Tag Archives: Race/Ethnicity – African American

Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali will always remain a hero to me, if just for one statement he made while resisting

being drafted to fight in Viet Nam:

By March 1967, his (boxing) record stood at 29-0. One month later, he refused induction into the US Army during the Vietnam War, claiming conscientious objector status. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he said, adding, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” Condemned as unpatriotic and cowardly, Ali was stripped of his title and his boxing license. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Released on appeal, he waited three years for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the verdict.

Read also – Ten Things You Probably Didn't Know About Muhammad Ali


FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

Some blacks insist: ‘I’m not African-American’

updated 2/5/2012 10:44:12 AM ET

The labels used to describe Americans of African descent mark the movement of a people from the slave house to the White House. Today, many are resisting this progression by holding on to a name from the past: “black.”

For this group — some descended from U.S. slaves, some immigrants with a separate history — “African-American” is not the sign of progress hailed when the term was popularized in the late 1980s. Instead, it’s a misleading connection to a distant culture.

……… read more

FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

Considering the “IndiVisible” History of African Americans and American Indians

African Americans and American Indians can both tell tales of historical injustice—but to what extent do those tales overlap? Often quite a bit, as demonstrated by IndiVisible, a traveling exhibit created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

IndiVisible looks at the multi-dimensional relationship of the two groups. While the exhibit emphasizes the ways in which African Americans and Indians have common cause — with such apt exhibit sub-headings as “Stolen People on Stolen Land” and “United in Common Struggle” — it is also unafraid to deal with points of contention. The exhibit discusses intermarriage, blood quantum, the notion of “passing” as another race, and the ongoing drama surrounding the Cherokee Freedmen.

Read more:http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/01/16/considering-the-indivisible-history-of-african-americans-and-american-indians-72672 http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/01/16/considering-the-indivisible-history-of-african-americans-and-american-indians-72672#ixzz1lVs9y0bU

….. read more

FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

Racial Perceptions – Tyra (Part 1)

In this video clip, the Tyra Banks talk show has set up a “case study” where a group of

individuals, males and females of different races, sat down and watched a clip of other

people “living their lives”. In this portion of the video, the panel watches a clip of a white

male running down the sidewalk, chasing a black male. The panel is then asked to discuss

what they think is going on in the video. This leads into the panel talking very openly

about their perceptions of Black men.


FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

The Help – Movie Review

Note: I resisted watching it but we rented it last night to see what all the fuss is about. Yet another “Snow Falling on Cedars” and “Amistad.”

Publication Date Aug. 12, 2011 – by Peter Canavese, Palo Alto Online

Hollywood has a pernicious tradition that’s been dubbed, by one professor, the “anti-racist-white-hero film.” You know it unconsciously, if not consciously: a movie purportedly about racism afflicting an oppressed community, but actually about the experience of the affluent white person defending that community. “Cry Freedom.” “Mississippi Burning.” Director Edward Zwick scored a hat trick over the years, with “Glory,” “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond.”

And now we have “The Help,” an adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel by writer-director Tate Taylor, her lifelong friend. Where the novel adopts multiple perspectives to tell its story of Jim Crow-era Mississippi, Taylor’s film sticks closely to 23-year-old aspiring journalist “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), an implicit audience surrogate meant to reassure the white viewer that he or she is “one of the good ones,” just like the enlightened protagonist.

Despite being a privileged white girl obliged to play nice with the community’s nasty cliques of racists, Skeeter has the soul of a rebel. She decides to help the help — that is, work against the mistreatment of local maids by getting them to tell her their stories, which Skeeter will fashion into a book she’s writing on spec for Harper & Row editor Elain Stein (Mary Steenburgen).

Skeeter’s commitment to social justice contrasts with the inability of her mother (Allison Janney) to step up, and the film doesn’t much complicate Skeeter’s heroism with the obvious career boost the book will give her: She’s just a girl whose intentions are good.

As for the help, they’re treated as second-class citizens as a matter of course. Worse, high-strung socialite Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) has mounted a campaign to officially banish all African-American servants to outhouses, since they aren’t good enough or clean enough to use the indoor facilities. Though such virulent racism rings true to the time and place, Howard plays Hilly to the hilt (if she had a moustache, she’d be twirling it), the better for audiences to say, “Whew! I’m not a racist like her!”

After much hand-wringing about the consequences, maid Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) can no longer stand by. She agrees to be interviewed by Skeeter and, better yet, takes the initiative to write down her own accounts — of employer mistreatment and the expectations put on a maid not only to cook and clean for 95 cents an hour, but also raise the employer’s children.

Much is made of the children’s touching mother-daughter bonds with their maids: Cicely Tyson serves as the film’s godmother by playing, in flashback, Skeeter’s longtime, maternal maid. Eventually, Aibileen’s best friend, sassy Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), joins Skeeter’s project, and others follow.

Taylor’s studiously styleless direction goes down easy: Nothing in “The Help” could be described as “challenging.” If anything, the style spikes on the cartoon meter during anything involving Hilly and her serial comeuppances (all involving toilet humor; all stretching credibility in their particulars).

“The Help” has essentially one good excuse to exist: Davis, the Oscar-nominated, Tony-winning powerhouse who radiates Aibileen’s deep pain and coiled-anger determination in another remarkable performance. Unfortunately, Aibileen disappears for long stretches to accommodate the white characters (including Jessica Chastain’s guileless employer).

If only “The Help” accepted more of Davis’ help, we might have a work of art on our hands instead of another condescending, half-baked history lesson.

Rated PG-13 for thematic material. 2 hours, 27 minutes.


FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

Remembering Claudette Colvin

reprinted from Student Activism

March 3, 2011 in Students

Yesterday was the fifty-sixth anniversary of the day that Claudette Colvin was asked to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama city bus, and refused. When Rosa Parks did the same thing nine months later, she sparked a movement that would change America.

But Claudette Colvin is worth remembering too.

In the spring of 1955, Claudette Colvin was a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery. On March 2 of that year, on her way home from school, she was told to move to the back of the bus to allow a white person to take her seat.

Like Rosa Parks, she refused. Like Rosa Parks, she was arrested.

So why do we know Parks’ name and not Colvin’s?

Because where Parks was a 42-year-old civil rights activist, Colvin was a 15-year-old schoolkid.

Because where Parks was a respectable married woman with a good job, Colvin was poor … and would shortly become pregnant by an older, married man.

Because where Parks responded to injustice with quiet dignity, Colvin responded with noisy anger.

(When the bus driver told Rosa Parks that he would have to call the police if she didn’t get up, Parks replied, with extraordinary self-possession, “You may do that.” When the police arrived, she went without resistance. When the cops came for Claudette Colvin, she yelled at them that they were violating her rights, and refused to move. They dragged her from the bus. When they kicked her, she kicked them back.)

Rosa Parks is one of my heroes. Claudette Colvin is another.

And there’s another part of the Claudette Colvin story that’s worth telling. I first discovered it in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, and it’s stuck with me.

In November 1952, a black Montgomery high school student named Jeremiah Reeves was arrested and charged with the rape of a married white teenager four months earlier.

It was widely believed in Montgomery’s black community that the two had been having an affair. Reeves himself said that she had gone to the authorities only because she feared she was pregnant with his baby. But the police were able to extract a confession from him by threatening him with the death penalty if he pled not guilty — they even forced him to sit in the electric chair where they said he’d be executed.

After the confession Reeves was quickly charged with raping or attempting to rape six white women, and brought to trial just weeks later. He was convicted by an all-white jury that included one of the police officers who had participated in the investigation. The jury deliberated for just 38 minutes, and — despite the police’s promises — sentenced him to death.

Jeremiah Reeves was a classmate of Claudette Colvin’s at Booker T. Washington High School, and a neighbor. He was a senior, she was a first-year. He was handsome, popular, a talented drummer, a friend. Colvin rallied in his support, raised money for his defense, wrote him letters in jail. His arrest was, she later said, “the turning point in my life,” the moment when she really began to think critically about racism and injustice.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ordered that Reeves be given a new trial on the grounds that his confession should not have been admitted into evidence. (He was retried, with the confession excluded, but the result was the same — and the jury’s verdict came even quicker.) In March of 1955, Claudette Colvin sat down on a Montgomery bus and refused to give up her seat.

In 1958 Jeremiah Reeves was executed in the same electric chair in which he had been threatened with death six years earlier.

Updated with additional information December 1, 2011

FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help

Subject: An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help
From: Natanya Duncan
Date: Mon, August 15, 2011 9:41 am

An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help:

On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this
statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping
presented in both the film and novel version of The Help. The book has
sold over three million copies, and heavy promotion of the movie will
ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book
and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The
Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic
workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black
life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights

During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and
economic inequalities limited black women’s employment opportunities. Up
to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic
servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a
disappointing resurrection of Mammy-a mythical stereotype of black women
who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white
families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites,
the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic
racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where
employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent
iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the
days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather
than reside in it.

Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and
culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a
child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the film, for example,
the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You
is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to
the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular. For
centuries, black women and men have drawn strength from their community
institutions. The black family, in particular provided support and the
validation of personhood necessary to stand against adversity. We do not
recognize the black community described in The Help where most of the
black male characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent. Such
distorted images are misleading and do not represent the historical
realities of black masculinity and manhood.

Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual
harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white
employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil
Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic
workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault.
The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and
vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

Similarly, the film is woefully silent on the rich and vibrant history of
black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi. Granted, the assassination of
Medgar Evers, the first Mississippi based field secretary of the NAACP,
gets some attention. However, Evers’ assassination sends Jackson’s black
community frantically scurrying into the streets in utter chaos and
disorganized confusion-a far cry from the courage demonstrated by the
black men and women who continued his fight. Portraying the most dangerous
racists in 1960s Mississippi as a group of attractive, well dressed,
society women, while ignoring the reign of terror perpetuated by the Ku
Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council, limits racial injustice to
individual acts of meanness.

We respect the stellar performances of the African American actresses in
this film. Indeed, this statement is in no way a criticism of their
talent. It is, however, an attempt to provide context for this popular
rendition of black life in the Jim Crow South. In the end, The Help is not
a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who
labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather,
it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about
the lives of black women to make sense of her own. The Association of
Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this
film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of

Ida E. Jones is National Director of ABWH and Assistant Curator at Howard
University. Daina Ramey Berry, Tiffany M. Gill, and Kali Nicole Gross are
Lifetime Members of ABWH and Associate Professors at the University of
Texas at Austin. Janice Sumler-Edmond is a Lifetime Member of ABWH and is
a Professor at Huston-Tillotson University.

Suggested Reading:
Like one of the Family: Conversations from A Domestic’s Life, Alice
The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James
Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neeley
The Street by Ann Petry
A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight

Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation
Household by Thavolia Glymph
To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors by Tera Hunter
Labor of Love Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from
Slavery to the Present by Jacqueline Jones Living In, Living Out: African
American Domestics and the Great Migration by Elizabeth Clark-Lewis
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody

Any questions, comments, or interview requests can be sent to

FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

RACE: Are We So Different?

RACE: Are We So Different?


Composite photo of faceRACE Are We So Different?

We expect people to look different. And why not? Like a fingerprint, each person is unique. Every person represents a one-of-a-kind, combination of their parents’, grandparents’ and family’s ancestry. And every person experiences life somewhat differently than others.

Differences… they’re a cause for joy and sorrow. We celebrate differences in personal identity, family background, country and language. At the same time, differences among people have been the basis for discrimination and oppression.

Yet, are we so different? Current science tells us we share a common ancestry and the differences among people we see are natural variations, results of migration, marriage and adaptation to different environments. How does this fit with the idea of race?

Looking through the eyes of history, science and lived experience, the RACE Project explains differences among people and reveals the reality – and unreality – of race.  The story of race is complex and may challenge how we think about race and human variation, about the differences and similarities among people.

FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare

The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise

Nearly a century’s worth of photographs from the Scurlock studio form a vivid portrait of black Washington, D.C., in all its guises—its challenges and its victories, its dignity and its determination. The exhibition features more than 100 images created by one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington. Highlights include cameras and equipment from the studio and period artifacts from Washington.



FacebookGoogle GmailLinkedInEmailShare