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“Walk With Me” – How Judge Damon J. Keith Reshaped America

Judge Damon J. Keith isn’t that well known, and isn’t lauded by most historians. However his impact on Civil Rights, and the Civil Rights of all Americans is incredible. Back in 1992, when the Bush Administration dragged Uncle Tommy Clarence out from under his porch such as to fill the “Black seat” on the Supreme Court left by Thurgood Marshall – Judge Keith was one a dozen or so black Jurists whose qualification far exceeded that of Uncle Tommie.

There is a lesson in courage and determination here I hope the young folks in BLM appreciate and emulate. The way things are shaping up in this country with the Chumph and his violent racist crew…We are going to need it.

 

‘I don’t scare easily’: A 94-year-old judge’s refusal to bow to racism, death threats

Long before federal judge Damon Keith became known as a “crusader for justice,” he was a new Howard University Law School graduate working as a janitor while he studied for the bar exam.

It was 1949, and Keith cleaned the bathrooms at The Detroit News, his hometown newspaper. One day, Keith recalled, he was leaning against a wall in the men’s room with a law dictionary in his hands when he was interrupted.

“What are you reading?” a white reporter asked him.

Keith, the grandson of slaves and a World War II veteran, told the reporter he was studying the law dictionary to prepare for the bar exam.

“What for?” the man asked.

“I’m going to be a lawyer,” Keith responded.

The reporter laughed.

“A black lawyer?” he asked incredulously. “You better keep on mopping.”

Keith, now 94 and still serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Detroit, recounted that story two weeks ago in a Howard University moot courtroom, where students, lawyers, his former clerks and a Supreme Court nominee gathered to watch a new documentary about his life, “Walk with Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith.”

The following day, the legendary judge sat in the front row as President Obama and black luminaries from across the country celebrated the opening of the Smithsonian’s new African American Museum of History and Culture.

Keith, one of the oldest federal jurists in the country, has been handing down important rulings on racial discrimination, presidential power and other contentious legal issues for nearly 50 years. And he shows no signs of retiring. He’s at his chambers each day by 9 a.m., where the first thing he does is read his Bible, he said. He works until about 5:30 pm.

Last month he issued a scathing 38-page dissent in an Ohio voting rights case, accusing two colleagues on the 6th Circuit Court of turning their backs on African American voters likely to be impacted by restrictions on early and absentee voting. He included photos and biographies of 36 people who died during the long struggle for civil rights and equal protection, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till.

“By denying the most vulnerable the right to vote,” he wrote, “the Majority shuts minorities out of our political process. Rather than honor the men and women whose murdered lives opened the doors of our democracy and secured our right to vote, the Majority has abandoned this court’s standard of review in order to conceal the votes of the most defenseless behind the dangerous veneers of factual findings lacking support and legal standards lacking precedent.”

He also warned: “The unfettered right to vote is the bedrock of a free and democratic society—without it, such a society cannot stand.”

Then he created even more of a stir by giving an interview to Slate lamenting “the racist attitude of the majority” and mentioning his two colleagues on the panel, John Rogers and Danny Boggs.

He doesn’t apologize for calling them out by name.

“I thought the panel’s decision was racist,” he told The Post. He noted that his grandparents couldn’t vote in Georgia. His fellow judges, he said, “don’t know what we’ve gone through. They don’t know what I’ve gone through.”

Keith learned the power of the law — and of dissent — when he was student at Howard, where future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was one of his professors…Read the rest Here

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Black History, BlackLivesMatter, Giant Negros

 

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272 Slaves Were Sold To Keep Georgetown University Afloat in 1838

The Catholic Church held slaves in America (and perhaps elsewhere), and when the premiere Catholic College in the Americas got into financial trouble, the Jesuits organized the sale of 272 slaves to raise money to keep the School afloat. The Church also operated several plantations in southern Maryland to fund the School which used slave labor.

272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?

The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.

But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.

Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today asGeorgetown University.

Now, with racial protests roiling college campuses, an unusual collection of Georgetown professors, students, alumni and genealogists is trying to find out what happened to those 272 men, women and children. And they are confronting a particularly wrenching question: What, if anything, is owed to the descendants of slaves who were sold to help ensure the college’s survival?

More than a dozen universities — including Brown, Columbia, Harvard and the University of Virginia — have publicly recognized their ties to slavery and the slave trade. But the 1838 slave sale organized by the Jesuits, who founded and ran Georgetown, stands out for its sheer size, historians say.

At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.

Some of that money helped to pay off the debts of the struggling college.

“The university itself owes its existence to this history,” said Adam Rothman, a historian at Georgetown and a member of a university working group that is studying ways for the institution to acknowledge and try to make amends for its tangled roots in slavery.

Although the working group was established in August, it was student demonstrations at Georgetown in the fall that helped to galvanize alumni and gave new urgency to the administration’s efforts.

The students organized a protest and a sit-in, using the hashtag #GU272 for the slaves who were sold. In November, the university agreed to remove the names of the Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy and the Rev. William McSherry, the college presidents involved in the sale, from two campus buildings.

An alumnus, following the protest from afar, wondered if more needed to be done.

That alumnus, Richard J. Cellini, the chief executive of a technology company and a practicing Catholic, was troubled that neither the Jesuits nor university officials had tried to trace the lives of the enslaved African-Americans or compensate their progeny.

Mr. Cellini is an unlikely racial crusader. A white man, he admitted that he had never spent much time thinking about slavery or African-American history.

But he said he could not stop thinking about the slaves, whose names had been in Georgetown’s archives for decades…

Broken Promises

There are no surviving images of Cornelius, no letters or journals that offer a look into his last hours on a Jesuit plantation in Maryland.

He was not yet five feet tall when he sailed onboard the Katharine Jackson, one of several vessels that carried the slaves to the port of New Orleans.

Photo

The ship manifest of the Katharine Jackson, available in full at the Georgetown Slavery archive, listed the name, sex, age and height of each slave transported to New Orleans in the fall of 1838. It showed that the cargo included dozens of children, among them infants as young as 2 months old…

.Read The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2016 in American Genocide, Black History

 

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National Museum of Black History

Almost done! Can’t say I care much for the architecture as it i a starkly modern and out of place as the Native American building is geographically out of place.

The Native American Museum

African American Museum

National Museum of African American History and Culture Scheduled to Open Sept. 24

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that the African-American history museum will open in late September, with the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony led, fittingly, by President Barack Obama.

The long-awaited National Museum of African American History and Culture will open on Sept. 24 in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institution announced Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman at the Smithsonian, said that President Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, will lead the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A weeklong celebration is scheduled to follow the opening of the museum, and it will include an outdoor festival and a period in which the museum will remain open for 24 hours.

As AP notes, the museum has built a collection of some 11 exhibits that detail the history of slavery, segregation, civil rights and African Americans’ achievements in the arts, entertainment, sports, military and other aspects of the wider culture. There will also be artifacts on display that are on loan from other institutions, such as the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation, both signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Black History

 

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Black Protest Music …Then and Now

SO…Has the music died, or is there just another chapter? The author of this piece argues it’s come in a circle…

Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now

By William C. Anderson

The sounds Black people make are the brick and mortar of the United States. Literally. The enslaved African’s singing was a driving force for the free labor that built a young nation and put it at the forefront of empires. Historically, Black Americans have been amongst the primary influencers of music culture. The genres that were born of Black misery, triumph, endurance, protest, and expression have changed the way the entire world sounds. But it’s undeniable that many of these songs were and still are shaped by the fatigue of the constant protest that comes with Black existence.

As the son of a Black Southern Pentecostal minister, I’ve had the privilege of sitting among the serene sounds of praise that birthed a nation of noir notes. Just about every genre that has risen to popularity is from the offspring of the Black church. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Black American beginnings on this continent in our cultural songs: one part culture, one part community, one part family, one part fear of fire and brimstone. The tears that beg to line my face when I hear Mary Pickney’s “Down on Me”, Janie Hunters’ “Jonah”, or Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over” retrace Fredrick Douglass’ words:

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do….The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.”

It’s important to note that the act of this singing was more than entertainment for plantation overseers or solely expressions of sadness. In its purest form, the slave’s singing was an act of protest. Its beauty and expression transcends the pervasive hell that was the environment that allowed them to be enslaved.

Black existence is an act of rebellion in and of itself, most especially in art. Black people have sung songs amid the persistent onslaught of struggle in the United States, though not exclusively. Enslaved Africans pioneered music like Cumbia, tango, and rumba across the Americas and integrated self-defense and music in Brazil with capoeira. Here in North America, all of the elements of our African diasporic kin’s musical instincts are present in our musical traditions, too.

Since the days of chattel slavery, we’ve heard as our songs have taken different shapes, changed. Jazz’s earliest beginnings in the Congo Square of New Orleans were moments of sanctification, through the allowance of Whites for them to congregate there, to evoke their traditions and make music. Jazz has been consistent in this way over decades. Artists like Nina Simone and Charles Mingus made outspokenness a part of their reputation over the years with songs like “Mississippi Goddam” and “Fables of Faubus”. Miles Davis became the embodiment of Black protest to many through his unwillingness to bend to White standards, insistence that Black women grace his album covers, and even making a tribute to “Black Jack Johnson”. Other imaginative artists like Sun Ra created other, better worlds for Black people through their music. Some artists like Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln infused what they could into Black protests through their art. In the song “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”, from the classic Black resistance jazz album We Insist, you can hear the waves of emotion Lincoln pours into her vocals. At one point in the song, she arguably sets a shrieking standard for punk rock before the genre officially existed, but not before evoking the symbolic moans of gospel and the blues. The revolutionary nature of Black music always comes back to that starting point.

The blues are Black survival music. While many songs deal with the everyday issues, others from blues’ earliest beginnings up to contemporary times are blatantly political. Three songs about my infamous home state of Alabama come to mind: J.B. Lenoir’s “Alabama”, Lead Belly’s “Scottsboro Boys”, and John Lee Hooker’s “Birmingham Blues”. You can find countless songs about Alabama because it was one of the starting points of the “great migration” Blacks made when they left the South fleeing oppressive violence. Furthermore, it was once the cradle of the civil rights movement and Black activism itself.

Much of the music that defines what most know as Black protest songs are civil rights era protest music. Songs like “We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Going to Come”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” set the stage for what many millennials like myself would come to know as the movement songs. Documentaries like Eyes on the Prize were filled with these songs as soundtrack to the brutality of White supremacist violence against Black people.

I must admit that seeing these images of Black people singing while being beaten ruthlessly felt self-defeating and depressing as a child. The eternal words of Malcolm X, “stop singing and start swinging,” come to mind. Though there should not be any diminishing of the importance of any particular type of protest music, the current Black generation has moved toward a more confrontational approach….Read the rest of this outstanding piece here

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Priceless Tubman Artifact Donation to Museum of African American History

This one is simply stunning. Who would believe such priceless artifacts still existed – much less were in private hands?

Black history museum gets special opening gift

Black History Month was marked in a very special way Wednesday. The president and the first lady attended the ground breaking for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture on the National Mall, where Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech still echoes.
CBS News correspondent Chip Reid got a first look at some of the priceless artifacts the museum will hold.

Charles Blockson, 78, has been collecting African and African-American artifacts for more than 50 years. The high point came just last year when he inherited 39 items that belonged to Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery, she escaped, but returned to the South nearly 20 times leading hundreds of others to freedom on what came to be known as the Underground Railroad.

Some of Charles Blockson’s ancestors were rescued by Tubman.

“When I first received (her artifacts), I was surprised, shocked. Nearly every item I picked up I started to cry, the tears just, my emotional armor erupted,” Blockson said.

The items include a silk shawl that was given to Tubman by Queen Victoria, and Tubman’s book of gospel hymns. Blockson, though, says it felt wrong to keep them, calling it “an awesome burden.”

So he donated the Tubman artifacts, most of them too fragile to be handled, to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture…

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Black History, Giant Negros, The Post-Racial Life

 

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