Unsung Black Heroines Launched Modern Domestic Workers Movement

African-American women training as household workers in the 1930s. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

By Premilla Nadasen for Yes! Magazine – In the late 1990s, household workers around the country began to organize to address the exploitation and abuse in their occupation. These domestic workers, immigrant nannies, housecleaners, and elder-care workers from all over the world—the Philippines, Barbados, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Nepal—used public shaming strategies to draw attention to particularly egregious employers, sued for back pay, developed support groups, organized training and certificate programs, and lobbied for statewide domestic workers’ bills of rights. In building a movement, domestic workers used storytelling to connect workers with one another. Barbara Young, for example, a former nanny and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, joined Domestic Workers United in New York City in the early 2000s. Young was in a park one day with the child she cared for when another household worker, Erline Brown, invited her to a DWU meeting in Brooklyn. “People were telling the stories about the work that they were doing, not getting vacation, not getting paid for holidays.,” she explained. “It was the first time I was hearing stories from workers coming together.”

How Memorial Day Was Stripped Of Its African-American Roots

Black Civil War soldiers

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.

Community Had Duty To Shut Down Montgomery County Hearing On The Bethesda African Burial Ground

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By Marsha Adebayo for Black Agenda Report – Black community members attempting to preserve an ancestral burial ground charge they were “deceived, misled and ambushed” by officials in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland. The Bethesda African Cemetery was already buried under a parking lot. Now the county has assigned an all-white team to determine if there are bodies in the cemetery – after booting two renowned Black experts off the case. Activists call the county’s conduct “criminal.” The Community Had a Duty to Shut Down the Montgomery County Hearing on the Bethesda African Burial Ground “An all-white cultural resource management firm was awarded the contract to investigate the Bethesda African cemetery.”

Lost Manuscript Contains Eyewitness Account Of Tulsa Race Massacre Of 1921

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By Allison Keyes for Smithsonian – The manuscript, “The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims,” by B.C. Franklin was recovered from a storage area in 2015 and donated to the African American History Museum. (NMAAHC), Gift from Tulsa Friends and John W. and Karen R. Franklin) An Oklahoma lawyer details the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood where hundreds died 95 years ago. The ten-page manuscript is typewritten, on yellowed legal paper, and folded in thirds. But the words, an eyewitness account of the May 31, 1921, racial massacre that destroyed what was known as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” are searing. “I could see planes circling in mid-air.

The Hunt For Black Family History

Black Lives Matter By Adam Pendleton. From CreativeResistance.org

By Mandisa Routheni for Other Words – Simple genealogy searches don’t work for people whose ancestors were treated like property. But some new tools could help. Maybe you’ve seen those Ancestry.com commercials pushing Americans to “discover their stories” by digging into their family histories. Millions of Americans find meaning from these searches. My mom’s one of them. She’s doing a deep dive into our family history, reviving the stories of past ancestors in America. She discovered that the German last name we had wasn’t our original family name. Somewhere — perhaps Ellis Island, once a gateway for millions of European immigrants — our name was changed. That’s made it hard to learn about our history before emigration. On my father’s side, though, the fog of history hides much more than names — and it’s incredibly more painful. You see, my father is African-American. And for black Americans, searches on sites like Ancestry.com yield blank spots on the family tree.

Sanctuary Echoes Of Cities Opposing The Fugitive Slave Act

Nicolas Vigier/ Flickr

By Tim Butterworth for Other Words – A century and a half before Trump’s refugee ban, cities like Boston rebelled against the Fugitive Slave Act. Shortly after Donald Trump’s order to ban thousands of documented, vetted immigrants and refugees from our shores, crowds rushed to airports all over the country to protect those who’d just arrived. Soon after, crowds in Phoenix and other cities surrounded federal immigration enforcement vans during raids on immigrants, in an attempt to block deportations. In Boston, which was home to many of these actions, I was reminded of another time citizens rejected an odious federal law to protect refugees seeking shelter here. On May 24th, 1854, Anthony Burns — a 19-year-old man who’d escaped slavery in Virginia — was captured in the city and held under armed guard by federal marshals.

James Baldwin And The Meaning Of Whiteness

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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.”

WEB Du Bois: Retracing His Attempt To Challenge Racism With Data

WEB Du Bois created dozens of illustrations that put many of today’s data visualization experts to shame Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Even Before Sanctuary Cities, Here’s How Black Americans Protected Fugitive Slaves

Fugitive Slaves Recaptured: 1850.  Washington Area Spark, CC BY-NC

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.

Unanimous Jury In 1999 Civil Trial Found Gov Assassinated Dr. King

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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.

What We Don’t Learn About The Black Panther Party—But Should

A free clothing distribution sponsored by the Black Panthers in New Haven, Conn., 1969.

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?”

The Black History Of The New Economy

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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.

Black Journalist T. Thomas Fortune Prophetically Predicts Today’s Political Climate

Newspaper editor and former slave T. Thomas Fortune formed the N

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.

The African American History Missing From The Smithsonian

2015 might be a turning point year, but it definitely won’t be if we don’t rise to the occasion. History and our grandchildren are calling on us to do so right now. Photo credit: Shutterstock

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.

52 Years Ago, This Speech Changed Course Of Black Voting Rights

Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer bore witness to the violence of Jim Crow and demanded inclusion of black delegates in the Democratic Party. (Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

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.