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Leaving Jim Crow – The Great Migration and The Chicago Defender

Great article! It talks about the role of the black press in initiating and sustaining the black migration from the south between 1915 and 1930 – and how the South’s Jim Crow Laws and Lynching fueled that migration.

‘Bound for the Promised Land’

African Americans devised a mass exodus from the Jim Crow South,largely at the urging of The Chicago Defender

In the spring of 1916, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson began a difficult presidential campaign. Wilson was facing a reunified Republican Party and an electorate skeptical of his pledge to keep the United States out of World War I—he was also facing obstacles from the African American electorate, which though small could be decisive in several key states. During his first run for office in 1912, leaders from the African American community had supported Wilson even though he was the son of a Confederate chaplain who, as a historian, had helped manufacture revisionist histories of the post–Civil War years. But black voters now felt betrayed by Wilson’s conduct as president: He segregated the federal government for the first time ever, and he screened the racist film Birth of a Nation in the White House.

Jacob Lawrence

The Chicago Defender, the nation’s leading African American newspaper at the time, was all too happy to heap on the criticism, declaring Wilson a “colossal failure” and challenging his foreign policy—both over the invasion of Haiti the previous year and for sending troops into Mexico to pursue revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. “If President Woodrow Wilson is so anxious to teach the world good morals,” read one editorial on the subject, “let him begin by placing the U.S. Army in the South; institute a chase of the lynchers as earnestly as the one he is now carrying on in Mexico.”

By most measures, the total number of lynchings was, in fact, down from prior years; it was the severity of the incidents that had increased. In May, The Defender printed a letter from a white resident of Waco, Texas, a witness to the horrific murder of a 17-year-old named Jesse Washington. The letter writer was outraged by what he had seen: A mob of “fifteen to twenty-thousand men and women intermingled with children and babies in their arms” gathered to torture Washington and then burn him at the stake. Accused of the murder of a white woman several miles from his home, Washington was convicted by a jury despite scant evidence. Then, as happened all too often, Washington was dragged from the courtroom, hung from a tree, and burned on a funeral pyre. “The crowd was made up of some of the supposed best citizens of the South,” the letter writer noted. “Doctors, lawyers, business men and Christians (posing as such, however). After the fire subsided, the mob was not satisfied: They hacked with pen knives the fingers, the toes, and pieces of flesh from the body, carrying them as souvenirs to their automobiles.” The correspondent went on to conclude that it was absurd to send soldiers to Mexico “when the troops are needed right here in the South.”

This from a collection of letters from the University of Chicago about the Great Migration

See the UC Collection Here

For several years, The Defender had demanded federal intervention as the only meaningful solution to the brutality of Southern whites. But that summer, as hundreds of African Americans arrived at Chicago’s train stations every week,The Defender’s position on the migration northward evolved. In August, under the headline “Southerners Plan to Stop Exodus,” the newspaper reported that recruiters for one of the Pennsylvania-based railroad lines had convinced all of the workers on one steamship line in Jacksonville, Florida, to quit and move to the North en masse, leaving the steamship owners suddenly without a crew. The Jacksonville City Council responded by passing a law requiring labor agents from Northern companies to pay $1,000 for a license.

Incidents like this convinced The Defender’s publisher, Robert Abbott, that migration was at once an effective tactic for hurting the white South and a real opportunity for African Americans to live in freedom. Abbott had experienced discrimination from labor unions himself when he first arrived in Chicago from Georgia less than 20 years earlier, and he had been reluctant to invite his fellows to the city if there were no real job opportunities.  He became positively enthusiastic about migration, however, when he saw the mounting evidence that the departure of African Americans was negatively affecting the Southern economy.

In November, as Woodrow Wilson won a narrow reelection victory, The Defender’s editorial page published “Bound for the Promised Land,” by M. Ward, a then-unknown poet whose portrait photo shows a nattily dressed young man with a satin bow tie. The poem reflects the experiences of those who had already migrated north, found jobs, and sent for their wives, as well as of the Southerners’ efforts to ban the work of Northern labor agents:

From Florida’s stormy banks I’ll go, I’ll bid the South goodbye; No longer will they treat me so, And knock me in the eye,

Hasten on my dark brother, Duck the Jim Crow law.

No Crackers North to slap your mother, or knock you on the jaw.

No Cracker there to seduce your sister, nor to hang you to a limb.

And you’re not obliged to call ’em “Mister,” nor skin ’em back at him.

The poem was so popular that the issue sold out, prompting The Defender to reprint it a few months later. “This poem caused more men to leave the Southland than any other effort,” the newspaper proudly noted….Read the Rest Here

Albert A. Smith “The Reason” Featured in The CRISIS in March 1920

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Black History

 

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Prison Inmate Debate Team Whups Harvard

So much for only the stupid go to prison…Further evidence that America’s system of mass incarceration is also a complete waste of intellectual resources…

 

This Is How A Prison’s Debate Team Beat Harvard

Three men currently incarcerated at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in Ulster County beat Harvard University in a recent debate.

How they did it, though, is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking. Almost everywhere in the United States, time spent in prison is at best wasted, at worst spent in a swirl of violence and humiliation. But prisoners fortunate enough to be situated near Bard College have a chance to participate in a program founded on a radical insight: Prison need not be only about punishment, but can also be a place where people grow and blossom into the educated, responsible citizens they will need to be when they’re released.

The men who stomped Harvard were part of the Bard Prison Initiative. “The most important thing that our students’ success symbolizes is how much better we can do in education in the U.S. for all people,” BPI founder Max Kenner told The Huffington Post. “Our program is successful because we operate on a genuinely human level.”

Beating Harvard wasn’t the first time the Bard team had tasted success. Their first debate victory came last year, when they defeated the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The program aims to rehabilitate inmates and help them return to their communities productive members of society — among the formerly incarcerated Bard students, less than 2percent have returned to prison.

Studies show that prisoners who enroll in educational programs behind bars are much less likely to return to prison than those who don’t.

In 1999, when Kenner was a Bard College student he encouraged the small, liberal arts school to provide education for prisoners. In 2001, BPI graduated from being a student organization to become a legitimate extension of the college. Today, inmates who are part of the program have the opportunity to earn a Bard College degree.

The BPI is the largest prison education program in the U.S. Almost 300 incarcerated men and women are currently pursuing degrees in six prisons across New York State. Yet, gaining admission to the program is no small feat. Applicants are required to write an essay and go through a rigorous interview process.

“It’s a very difficult, very grueling process,” Kenner noted. “But it’s one that rewards student initiative. And something that we take very, very seriously.”

In July, BPI was awarded a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation to help support its work for higher education in prisons and innovations in criminal justice reform.

The successes, however, don’t end after inmates are released from prison. Graduates of the BPI program go on to work in various fields, ranging from human service organizations to private business, and many take up managerial positions.

Some graduates decided to further their education by working towards other academic and professional degrees, Kenner said. He pointed out that leaders in education need to be “more optimistic, more courageous and more curious.”…

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in American Genocide, The Post-Racial Life

 

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New Scholarship for White Men

A man in Texas has formed a non-profit to distribute scholarships to white men. While well to do, or “connected” white men get a lot of breaks – poor guys have to pretty much claw and scratch for themselves. So no, in my view it isn’t racism – in that unlike conservatives it isn’t trying to tear anyone else down. Seems like a good idea – poor white guys need a hand up, too. Interesting what the groups definition of “white” is!

Texas Group Offers Scholarships to White Men Only

A new nonprofit group in Texas is offering college scholarships to a demographic it says has fewer scholarship options than other groups: white men.

The group, called the Former Majority Association for Equality, was started by Colby Bohannon, a student at Texas State University. He’s an Iraq War veteran who decided to return to school and said he had trouble finding college scholarships for which he qualified. He found many programs willing to grant money to female or minority students, but not white males like himself.

“I felt excluded,” Bohannon told The Austin American-Statesman. “If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?”

So Bohannon and some friends founded the FMAE group, which plans to begin handing out $500 scholarships this summer. Only white men with at least a 3.0 grade point average can qualify.

“We know that we’re going to be receiving some vicious attacks from people claiming that we are racists or promoting some bigotry-filled agenda,” Bohannon also told Reuters. He said he’s just trying to help students who may have been a majority in the past, but are no longer as America’s demographics change.

“If you’re not a male, and if you’re not white, you’re called a minority,” Bohannon said, but “I’m not sure white males are the majority anymore.”

He’s correct about his home state of Texas, at least. Non-Hispanic whites are now a minority there, according to U.S. Census figures released earlier this month that show they make up about 42 percent of the state’s population, down from more than half 10 years ago.

Bohannon has since been forced to qualify his group’s scholarship requirements after receiving requests from some students who are of mixed race or ethnic backgrounds. He now says students are eligible if they’re a quarter non-Hispanic white.

“We’re not looking for blond-haired, blue-eyed, stereotypical white males,” he told Reuters. “My feeling is that if you can say you’re 25 percent Caucasian, you’re Caucasian enough for us.”

The group was formally incorporated in Texas last March, and is currently accepting applications for fall 2011 scholarships. It “has no political aspirations, financial agenda, or radical social philosophies whatsoever,” the group said in a statement on its website.

“I believe in equality for everyone, as well as being a strong believer that everyone should have an opportunity to attend college no matter who they are or where they come from,” Calysta Spence, FMAE’s fundraising coordinator, told The University Star, a student newspaper at Texas State, where Bohannon is a student.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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