought for justice and liberation.
By Salim Muwakkil for In These Times – The contemporary discussion on reparations for African Americans was instigated by Ta-Nehisi Coates in an award-winning essay in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic. Reparations were also the most salient recommendation of a United Nations working group that recently toured the United States to assess the condition of black America. At the end of its fact-finding mission, the group concluded it was “extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans.”