Tag Archives: History

Rhonda No More… and Real Bada** Women

Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm Trade Blows. Holly KO’d Rhonda in the Second Round.

And now for some truly “badazz” women…

1. Virginia Hall: Allied Spy

“She is the most dangerous of Allied spies. We must find and destroy her” was an actual thing the Gestapo said about Virginia Hall, an American operative in Vichy France, who helped gather vital intelligence for Britain in the early years of the war.

Despite the fact that her country — the United States — had yet to enter the war. Despite the fact that women weren’t generally considered spy material by the prevailing dudes in charge. Despite walking with a limp on a prosthetic leg, which made her as easily identifiable as, say, James Bond in every movie ever. (Seriously, does anyone in the world not know James Bond is a spy? How is it even possible he’s still undercover at this point? Who can I talk to about this?)

When America did finally enter the war, Hall was forced to escape by herself, on foot, over the Pyrenees mountains, all while still only having one leg. Upon arriving in Spain, she promptly pleaded to be sent back, which she ultimately was — this time to occupied France, where she helped train the French resistance, cut Nazi supply lines, and generally cause mass chaos in preparation for the Allied landing at Normandy. While being literallyhunted by Nazis.

Hall is pictured above receiving an award for her service, probably wondering how many Gestapo agents the old dude giving her the award has fled while wearing heels.

3. Sophie Scholl: German Dissident

…Disgusted by the rumors of mass slaughter on the Eastern Front and the deaths of an ever-growing number of her countrymen, Sophie — only 21 at the time — her brother Hans, and their friend Christoph Probst began distributing leaflets at the University of Munich denouncing the Nazis and calling for resistance among the German people. Their flyers eventually spread around Germany to the University of Hamburg and beyond, and into one of the few genuine flare-ups of internal political resistance against Hitler during the war.

Unfortunately, the Nazis, as you may have heard, were known for being a tad tough on dissent.

Sophie, Hans, and Probst were eventually captured by the Gestapo, tried, and executed for treason. Her last words were: “What does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”…

5. Faye Schulman: Partisan Fighter

After her whole family was massacred by the Nazis in the Lenin ghetto in Poland, Faye Schulman fled into the nearby woods, where she joined a group of resistance fighters. A skilled photographer, Schulman participated in a daring raid to rescue her photography equipment and proceeded to take a series of incredible photographs that captured the rarely seen daily lives of partisan fighters during the war.

As the only Jewish woman in the group, Schulman kept her identity secret throughout much of the war, all while documenting the bravery and sacrifice of her cohort. “I want people to know that there was resistance,” she said in an interview after the war. “Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”

6 and 7. Frances Eliza Wills and Harriet Ida Pickens: Naval Officers

“Sailors?” you might be thinking. “What’s the big deal? Tons of American women served in the Naval Reserve (WAVES) during the Second World War.” Which is true.

Frances Eliza Wills and Harriet Ida Pickens, however, were the first to do it while black — and contend with the ridiculous amount of racism that came along with that.

In an era when the military was still segregated, Wills and Pickens overcame institutional barriers, a mountain of prejudice, and social expectations just to claim a job that thousands of their white peers were granted simply by showing up. They became the first black female officers in the U.S. Navy and were assigned to teach at the Hunter Naval Training Station in the Bronx.

72 black women in total served in WAVES during the war, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wills and Pickens.

15. Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Soviet Sniper

I came here to chew bubble gum and shoot Nazis. And I’m all out of bubble gum…

As a sniper fighting the Nazis in the USSR, Lyudmila Pavlichenko recorded 309 kills — the most of any female sniper in history.

“We mowed down Hitlerites like ripe grain,” she said of her role in the battle of Sevastopol, presumably dropping a mic, kicking a door down, and speeding away in her Escalade. Pavlichenko became a national hero for her efforts and even toured the U.S. in 1942.

Eventually, the Soviets turned the tide on the Eastern Front and marched slowly but surely on to Germany. And the world was never the same.

To see the rest of the list – Go Here.


Posted by on November 15, 2015 in General, News


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Smokey Robinson, On Why He Wrote “My Girl” For the Temptations

Incredible bit of history here, from the guy who lived it.

The Reason Smokey Robinson Wrote ‘My Girl’ Had Nothing To Do With A Girl

It was primarily because of one man: David Ruffin.

It’s almost impossible to think of the song “My Girl” without immediately humming those first few notes of its iconic opening riff. It was one of the biggest hits to come out of Berry Gordy’s Motown — “My Girl” became a best-selling single, rose to the top of the Billboard charts, became The Temptations’ first number-one song and marked the first time the label itself landed a number-one hit with one of their male vocal groups. Even today, more than 50 years after its release, “My Girl” still stands out, ranking among the best songs of all time.

A big part of the song’s success was its writer, Smokey Robinson. Smokey was one of Motown’s big songwriters/producers at the time; he was also the lead singer of his own vocal group, the Miracles. And, yet, Smokey never intended to keep “My Girl” for himself — it was always meant for his so-called competitors.

As Smokey tells “Oprah’s Master Class,” competition at Motown may have been fierce, but it was incredibly common for everyone to work together in an effort to strike gold with a big hit.

“It would be nothing for us to go into the studio and help one of our competitors with a song that they were working on, with an artist that we were working on,” Smokey says. “We all did that, for each other.”

In fact, Motown’s policy was that no one had a lock on a particular artist; any writer or producer could choose to work with any willing artist. This is what happened with Smokey and The Temptations. He very deliberately wrote “My Girl” for them.

“Were it not for The Temptations, I never would have written ‘My Girl,'” Smokey says.

When The Temptations first signed with Motown, the label’s founder, Berry Gordy, instructed Smokey to “get some hits on them.” Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams typically alternated as the group’s lead singers, but Smokey saw incredible potential in background singer David Ruffin.

“I wrote ‘My Girl’ for David Ruffin’s voice,” Smokey says. “The Temptations were so creative in making up the background vocals… All the stuff that they’re singing on ‘My Girl,’ they made that up themselves.”

The combination of those background vocals, Ruffin’s distinct voice and Smokey’s writing is what made the song such a hit, three important factors that all aligned at the right moment.

“No, I don’t wish I would have kept it for myself,” Smokey says of the song. “[The Temptations are] the ones who brought it out of me!”

This strong sense of community was always prevalent in Smokey’s career with Motown. Everyone there, he adds, felt like family.

“I always was so happy whenever I got a hit record on one of the artists,” Smokey says. “They were my brothers and sisters. If I could do something to enhance their career and make things better for them, that made me happy.”

See the full interview on OWN Nov 1st at 8 PM.

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Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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The History of “Zombies”

The origination of the concept of the “Walking Dead” came from Haiti, It really only has been adopted into the American lexicon in the past 100 years or so. So, on the night before Halloween – the true tale of Zombies…

The original “zombies” were Haitian slaves, condemned to be trapped inside their bodies as slaves forever.

The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies

The horror-movie trope owes its heritage to Haitian slaves, who imagined being imprisoned in their bodies forever.

In the original script for 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, the director George A. Romero refers to his flesh-eating antagonists as “ghouls.” Although the film is widely credited with launching zombies into the cultural zeitgeist, it wasn’t until its follow-up 10 years later, the consumerist nightmare Dawn of the Dead, that Romero would actually use the term. While making the first film, Romero understood zombies instead to be the undead Haitian slaves depicted in the 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film White Zombie.

By the time Dawn of the Dead was released in 1978 the cultural tide had shifted completely, and Romero had essentially reinvented the zombie for American audiences. The last 15 years have seen films and TV shows including Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, World War Z, Zombieland, Life After Beth, iZombie, and even the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

But the zombie myth is far older and more rooted in history than the blinkered arc of American pop culture suggests. It first appeared in Haiti in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the country was known as Saint-Domingue and ruled by France, which hauled in African slaves to work on sugar plantations. Slavery in Saint-Domingue under the French was extremely brutal: Half of the slaves brought in from Africa were worked to death within a few years, which only led to the capture and import of more. In the hundreds of years since, the zombie myth has been widely appropriated by American pop culture in a way that whitewashes its origins—and turns the undead into a platform for escapist fantasy.

The original brains-eating fiend was a slave not to the flesh of others but to his own. The zombie archetype, as it appeared in Haiti and mirrored the inhumanity that existed there from 1625 to around 1800, was a projection of the African slaves’ relentless misery and subjugation. Haitian slaves believed that dying would release them back to lan guinée, literally Guinea, or Africa in general, a kind of afterlife where they could be free. Though suicide was common among slaves, those who took their own lives wouldn’t be allowed to return to lan guinée. Instead, they’d be condemned to skulk the Hispaniola plantations for eternity, an undead slave at once denied their own bodies and yet trapped inside them—a soulless zombie.

After the Haitian Revolution in 1804 and the end of French colonialism, the zombie became a part of Haiti’s folklore. The myth evolved slightly and was folded into the Voodoo religion, with Haitians believing zombies were corpses reanimated by shamans and voodoo priests. Sorcerers, known as bokor, used their bewitched undead as free labor or to carry out nefarious tasks. This was the post-colonialism zombie, the emblem of a nation haunted by the legacy of slavery and ever wary of its reinstitution. As the UC Irvine professor Amy Wilentz has pointed out in her writing on zombies, on several occasions after the revolution Haiti teetered on the brink of reinstating slavery. The zombies of the Haitian Voodoo religion were a more fractured representation of the anxieties of slavery, mixed as they were with occult trappings of sorcerers and necromancy. Even then, the zombie’s roots in the horrors of slavery were already facing dilution.
It was in this form—Voodoo bokor and black magic—that the Haitian myth first crossed paths with American culture, in the aforementioned White Zombie. Although the film doesn’t begin to transform the undead in the way that Romero’s films and the subsequent zombie industrial complex would, it’s notable for its introduction of white people as interlopers in the zombie legend. It would take another few decades or so, but eventually the memory of Haiti’s colonialist history and the suffering it wrought—millions of Africans worked into the grave—would be excised from the zombie myth for good…

Which is a shame, because the zombie is such a potent symbol. For example, there’s a clear connection between the zombie of slave-driven Saint-Domingue and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent exploration of black disembodiment—the body under constant threat of capture, imprisonment, and murder. For Haitian slaves, the invention of the zombie was proof that the abuse they suffered was in a way more powerful than life itself—they had imagined a scenario in which they continued to be slaves even after death. In Between the World and Me, observing a young boy in front of a 7-Eleven, Coates writes, “This was a war for the possession of his body and that would be the war of his whole life.” The same declaration could be transported 1400 miles and 300 years and still hold true.

Instead American pop culture has used the zombie, fraught as it is with history, as a form of escapism, rather than a vehicle to explore its own past or current fears. Writing for GreenCine, Liz Cole is onto something when she says that, whatever their allegorical shadow, zombies are perhaps “indulging our post-apocalyptic fantasies” above all. Elmo Keep notes in The Awl how pop culture tends to romanticize depictions of the end of the world: In these situations, “Petty frustrations and mundane realities of real life all disappear, as do the complexities.” And so the zombie apocalypse isn’t an outlet for fears but for fantasies, functioning as an escape hatch into a world with higher dramatic stakes, fewer people, and the chance to reinvent oneself, for better or worse….Read the Whole Article Here


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Were the First Americans Black?

Fascinating documentary from the BBC. I doubt anything like this would make American TV.

Research in Brazil now suggests that the earliest settlers in America were not the Native Americans who came from Asia, but another group arriving 30,000 years earlier as part of the migration of people(s) from East Africa which settled parts of South Asia now known as Negritos, and Australia as the “Aborigines”.

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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in Africa, Black History


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Racism as it Impacts Asian Americans

This article provides several historical facts I was unaware of, including the forced immigration of a group of Southeast Asian sailors to America in the 1500’s. Chinese and Korean serfs were imported to the Americas in the 17th and 18th century to work on the plantations in conditions best described as de facto slavery in the West Indies, and in America, as in fact – due to famine and war in their home countries, they were cheaper than buying slaves. Many of those brought here stayed, after escaping their “indenture”…That is, if they survived in an environment where there were fatality rates as high as 20%.


The Two Asian Americas

1928, an Indian immigrant named Vaishno Das Bagai rented a room in San Jose, turned on the gas, and ended his life. He was thirty-seven. He had come to San Francisco thirteen years earlier with his wife and two children, “dreaming and hoping to make this land my own.” A dapper man, he learned English, wore three-piece suits, became a naturalized citizen, and opened a general store and import business on Fillmore Street, in San Francisco. But when Bagai tried to move his family into a home in Berkeley, the neighbors locked up the house, and the Bagais had to turn their luggage trucks back. Then, in 1923, Bagai found himself snared by anti-Asian laws: the Supreme Court ruled that South Asians, because they were not white, could not become naturalized citizens of the United States. Bagai was stripped of his status. Under the California Alien Land Law, of 1913—a piece of racist legislation designed to deter Asians from encroaching on white businesses and farms—losing that status also meant losing his property and his business. The next blow came when he tried to visit India. The United States government advised him to apply for a British passport.

According to Erika Lee’s “The Making of Asian America,” published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law on October 3, 1965, this swarm of circumstances undid Bagai. In the room in San Jose, he left a suicide note addressed, in an act of protest, to the San Francisco Examiner. The paper published it under the headline “Here’s Letter to the World from Suicide.” “What have I made of myself and my children?” Bagai wrote. “We cannot exercise our rights. Humility and insults, who is responsible for all this? Me and the American government. Obstacles this way, blockades that way, and bridges burnt behind.”

Bagai could have been speaking for the mass of Asian-Americans—Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmong, and Filipinos—who escaped colonialism or economic hardship at home only to encounter a country rancid with racism. Racism, as Lee shows, was the unifying factor in the Asian-American experience, bringing together twenty-three distinct immigrant groups, from very different parts of the world. It determined the jobs that Asians were able to acquire, the sizes of their families, and their self-esteem in America. If Asian America exists, it is because of systemic racism.

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump climbed a stage and crassly mimicked a Japanese (or was it a Chinese?) accent, in supposed admiration of the old stereotype that the Japanese are soulless, rapacious businessmen. This was just after Jeb Bush defended his use of the term “anchor babies” by saying that it was “more related to Asian people” than to Latinos. In September, the F.B.I. finally dropped all charges against Dr. Xi Xiaoxing, a Chinese-American physicist at Temple University arrested, in May, for passing on sensitive superconductor technology to China. The F.B.I. had claimed it had blueprints of the technology, but when independent experts examined the blueprints, they found that they weren’t for the device in question. “I don’t expect them to understand everything I do,” Xi told the Times. “But the fact that they don’t consult with experts and then charge me? Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn’t do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game.”

These are just a few recent stories, of course, but they stand in for many others. Asian-Americans are still regarded as “other” by many of their fellow-citizens. And yet one finds among some Asian-Americans a reluctance to call out racist acts, in part because of their supposed privilege in comparison with other minority groups. Meanwhile, much of the history of Asians in America, a history that now spans nearly half a millennium, has been forgotten.

The first Asians to come to North America, Lee writes, were Filipino sailors. They came aboard Spanish ships in the late fifteen-hundreds, and were subjected to such a torrent of vermin and filth on these vessels that half died en route; when they got to colonial Mexico, many refused to cross the Pacific again. They settled in Acapulco and married local women. Asian America began in desperation.

Many of the immigrants in the seventeen-hundreds and eighteen-hundreds came from lands sucked dry by colonialism, such as the Guangdong province, in China, reeling from drought and famine after the Opium Wars. Lured by contractors and agents, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese men travelled across the globe to toil on sugar and tobacco plantations in the British West Indies, Hawaii, and the Deep South as indentured laborers or “coolies,” working ten hours a day, six days a week, for five or more years before gaining freedom. (Some Asian women were hired as indentured servants, too, mostly in an attempt to pacify the men.) When the men gained their freedom, though, they often chose not to return to their homes—either, Lee writes, out of shame (their earnings didn’t match their boasts to people back home) or because they had married locals during their lonely sojourns and couldn’t take them back. Lee cites a few of their melancholic letters to family members, but one wishes she had gone deeper into the psychology of exile: many immigrants subsist on a diet of denial, believing, sometimes until their deaths, that they will go back.

From the initial ports of entry, Asians, particularly the Chinese and Filipinos, radiated outward, so that, in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, there was a Filipino fishing village in Louisiana and a Chinatown in Havana, as well as active Chinese communities along much of the West Coast. Lee describes life and labor in these communities well, explaining, for instance, why Chinese immigrants got into the laundry business during the Gold Rush. (At the time, it was cheaper for someone living in San Francisco to have clothes washed in Honolulu than to get them laundered in the city. Chinese immigrants seized the opportunity that provided.) Lee is particularly acute on the racism these immigrants endured. Chinese were called, at various times, “rats,” “beasts,” and “swine.” The president of the American Federation of Labor said that the presence of the Chinese in America was a matter of “Meat vs. Rice—American Manhood vs Asiatic Coolieism.” Kaiser Wilhelm woke from a nightmare in 1895 and commissioned a hideous painting showing the archangel Michael beset by heathen hordes from the East—the famed “yellow peril.” When more Chinese started coming after the Gold Rush, employed on large projects like the Pacific Railroad, anti-Chinese sentiment became shrill. In 1882, on the basis that Chinese workers undercut wages, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning low-skilled and family immigration, and making the Chinese, in Lee’s words, “the first illegal immigrants.” (As Jiayang Fan noted in a recent piece for this magazine, “The act, which wasn’t repealed until 1943, remains the only federal law ever to exclude a group of people by nationality.”) Special agents known as “Chinese catchers” appeared on the border with Mexico, and the Secretary of Labor despaired that “not even a Chinese wall” along the border would stop Chinese immigration. In 1871, in the largest mass lynching in American history, seventeen Chinese men were murdered by a mob of five hundred, in Los Angeles…Read the Rest Here


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Colin Powell on Trolling Republicans

Powell went to work for George W. Bush due to loyalty to his father. That was catastrophic, not only for Powell’s reputation, but the entire country because of Dick Cheney.

Powell is not done sticking the fork in those scumbags yet…

Colin Powell admits he’s trolling the GOP: “I continue to be a Republican because it annoys them”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the Washington Ideas Forum Wednesday that he only remains a Republican “because it annoys them,” the Hill’s Mark Hensch reports.

“I continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” Powell told host Walter Isaacson. “I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is, and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national-level election in the future — not just in 2016.”

Powell also claimed that the current crop of GOP candidates is mistaken in believing that the majority of the country — Republicans included — doesn’t want the next president to act on immigration reform. “I think most Republicans understand that we need immigration, we are an immigrant nation [and that] it is in our best interest to do it,” he said.

However, he added, “there are pockets of intolerance within the Republican Party [and] the Republican Party had better figure out how to defeat that.”

Powell disagreed in particular with Donald Trump, saying that “if I was around Mr. Trump — Donald, who I know rather well — I would say, ‘You know, Don, let’s see what happens — let’s tell all the immigrants working in Trump hotels to stay home tomorrow. Let’s see what happens.’”


Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Giant Negros


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Archibald Motley – Painter of the Jazz Age

Born in 1891, Archibald Motley would document, through his art – the next 70 years of black experience in Chicago and France.

Portrait of a Sophisticated Lady

Octoroon, 1922

Self Portrait

Archibald Motley, The Painter Who Captured Black America in the Jazz Age and Beyond

The artist Archibald Motley captured both the high times and cultural vibrancy of the Jazz Age, as well as graver themes of racism and injustice.

The sexy sway of a 1920s Paris nightclub, filled with light and dark-skinned people pressed against each other.

The bustling streets of the almost exclusively black “Bronzeville” neighborhood Chicago in the 1930s under a nighttime glow.

A depressing surreal scene of horror following the death of Martin Luther KingJr.and the failings of the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

These are just a handful of the diverse visual expressions of the African American experience that the artist Archibald Motley so adroitly and sumptuously captured throughout his career.

Bronzeville By Night

As versatile in his aesthetic style as he was committed to scrutinizing African American culture, Motley was a uniquely daring and sharp artist who stood out even among the Harlem Renaissance greats.

Yet, Motley’s name does not elicit the same nods of recognition and respect as his peers, like Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Zora Neale Hurston. That could–and certainly should–change after the retrospective Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist opens October 2 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Traveling through different chapters of his career, though not boxed into a strict chronology, the exhibition showcases how Motley was a thorough and sensitive observer of the black community, documenting its diversity while bringing his own keen perspective to its traditions and subcultures.

Motley “set his work apart” because he “created a modern, vibrant world which, as seen through a pair of jaded, laserlike ‘Negro’ eyes, revealed the jazz-and-blues-accented absurdities that lay behind life’s facades and public face,” writes Richard J. Powell in “Becoming Motley, Becoming Modern” an essay in the book,Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist.

Mending Socks

Powell, who is an art historian and Dean of Humanities at Duke University, curated the Whitney exhibition.

In other words, Motley wasn’t afraid to capture the good and the bad of black life, as his peers made tremendous gains yet the community in general often struggled in poverty and disenfranchisement in a segregated, very racist America.

At least a significant part of Motley’s distinct perspective on African American life came from his unique upbringing for a black man of his era.

Born in New Orleans in 1891, Motley was raised in Chicago’s then largely white immigrant Engelwood neighborhood and married his white childhood friend, Edith Granzo, in 1924.

Trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Motley’s earliest critically-acclaimed paintings were portraits of different figures within the African American community.

His 1924 Mending Socks depicted his grandmother, Emily Motley, a former slave, sitting with a quiet pride and refinement.

Motley was not so forward-looking that he ignored the complicated, painful slaveholding past. Mending Socks features part of a portrait of his grandmother’s mistress in the upper left corner, hanging over her.

As important as it was for Motley to capture history, it was equally, if not more, significant to him depict the spectrum of skin tones considered black. A blend of ethnicities himself, he was dedicated to painting “the whole gamut,” as he said, of African American complexions.

1920’s Mulatress with Figuring and Dutch Seascape and 1925’s The Octoroon Girl speak to his commitment of not only visually presenting multi-racial figures, but doing so in a way that showed them as refined, strong figures.

As the Whitney exhibition notes of Motley’s artistic interest in these portraits: “On the one hand, he believed that seeing themselves in art would help African Americans feel pride in their own racial identities; on the other, he hoped that seeing beautiful contemporary black subjects would dispel stereotypes and undermine racism.”...More…

Street Scene

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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Black History, Giant Negros


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