Category Archives: Civil Rights

The Great Jackie Robinson

I have been thrilled to work with Washington Middle School (Washington Junior High) in Pasadena, CA – attended by one of my heroes – the great Jackie Robinson!


In 1947, Jackie Robinson engineered the integration of professional sports in America by breaking the color barrier in baseball. He overcame numerous obstacles in his 10 year career to become one of baseball’s most exciting and dazzling players. His enormous talent helped lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to six pennants and one World Series Championship. The ultimate honor was bestowed when Jackie was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

However, Jackie Robinson’s contributions go far beyond the baseball diamond. Upon retirement from baseball, Jackie fought tirelessly to improve the quality of life not only for African-Americans, but for society as a whole. By becoming the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Robinson continued to open doors for African Americans.


Jackie Robinson
Attended Washington Junior High School in 1935.
Achieved four-letterman status at John Muir Technical High School.
Enrolled in Pasadena Junior College 1938-1939.
Led Pasadena to the Junior College Championship in 1938.
Named Most Valuable Junior College Player in Southern California in 1938.
Held the National Junior College broad jump record.
Transferred to UCLA 1939-1940.
Won the NCAA broad jump title at 25′ 6 1/2″.
Became UCLA’s first four-letter man.
Served in the U.S. Army from 1942-1945, during which he became second Lieutenant.
Inducted into UCLA’s Hall of Fame on June 10, 1984.


Broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947 by becoming the first African-American player.
Named National League Rookie of the Year in 1947.
Led the National League in stolen bases in 1947 and 1949.
Led second basemen in double plays 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952.
Selected as the National League MVP in 1949
Won the 1949 batting title with a .342.
National League All-Star Team, 1949-1954.
Had a career batting average of .311 with the Dodgers, .333 in All-Star games Led the Dodgers to six World Series and one World Series Championship in a 10-year span.

Beyond Baseball

Jackie filming “I Never Had It Made”
Starred in “The Jackie Robinson Story” in 1950.
Opened a men’s apparel store on 125th street in Harlem from 1952-1958.
Signed a contract with WNBC and WNBT to serve as Director of Community Activities in 1952.
Became Vice President of Chock Full O’Nuts in 1957.
Served in numerous campaigns and on the board of directors for the NAACP from 1957-1967.
Established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company in 1970 to build housing for families with low incomes.
Author of autobiography “I Never Had It Made.”


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Guest Post: A Law Professor’s — and Mother’s — Perpsective on Race



Guest Post: A Law Professor’s — and Mother’s — Perpsective on Race

Posted in Discrimination & HarassmentHighlight

After my first year in law school, I clerked for Professor Kimberly Norwood at Washington University in St. Louis Law School during the summer. (If editing a law review article on statute of limitations is your thing, the experience was nirvana — I even made it to a footnote.)  We’ve kept in touch since then and have shared holiday cards and notes as our families have grown.

Earlier this week, I came across a column that Professor Norwood wrote for CNN about her family’s experiences in St. Louis.  I was touched by that article and reached out to her to see if I could cross-post it here.  She agreed.

I post this piece not to discuss the issues in Ferguson, Missouri – those are best covered by a criminal law blog like A Public Defender – but to share the salient perspective that people in America are still “treated differently based on the color of their skin.” 

For those of us who are committed to eliminating discrimination in the workplace, this perspective should inform our thinking in how we can make sure the employer-employee relationship isn’t tainted by such biases — explicitly or implicitly.   Professor Norwood has also talked about the implicit bias that exists in the legal profession and I recommend that article as well

I thank Professor Norwood for the opportunity to repost her article here.

I am a 54-year-old black woman — a mother, lawyer and law professor. I teach at the Washington University in St. Louis Law School and live 12 miles away from Ferguson, Missouri.

The median household income in my suburb is $85,000 per year. In Ferguson, it is $36,000. In my suburb, 3.5% of the people are black. In Ferguson, almost 70% are black. These are stark contrasts. Yet I share things in common with black people in Ferguson and, indeed, throughout the United States.

When I shop, I’m often either ignored as a waste of time or scrutinized as a potential shoplifter. In June, my daughter and I walked into the china and crystal department at a Macy’s department store. I was about to speak to the salesperson directly in front of me. She walked right past me to welcome the white woman behind us.

My daughter looked at me and said: “Really? Did she just ignore us?” My daughter is a young teenager at the crossroads of “skin color doesn’t matter” and “oh yes, it does.” She is in transition. I felt hurt, anger and embarrassment.

But this kind of encounter happens routinely.

Driving, I tend to have a bit of a lead foot — hitting 45 in a 35 mph zone. The few times I have been stopped in my suburb, the first question I’m asked is whether I live “around here.” Not one of my white friends has been asked that question when they were pulled over by a police officer.

Last summer, my teenage daughter was shopping with four white friends at a mall in an affluent St. Louis suburb. As they left the store, two mall security guards approached my daughter. They told her the store had called them and reported her as a shoplifter, and asked her to come with them. After a search, they found she had nothing. So far in her young life, mall security guards have stopped her on suspicion of shoplifting three times. Each time she was innocent.

I also have three sons. My two oldest are 22. They are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 and each weighs more than 220 pounds. One recently graduated from college; the other will graduate in 2015. The youngest is 13. All three like to wear jeans and the latest sneakers. They love hoodies. They like looking cool. These three young men have never been arrested or even been in a fight at school.

Every time my sons leave the house, I worry about their safety. One of my sons loves to go out at night to clubs. I worry about potential unrest at the clubs — yes, black-on-black crime is a problem, and despite what many people think, black people complain about it all the time in their communities and churches and in newspapers and on radio stations.

I also worry about his drive home and his being stopped by police.

The data in Ferguson are an example of the larger picture in the St. Louis County area. Police stop, search and arrest black people at a disproportionate rate, even though they are less likely to possess contraband than white people.

This son of mine who likes to go out at night is big and tall and he has brown skin. He graduated from college in May but cannot find employment. He is an intelligent, clean-cut young man.

But the negative stereotypes automatically assigned to his skin color follow him everywhere, even in job interviews, like extra weight. It reminds me of the airline employee who asks before you can check your suitcase: Did a stranger ask you to carry something or pack your bag? In my son’s case, the answer is yes. He is carrying extra weight, unfairly, and without his knowledge or consent, packed in his luggage.

A few years ago my husband and I went on a cruise. My older boys were teenagers at the time and were taking summer enrichment classes at a school about a mile from our home. They planned to walk to school in the morning. At the top of a long list of things to do before we left for our trip was “e-mail chief of police.”

I explained to the chief that my husband and I were going on a cruise, I was a member of the community and that my two sons would be walking to school. I attached pictures of the boys, explaining that only a couple of black families lived in the neighborhood. My sons did not normally walk in the neighborhood, so they would draw attention.

I offered to bring my sons to the police department so officers could meet them. The police chief and I met and all went well.

But I’ve asked myself: How many parents of white sons have thought to add to their to-do-before-leaving-town list, “Write letter to local police department, introducing sons and attaching photos, so police do not become suspicious and harass them”?

Even though my older boys are men, I still worry about them. I worry about my 13-year-old. This worry is a stressful, and sadly normal, part of my daily existence. My youngest will be 6 feet tall in the coming weeks. He has brown skin.

These young black men have arrows pointed and ready to shoot at them daily — black-on-black crime, police encounters, societal bias and mistrust. Shortly after the Michael Brown shooting, I met with a group of my 13-year-old’s black male friends to explain to them what happened in Ferguson, and what to do and how to respond if they are ever stopped by the police. My words reminded me of stories and fears my grandfather used to share with me about his encounters with police during the Jim Crow era.

These are just a few of the many ways in which people in America are treated differently based on the color of their skin. This has been going on for a long time. I hope the events in Ferguson will encourage people to see the stark differences in the experiences of black people — not just black people who struggle economically but also black people like me — and white people as they go about their routine, daily lives.

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Questions Show How Far We Have To Go

Questions Show How Far We Have To Go


(Illustration by Robert Neubecker / June 19, 2014)

 As a woman of color in these United States, I, like many others, experience tiresome misreadings of my color, my gender, my profession and my presence. I can think of the number of times in a variety of retail places where the fact that I had a shopping cart, a visible list, a handbag on my shoulder and a child in tow was not enough to signal that I too was a shopper and not an employee able to do a price check.

Misreadings of my identity and my life have taken place on college campuses where I have taught, places where one would like to think that critical thinking shapes one’s interactions. Is it a post-racial era when a colleague — who is not only white and male but brand new to the position and barely 10 minutes into the job for which I have hired him — has the temerity to ask, “Are you a single mother?” Did he miss the wedding ring? Did he not hear me use the phrase “our daughter” in response to an earlier, awkward question that he posed?

As he asks this inappropriate question, I watch him leap through the fiery rings of his insistent commitment to social justice and civic engagement. I watch him give himself license to be overly familiar and to speak from a place of unthinking white male privilege. All of this adds to the insult that stuns me at first, enrages me later and compels me to address his lapse when the next work week begins.

Are moments like these evidence of a post-racial society? Absolutely not. These moments also have no “post” qualities to them when the hurt and the bother nags at me long after I leave the scene of these cultural, social and psychic crimes.

Yet, my recovery from these moments is speedier and more possible when I insist on asking questions. My gallant husband encouraged me to push back with questions: “What makes you think I work here?” “What makes you imagine that I’m a single mother?”

Asking “what” rather than “why” minimizes easy obfuscation. The pointedly direct inquiry can call the interloper to task, make him pause and, if it’s a good day, reflect.

When I recently tried this lightning quick turn to questions, it was a thoroughly revelatory exercise because not only did I have an immediate comeback, but in an instant, I got to become an observer — although of still more awkward behavior — and I was able to cut short the experience of becoming scrutinized and unseen. When tackling race matters, it can be wholly transformative to craft queries that can facilitate meaningful conversation, reveal collective and individual aspirations, and encourage civic and political change.

As a woman of color born in England and who came to America when I was 12, my journey into race in this nation has been eased and illuminated by my immersion in American literature and history. As a literary historian who focuses on 18th- and 19th-century American and New England writing about race, place and memory, I have had the chance to study the tumult of living in an America that is post-Colonial, post-Revolutionary, post-Civil War, post-Reconstruction and post-industrial.

New Englanders like the gifted poet Phillis Wheatley, Liberator editor William Lloyd Garrison, historian William Cooper Nell, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, feminist activist writer Lydia Maria Child, essayist Ann Plato, public speaker Maria Stewart and journalist-playwright-novelist Pauline Hopkins have taught me and my students the futility of asking whether any era in American history qualifies as post-racial. These writers and activists witnessed massive social changes, testified to unspeakable crimes against humanity, and used the written and spoken word to imagine better worlds.

Their experiences have underscored for me how necessary it is to examine the stories that shape our nation and to learn from the histories that we still have only just begun to write.

Lois Brown is professor of English and African American Studies at Wesleyan University inMiddletown. She will speak at the Key Issues Forum on “Are We in a Post-Racial Era?” The forum is free and open to the public on Tuesday, June 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Conference of Churches auditorium, 224 Farmington Ave., Hartford.

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The Asian-American Woman Behind the Black Power Movement


Legendary activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs will celebrate her 99th birthday at the end of June. A leader over seven decades in the labor, civil rights, and Black Power movements, Boggs continues to write and grant interviews from her home in Detroit, Michigan.

A new film, debuting later this month, tells Boggs’ story from her birth in 1915 to Chinese immigrant parents, through her advocacy for tenants’ and workers’ rights, to her days as one of the only non-Black, female leaders in the Black Power Movement.

Filmmaker Grace Lee shares the story of finding Boggs and telling her story.

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18 Things White People Should Know/Do Before Discussing Racism

Discussions about racism should be all-inclusive and open to people of all skin colors. However, to put it simply, sometimes White people lack the experience or education that can provide a rudimentary foundation from which a productive conversation can be built. This is not necessarily the fault of the individual, but pervasive myths and misinformation have dominated mainstream racial discourse and often times, the important issues are never highlighted. For that reason, The Frisky has decided to publish this handy list that has some basic rules and information to better prepare anyone for a worthwhile discussion about racism.

read more …..

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Yuri Kochiyama, Rights Activist Who Befriended Malcolm X, Dies at 93

Yuri Kochiyama, a civil rights activist who formed an unlikely friendship with Malcolm X when he was still promoting black nationalism and later cradled his head in her hands as he lay dying from gunshot wounds in 1965, died on Sunday in Berkeley, Calif. She was 93.

Her granddaughter Akemi Kochiyama confirmed the death.

Mrs. Kochiyama, the child of Japanese immigrants who settled in Southern California, knew discrimination well by the time she was a young woman. During World War II she spent two years in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Arkansas, a searing experience that also exposed her to the racism of the Jim Crow South.

A few years after the war, she married William Kochiyama, whom she had met at the camp, and the couple moved to New York in 1948. They spent 12 years in public housing in Manhattan, in the Amsterdam Houses on the Upper West Side, where most of their neighbors were black and Puerto Rican, before moving to Harlem.

The couple had become active in the civil rights movement when Mrs. Kochiyama met Malcolm X for the first time at a Brooklyn courthouse in October 1963. He was surrounded by supporters, mostly young black men, when she approached him. She told him she wanted to shake his hand, to congratulate him, she recalled in an interview with The New York Times in 1996.

“I admire what you’re doing,” she told him, “but I disagree with some of your thoughts.”

read more  ………..

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The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth (Colored) Regt. C. V. INFANTRY

I was honored today to be the keynote speaker at Hamden (CT) Middle School’s Black History Month Celebration. I was even more honored to meet Harrison Mero, President of the Connecticut Twenty-Ninth (Colored) Regiment Colored Volunteers Infantry.

The earliest recruit for this regiment was enlisted August 11, 1863, but most of the men came to the regiment at its rendezvous in Fair Haven during the last three months of the year. The full number and more were attained in January 1864.

For lack of officers it was not mustered into the United States service until March 8th. Four days after. Colonel William B.Wooster, formerly Lieutenant Colonel of the Twentieth Connecticut reported for duty and soon took command. After the presentation of a flag by the ladies of New Haven, the regiment embarked on a transport March 19th. It arrived at Annapolis, Md., and disembarked March 22d, pitching its first tents near Camp Parole. Not until April 6th was the regiment furnished with muskets, of the best Springfield pattern. The regiment was assigned to the Ninth Corps, and on the 9th sailed, on two transports for Hilton Head, S. C., where it arrived April 13th. Thence it was ordered to Beaufort, S. C., where it disembarked and encamped the same day. Here drill, picket, and guard duty occupied the attention of officers and men nearly four months. August 8th orders came to leave, and the next day the regiment sailed for Bermuda Hundred, Va., arriving August 14th. A part of the regiment was immediately sent on a reconnaissance with a portion of the Tenth Corps.

Though coming under fire for the first time, the men displayed great coolness and bravery. The regiment was assigned to General William G. Birney’s Brigade, General D. B. Birney’s Division of the Tenth Corps, making, with the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Regiments, United States Colored Infantry, and other colored regiments, a colored division, the Third of the Tenth Corps. It was engaged In an advance at Deep Bottom, under General Butler, and repulsed a rebel attack on the 16th and 17th of August. Returning to the Bermuda Hundred front, it encamped near Point of Rocks. August 24th the Tenth Corps relieved the Eighteenth In the trenches In front of Petersburg, on the right of the place where the mine was exploded. Here the Twenty-ninth remained under constant and wearing duty until September 24th, when the whole corps was ordered to the rear for rest and replenishing its worn and scanty clothing. On the 28th It marched to Deep Bottom, and the next day, with the Eighteenth Corps, engaged under General Butler In taking Fort Harrison and a part of its connecting line of earthworks, about seven miles from Richmond. An unsuccessful but most persistent attack was made upon Fort Gilmore, the next in the line, but at evening the corps retired to the trenches just in their rear, and proceeded to turn them. The next day the enemy, with heavy reinforcements, endeavored most vigorously to dislodge them, but without success. October 7th the regiment assisted in repelling an attempt of the enemy to turn the right of the line.

With the Eighth and Forty-fifth Regiments, United States Colored Infantry, the Twenty-ninth constituted the Second Brigade, Third Division, Tenth Corps. On the 13th it joined with others In a reconnaissance in force toward the right of the line, across and beyond the Newmarket Road to the Darbytown Road. There was some sharp fighting and considerable loss of men. On the 27th and 28th of October the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps attacked along nearly their whole front, in conjunction with a forward movement of the Army of the Potomac. The Twenty-ninth formed the skirmish line of its division, and drove the enemy into their works and kept them there. The men behaved admirably, remaining on the advanced line through the entire night, till relieved in the morning. It was the only regiment meeting with loss In this affair at the Kell House. Its loss was eighty. Soon after, the regiment was placed in the First Brigade and assigned the duty of garrisoning the line of forts along the Newmarket Road, a most important duty.

December 5th the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps were reorganized and a corps of colored troops formed, called the Twenty-fifth Corps. The Twenty-ninth was placed in the Second Brigade, First Division, and moved into the line on the left of Fort Harrison. Here it remained during the winter, picketing, drilling, and building forts and roads, in preparation for the spring campaign.

Late in March, 1865, the regiment was moved into Fort Harrison, which was supposed to be undermined and the most probable point of rebel attack. Here they witnessed the last rebel dress parade on the afternoon of Sunday, April 2d. Early the next morning explosions of rebel gunboats in the James, and of magazines in Fort Darling and in the direction of Richmond, and the coming in of deserters began to announce the rebel evacuation. The heavy firing of the two days before on the distant left across the James, and the order for extreme watchfulness, had prepared the whole division along this, the nearest part of the line to Richmond, for this result. By the earliest dawn the Twenty-ninth was in marching order and eager for the pursuit. The men were soon over the breastworks, through the bristling abbatis and the thickly planted torpedoes, and in the deserted rebel fort. They found the guns spiked and the tents standing, but with every breadth of canvas slashed by a knife. They waited to see no more, but hurried out upon the high-road to Richmond, which was strewn with articles cast aside by the retreating rebels. Then began the exciting race to first reach the burning city, the flames and smoke of which could be distinctly seen. Two companies of the Twenty-ninth, C and G, were ordered forward as skirmishers, and were the first infantry to reach the city. The cavalry scouts had preceded them and were stationed at the entrance of the city to halt all stragglers. The brigade in which was the Twenty-ninth was stationed in Batteries Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the interior line of the defenses of the city.

On the 13th the regiment moved to and through Petersburg, camping near Patrick’s Station on the City Point railroad. On the 18th it marched to City Point and sailed to Point Lockout, Md., where it was engaged in guarding the general depot for prisoners of war, containing about 20,000 prisoners, until May 28th, when it was transferred to City Point to await transportation. June 10th it sailed with the Twenty-fifth Corps for Texas, touching at Mobile and New Orleans, and arriving at Brazos de Santiago July 3, 1865. Thence it marched to Brownsville, Tex., where it remained in camp until ordered to Connecticut for muster-out October 14, 1865. It waited at New Orleans for transportation from October 27th to November 11th, when it embarked for New York and Hartford, arriving at the latter place November 24th. The next day the regiment was paid and discharged.

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Black Leadership

MLK unjust laws


Black Leadership

 “In this period of transition and growing social change, there is a dire need for leaders who are calm and yet positive, leaders who avoid the extremes of “hotheadedness” and Uncle Tomism.”  The urgency of the hour calls for leaders of wise judgment and sound integrity—leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice; leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity; leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.”

 Martin Luther King, Jr.

Facing the Challenge of a New Age, 1956

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