Category: Civil Rights Activists

March 4, 1961- The Original 13 Freedom Fighters

GM – FBF – I had a client in Anniston, Alabama for four (4) years. Every visit I always asked where is the monument for the freedom riders who’s bus was set ablaze? I asked hotel workers, local business owners, schools principls, etc. that was 2011 through 2015. I am happy to announce that on January 12, 2017, The Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama opened. Enjoy!

Remember – “Traveling in the segregated South for black people was humiliating. The very fact that there were separate facilities was to say to black people and white people that blacks were so subhuman and so inferior that we could not even use public facilities that white people used.” ~ Diane Nash, Freedom Rides Organizer

Today in our History – May 4, 1961 – The original group of 13 Freedom Riders—seven African Americans and six whites—left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961.

Freedom Riders were groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides, bus trips through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. Freedom Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters at bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina and other Southern states. The groups were confronted by arresting police officers—as well as horrific violence from white protestors—along their routes, but also drew international attention to their cause.
The 1961 Freedom Rides, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), were modeled after the organization’s 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. During the 1947 action, African-American and white bus riders tested the 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Morgan v. Virginia that found segregated bus seating was unconstitutional.

The 1961 Freedom Rides sought to test a 1960 decision by the Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional as well. A big difference between the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation and the 1961 Freedom Rides was the inclusion of women in the later initiative.

In both actions, black riders traveled to the American South—where segregation continued to occur—and attempted to use whites-only restrooms, lunch counters and waiting rooms.

The original group of 13 Freedom Riders—seven African Americans and six whites—left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. Their plan was to reach New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 17 to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that segregation of the nation’s public schools was unconstitutional.

The group traveled through Virginia and North Carolina, drawing little public notice. The first violent incident occurred on May 12 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. John Lewis, an African-American seminary student and member of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), white Freedom Rider and World War II veteran Albert Bigelow, and another African-American rider were viciously attacked as they attempted to enter a whites-only waiting area.

The next day, the group reached Atlanta, Georgia, where some of the riders split off onto a Trailways bus.

John Lewis, one of the original group of 13 Freedom Riders, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1986. Lewis, a Democrat, has continued to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Atlanta, into the early part of the 21st century.

On May 14, 1961, the Greyhound bus was the first to arrive in Anniston, Alabama. There, an angry mob of about 200 white people surrounded the bus, causing the driver to continue past the bus station.

The mob followed the bus in automobiles, and when the tires on the bus blew out, someone threw a bomb into the bus. The Freedom Riders escaped the bus as it burst into flames, only to be brutally beaten by members of the surrounding mob.

The second bus, a Trailways vehicle, traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, and those riders were also beaten by an angry white mob, many of whom brandished metal pipes. Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor stated that, although he knew the Freedom Riders were arriving and violence awaited them, he posted no police protection at the station because it was Mother’s Day.

Photographs of the burning Greyhound bus and the bloodied riders appeared on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country and around the world the next day, drawing international attention to the Freedom Riders’ cause and the state of race relations in the United States.

Following the widespread violence, CORE officials could not find a bus driver who would agree to transport the integrated group, and they decided to abandon the Freedom Rides. However, Diane Nash, an activist from the SNCC, organized a group of 10 students from Nashville, Tennessee, to continue the rides.

U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, began negotiating with Governor John Patterson of Alabama and the bus companies to secure a driver and state protection for the new group of Freedom Riders. The rides finally resumed, on a Greyhound bus departing Birmingham under police escort, on May 20.

The violence toward the Freedom Riders was not quelled—rather, the police abandoned the Greyhound bus just before it arrived at the Montgomery, Alabama, terminal, where a white mob attacked the riders with baseball bats and clubs as they disembarked. Attorney General Kennedy sent 600 federal marshals to the city to stop the violence.

The following night, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led a service at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, which was attended by more than one thousand supporters of the Freedom Riders. A riot ensued outside the church, and King called Robert Kennedy to ask for protection.

Kennedy summoned the federal marshals, who used teargas to disperse the white mob. Patterson declared martial law in the city and dispatched the National Guard to restore order.

On May 24, 1961, a group of Freedom Riders departed Montgomery for Jackson, Mississippi. There, several hundred supporters greeted the riders. However, those who attempted to use the whites-only facilities were arrested for trespassing and taken to the maximum-security penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.

During their hearings, the judge turned and looked at the wall rather than listen to the Freedom Riders’ defense—as had been the case when sit-in participants were arrested for protesting segregated lunch counters in Tennessee. He sentenced the riders to 30 days in jail.

Attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization, appealed the convictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed them.

The violence and arrests continued to garner national and international attention, and drew hundreds of new Freedom Riders to the cause.

The rides continued over the next several months, and in the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals. Research more about the summer of ’61 in the south and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

February 24 1818- Elizabeth Keckley

GM – FBF – I was born a slave-was the child of slave parents-therefore I came upon the earth free in God-like thought, but fettered in action. – Elizabeth Keckley

Remember – When I heard the words, I felt as if the blood had been frozen in my veins, and that my lungs must collapse for the want of air. Mr. Lincoln shot! – Elizabeth Keckley

Today in our History – February 24, 1818 – (If you thought that Lee Daniels’ The Butler – The life of Eugene Allen in the White House as a butler which Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey co – stared) Read this story which happened 100 years before that. – There’s a nighttime scene in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in which the president tells an African-American woman about his uncertainty over what freedom will bring emancipated slaves after the Civil War.

The woman, whom he addresses as “Mrs. Keckley,” makes brief but puzzling appearances throughout the film: outside the Lincoln bedroom in the White House, in the gallery of the House of Representatives beside Mary Todd Lincoln and as the sole companion of the Lincolns at an opera. In this conversation, Keckley asks Lincoln pointedly for his personal feelings toward her race. “I don’t know you, Mrs. Keckley,” he begins. And neither does the viewer, who is left to ponder how this woman could have come to address the president so candidly, and what may have moved Lincoln to speak so frankly to her about his misgivings.
But this dramatization is deceiving. Abraham Lincoln knew Elizabeth Keckley well, both as his wife’s most intimate friend and as a leader among free black women in the North. In just five years she rose from slavery in St. Louis to intimacy with the first family in Washington. Her remarkable life story and accomplishments ranked with those of contemporaries Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. But unlike them, her name faded into the shadows of history, much like her shadowy presence in the movie. And so the question remains: Who was Mrs. Keckley?

Elizabeth Keckley (sometimes spelled Keckly) was born on the plantation of Armistead and Mary Burwell outside Petersburg, Va., in February 1818. She never knew her precise birth date, a detail too trifling for entry into slave records. But her birth engaged more than the passing interest of Armistead Burwell, who was both her master and her father. Elizabeth’s mother was Agnes Hobbs, a literate slave and the Burwell family seamstress.

Liaisons between masters and female slaves were common and usually forced. As slaves were mere property, Southern society did not regard this as rape or adultery. But wives of philandering slaveholders had little regard for the offspring of such illicit encounters, particularly when the children bore a resemblance to their fathers—as did light-skinned “Lizzie” Hobbs. Mary Burwell put Lizzie to work at age 4 watching over the Burwells’ baby daughter. The responsibility was too great for a child. One day Lizzie accidentally rocked the cradle too hard, spilling the infant to the floor. Perplexed and frightened, Lizzie tried to scoop the baby back into the cradle with a fireplace shovel just as Mary Burwell entered the room. Infuriated, Mrs. Burwell ordered the overseer to beat Lizzie. “The blows were not administered with a light hand, and doubtless the severity of the lashing has made me remember the incident so well,” Keckley later recalled. “This was the first time I was punished in this cruel way, but not the last.”

Elizabeth Hobbs lived a turbulent early life, with both the anguish common to slavery and privileges denied most slaves. Her mother taught her to sew, and somehow, probably with the Burwells’ permission, she learned to read and write. In 1836 Armistead Burwell loaned Elizabeth and her mother to his eldest son Robert, a Presbyterian minister living in Hillsborough, N.C. Robert Burwell’s wife considered Elizabeth too strong-willed for a slave and sent her to William J. Bingham, the village schoolmaster known for his cruelty, to have the pride beaten out of her. Calling Elizabeth into his study, Bingham grabbed a lash and told her to strip naked. Elizabeth refused. “Recollect, I was eighteen years of age, was a woman fully developed, and yet this man coolly bade me take down my dress.” Bingham overpowered her, and she staggered home covered with bloody welts and deep bruises. After beating her a second time, Bingham broke down and begged her forgiveness. After Bingham faltered, the Reverend Burwell himself beat Elizabeth, striking her so hard with a chair leg that his wife begged him to desist from further punishments.

No sooner did the beatings end than a white neighbor named Alexander Kirkland raped Elizabeth. He used her for four years. In 1840 Elizabeth gave birth to a boy, whom she named George Kirkland. Although three-quarters white, he was a slave like his mother.

After these ordeals, Elizabeth’s fortunes improved. She and her son returned to Petersburg as the property of Armistead Burwell’s daughter Anne Garland and her husband Hugh. Anne treated her illegitimate half-sister kindly and encouraged her progress as a seamstress and dressmaker.

Garland’s business went bankrupt in 1847. He moved his family to St. Louis and opened a law practice, which also foundered. Elizabeth and her mother helped support the Garlands by making dresses for white socialites. In exchange, the Garlands permitted Elizabeth to mingle with the large free black population of St. Louis. In 1855 they agreed to manumit her and young George for $1,200, which Elizabeth borrowed from a sympathetic white client.

That November, Elizabeth married James Keckley. She prospered as a dressmaker and sent her son to the recently founded Wilberforce University in Ohio. But her marriage broke down after Elizabeth learned her husband, who had represented himself as a free black man, was in fact a “dissolute and debased” slave who proved nothing but a “source of trouble and a burden” to her. In early 1860, Elizabeth Keckley left her husband and moved to Baltimore, hoping to teach dressmaking to young black women. Her plan failed, and “with scarcely enough to pay my fare to Washington,” Elizabeth traveled to the nation’s capital in search of new opportunities.

It was a life-changing decision. Eliza­beth found work in October 1860 as a seamstress for a “polite and kind” shop-owner whose customers included the leading ladies of Washington. He offered her a generous commission. Elizabeth’s clients delighted in her designs, and her popularity grew. She rented an apartment in a middle-class black neighborhood and soon counted Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, wife of Colonel Robert E. Lee, and Varina Davis, wife of Senator Jefferson Davis, among her clients.

During the secession winter of 1860-61, Elizabeth went to the Davis residence daily to make clothing for Varina and her children and frequently overheard Senator Davis’ political discussions with Southern colleagues. When the Davises left Washington in late January 1861, Varina asked Elizabeth to come South with the family, warning that in the event of war Northerners would blame blacks for the conflict and “in their exasperation treat you harshly.” Elizabeth politely declined, and they parted on good terms.

But Elizabeth was not long without a distinguished “patroness.” With ambition equal to her talent, she sought work in the White House. “To accomplish this end, I was ready to make almost any sacrifice consistent with propriety.” As it turned out, all she needed to do to gain an interview with the new first lady was to make a gown on short notice for Margaret McClean, daughter of future Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner and a mutual friend of Varina Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln.

Elizabeth called on the first lady on March 5, 1861, the day after President Lincoln’s inauguration. The interview was short; learning Elizabeth had worked for Varina Davis, whose wardrobe was widely admired, Mary Lincoln hired her on the spot, asking only that Elizabeth keep her rates reasonable because the Lincolns were “just arrived from the West and poor.” Mary made no friends in Washington society, but the dresses Elizabeth created for her caused quite a stir. The wives of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles became regular customers, and Elizabeth made mourning gowns for the widow of Senator Stephen A. Douglas. But most of her income came from working on Mary Lincoln’s expanding wardrobe. With her earnings, Elizabeth opened a shop and hired several assistants. Mary preferred to go to Elizabeth’s rooms for her fittings, as did Mary Jane Welles and Ellen Stanton. Elizabeth disapproved of their visits, saying later, “I always thought that it would be more consistent with their dignity to send for me instead of their coming to me.”

Meanwhile, her son had managed to pass himself off as white to enlist in the Union Army at the outbreak of the war. His time in the service was short; George Kirkland died August 10, 1861, at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Mo. Mary Lincoln heard the news while vacationing in New York and sent Elizabeth a “kind womanly letter” of condolence, a mark of the growing intimacy between them.

That the spoiled daughter of a Kentucky slave owner would form a close bond with an ex-slave was less surprising than it appeared. Mary was a friendless outsider in Washington. Fair-skinned, always immaculately dressed, literate and “courteous to the Nth degree,” a White House housekeeper observed, Elizabeth was “the only person in Washington who could get along with Mrs. Lincoln when she became mad with anyone for talking about her and criticizing her husband.” Thirty-seven years of bondage had taught Elizabeth to accept fits of temper and irrational outbursts far more severe than Mary Lincoln’s.

The death of the Lincolns’ 11-year-old son Willie in February 1862 drew Mary closer to Elizabeth. Suffering from paroxysms of grief beyond her husband’s capacity to endure, Mary found refuge in her dressmaker’s calm and steady presence. A pattern emerged that would characterize the next three years of Elizabeth’s life. She spent much of her time at the White House, often returning home only to sleep or give brief instructions to her employees. She cared for the Lincolns’ youngest son Tad, who was often ill, ministered to Mary during her frequent bouts of headaches and nervous exhaustion, and earned the respect of President Lincoln, who addressed her as “Madame Elizabeth.”

When slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia in April 1862, a New York Post correspondent introduced the nation to “Lizzie, a stately, stylish woman,” in an article about successful free blacks in Washington. “Her features are perfectly regular, her eyes dark and winning; hair straight, black, shining. A smile half-sorrowful and wholly sweet makes you love her face as soon as you look on it. It is a face strong with intellect and heart. It is Lizzie who fashions those splendid costumes of Mrs. Lincoln, whose artistic elegance have been so highly praised. Stately carriages stand before [Keckley’s] door, whose haughty owners sit before Lizzie docile as lambs while she tells them what to wear. Lizzie is an artist, and has such a genius for making women look pretty, that not one thinks of disputing her decrees.”

Lincoln spoke freely in Elizabeth Keckley’s presence. One afternoon while she was dressing Mary Lincoln for a reception, the president entered the room. Glancing onto the lawn where Tad played with two goats, he turned
to Elizabeth and asked, “Madame Elizabeth, you are fond of pets, are
you not?” “Oh yes, sir,” she answered. “Well, come here and look at my two goats. I believe they are the kindest and best goats in the world. See how they skip and play in the sunshine.” After one sprang into the air, Lincoln asked Elizabeth if she had ever seen “such an active goat.” Musing a moment, he continued, “He feeds on my bounty and jumps with joy. Do you think we should call him a bounty-jumper? But I flatter the bounty jumper. My goat is far above him. I would rather wear his horns and hairy coat than demean myself to the level of the man who plunders the national treasury in the name of patriotism.” “Come, ’Lizabeth,” Mary scolded. “If I get ready to go down this evening I must finish dressing myself, or you must stop staring at those silly goats.”

“Mrs. Lincoln was not fond of pets, and she could not understand how Mr. Lincoln could take so much delight in his goats,” Keckley remembered. “After Willie’s death, she could not bear the sight of anything he loved, not even a flower.”

Mary buried her unrelenting anguish in lavish spending on clothing and jewelry. Elizabeth accompanied her on shopping trips to New York and Boston, remaining behind in the cities for days at a time to settle orders with merchants. Despite the demands of being the first lady’s companion, she carved out a place as a leader among the capital’s free black community. A chance stroll past a charitable event for wounded soldiers in August 1862 suggested an idea. Forty thousand ex-slaves freed by advancing Union armies thronged the capital, where they lived in squalor. “If the white people can give festivals to raise funds for the relief of suffering soldiers,” she mused, “why should not the well-to-do colored people go to work to do something for the benefit of suffering blacks?” Two weeks later the Contra-band Relief Association was born, with Elizabeth as president. Mary Lincoln was first to subscribe with a $200 donation. President Lincoln also contributed. Northern abolitionists raised funds and contributed clothing and blankets. Frederick Douglass lectured on the association’s behalf and obtained contributions from anti-slavery societies in Great Britain.

Under Elizabeth’s leadership the as­sociation distributed food, clothing and other essentials to freedmen, sheltered them and brought teachers to schools built for them. Fundraisers attracted prominent speakers such as Douglass and Wendell Phillips. The organization also hosted Christmas dinners for sick and wounded soldiers of both races.

“Some of the freedmen and freedwomen had exaggerated ideas of liberty. To them it was a beautiful vision, a land of sunshine, rest, and glorious promise,” she wrote. “Since their extravagant hopes were not realized, it was but natural that many of them should feel bitterly their disappointment. Thousands of the disappointed huddled together in camps, fretted and pined like children for the ‘good old times.’ In visiting them they would crowd around me with pitiful stories of distress. Often I heard them declare that they would rather go back to slavery in the South and be with their old masters than to enjoy the freedom of the North. I believe they were sincere, because dependence had become a part of their second nature, and independence brought with it the cares and vexations of poverty.”

As the war dragged on and her husband had neither the time nor patience to indulge her roller-coaster emotions, Mary Lincoln grew increasingly dependent on Elizabeth, withholding little. When it appeared Lincoln might lose the 1864 election, she tearfully revealed her crushing financial burden. “The president glances at my rich dresses and is happy to believe that the few hundred dollars that I obtain from him supply all my wants,” she said. “If he is elected, I can keep him in ignorance of my affairs, but if he is defeated, then the bills will be sent.”

Lincoln’s re-election eased her worry. After Richmond fell in April 1865, Mary invited Elizabeth to accompany her and the president on a visit to City Point, Va., aboard the River Queen. From there they traveled to Richmond, where Elizabeth visited the vacant Confederate Senate chamber and sat in the chair Jefferson Davis sometimes occupied. When the presidential party moved on to Petersburg, Elizabeth searched for childhood acquaintances while the president inspected the troops. She found a few, but was sorry she had come. “The scenes suggested painful memories, and I was not sorry to turn my back again upon the city,” she confessed.

Greater pain awaited, and soon. On the evening of April 11, Elizabeth peered out a White House window at the president, who stood on an open balcony a short distance away. Lincoln had just begun to speak to a large crowd about his plans for Reconstruc-tion. In one hand he held his speech, in the other a candle. Its flickering shadow obscured the words, and Lincoln passed the candle to a journalist behind him. As the candlelight fell full on the president, Elizabeth shivered. “What an easy matter it would be to kill the president as he stands there,” she whispered to a companion. “He could be shot down from the crowd, and no one be able to tell who fired the shot.”

The next morning Elizabeth shared her fear with Mary, who answered sadly, “Yes, yes, Mr. Lincoln’s life is always exposed. No one knows what it is to live in constant dread of some fearful tragedy. I have a presentiment that he will meet with a sudden and violent end. I pray to God to protect my beloved husband from the hands of the assassin.”

Three nights later the president lay dying in the Petersen House across the street from Ford’s Theatre. Mary ordered messengers to bring Elizabeth to her, but they all got lost in the tumult outside the theater. The next morning Elizabeth came to the White House. She found the first lady prostrate with grief and in desperate need of her companionship. For the next six weeks she remained with Mary, sleeping in her room and, as Mary said, “watching faithfully by my side.”

After Lincoln’s assassination, Mary’s debts came due. From Chicago, where she had moved with Robert Todd Lincoln, she hectored Elizabeth with sorrowful letters of her financial plight. In September 1867, she enlisted Elizabeth in a scheme to sell her clothing and jewelry in New York City. Together they visited merchants, Mary traveling heavily veiled and incognito as Mrs. Clark of Chicago. Sales were few, and she was found out. The press pilloried her as insane, “a mercenary prostitute” who dishonored her late husband’s memory. Retreating to Chicago, she left Elizabeth to negotiate with her creditors. The letters from Chicago resumed, each begging Elizabeth to stay in New York until she settled Mary’s affairs. Elizabeth agreed, shutting down her Washington business and taking in sewing to make ends meet. While Elizabeth labored on her behalf in New York, Mary inherited $36,000 in bonds from her late husband’s probated estate. She had promised Elizabeth a tidy sum for their joint venture, but sent her nothing.

With her own livelihood imperiled and her reputation sullied by the “Old Clothes” affair, Elizabeth decided to write her memoir in collaboration with James Redpath, a book promoter and white friend of Frederick Douglass.
In the spring of 1868 the prominent New York publisher Carleton and Company released Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Elizabeth’s avowed purpose was to “place Mrs. Lincoln in a better light before the world” by showing the innocent “motives that actuated us” in the “New York fiasco” and also protect her own good name. “To defend myself I must defend the lady I served,” she wrote boldly in the introduction.

Instead, Elizabeth destroyed herself. Her frank revelations of Mary Lincoln’s erratic behavior and spendthrift ways while in the White House violated Victorian standards of friendship and privacy and of race relations. Without Elizabeth’s permission, Redpath had inserted as an appendix Mary’s correspondence with Elizabeth about her New York scheme, letters that showed Mary at her unstable worst. Robert Lincoln denounced the book and may have tried to suppress sales. A New York book critic wondered if American literary taste had fallen “so low grade as to tolerate the backstairs gossip of Negro servant girls.” Washington newspapers warned white families not to confide in their black housekeepers. Someone penned a cruel parody titled Behind the Seams; by a Nigger Woman who Took Work in From Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Davis and Signed with an “X,” the Mark of “Betsey Kickley” (Nigger). Mary Lincoln dissolved her friendship with the “colored historian,” as she now referred to Elizabeth Keckley.

Mary, born the same year as Elizabeth, died in 1882. Elizabeth outlived her by 25 unhappy years. Behind the Scenes cost Elizabeth her white clientele. She scraped by teaching young black seamstresses, and in 1890 sold her cherished collection of Lincoln mementos for a paltry $250. Friends arranged Elizabeth’s appointment to the faculty of Wilberforce University in 1892 as head of the Department of Sewing and Domestic Service, but she taught only briefly before a mild stroke ended her working life. Elizabeth spent her final years in the National Home for Destitute Colored Women and Children, founded during the Civil War in part with funds from her Contraband Relief Association. She never recovered from her falling-out with Mary Lincoln. She hung Mary’s portrait over her bed and made a quilt from pieces of her dresses. Like Mary, she suffered constant head­aches and frequent crying spells. In 1907, at the age of 89, Elizabeth Keckley died alone and nearly forgotten. She deserved better. During the Civil War, she had lifted much of the weight of Mary Lincoln’s grief and instability from the president’s shoulders. For that alone, Elizabeth Keckley merits the gratitude of history. I am a Lincoln follower and could not wait til it was time to share this with you. Resaech about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

February 23, 1868 – William Edward Burghardt

GM – FBF – “Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery.” W. E. B. Du Bois

Remember – “Education is the development of power and ideal.” W. E. B. Du Bois

Today in our History – February 23, 1868 – Throughout his career as a sociologist, historian, educator, and sociopolitical activist, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois argued for immediate racial equality for African-Americans. His emergence as an African-American leader paralleled the rise of Jim Crow laws of the South and the Progressive Era.

One of Du Bois’ most famous quotes encapsulates his philosophy, “Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season.

It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”

Major Nonfiction Works:
The Study of the Negro Problems (1898)
The Philadelphia Negro (1899)
The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
The Talented Tenth, second chapter of The Negro Problem, a collection of articles by African Americans (September 1903).
Voice of the Negro II (September 1905)
Atlanta University’s Studies of the Negro Problem (1897-1910)
The Negro (1915)
The Gift of Black Folk (1924)
Africa, Its Geography, People and Products (1930)
Africa: Its Place in Modern History (1930)
Black Reconstruction in America (1935)
Black Folk, Then and Now (1939)
The Encyclopedia of the Negro (1946)
Africa in Battle Against Colonialism, Racialism, Imperialism (1960)

Early Life and Education:

Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Mass on February 23, 1868. Throughout his childhood, he excelled in school and upon his graduation from high school, members of the community awarded Du Bois with a scholarship to attend Fisk University. While at Fisk, Du Bois experienced racism and poverty that was very different to his experiences in Great Barrington.

As a result, Du Bois decided that he would dedicate his life to ending racism and uplifting African-Americans.

In 1888, Du Bois graduated from Fisk and was accepted to Harvard University where he earned a master’s degree, a doctorate and a fellowship to study for two years at the University of Berlin in Germany. Following his studies in Berlin, Du Bois argued that through racial inequality and injustice could be exposed through scientific research. However, after observing the remaining body parts of a man who was lynched, Du Bois was convinced that scientific research was not enough.

“Souls of Black Folk”: Opposition to Booker T. Washington:
Initially, Du Bois agreed with the philosophy of Booker T. Washington , the preeminent leader of African-Americans during the Progressive Era. Washington argued that African-Americans should become skilled in industrial and vocational trades so that they could open businesses and become self-reliant.

Du Bois, however, greatly disagreed and outlined his arguments in his collection of essays, Souls of Black Folk published in 1903. In this text, Du Bois argued that white Americans needed to take responsibility for their contributions to the problem of racial inequality, proved the flaws in Washington’s argument, argued that African-Americans must also take better advantage of educational opportunities to uplift their race.

Organizing for Racial Equality:

In July of 1905, Du Bois organized the Niagara Movement with William Monroe Trotter. The purpose of the Niagara Movement was to have a more militant approach to fighting racial inequality. Its chapters throughout the United States fought local acts of discrimination and the national organization published a newspaper, Voice of the Negro.

The Niagara Movement dismantled in 1909 but Du Bois, along with several other members joined with white Americans to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Du Bois was appointed director of research and also served as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine Crisis from 1910 to 1934. In addition to urging African-American readers to become socially and politically active, the publication also showcased literature and visual artistry of the Harlem Renaissance.

Racial Upliftment:

Throughout Du Bois’ career, he worked tirelessly to end racial inequality. Through his membership and later leadership of the American Negro Academy, Du Bois developed the idea of the “Talented Tenth,” arguing that educated African-Americans could lead the fight for racial equality in the United States.

Du Bois’ ideas about the importance of education would be present again during the Harlem Renaissance. During the Harlem Renaissance, Du Bois argued that racial equality could be gained through the arts. Using his influence as editor of the Crisis, Du Bois promoted the work of many African-American visual artists and writers.

Pan Africanism:

Du Bois also concerned with people of African descent throughout the world. Leading the Pan-African movement, Du Bois organized conferences for the Pan-African Congress for many years. Leaders from Africa and the Americas assembled to discuss racism and oppression–issues that people of African descent faced all over the world. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Du Bois died on August 27, 1963 at the age of 95. Make it a champion Day!

February 12, 1909- The NAACP

GM – FBF – Medgar Evers was assassinated in his driveway returning from an NAACP meeting in downtown Jackson. And then you go back there years later, and the blood is still on the driveway. They cannot wash it away.

Remember – I think segregation is bad, I think it’s wrong, it’s immoral. I’d fight against it with every breath in my body, but you don’t need to sit next to a white person to learn how to read and write. The NAACP needs to say that. – Supreme Court Justice – Clarence Thomas

Today in our History – February 12, 1909 – The NAACP was established in February 1909 in New York City by an interracial group of activists, partially in response to the 1908 Springfield race riot in Illinois.

In that event, two black men being held in a Springfield jail for alleged crimes against white people were surreptitiously transferred to a jail in another city, spurring a white mob to burn down 40 homes in Springfield’s black residential district, ransack local businesses and murder two African Americans.

The NAACP’s founding members included white progressives Mary White Ovington, Henry Moskowitz, William English Walling and Oswald Garrison Villard, along with such African Americans as W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida Wells-Barnett, Archibald Grimke and Mary Church Terrell.

Since its inception, the NAACP has worked to achieve its goals through the judicial system, lobbying and peaceful protests. In 1910, Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment allowing people whose grandfathers had been eligible to vote in 1866 to register without passing a literacy test.

This “grandfather clause” enabled illiterate whites to avoid taking the reading test while discriminating against illiterate blacks, whose ancestors weren’t guaranteed the right to vote in 1866, by requiring them to pass a test in order to vote.

The NAACP challenged the law and won a legal victory in 1915 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Guinn v. United States that grandfather clauses were unconstitutional.

Also in 1915, the NAACP called for a boycott of Birth of a Nation, a movie that portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in a positive light and perpetrated racist stereotypes of blacks. The NAACP’s campaign was largely unsuccessful, but it helped raise the new group’s public profile.

The NAACP played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. One of the organization’s key victories was the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregation in public schools.

Pioneering civil-rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), successfully argued the case before the court. Marshall, who founded the LDF in 1940, won a number of other important civil rights cases involving issues such as voting rights and discriminatory housing practices. In 1967, he became the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

The NAACP also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, one of the biggest civil rights rallies in U.S. history, and had a hand in running 1964’s Mississippi Freedom Summer, an initiative to register black Mississippians to vote.

During this era, the NAACP also successfully lobbied for the passage of landmark legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, barring racial discrimination in voting.

The organization received some criticism for its strategy of working through the judicial system and lawmakers to achieve its goals, rather than focusing on more direct methods of protest favored by other national civil rights groups.

At the same time, NAACP members were subject to harassment and violence. In 1962, Medgar Evers, the first NAACP field secretary in Mississippi, was assassinated outside his home in Jackson by a white supremacist.

During the final decades of the 20th century, the NAACP experienced financial difficulties and some members charged that the organization lacked direction.

Today, the NAACP is focused on such issues as inequality in jobs, education, health care and the criminal justice system, as well as protecting voting rights. The group also has pushed for the removal of Confederate flags and statues from public property.

In 2009, the year he became America’s first black president, Barack Obama spoke at a celebration of the NAACP’s 100th anniversary. By 2017, the NAACP had more than 2,200 branches and more than half a million members worldwide. Research more about the NAACP and other organizations for African Americans and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

January 18 1887- Richard Harvey

GM – FBF – I believe every child has the right to a mother and a father. Men and women are not the same. That’s not to say they’re not entitled to equal rights, but they are not the same.

Remember – “All We Ask Is Equal Laws, Equal Legislation And Equal Rights”

Today in our History -January 18, 1887 – Richard Harvey Cain was born a free black in Greenbrier County, Virginia on April 12, 1825. In 1831 his parents moved to Gallipolis, Ohio where he attended school. Seventeen years later, in 1848, he joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and became a minister in Muscatine, Iowa. Cain moved to South Carolina in 1865 to lead a Charleston AME church and soon became involved in local politics. In 1868, he was elected a member of the South Carolina State Constitutional Convention. Later in the year he was elected to the South Carolina State Senate, a post he held until 1870. Cain was editor and publisher of the South Carolina Leader which eventually became the Missionary Record.

In 1872, Richard Harvey Cain was elected to South Carolina’s at large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cain served on the Agriculture Committee in the 43rd Congress. He is most remembered, however, for his support of a civil rights bill introduced into the House in 1870. Although the bill failed to be enacted, during the debate he spoke eloquently and passionately about his own experiences during a trip to the nation’s capital where he was denied first class accommodations on a train. By 1874, Cain’s at large seat was eliminated and he chose not so seek another office that year. He continued, however, to be actively involved in the South Carolina Republican Party and in 1876 he returned to Congress representing the 2nd district of South Carolina. Cain served one term and then returned to his ministerial duties in Charleston. In 1880 Cain was elected a Bishop in the A.M.E. Church. Soon afterwards he moved to Texas and became one of the founders of Paul Quinn College in Austin. Bishop Cain served as the college’s first president between 1880 and 1884. Three years later on January 18, 1887, Richard Harvey Cain died in Washington, D.C. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

January 16 1865- William T. Sherman

GM – FBF – So you think that you know where the term 40 acres and a mule comes from. Read the history of it below.

Remember – “The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida.” – General William T. Sherman – (General – U.S. Army)

Today in our History – On January 16, 1865, during the Civil War (1861-65), Union general William T. Sherman
issued Field Order No. 15 in January 1865, calling for the redistribution of confiscated Southern land to freedmen in forty-acre plots. The order was rescinded later that same year, and much of the land was returned to the original white owners.

William T. Sherman issued his Special Field Order No. 15, which confiscated as Union property a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast. The order redistributed the roughly 400,000 acres of land to newly freed black families in forty-acre segments.
Sherman’s order came on the heels of his successful March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah and just prior to his march northward into South Carolina. Radical Republicans in the U.S. Congress, like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, for some time had pushed for land redistribution in order to break the back of Southern slaveholders’ power. Feeling pressure from within his own party, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln sent his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, to Savannah in order to facilitate a conversation with Sherman over what to do with Southern planters’ lands.
On January 12 Sherman and Stanton met with twenty black leaders of the Savannah community, mostly Baptist and Methodist ministers, to discuss the question of emancipation. Lincoln approved Field Order No. 15 before Sherman issued it just four days after meeting with the black leaders. From Sherman’s perspective the most important priority in issuing the directive was military expediency. It served as a means of providing for the thousands of black refugees who had been following his army since its invasion of Georgia. He could not afford to support or protect these refugees while on campaign.
The order explicitly called for the settlement of black families on confiscated land, encouraged freedmen to join the Union army to help sustain their newly won liberty, and designated a general officer to act as inspector of settlements. Inspector General Rufus Saxton would police the land and work to ensure legal title of the property for the black settlers. In a later order, Sherman also authorized the army to loan mules to the newly settled farmers.
An 1868 sketch by A. R. Waud illustrates the difficulties faced by the Freedmen’s Bureau, caught between white planters on one side (left) and emancipated slaves on the other (right). The bureau was established in 1865 after Union general William T. Sherman issued his Field Order No. 15, which called for the resettlement of freedpeople on confiscated lands.
Freedmen’s Bureau
radical plan for land redistribution in the South was actually a practical response to several issues. Although Sherman had never been a racial egalitarian, his land-redistribution order served the military purpose of punishing Confederate planters along the rice coast of the South for their role in starting the Civil War, while simultaneously solving what he and Radical Republicans viewed as a major new American problem: what to do with a new class of free Southern laborers. Congressional leaders convinced President Lincoln to establish the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands on March 3, 1865, shortly after Sherman issued his order. The Freedmen’s Bureau, as it came to be called, was authorized to give legal title for forty-acre plots of land to freedmen and white Southern Unionists.
The immediate effect of Sherman’s order provided for the settlement of roughly 40,000 blacks (both refugees and local slaves who had been under Union army administration in the Sea Islands since 1861). This lifted the burden of supporting the freedpeople from Sherman’s army as it turned north into South Carolina. But the order was a short-lived promise for blacks. Despite the objections of General Oliver O. Howard, the Freedmen’s Bureau chief, U.S. president Andrew Johnson overturned Sherman’s directive in the fall of 1865, after the war had ended, and returned most of the land along the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coasts to the planters who had originally owned it.
Although Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15 had no tangible benefit for blacks after President Johnson’s revocation, the present-day movement supporting slave reparations has pointed to it as the U.S. government’s promise to make restitution to African Americans for enslavement. The order is also the likely origin of the phrase “forty acres and a mule,” which spread throughout the South in the weeks and months following Sherman’s march. Research more about this event in history and tell your babies. Make it a champion day!

January 15-1 Dr. Martin Luther King

GM – FBF – Leadership is self-made. People who have deliberately decided to become problems solver lead better.

Remember – The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – MLKJR

Today in our History – Martin Luther King, Jr. was the charismatic leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Chosen to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott at its genesis in 1955, the year-long nonviolent struggle brought King under the scrutiny of a wary and divided nation. However, his direction, spokesmanship, and the resultant victory of a Supreme Court ruling against bus segregation, cast him in a brilliant light.

King then persevered in his quest to obtain civil rights for a nation of African Americans. He formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to coordinate nonviolent protests and delivered over 2,500 speeches addressing America’s racial injustices, with I Have a Dream being his most memorable.

When King was assassinated in 1968, the nation shook with the impact; violence broke out in over 100 cities. To many, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero.

Dates: January 15, 1929 — April 4, 1968

Also known as: Michael Lewis King, Jr. (born as); Reverend Martin Luther King

Tuesday’s Child
When Martin Luther King, Jr. opened his eyes for the first time Tuesday, January 15, 1929, he beheld a world that would view him scornfully only because he was black.

Born to Michael King Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams, a Spelman College graduate and former schoolteacher, King lived in a nurturing environment with his parents and older sister, Willie Christine, in the Victorian home of his maternal grandparents.

(A younger brother, Alfred Daniel, would be born 19 months later.)

Alberta’s parents, Rev. A.D. Williams and wife Jennie, lived in a prosperous section of Atlanta, Georgia known as “black Wall Street.” Reverend Williams was pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a well-established church within the community.

Martin — named Michael Lewis until he was five — thrived with his siblings in a secure middle-class family and had a normal, happy upbringing. Martin enjoyed playing football and baseball, being a paper boy, and doing odd jobs. He wanted to be a fireman when he grew up.

A Good Name
Martin and his siblings received reading and piano lessons from their mother, who worked diligently to teach them self-respect.

In his father, King had a bold role model. King Sr. was involved in the local chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and had led a successful campaign for equal wages of white and black teachers in Atlanta. The elder King was outspoken and fought prejudice from the pulpit — advocating racial harmony as God’s will.

Martin was also inspired by his maternal grandfather, Rev. A. D. Williams. Both his father and grandfather taught a “social gospel” — a belief in personal salvation with the need to apply the teachings of Jesus to life’s daily problems.

When Rev. A.D. Williams died of a heart attack in 1931, son-in-law King Sr. became pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he served for 44 years.

In 1934, King Sr. attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin.

When he returned to Atlanta, King Sr. changed his name and the name of his son from Michael King to Martin Luther King, after the Protestant reformist.

King Sr. was inspired by Martin Luther’s courage in confronting institutionalized evil while challenging the formidable Catholic Church.

Attempted Suicide
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s grandmother Jennie, whom he affectionately called “Mama,” was especially protective of her first grandson. Likewise, King closely bonded with his grandmother, classifying her as “saintly.”

When Jennie died of a heart attack in May 1941, 12-year-old King was supposed to be home babysitting 10-year-old A.D. Instead, he was away watching a parade, disobeying his parents. Inconsolable and racked with guilt, King jumped from a second-story window of his home, attempting suicide.

He was uninjured, but cried and could not sleep for days afterward.

King would later talk about the affect his grandmother’s death had on him. He never forgot his transgression and attributed his religious development a result of the tragedy.

Church, School, and Thoreau
Skipping both 9th and 12th grades, King was only 15 when he entered Morehouse College. During this time, King had a moral dilemma — though the son, grandson, and great-grandson of clergymen, King was uncertain he would follow in their footsteps. The insular nature of the black, southern, Baptist church felt unchallenging to King.

Also, King questioned religion’s relevance in addressing the real problems of his people, such as segregation and poverty. King began rebelling against a life of service to God — playing pool and drinking beer his first two years at Morehouse. King’s teachers labeled him an underachiever.

Aimlessly, King studied sociology and considered going into law. He voraciously read and came upon the essay On Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau. King was fascinated by noncooperation with an unjust system.

It was Morehouse president Dr. Benjamin Mays, however, who challenged King to align his ideals with his Christian faith to address social dysfunction. With Mays’ guidance, King decided that social activism was his inherent calling and that religion was the best means to that end.

To his father’s joy, Martin Luther King, Jr. was ordained a minister in February 1948. That same year, King graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology at age 19.

Seminary: Finding A Way
In September 1948, King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Unlike at Morehouse, King excelled at the predominately-white seminary and was extremely popular — especially with the ladies. King became involved with a white cafeteria worker, but was told that an interracial romance would devastate any career move. King halted the relationship, yet was heartbroken.1

Struggling for a way to help his people, King absorbed the works of great theologians. He studied Reinhold Neibuhr’s neo-orthodoxy, a concept which emphasizes human involvement in community and a moral duty to love others. King studied Georg Wilhelm Hegel’s essentialism and Walter Rauschenbusch’s social responsibility — which was more consistent with King’s rationalization of social gospel.

However, King despaired that no philosophy was complete within itself; thus, the question of how to reconcile a nation and a people in conflict remained unanswered.

Discovering Gandhi
At Crozer, Martin Luther King, Jr. heard a lecture about India’s leader, Mahatma Gandhi. As King delved into Gandhi’s teachings, he became captivated by Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha (love-force) — or passive resistance. Gandhi’s crusades countered the British’s hatred with peaceful love.

Gandhi, like Thoreau, also believed that men should proudly go to jail when they disobeyed unjust laws. Gandhi, however, added that one should never use violence because it only bred hate and more violence. This concept won India its freedom.

The Christian doctrine of love, King concluded, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, could be the most powerful weapon utilized by an oppressed people.

At this juncture, however, King had only an intellectual appreciation of Gandhi’s method, not realizing that an opportunity to test the method would soon materialize.

In 1951, King graduated at the top of his class — earning a Bachelor of Divinity degree and the prestigious J. Lewis Crozer fellowship.

In September of 1951, King enrolled in doctoral studies at Boston University’s School of Theology.

Coretta, the Good Wife
A most important event occurred outside of King’s classroom and church nucleus. While still in Boston, King met Coretta Scott, a professional singer studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her refinement, good mind, and ability to communicate on his level enchanted King.

Though impressed by the sophisticated King, Coretta hesitated to become involved with a minister. She was persuaded, however, when King said she possessed all the qualities he desired in a wife.

After overcoming resistance from “Daddy” King, who expected his son to choose a hometown bride, the couple married June 18, 1953. King’s father performed the ceremony on the lawn of Coretta’s family home in Marion, Alabama. After their wedding, the couple spent their honeymoon at a funeral parlor owned by a friend of King (hotel honeymoon suites were not available for blacks).

They then returned to Boston to complete their degrees, with Coretta receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in June 1954.

King, an exceptional orator, was invited to preach a trial sermon at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Their current pastor, Vernon Johns, was retiring after years of challenging the traditional status quo.

Dexter Avenue was an established church of educated, middle-class blacks with a history of civil rights activism. King captivated the Dexter congregation in January 1954 and in April he agreed to accept pastorship, following completion of his doctoral thesis.

By the time King turned 25, he had received his PhD from Boston University, welcomed daughter Yolanda, and delivered his first sermon as Dexter’s 20th pastor.

Give and Take in Their Marriage
From the beginning, Coretta was committed to her husband’s work, accompanying him around the world, stating, “What a blessing, to be a co-worker with a man whose life would have so profound an impact on the world.”2

However, throughout the Kings’ marriage, there was constant conflict about the role Coretta should play. She wanted to participate more fully in the movement; while King, thinking of the dangers, wanted her to stay home and raise their children.

The Kings had four children: Yolanda, MLK III, Dexter, and Bernice. When King was home, he was a good dad; however, he wasn’t home much. In 1989, King’s close friend and mentor, Reverend Ralph Abernathy wrote in his book that he and King spent 25 to 27 days per month away from home. And though it was no excuse for unfaithfulness, it gave ample opportunity. Abernathy wrote that King had “a particularly difficult time with temptation.”3

The couple would remain married for nearly 15 years, until King’s death.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott
When 25-year-old King arrived in Montgomery in 1954 to pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he didn’t plan on leading a civil rights movement — but destiny beckoned.4

Rosa Parks, secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP, had been arrested for her refusal to relinquish her bus seat to a white man.

Parks’ arrest on December 1, 1955, presented the perfect opportunity to make a strong case for desegregation of the transit system. E.D. Nixon, former head of the local NAACP chapter, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy contacted King and other clergymen to plan a citywide bus boycott. The organizers of the boycott — the NAACP and the Women’s Political Council (WPC) — met in the basement of King’s church, which he had offered.

The group drafted demands for the bus company. To secure the demands, no African American would ride the buses on Monday, December 5th. Leaflets announcing the planned protest were distributed, receiving unexpected publicity in newspapers and on radio.

Answering the Call
On December 5, 1955, nearly 20,000 black citizens refused bus rides. And because blacks comprised 90% of the transit system’s passengers, most buses were empty. Since the one-day boycott was successful, E.D. Nixon held a second meeting to discuss extending the boycott.

However, the ministers wanted to limit the boycott so as not to anger the white hierarchy in Montgomery. Frustrated, Nixon threatened to expose the ministers as cowards. Whether through strength of character or divine will, King stood to say he was no coward.5

By meeting’s end, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed and King was elected president; he had agreed to lead the boycott as spokesperson. That evening, King addressed hundreds at Holt Street Baptist Church, stating there was no alternative except to protest.

By the time the bus boycott ended 381 days later, Montgomery’s transit system and the city’s businesses were nearly bankrupt. On December 20, 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the laws enforcing segregation on public transit were unconstitutional.

The boycott changed King’s life and the city of Montgomery. The boycott had illuminated the power of nonviolence to King, more than reading any book had, and he committed to it as a way of life.

Black Church Power
Buoyed by the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the movement’s leaders met in January 1957 in Atlanta and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group’s aim was to utilize the people-power of the black church to coordinate nonviolent protests. King was elected president and remained at the helm until his death.

Several major life events transpired for King in late 1957 and early 1958 — the birth of a son and the publication of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom.

While signing books in Harlem, King was stabbed by a mentally ill black woman. King survived this first assassination attempt and as part of recovery, took a trip to India’s Gandhi Peace Foundation in February 1959 to refine his protest strategies.

The Battle for Birmingham
In April 1963, King and the SCLC joined Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) in a nonviolent campaign to end segregation and to force businesses to hire blacks in Birmingham, Alabama.

However, powerful firehoses and vicious attack-dogs were unleashed on the peaceful protestors by “Bull” Connor’s local police. King was thrown into solitary, where he penned Letter from a Birmingham Jail, an affirmation of his peaceful philosophy, on April 16, 1963.

Broadcast on national news, images of the brutality wrenched an unprecedented cry from an outraged nation. Many began to send money in support of the protesters. White sympathizers joined the demonstration.

In a few days, the protest became so explosive that Birmingham was willing to negotiate. By the summer of 1963, thousands of public facilities were integrated across the country and companies began to hire blacks for the first time.

More importantly, a political climate was created in which passage of broad civil rights legislation seemed plausible. On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy proved his commitment to the passage of civil rights legislation by drafting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson after Kennedy’s assassination.

The March on Washington
The events of 1963 culminated in the famous March on Washington in D.C. On August 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 Americans arrived in sweltering heat. They had come to hear the speeches of various civil rights activists, but most had come to hear Martin Luther King, Jr.

Planning the rally had been a group effort, involving King, James Farmer of CORE, A. Philip Randolph of the Negro American Labor Council, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, John Lewis of SNCC, and Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women. Bayard Rustin, King’s long-time political advisor, was the coordinator.

The Kennedy Administration, fearing violence would ensue, edited the content of John Lewis’ speech and invited white organizations to take part. This involvement caused some extremist blacks to consider the event a misrepresentation. Malcolm X labeled it the “farce in Washington.”6

The crowd far exceeded the expectations of the event’s organizers. Speaker after speaker addressed the progress made or lack thereof in national civil rights. The heat grew oppressive — but then King stood up.

Whether by discomfort or distraction, the start of King’s oration was atypically lackluster. It is said, however, that King suddenly stopped reading from penned manuscript, being tapped on the shoulder by renewed inspiration. Or was it the voice of famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouting to him “tell ’em about the dream, Martin!”7

Laying jotted notes aside, King spoke from the heart of a father, declaring that he had not lost hope, because he had a dream – “that one day my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The speech King never intended to give was the greatest speech of his life.

The fact that King’s I Have a Dream speech was comprised of portions of his sermons and speeches does not denigrate its essence. At a time when a voice was needed, I Have a Dream so eloquently embodied the soul, the heart, and the hope of a people.

Man of the Year
Martin Luther King, Jr., now known worldwide, was designated Time magazine’s 1963 “Man of the Year.” In 1964, King won the most coveted Nobel Peace Prize, donating its $54,123 proceeds to advance civil rights.

But not everyone was thrilled by King’s successes. Since the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King had been the unknowing subject of the covert scrutiny of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover was personally malicious toward King, calling him “most dangerous.” Hoping to prove King was under communistic influence, Hoover filed a request with Attorney General Robert Kennedy to put King under constant surveillance.

In September 1963, Robert Kennedy gave Hoover consent to break into King and his associates’ homes and offices to install phone taps and recorders. King’s hotel-stays were subjected to FBI monitoring, which allegedly produced evidence of sexual activity but none of communist activity.

The Poverty Problem
The summer of 1964 saw King’s nonviolent concept challenged in the north, with riot outbreaks in black ghettos in several cities. The riots resulted in massive property damage and loss of life.

The riots’ origins were clear to King — segregation and poverty. Although Civil Rights had helped blacks, most still lived in extreme poverty. Without jobs it was impossible to afford decent housing, healthcare, or even food. Their misery birthed anger, addiction, and subsequent crime.

The riots disturbed King deeply and his focus shifted to the poverty dilemma, but he was unable to garner support. Nevertheless, King organized a campaign against poverty in 1966 and moved his family into Chicago’s black ghetto.

King found, however, that the successful strategies used in the South did not work in Chicago. Also, King’s impact was diminished by the increasingly vitriolic rant of the black urban demographic of the period. Blacks began turning away from the peaceful course of King to the radical concepts of Malcolm X.

From 1965 to 1967, King met with constant criticism over his passive nonviolent message. But King refused to discard his firm convictions of racial harmony through nonviolence. King placidly addressed the harmful philosophy of the Black Power movement in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

To Remain Relevant
Although only 38 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. had wearied of years of demonstrations, confrontations, marches, going to jail, and the ever-present threat of death. He was disheartened by the criticism and the uprising of militant factions.

Even as his popularity waned, King sought to clarify the link between poverty and discrimination and to address America’s increased involvement in Vietnam. In a public address, Beyond Vietnam on April 4, 1967, King stated that the Vietnam War was politically unjustifiable and discriminatory towards the poor. This placed King under the watchful eye of the FBI even more.

King’s last campaign seemed a precursor to today’s “occupy” movement. Organizing with other civil rights groups, King’s Poor People’s Campaign would bring impoverished people of various ethnicities to live in tent camps on the National Mall. The event would take place in April.

Martin Luther King’s Last Days
In the spring of 1968, drawn by a labor strike of black sanitation workers, King went to Memphis, Tennessee. King joined the march for job safety, higher wages, union recognition, and benefits. But after the march began, a riot broke out — 60 people were injured, one killed. This ended the march and a saddened King went home.

Upon reflection, King felt he was surrendering to violence and returned to Memphis. On April 3, 1968, King gave what proved his last speech. Towards the end, he stated that he wanted a long life but had been warned he would be killed in Memphis. King said that death did not matter now because he’d “been to the mountaintop” and had seen “the promised land.”

On the afternoon of April 4, 1968 — a year to the date of delivering his Beyond Vietnam argument, King stepped onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. A rifle blast rang out from a boarding house across the way. The bullet tore into King’s face, slamming him against a wall and onto the ground. King died at St. Joseph’s Hospital less than an hour later.

Free at Last
King’s death brought tremendous grief to a violence-weary nation and race riots exploded all over the country.

King’s body was brought home to Atlanta so that he could lay-in-state at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he had co-pastored with his father for many years.

On Tuesday, April 9, 1968, King’s funeral was attended by dignitaries and commoners alike. Great words were spoken to eulogize the slain leader. However, the most apropos eulogy was delivered by King himself, when a tape recording of his last sermon at Ebenezer was played:

“If any of you are around when I meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral… I’d like someone to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others… And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”

King’s body is interred at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Martin Luther King’s Legacy
Without question, Martin Luther King, Jr. achieved much in the short span of eleven years. With his accumulated travel of over six million miles, King could have gone to the moon and back four-and-a-half times. Instead, he traveled the world giving over 2,500 speeches, writing five books, participating in eight major nonviolent recourses to effect social change, and was arrested over 20 times.

In November 1983, President Ronald Reagan honored Martin Luther King, Jr. by creating a national holiday to celebrate the man who did so much for the United States. (King is the only African American and non-president to have a national holiday.) Make it a champion day!

January 15 1960- The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

GM – FBF – “An organization which claims to be working for the needs of a community – as SNCC does – must work to provide that community with a position of strength from which to make its voice heard. This is the significance of black power beyond the slogan”. – Stokely Carmichael

Remember – A final SNCC legacy is the destruction of the psychological shackles which had kept black southerners in physical and mental peonage; SNCC helped break those chains forever. It demonstrated that ordinary women and men, young and old, could perform extraordinary tasks. – Julian Bond

Today in our History – April 15,1960 – The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, often pronounced /snɪk/ SNIK) was one of the major Civil Rights Movement organizations of the 1960s. It emerged from the first wave of student sit-ins and formed at an April 1960 meeting organized by Ella Baker at Shaw University. After its involvement in the Voter Education Project, SNCC grew into a large organization with many supporters in the North who helped raise funds to support its work in the South, allowing full-time organizers to have a small salary. Many unpaid grassroots organizers and activists also worked with SNCC on projects in the Deep South, often becoming targets of racial violence and police brutality. SNCC played a seminal role in the freedom rides, the 1963 March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Selma campaigns, the March Against Fear and other historic events. SNCC’s major contribution was in its field work, organizing voter registration, freedom schools, and direct action all over the country, but especially in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

In the later 1960s, inspired by fiery leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, SNCC focused on black power, and draft resistance to the Vietnam War. As early as 1965, executive secretary James Forman said he “did not know how much longer we can stay nonviolent” and in 1969, SNCC officially changed its name to the Student National Coordinating Committee to reflect the broadening of its strategy. It passed out of existence in the 1970s following heavy infiltration and suppression by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), spearheaded as part of COINTELPRO operations during the 1960s and 70s led by J. Edgar Hoover. Reserach more about SNCC and the begining of “The Black Panther Party” and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!