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Tag Archives: Black History

WERD Atlanta – Americas First Black Owned Radio Station

Radio doesn’t mean much to the millennial generation in that the Internet has stolen younger listeners with tailorable music – but in the 40’s through the 90’s radio was King. But it wasn’t until 1949 that black folks owned their own station, and prior to the mid 60’s black radio was confined to only daytime, operating from sunup to sunset on AM bands at low power. Black Music radio was largely missing post sunset in most of the country, as the local white owned station only played music by white musicians. The low power limitation meant that black station reach was decidedly limited, typically no more than 20-30 miles of an urban center. AM Radio bounced off the stratosphere, and at night you could hear radio from cities sometimes over a thousand miles away, So called “Bandit” stations (not operating with FCC licenses) were popular at night as they played exciting new music that never made the top 40 stations.  The development of FM Radio, and the Civil Rights Movement eradicated this form of discrimination as black stations rushed to go FM and get free of he “Daytime” limitation.

My father and I looked at buying a low power AM Station in the early 60’s which had been owned by whites. I was still a youngster, but my various grass cutting and handyman jobs had netted me a decent chunk of money to make the down payment, and a local black owned bank was amenable (with my father’s signature as I was only 13) to loan the $5,000 necessary. The price of Daytime AM Stations went though the floor due to the anticipated emergence of FM.And like the Internet where the value of a property is based on the number of eyes who visit a site, the value of a radio station is based on the coverage market in “ears” listening. So Urban stations are vastly more valuable. The issue was the “Community Service” clause in the FCC regulations. Black folks were fairly thin on the ground in my suburban area – so the FCC rejected our application because they felt a black owned station wouldn’t be serving the predominately white community. Took another shot in the early 70’s at buying an FM Station – but by that time they had become expensive properties (@ $3 m) beyond my means to raise enough money to do.

America’s first black-owned radio station let the words of MLK and others ring

Two blocks away from the famous King Center in downtown Atlanta is a small brick building that tourists typically overlook.

But in the 1950s, that little brick building reverberated with the messages of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.

The building was home to the first black-owned radio station in the United States — WERD — and it was the medium that King used to broadcast his Sunday sermons then, later, announcements of his civil rights marches. The station was a fixture of Atlanta’s African-American community. It offered a rare public venue for black jazz and blues performers during the Jim Crow era, and amplified the voices of King and other African-American leaders as they encouraged black citizens to vote.

In the decades that followed the tumultuous 1950s and ’60, the building that had been WERD went through the incarnations of any professional building in a changing city, finally serving its community as a hair salon during the 1980s and ’90s. That — a hair salon — was what hairdresser Ricci de Forest thought he was getting when he signed a lease in 2004.

What he knew, though, was that it was not just any hair salon; it was one of only two “Madam C.J. Walker” hair salons left in the country. Named for an African-American beauty pioneer who made a fortune from licensing her salon chain and selling beauty products in the early 20th century, the salon and the building housing it had the appeal of that historical niche.

“I wanted to attach her legacy to my business,” says history buff de Forest.

It wasn’t until about two years later that he discovered his new salon had a much broader and deeper place in African-American history, as the birthplace of WERD and as the amplifier of King’s words to a community and to a nation.

The discovery was met with a sense of jubilation mixed with disappointment. De Forest didn’t understand why the space hadn’t been preserved in the years before he came to Atlanta from Cleveland.

“The burden of the responsibility hit me like a sucker punch. This is a heavy responsibility,” he says.

In 1949, Atlanta University Professor Jesse B. Blayton Sr. bought WERD for $50,000. Although it was only allowed to operate from sunrise to sunset and was allocated limited frequency power, it quickly became a staple to Atlanta’s black community.

King’s office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is on the other side of the wall. It was said that King would tap the ceiling of his office with a broomstick to get the attention of the WERD DJ upstairs when he needed to make an announcement.

Today, you can still hear broadcasts from WERD online, where de Forest plays his record collection under the motto “All vintage. All vinyl. All the time” on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET.

De Forest wanted to preserve the legacy of both Madam C.J. Walker and WERD by gradually turning his salon into a makeshift museum. Thousands of donated vinyl records — including albums by Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Count Basie — decorate the walls, along with segregation-era signs de Forest has collected over the years. His desk displays a rusty “we serve colored carry out only” sign.

The hair salon portion of the building looks like an early 20th century time capsule and still operates as a functional hair salon. While Some of de Forest’s regular customers get their hair done, visitors stop by to look at the old curling irons and hair straighteners on display. One visitor named Selena says she’s lived in Atlanta for 18 years but didn’t know about the legacy of this place.

“It’s embarrassing — I’ve never stopped but there’s so much history in this one little space that I never knew about.”

It’s not just this building that doesn’t get much foot traffic along Auburn Avenue. In fact, many of the historic buildings in this district are not frequented by many visitors.

A once bustling district built by black entrepreneurs in the early 20th century, Auburn Avenue later suffered from a lack of investment after the city integrated. The National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the area “endangered” twice.

De Forest says he sees his efforts to preserve the Madam C.J. Walker Museum and WERD radio station as part of a larger mission to preserve the district’s history and contributions to the civil rights movement.

He gained nonprofit status in fall 2015 and keeps a small donation jar at the entrance of the building. De Forest says he’s received a few donations over the years but also has to frequently dig into his own pockets to keep the doors opened.

“I’ve been keeping it open for years and it hasn’t been easy … it hasn’t been a financial gain. It’s been a financial drain.”

Despite this, he says he loves going in to work, where he is part-time hairstylist, DJ and tour guide.

“It’s like a 5-year-old going to ride his tricycle. It’s unbelievable. I feel that good.”

Nowadays, de Forest frequently thinks about retiring and moving abroad to train other hairstylists, but also worries about what this would mean for the future of the museum. He invites young local artists to use the museum for performances as a way to reach out to younger generations, with the hope that they, too, can share his enthusiasm and love for the space.

His outreach seems to be working. There are a handful of young volunteers, including a bubbly 24-year-old named Chiane Matthews, who by chance stopped by the building last spring and had been returning almost every day since.

“I fell in love with this place and so I wanted to do something to help preserve it,” says Matthews.

She started volunteering as a social media director and show producer and eventually brought her best friend, 23-year-old Amani Hassan, on board. In the short time before our interview, they had both been able to persuade another one of their friends to volunteer as “brand manager” for the museum.

On Wednesday nights, young men and women fill the makeshift museum. Matthews and Hassan take turns announcing the performers of the night, which include two R&B singers and two local rappers accompanied by a small band. During the performances, de Forest quietly sits in the corner and listens as he plays black and white video of a jazz duo on the back wall projector. “I want them to know this is where it started,” he says.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Black History

 

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The NY Times Black History Project

The NY Times is publishing pictures from their extensive libraries of the Civil Rights era. Some are of common people, some celebrities, and some key members of the Civil Rights Movement, both well known and not. These pictures have never been published previously, and provide a context of life during those turbulent times.

The daily pictures and commentary are published here – Check it out, they are publishing articles with photographs every day for the month.

Unpublished Black History

The NJ National Guard, with bayonets fixed on guns sent to quell riots in Newark in 1968 after Dr King was murdered.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Black History

 

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Uncle Jason Riley…Fueling White Racists

This on is two articles. A piece by Uncle Jason Tomming for the man about Black History Month, and a white racist defending racist statements because she got them for Jason Riley…SHowing just how black Uncle Tom’s like Riley enable white racists.

This from the Lawn Jockey himself. Here Riley argues that Jim Crow was good for black people, and if they knew their places they would be better off.

An Alternative Black History Month

History Month, which began as Negro History Week some 90 Februarys ago, was meant to be temporary. Its founder, historian Carter G. Woodson, envisioned a time when black history would be incorporated with American history and no longer require separate recognition. Woodson’s optimism was warranted.

Americans today are led by a black president in the fourth year of his second term. Martin Luther King’s birthday is a national holiday. The likeness of Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks might soon grace U.S. currency, if the majority of people surveyed prevails. And it has been decades since school curricula excluded black perspectives and accomplishments. Black History Month’s sunset might seem long overdue, but the celebration is too useful politically for that to happen anytime soon.

Woodson died in 1950, a few years before the civil-rights movement found its stride. In the post-1960s era, black leaders turned that movement into a lucrative industry, and Black History Month helps keep them relevant. February is not simply about highlighting the achievements of people like voting-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer or the Buffalo Soldiers who served in the Spanish-American War.

It is also about using racial identity to advance groupthink and to discourage black individuality. It is about presenting the history of blacks as the history of their victimization by whites up to the present day—which explains racial disparities in areas ranging from school achievement and household income to rates of unemployment, incarceration and single-parent homes.

The irony is that black history in the first half of the 20th century is a history of tremendous progress despite overwhelming odds. During a period of legal discrimination and violent hostility to their advancement, blacks managed to make unprecedented gains that have never been repeated. Black poverty fell to 47% from 87% between 1940 and 1960—before the implementation of Great Society programs that receive so much credit for poverty reduction. The percentage of black white-collar workers quadrupled between 1940 and 1970—before the implementation of affirmative-action policies that supposedly produced today’s black middle class.

In New York City, the earnings of black workers tripled between 1940 and 1950, and over the next decade the city saw a 55% increase in the number of black lawyers, a 56% increase in the number of black doctors and a 125% increase in the number of black teachers, according to political scientist Michael Javen Fortner’s new book, “Black Silent Majority.” The number of black nurses, accountants and engineers grew at an even faster clip over the same period. “There are signs that the Negro has begun to develop a large, strong middle class,” wrote Time magazine in 1953.

You don’t hear much about this black history during Black History Month (or any other month, for that matter) because it undercuts the dominant narrative pushed by the political left and accepted uncritically by the media. The Rev. Al Sharpton and the NAACP have no use for empirical evidence of significant black socioeconomic gains during the Jim Crow era, because they have spent decades insisting that blacks can’t advance until racism has been eliminated. If racism is no longer a significant barrier to black upward mobility and doesn’t explain today’s racial disparities, then blacks may have no use for Mr. Sharpton and the NAACP. The main priority of civil-rights leaders today is self-preservation.

Many factors could plausibly explain black progress in the first part of the 20th century. The post-World War II economy was booming, and blacks were steadily increasing their years of education, which increased their levels of compensation. Mass migration from the South meant that more blacks had access to the higher-paying jobs in the North.

The black family was also more stable during this period. Every census from 1890 to 1940 shows the black marriage rate slightly higher than the white rate. In 1925 five out of six black children in New York City lived with both parents. Nationally, two out of three black children were being raised in two-parent homes as recently as the early 1960s. Today, more than 70% are not.

Black nuclear families used to be the norm. Now they are the exception. Jim Crow did less damage to the black family than well-intentioned Great Society programs that discouraged work and marriage and promised more government checks for having more children. But that black history is also kept largely under wraps by those who have a vested interest in blaming the decimation of the black family on slavery and discrimination.

Much of what ought to be studied, duplicated and celebrated in black history is often played down or willfully ignored. And so long as the media allow civil-rights activists and liberal politicians with their own agendas to speak for all blacks, that won’t change.

Now – the white racist School Board member…

School board member kicks off Black History Month by telling blacks they are ‘their own worst enemy’

Illinois school board member is under fire for kicking off Black History Month by posting a racist message on the board’s official Facebook page, the Daily Herald reports.

Elgin Area School District U-46 board member Jeanette Ward, wrote the post on Feb. 1 that began with the line: “Blacks have become their own worst enemy, and liberal leaders do not help matters by blaming self-inflicted wounds on whites or ‘society.’”

Ward was quoting from author Jason L. Riley’s book “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”

Ward’s post continued, “The notion that racism is holding back blacks as a group, or that better black outcomes cannot be expected until racism has been vanquished, is a dodge. And encouraging blacks to look to politicians to solve their problems does them a disservice.”

At a Monday night board meeting, speakers tore into Ward’s post, calling it “racist speech” and labeling it as “irresponsible,” particularly on the first day of  Black History Month.

“When we honor Black History Month, we ought to know what black history is all about,” stated Myrna Becker before adding that she was appalled by what she read.

According to Ward, who is white,  she felt she was offering different perspective on Black History Month.

Danise Habun, a member of the Elgin Human Relations Commission, disagreed.

“There was nothing respectful toward or celebratory of Black History Month contained in the passage posted by Ms. Ward,” Habun said. “If her words and the quoted passage from the book is indeed to offer a fresh perspective, it appears as if there has been a failure to communicate. It continues to blame the victim, and ignores institutionalized racism. As an official elected to represent all members of the U-46 school district, Ms. Ward is to be held to a high standard of behavior and conduct.”

Ward refused to back down following the public comments, but did state that the entire board should not be held accountable for what she wrote.

She also defended the post by pointing out that original author Jason Riley is black.

“I want all people to succeed. There is one race — the human race. Did I not honor that African-American author by quoting him? I stand by quoting Jason L. Riley,” she said.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Black Conservatives

 

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Janet Hubert Unloads on “Stacey Ho'”

Ouch!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Black Conservatives, Faux News

 

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Today’s Google Doodle is Frederick Douglas

If you go to Google Search, in honor of Black History Month, today’s Google Doodle is this pic…

Go here to the Google Cultural Institute to see a letter written by Douglas to his former slave master and other important documents and images.

Now, I really appreciate Google doing this, but would prefer they hire a few more black engineers, scientists, and management…

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Black History

 

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Book About George Washington’s Slaves Pulled

Some apparently well-meaning authors have gotten into hot water relative their depiction of two of First President George Washington’s slaves.

Scholastic Pulls Children’s Book About George Washington And His Slaves After Outcry

The picture book was strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia.

Scholastic is pulling a new picture book about George Washington and his slaves amid objections it sentimentalizes a brutal part of American history.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was released Jan. 5 and had been strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

“While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the children’s publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which depicts Hercules and Delia preparing a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

While notes in “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!” reads the publisher’s description of the story. “And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”

The trade publication School Library Journal had called it “highly problematic” and recommended against its purchase. Another trade journal, Kirkus Reviews, had labeled the book “an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery.”

In a Scholastic blog post from last week, Ganeshram wrote that the story was based on historical research and meant to honor the slaves’ skill and resourcefulness…

Sunday’s announcement comes amid an ongoing debate about the lack of diversity in publishing, although the collaborators on “A Birthday Cake” come from a variety of backgrounds. Ganeshram is an award-winning journalist and author born to a Trinidadian father and Iranian mother and has a long history of food writing. Her previous works include the novel “Stir It Up” and the nonfiction “FutureChefs.”

Brantley-Newton, who has described herself as coming from a “blended background — African American, Asian, European, and Jewish,” has illustrated the children’s series “Ruby and the Booker Boys” among other books. The editor was Andrea Davis Pinkney, also an author who in 2013 won a Coretta Scott King prize for African-American children’s literature….Read More Here

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Black History

 

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The War That Never Ended – John Horse and the Seminoles

Met a Seminole Chief many years ago, and got a real education about what was called by the US “The Seminole Wars”, which were actually a 50 year series of battles between the US Government and the Seminoles, and their black allies, sometimes referred to as Black Seminole because some of the leaders of this revolt were black. The longest and most expensive War fought by the US prior to the Civil War, and the most expensive of the “Indian Wars” in terms of GDP by the US. Which never officially ended.

Wiki actually has a reasonably good write-up of this period to get an understanding from the “65.000 ft view”.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Black History

 

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