Tag Archives: segregation

Art Student Hangs Segregation Signs as a Project

If you are older than about 55 and lived in the South – you most likely remember the “Separate but Equal” signs hung at everything from Retail stores, to Public Parks assigning separate facilities to black and white. It was called Segregation – and it ruled the lives of people in many locations in the South.

An Art student,, working on a project called “Art in Public Places” hung signs like this around the University of Buffalo campus. Needless to say, they caused a bit of an uproar.

Art Student Hangs ‘Black Only’ And ‘White Only’ Signs Around University Campus

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, students of the University of Buffalo were shocked to find “White Only” and “Black Only” signs hung near campus bathrooms. Students were sickened and traumatized by the apparent act of racism; by 1 p.m., the police had received 11 phone calls regarding the signage.

It was later revealed, however, that the signs reminiscent of the Jim Crow era were put on display by graduate fine arts student Ashley Powell, who is black, as part of an art project.

Before Powell admitted to hanging the signs at a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting on Wednesday night, students and faculty were left wondering about the source of the racist designations. “We didn’t know it was an art project, it could’ve been an act of terrorism,” a student explained to The Spectrum, the independent campus newspaper.

When Powell revealed that she was behind the act, a project for her “Installation: Urban Spaces” class, which requires students to install art in a public space, many students stormed out of the BSU assembly, some in tears. “It brought up feelings of a past that our generation has never seen, which I think is why it was so shocking for us to see,” Micah Oliver, president of the BSU, told ABC.

As an artist, I respect you as an artist,” said student Jefry Taveras in the BSU meeting. “But you should know racism isn’t art, it’s a reality and traumatizing.”

In a statement to The Spectrum, Powell explained the reasoning behind her installation, which addresses issues of non-white suffering and white privilege. “I apologize for the extreme trauma, fear, and actual hurt and pain these signs brought about,” she wrote. “I apologize if you were hurt, but I do not apologize for what I did.”

She went on to expand upon the motivations behind the project, which was intended to spark outrage and discomfort in viewers.

“My art practice is not an act of self-policing meant to hide my rage. Instead, it uses pain, narrative, and trauma as a medium of expression and as grounds for arguing a need for change in the first place. I understand that I forced people to feel pain that they otherwise would not have had to deal with in this magnitude. But I ask, should non-white people not express or confront their trauma? Should we be content with not having to confront that pain? We know it exists, and it often causes many of us immediate discomfort. Should we not be in a state of crushing discomfort?

These signs made you feel discomfort. They are tangible objects that forced you to revisit your past, to confront your present, and to recognize here and now the underlying social structures that are directly responsible for your pain and suffering. This project makes forceful what has been easy for you to ignore.”

University of Buffalo released the following statement regarding the incident: “After an initial investigation by University Police, it has been determined that the signs posted in Clemens Hall were part of a student art project. The University is continuing to review this matter through appropriate university policies and procedures.”

Powell is far from the first artist to toe the fine line between critiquing racism and embodying it. Brett Bailey’s “Exhibit B,” a performance recreating the “human zoos” of the 19th century, Ti-Rock Moore’s sculpture of Michael Brown’s dead body, and Kenneth Goldsmith’s poetic reading of Michael Brown’s autopsy have all caused dire outrage. However, it should be mentioned that the three artists listed above are white.

I don’t believe it matters whether the three artists mentioned above are white – or that Ashley Powell is black. Her installation indeed is a reality check on an era well within the lifespan of many black and white folks in America. It may be psychologically traumatizing to some – as are the works of renowned street artist Banksy. But it was a reality for the majority of the 20th century – a reality which hasn’t quite faded away to the dustbins of history…

And there seems to be no shortage of folks in some places who would willingly return to it.


Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Black History, The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life


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Resegregation and Purposely Failing Schools for Black Kids -Pinellas County, Florida

This one is jaw dropping. A County in FLorida which intentionally voted to re-segregate schools, and then intentionally denied basic benefits to the newly created poor schools.

This one is the New Jim Crow.

This Florida School District Is Failing Black Students at a Shocking Rate. That’s Exactly What It Chose to Do.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times published a report of its sobering yearlong investigation of the Pinellas County School District, which is home to five of the worst elementary schools in the state, despite the county’s relative affluence. The school crisis in Pinellas County—on Florida’s west coast on Tampa Bay—is a familiar story of court-ordered integration followed in short order by devastatingly thorough resegregation.

But what happened in Pinellas offers an even more dramatic cautionary tale, and not just because the changes have taken place so precipitously: Just eight years ago, the school district voted to ditch integration by ending busing and reinstituting a “neighborhood schools” policy that amounted to de facto segregation. In the years since, the five elementary schools spotlighted went from good to middle-of-the-road to homogenously awful. One school that had had an “A” rating is now the second worst elementary school in the entire state of Florida. Students are failing at eye-popping rates, with 8 out of 10 kids failed at reading, and 9 out of 10 in math. Altogether 95 percent of black students are failing reading or math at these schools, which the story memorably labels “failure factories.” See also this powerful graphic account of “Why Pinellas County is the worst place in Florida to be black and go to public school.”

So what went wrong? Is it simply that Pinellas County—in particular the southern part of its largest city, St. Petersburg, which has been predominantly black since the 1930s, when discriminatory housing policies ghettoized minorities there—is afflicted with an irreparably poor, damaged student population? Not at all, and that’s precisely why this story is so disgusting, and so important. As the piece points out, while “there are places in Florida where deep generational poverty, runaway crime and rampant drug use make educating children an extremely difficult task,” Pinellas County isn’t one of them.

Statewide, Pinellas County is right in the middle when it comes to poverty rates, median household income, college graduation rates, and single-parent homes. More from the Times:

Poverty doesn’t explain Pinellas’ problems. One hundred eighty-four elementary schools are as poor or poorer than Pinellas’ worst schools. All but seven outperformed the Pinellas schools in reading and math.

The rate of failure in the five elementary schools is unlike anything that occurs elsewhere in Florida.

The reporters make a very convincing case that the kids in Pinellas are failing not because, as the school board members would have it, they’re trapped in a “cycle of poverty” but because the school district is setting them up for failure with at best do-nothing and at worst malevolent policies.

When the board voted to resegregate in December 2007, it vowed to pour more resources into what would become overnight-majority-poor and -black schools: more counselors and social workers, beefed-up after-school and summer programs. It did none of these things. Funding was erratic, and unlike other districts with high-poverty schools that have made efforts to invest in minority students (a computer tracking program in Broward County, a teacher-incentive bonus of up to $20,000 in Duval County), the Pinellas County board just shrugged off the plummeting scores and skyrocketing reports of behavior problems, and actively ended any attempts at intervention. More than half of teachers in the five schools requested transfers out in 2014, and some classes had up to 12 different teachers in a single year. The teachers who stayed were often the most inept and inexperienced.

Even after community calls for change, the school board members continued to attribute the abysmal state of their county’s black schools to the “cycle of poverty,” absent any influence from them.  “This is a nationwide thing, not just us,” the piece quotes school board member Peggy O’Shea, who voted for resegregation in 2007 and continues to defend her stance today, as saying. You get a good sense of her sympathies when she goes on to say, “We only talk about it in black schools, but we resegregated white schools as well.”…



Posted by on August 18, 2015 in The New Jim Crow


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Tales of The End of Segregation – Prince Edward County, Va. Schools

This may seem like ancient history to some folks, but I lived through some of this in an adjoining county – and I’m not retirement age yet.

Desegregation in Virginia, as I as it was in other southern states was a battle. In Prince Edwards County, only about 25 miles from Washington, DC. it extended into the longest battle in the country.

My Mom actually taught at the sister school to this one. It was a one room school, without electricity. She later taught at the Cub Run School, another one room school located on the grounds of what is now the Udvar-Hazy Air Museum adjacent to Dulles Airport from 1949 to 1952.

Desegregation of schools didn’t happen overnight, and some counties actively resisted until the bitter end. There was the requisite violence by the usual suspects, as well as threats and intimidation. One of my cousins lost 4 years of High School because the county just shut all the schools down, instead of desegregating. He would get a GED through a program sponsored by the local churches for black kids caught up in this, because why go back to high school at the age of 18, to graduate at 22? The white folks didn’t suffer, they opened segregated Charter Schools.

The Prince Edward Foundation created a series of private schools to educate the county’s white children in 1959 after shutting down the Public School System in the County. These schools were supported by tuition grants from the state and tax credits from the county. Prince Edward Academy became the prototype for all-white private schools formed to protest school integration.No provision was made for educating the county’s black children. Some got schooling with relatives in nearby communities or at makeshift schools in church basements. Others were educated out of state by groups such as the Society of Friends. In 1963–64, the Prince Edward Free School picked up some of the slack. But some pupils missed part or all of their education for five years.

Not until 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed Virginia’s tuition grants to private education, did Prince Edward County reopen its schools, on an integrated basis. This event marked the real end of Massive Resistance.

And you have to wonder why folks my age despise Charter Schools

Prince Edward County’s Long Shadow of Segregation

Among the segregated schools that Ed Peeples photographed in Prince Edward County were the all-black Mission Elementary School (above) and the all-white Green Bay Elementary School (below).

I was sitting in the dark den of the last living founder of the white private school I had attended, an academy established after public schools in my Virginia hometown were closed in 1959 to avoid desegregation.  Having worked as a reporter for years, I was used to uncomfortable conversations. But this one felt different. This conversation was personal.

I wanted to interview Robert E. Taylor about desegregation in Prince Edward County and to find out how he felt about it in 2006, decades later. Weeks before his death, he told me he was still a “segregationist” and expressed no remorse for the school closings. Breathing with the help of an oxygen machine, he used tired stereotypes to describe black teenagers in my hometown as dating white teens, impregnating them, and leaving the teenage girls’ families with “pinto” babies that nobody would want.

Taylor was talking about me. I grew up in this damaged town, but left for the West Coast and married a multiracial man of American-Indian descent. We were thinking about having kids—mixed-race children that Taylor pitied and reviled. I had, on some level, defied him and other white county leaders including my own grandfather by embracing what they most feared. White leaders wanted to protect the integrity of the white race and they had believed that integrating the schools would lead to blacks and whites dating, marrying, and having mixed-race children.

White county leaders in Prince Edward took one of the most dramatic steps in the country to prevent that from happening. Facing a court order to desegregate the public schools, white officials instead voted not to fund them—an option Prince Edward officials had considered for years. A 1951 walkout by black students to protest the conditions at the county’s black high school had resulted in a lawsuit that was later folded into the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.White leaders worried that their little community, in the heart of Virginia, would be held up as an example to the rest of the nation and required to integrate its schools early. Bolstered by Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr., the powerful Virginia politician who suggested rejecting Brown and the town newspaper, The Farmville Herald, Prince Edward altered the way it funded its schools. By switching to a month-by-month budgeting process, county leaders would be able to cut off funding and shut down the schools quickly if required by the courts to desegregate. Meanwhile, white businessmen made quiet plans to establish a private school for their children.

When the public schools were locked and chained in the summer of 1959, white leaders sprang into action. By the time Labor Day rolled around, the county’s church basements and social clubs had been outfitted with desks that white volunteers made from scrap materials. These schools, funded with a combination of donations and public monies, were far from perfect—tiny classrooms were scattered around the region without cafeterias or playgrounds.  Yet these schools showed the lengths white families were willing to go to avoid having their children attend classes with black students.Black families, meanwhile, debated what to do with their children. No one knew how long the schools would be closed; black leaders didn’t think it would be more than a year or two. Opening another private school would have contradicted what they were trying to accomplish. Some parents who had resources sent their older kids across the state line to a North Carolina college that had agreed to educate some of Prince Edward County’s high-school students. Others asked relatives to take in their children; some even allowed their kids to live with strangers so they could attend school. Some snuck their children over county lines to be educated in adjacent communities. But the vast majority of children stayed home and their only formal education would come in the form of church training centers. There, for a few hours a day, volunteers taught the kids basic skills. Many children simply played or, if they were old enough, went to work in the fields with their parents and pick tobacco. Some would never return to school.

State leaders did not come to the defense of the black children and their families. The Farmville Herald and other newspapers across the state supported the county’s decision. A lawsuit to reopen the schools slowly made its way through the courts, as black children—and some whites—went year after year without educations. It would take another Supreme Court decision to force county leaders to reopen the schools in 1964.

When I was growing up, I knew this story in only the most general of ways. I didn’t have black neighbors, black friends, or black teachers. I hadn’t a clue how the closures had affected the only black person I knew as a child—my family’s housekeeper, Elsie Lancaster. Elsie worked for my grandparents when my mother was a child then worked for my parents for decades, too. She had sent her own daughter Gwen to live with an aunt in Massachusetts when the schools closed. My grandparents never even asked about Gwen after Elsie had accompanied her to Cambridge.

I attended the white academy my grandparents had helped found. I was entering eighth grade when Prince Edward Academy first admitted black students in 1986 in order to have its nonprofit status restored by the federal government. After college, I worked as a journalist, moving to Oregon, California, and Massachusetts. I began to recognize the privileged circumstances in which I had been raised and took an interest in writing about marginalized communities—people of color, immigrants, and those living in poverty. After I met my husband, Jason, and we thought about having children, the story of my hometown took on more meaning. I knew that the history of my hometown would be our kids’ history, too.

A classroom, heated by wood stove in one of the segregated schools for black kids in Prince Edward County

When I delved into Farmville’s past, it became clear that I couldn’t just blame my hometown for the shameful school closures. My family was also at fault. During the course of my research, I discovered that my late grandfather, S.C. Patteson, had been a founding member of the Farmville chapter of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, which sought to prevent desegregation.

As I worked to describe what had happened in my hometown before I was born, affected students opened up and shared the stories of their childhoods, their wounds still raw. White members of the community—many of whom knew my grandfather—were more reticent to speak with me. By telling the story of my hometown, I was picking at a scab that was never allowed to heal. Even my high school history teacher shut down the conversation, suggesting the story had already been told.

And yet the history of the county is still relevant. Decades later, the impact of those years of missed education can still be felt through the county’s 16-percent illiteracy rate, four points higher than the state average, and 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. And the once-closed school district is now a failing system. Declining school enrollment has left it with a steadily falling budget and supervisors have declined to raise taxes to fix the problem. The private school—now renamed and open to students of all races—is still a symbol of segregation to some of those denied an education…(More)…

Pro-Segregation Rally. The Confederate Flag Was Used as Symbol of “Massive Resistance” against Integration of Public Schools During Civil Rights Movement

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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Black History, Domestic terrorism


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Dead Confederates and Street Names

In the city of Richmond, Va is a street named Monument Avenue. On it, every few blocks are statues of the various personages of the Confederacy from Virginia who participated in the Civil War. The street was later modified to contain statues of famous people from Richmond, Va to include tennis great Arthur Ashe and famous oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury.  8 US Presidents hailed from Virginia, yet in our State capital there is a major street dedicated to dead confederate generals. Welcome to the South.

Now to say that Civil Rights upset some folks in Virginia is an understatement. One County, Prince Edward, shut their entire Public School System down for 5 years to prevent desegregation. So racism is no stranger to the state.

The City of Alexandria, Virginia was also the home and residence of confederate General Robert E. Lee. The Lee-Custis Plantation sat on the very grounds of what became the Arlington Cemetery. Several of Lee’s descendants still live in the City. The reason Arlington Cemetery sits where it is is that through the front door of his mansion, Arlington House,  Lee would have to confront some of the hundreds of thousands of those he was responsible for killing as part of the war…Each and every day. In case you are wondering where the Custis name came from, Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee, was indeed the great granddaughter of Martha Custis, George Washington’s wife.

Arlington House, Formerly confederate General robert E. Lee’s home

Law requiring Confederate street names questioned

Alexandria, a Northern Virginia city steeped in Civil War history, is considering repeal of an old law requiring certain new streets to be named for Confederate generals.

City Councilman Justin Wilson introduced legislation for Tuesday night’s council meeting to do away with a 1963 law requiring that any new “streets running in a generally north-south direction shall, insofar as possible, bear the names of confederate military leaders.”

Wilson’s bill also would eliminate a requirement that new east-west streets be named for persons or places prominent in American history.

Wilson said he wants to remove a series of anachronistic laws, and his proposal also would repeal a ban on “lewd cohabitation” and laws regulating a bygone fad of “rebound tumbling,” a form of trampolining.

As a practical matter, there is little likelihood that the city will be naming new streets any time soon. The city, inside Washington’s Capital Beltway and separated from the nation’s capital by the Potomac River, is essentially built out. In fact, the street grid of the city’s Old Town section dates to Colonial times.

Wilson said that symbolically, he believes it’s a good thing to strip from the code a provision that in some ways glorifies the Confederacy. But he made clear he is not proposing that the city change existing street names, some of which honor Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, whose Dred Scott decision denied citizenship and constitutional protections to blacks before the Civil War.

“I think we struggle in the city with our history,” Wilson said.

Alexandria was occupied by Union troops for most of the Civil War and, like the rest of Virginia, has a history of slavery and segregation. It is now a liberal bastion in Virginia – Barack Obama won 71 percent of the vote in 2012.

On historic Duke Street in Old Town, the building that was once home to the nation’s largest domestic slave trading company is now home to the Northern Virginia Urban League, which operates the Freedom House Museum there to tell the story of the slave trade.

Cynthia Dinkins, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, said she personally supports any legislation that keeps the city from unduly honoring the Confederacy. Still, while she is wary of glorifying the Confederacy, she said care must be taken remember unpleasant parts of American history.

“Some of my challenge in dealing with Freedom House is that people don’t want to remember” that part of our history, she said.

Wilson said he has not heard of any opposition to his bill so far.

Officers with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has occasionally protested when it sees efforts to scrub recognition of Confederate leaders from the public square, did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

A public hearing on Wilson’s legislation is scheduled for Jan. 25.

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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Black History, Domestic terrorism


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The Redskins, Leroy Jackson…And Jack Johnson

For those unfamiliar with sports history, Jack Johnson was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion around the turn of the last century. His life and experiences were chronicled in a movie – “The Great White Hope”.

Unable to find anyone who could defeat Johnson, he was jailed for his relationship with a white woman.

Now, allegations have surfaced that the Washington Redskins, an NFL Football team which was the last in the NFL to bring on black players, because of then owner George Preston Marshall’s racism – fired one of their first black payers for the same “crime”.

Now, to be honest – growing up in the Washington area, during the time before the Redskins recruited Bobby Mitchell – most black folks rooted for and followed the Baltimore Colts with Johnny Unitas, and running back Lenny Moore. while the team had several black players before Bobby Mitchell, it was the thrilling combination of Sonny Jurgensen’s long “bombs” to Mitchell which turned things around.

Leroy Jackson, Former NFL Player, Cut For Getting Caught With White Woman: Nephew

A relative of a former NFL player who was a pioneer for civil rights in sports made a bombshell allegation.

David Irons, the nephew of former Redskins running back Leroy Jackson told Yahoo Sports that his uncle was cut from the team “because they caught him in a hotel room with a white woman.”

“Can you believe that?” Irons said, “They cut him for something that’s so common today. It’s unreal.”

In the Yahoo Sports interview, Jackson seemed to confirm Irons’ claim.

When asked why he was cut, Jackson said, “I think it probably was about a woman… interracial things and not being able to hold onto the ball.”

Jackson made history for being one of the first black players to be drafted for the Washington Redskins. While other teams in the NFL integrated much earlier, the Redskins held out until 1962. Yahoo Sports points out that owner George Preston Marshall was dead-set against hiring any black players until the Kennedy’s administration pressured them to do so.

Jackson wasn’t the first black player drafted, but he was the first to actually play a game.

The NFL has a long history of racism that extends far beyond the Redskins. James Harris, the first black quarterback in the NFL, described the alienation and humiliation he suffered. In once instance, he told 60 Minutes, all of his fellow teammates were put up in a hotel– except for him. He stayed at a YMCA and was asked to clean the equipment.

Today, out of 32 teams, only nine havestarting quarterbacks who are black.

Former Redskins Running Back, Leroy Jackson

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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Giant Negros


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A Long Overdue Change At U of Alabama

When Libertarians say they support private organizations making their own choices of whom to associate with…

This is what they really mean.

I really don’t see where the black women in this instance needed any validation whatsoever from a white Sorority…And my departed mother who was a lifetime AKA would be truly upset at losing these women to another Sorority (there was a major family “crisis” when one of her grand-nieces pledged Delta!)…

But, overall – in the long term…This is a good thing.

One would have hoped, however – that sans the social pressure from fellow students…The Sorors had the intelligence and morality to have figured this out on their own.

A Turnabout at Traditionally White Sororities, in Nine Days at Alabama

Nine days after the University of Alabama’s campus newspaper detailed chronic racial discrimination within the campus’s Greek system, the university’s president said on Friday that six minority students had accepted offers of admission to traditionally white sororities.

The announcement marked the first time since 2003 that those organizations said they had added minority students to their memberships. Other new minority members could follow, said the president, Judy L. Bonner.

“I am confident that we will achieve our objective of a Greek system that is inclusive, accessible and welcoming to students of all races and ethnicities,” Dr. Bonner said in a videotaped statement. “We will not tolerate anything less.”

Dr. Bonner said the sororities had extended 72 bids this week to students, including 11 black women.

By Friday afternoon, six women who are minorities had agreed to join the sororities, including Halle Lindsay, who accepted an offer of admission from the Alpha Gamma Delta chapter in Tuscaloosa.

“This is all so surreal and exciting,” Ms. Lindsay wrote on her Twitter account. “I love my sisters already and happy to be an Alpha Gam!”

The national headquarters of Alpha Gamma Delta did not respond to a request for comment.

News of the admissions capped a tumultuous week for the university, the site of a Wednesday demonstration by hundreds of students and faculty members who demanded an end to long-running racial biases on the campus.

In marching to the Rose Administration Building, the protesters recalled the actions of Gov. George Wallace, who 50 years ago tried to bar African-American students from enrolling at the university, where blacks now make up more than 12 percent of the student body.

Although segregation in Alabama’s Greek system had been the subject of periodic anger and conversations through the years, the issue resurfaced last week when The Crimson White published an interview with a woman who described the conduct inside the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house during August’s recruitment process.

According to the woman, Melanie Gotz, the sorority’s alumnae forbade current students from offering bids to two black women, one of them the stepgranddaughter of a member of Alabama’s board of trustees.

After days of escalating pressure, Dr. Bonner, in an abrupt reversal of the university’s longstanding contention that the privately run Greek organizations should fashion their own membership standards, ordered the sororities to engage in a protracted recruitment process.

On Friday, she said that step was “already yielding positive results,” and she expected the sororities to continue to broaden their membership throughout the academic year.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in The Post-Racial Life


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Why You Here if You Didn’t Come to Buckdance?

Conservatives, CPAC, and that racism thing again…

Interesting the mind convolutions where people will go to to deny the truth, and make the opposite fit their racist views. Frederick Douglass as a “conservative”?

These people are a joke. An evil joke – and typical of this segment of conservatism.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Martin Luther King Jr.
US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)


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