Schomburg’s Stance (Black History 365)

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, was an Afro Puerto Rican historian, writer, collector, and activist. He was a trailblazer for preserving black history, especially in the Caribbean. Schomburg identified as Black and Puerto Rican ancestry, but he always put his African (black) identity to the forefront as opposed to some of the future generations (Dominicans & Puerto Ricans) who won’t identify and some still to this day won’t acknowledge their black ancestry. In regards to this, Schomburg had an ardent outlook on teaching and preserving Black History, while recognizing that there was an emphasis by Europeans on erasing blackness in the cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America. Case in point, Schomburg wrote an essay in 1934 that highlighted how “white Spaniards deliberately concealed 18th century Puerto Rican painter Jose Campeche’s African heritage, all while celebrating his accomplishments. Moreover, this concealment became detrimental because it facilitated ignorance to an ethnic group that would think they are supercilious than others that have African ancestry. Schomburg’s mindset was the antithesis of that and in fact, he was heavily involved in the Harlem Renaissance which we all know was a cultural phenomenon.

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Fighting Back : Defying Moments in Black History (Black History 365)

This water can’t sense he’s a black man, nor does the fountain so what’s the big deal? A law? Man Fuck that. Drink On. 

Cecil J Williams is an American photographer, publisher, author and inventor best known for his photography documenting the civil rights movement in South Carolina beginning in the 1950s. In this photo he’s nonchalantly staring at the camera, defying Jim Crow laws and enjoying the hydration. 

TAKE THAT, ‘CAUSE BACKIN’ DOWN AIN’T AN OPTION.

A woman struggles with police on the second night of unrest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1967. 

Where the fuck you think you goin’? 

Willie ” Whoop Ass Johnson” the first black man to kick a Klansman ass on camera.

Ma Raineys Black Bottom Film Review and History (Black History 365)

Welcome to Black History 365: The Throw Down a series where I explain, educate and explore, historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this episode, I’ll be presenting the story of Ma Rainey “ The Mother of the Blues” and a quick review of the recent film about her story and artistry. Ma Rainey was referred to as “the mother of the Blues “which is an ode to her brilliance in transforming the genre despite a relatively short recording career. During Christmas week, Netflix released “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis as the brazen but passionate blues legend and the late Chadwick Boseman in his final film role, which brought new attention to Rainey’s captivating and mystifying story. 

Even though the film doesn’t have an exciting plot, it does make up for it I believe with its character development and the entertaining dialogue that keeps the story moving smoothly. From Sylvester the stuttering young announcer for Ma Rainey, Boseman’s character Levee’s fiery temperament which culminates to an awful ending he quickly regrets, to Ma Rainey’s relentless effort to get all her records and accommodations done right no matter who challenges her. Since we don’t have any footage or much stories about Ma Rainey, Davis did a wonderful job portraying an unwavering musician that aspired to reach success in her recordings in her style and unapologetic ways when it comes to her sexuality and a black woman during a time when segregation was embedded in everyday life in the south. Below my review is an article on the history of Ma Rainey, all rights go to the curator of the article hence the works cited above it. 

Works Cited

https://www.etonline.com/who-is-ma-rainey-how-the-mother-of-the-blues-became-an-icon-157871 

Who Is Ma Rainey? How the ‘Mother of the Blues’ Became an IconMa Rainey, 1923

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Davis is not the first to portray the icon. Whoopi Goldberg starred as the blues singer in the 2003 Broadway revival of Wilson’s play, a role originally played by Theresa Merritt in 1984, and Monique in the HBO film Bessie

Through her pioneering contributions to blues music, Rainey has ascended to a level of posthumous celebration and well-deserved adoration. It all started in Georgia.

Who Is Ma Rainey? 

Ma Rainey, Rabbit Foot Minstrels

Gertrude “Ma Rainey” Pridgett was born in Columbus, Georgia, sometime around 1886 (though Census records state that she was born in Alabama in 1882). Although the details of her childhood are unclear, Rainey was one of at least four children born to Alabama natives Thomas and Ella Pridgett. 

At age 14, Rainey began performing in local tent shows, eventually catching the eye of musician William “Pa” Rainey, who was more than 10 years her senior. The couple wed when Rainey was 18. 

“Ma” and “Pa” hit the road working as traveling performers. They founded the Alabama Fun Makers company, and later joined the Rabbit Foot touring minstrel shows billed as “Black Face Song and Dance Comedians, Jubilee Singers [and] Cake Walkers.”

By 1914, the Raineys were known as “The Assassinators of the Blues.” Her marriage, however, didn’t last very long. Rainey separated from her husband in 1916 and set off on a solo career. 

How She Became the Mother of the Blues

The origins of blues music can be traced back to the post-Civil War era. Birthed from the hardships of the formerly enslaved Black Americans in the deep South, the blues evolved from spirituals and work songs and became a way to air grievances while maintaining the tradition of oral storytelling through music. 

“It is hard to define this music,” Wilson wrote in his play. “Suffice it to say that it is music that breathes and touches. That connects. That is in itself a way of being separate and distinct from any other.”

If the blues were an exquisitely designed structure, Rainey was one of its architects. She was introduced to the blues in the early 1900s, years before it was defined as a music genre. Known by nicknames like “Ma Can Can” and “Black Nightingale,” Rainey captivated audiences, belting out lyrics that echoed the agony and angst of Black life in the Jim Crow era. 

Rainey’s performance style — a blend of gritty, sometimes intense moaning, call-and-response delivery and emotional turbulence — became so popular that she performed for integrated audiences decades before segregation ended.

In the early 1920s, Rainey migrated to Chicago where the blues scene electrified the city. Music producer J. Mayo Williams moved to the Windy City around the same time. Williams, one of the first Black NFL players, ended his football career and found success as a producer and music executive for Paramount Records. After signing Rainey to the label, she laid down her first blues recording in 1923, following the lead of Mamie Smith, noted as the first Black female artist to be recorded.

Paramount marketed Rainey as the “Mother of the Blues,’ a fitting title for her grandiose bravado. Weighing nearly 300 pounds, Rainey played up her stage persona with a flamboyant style of feather boas, flowy sequin gowns, flashy jewelry, gold teeth, fur-trimmed jackets, and her signature headgear.

Rainey was sharp-witted, often categorized as a shrewd, businesswoman who traveled with an entourage that included her choreographer and dancers. She worked with some of the most influential acts of the era such as T-Bone Walker and Tampa Red, and forged a friendship with Bessie Smith, whom she helped mentor. 

In 1924, Rainey recorded several collaborations with Louis Armstrong, including “Jelly Bean Blues” and “Countin’ the Blues.’’ That year, Rainey toured the South and Midwest with the Theater Owners Booking Association, backed by pianist Thomas Dorsey and the Wildcats Jazz Band.

Why Rainey Is a LGBTQ+ Pioneer 

During her five years with Paramount, Rainey recorded more than 100 songs. Among them, 1928’s “Prove It on Me Blues,” a sultry offering drizzled with not-so-hidden references to Rainey’s queerness. It is arguably one of the earliest song depictions of same-sex relationships in the blues (one of the lyrics is rumored to reference a 1925 lesbian orgy that resulted in Rainey’s arrest), and undercuts the brilliance of Rainey’s ability to subtly affirm her sexuality. 

She cleverly hid lyrics about lesbianism in earlier recordings like “Shave Em Dry” and “Bo-Weevil Blues,” but also addressed issues like domestic violence in “Black Eye Blues.”

Rainey spent much of her professional life backed by male musicians, yet she never downplayed her complicated feelings for men, namely on songs like “Trust No Man” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The End of an Era  

Ma Rainey, Georgia Jazz Band

As the roaring ‘20s came to a close, Rainey’s career began to slow down. The music industry became one of the many casualties of the Great Depression. Subsequently, Paramount went bankrupt and ceased all recordings in 1932, ending Rainey’s time with the label. 

The brand of blues that made Rainey famous had faded in popularity as swing jazz grew into a dominant genre. Rainey continued touring for a few years, but retired in 1935. 

With her music career over, Rainey settled back in Columbus where she ran a string of theaters —  the Lyric, the Airdrome, and the Liberty Theatre. She died of a heart attack in 1939, at age 53. 

Over four decades after her death, Rainey began to receive widespread recognition. She earned a posthumous induction into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the GRAMMYs Hall of Fame.

Her trailblazing blues technique inspired generations of artists including Dinah Washington, Big Mama Thornton, Melissa Etheridge, and Cyndi Lauper, who dedicated her Memphis Blues album to Rainey.

Outside of music, Rainey influenced the writings of poet Langston Hughes, and was the inspiration for the character Shug Avery in Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Color Purple.

In 2004, Rainey was added into the Library of Congress National Recording Register. Three years later, Rainey’s former home in Columbus was turned into a museum. The Columbus native’s legacy continues to be celebrated in her hometown, which hosted the first-annual Ma Rainey International Blues Festival in 2016. 

Skip to main content News Photos Videos ET Live Music Who Is Ma Rainey? How the ‘Mother of the Blues’ Became an Icon By Latifah Muhammad‍ 8:00 AM PST, December 18, 2020 Ma Rainey, 1923 Donaldson Collection/Getty Images Ma Rainey’s title as the “mother of the blues” is an ode to her unremitted genius in transforming the genre despite a relatively short recording career. Now streaming on Netflix, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis as the brazen blues legend and Chadwick Boseman in his final film role, has brought new attention to Rainey’s mystifying story. Adapted from August Wilson’s Broadway play of the same name, the film explores an intense 1927 Chicago recording session between Rainey and her band members, with Davis delivering an unapologetic portrayal of the singer. “Usually Ma Rainey and how she looks has been greatly stereotyped in cinematic history and in life,” the Oscar winner said in an interview with Zora. “I didn’t want [Ma] to physically look like she was apologizing for herself. I wanted her to switch. If those breasts were hanging out like that? They just hung out. She was unapologetic about her sexuality. I just feel like in playing her, I had to honor that.” Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Netflix Davis, however, is not the first to portray the icon. Whoopi Goldberg starred as the blues singer in the 2003 Broadway revival of Wilson’s play, a role originally played by Theresa Merritt in 1984, and Monique in the HBO film Bessie. “Ma Rainey was a woman who wasn’t willing to waver in what she believed in,” Monique said in 2015. “She was very strong-willed, but she had a heart that would open up to the world.” Through her pioneering contributions to blues music, Rainey has ascended to a level of posthumous celebration and well-deserved adoration. It all started in Georgia. Who Is Ma Rainey? Ma Rainey, Rabbit Foot Minstrels Gilles Petard/Redferns/Getty Images Gertrude “Ma Rainey” Pridgett was born in Columbus, Georgia, sometime around 1886 (though Census records state that she was born in Alabama in 1882). Although the details of her childhood are unclear, Rainey was one of at least four children born to Alabama natives Thomas and Ella Pridgett. At age 14, Rainey began performing in local tent shows, eventually catching the eye of musician William “Pa” Rainey, who was more than 10 years her senior. The couple wed when Rainey was 18. “Ma” and “Pa” hit the road working as traveling performers. They founded the Alabama Fun Makers company, and later joined the Rabbit Foot touring minstrel shows billed as “Black Face Song and Dance Comedians, Jubilee Singers [and] Cake Walkers.” By 1914, the Raineys were known as “The Assassinators of the Blues.” Her marriage, however, didn’t last very long. Rainey separated from her husband in 1916 and set off on a solo career. How She Became the Mother of the Blues Ma Rainey, 1923 Donaldson Collection/Getty Images The origins of blues music can be traced back to the post-Civil War era. Birthed from the hardships of the formerly enslaved Black Americans in the deep South, the blues evolved from spirituals and work songs and became a way to air grievances while maintaining the tradition of oral storytelling through music. “It is hard to define this music,” Wilson wrote in his play. “Suffice it to say that it is music that breathes and touches. That connects. That is in itself a way of being separate and distinct from any other.” If the blues were an exquisitely designed structure, Rainey was one of its architects. She was introduced to the blues in the early 1900s, years before it was defined as a music genre. Known by nicknames like “Ma Can Can” and “Black Nightingale,” Rainey captivated audiences, belting out lyrics that echoed the agony and angst of Black life in the Jim Crow era. Rainey’s performance style — a blend of gritty, sometimes intense moaning, call-and-response delivery and emotional turbulence — became so popular that she performed for integrated audiences decades before segregation ended. In the early 1920s, Rainey migrated to Chicago where the blues scene electrified the city. Music producer J. Mayo Williams moved to the Windy City around the same time. Williams, one of the first Black NFL players, ended his football career and found success as a producer and music executive for Paramount Records. After signing Rainey to the label, she laid down her first blues recording in 1923, following the lead of Mamie Smith, noted as the first Black female artist to be recorded. Paramount marketed Rainey as the “Mother of the Blues,’ a fitting title for her grandiose bravado. Weighing nearly 300 pounds, Rainey played up her stage persona with a flamboyant style of feather boas, flowy sequin gowns, flashy jewelry, gold teeth, fur-trimmed jackets, and her signature headgear. Rainey was sharp-witted, often categorized as a shrewd, businesswoman who traveled with an entourage that included her choreographer and dancers. She worked with some of the most influential acts of the era such as T-Bone Walker and Tampa Red, and forged a friendship with Bessie Smith, whom she helped mentor. In 1924, Rainey recorded several collaborations with Louis Armstrong, including “Jelly Bean Blues” and “Countin’ the Blues.’’ That year, Rainey toured the South and Midwest with the Theater Owners Booking Association, backed by pianist Thomas Dorsey and the Wildcats Jazz Band. Why Rainey Is a LGBTQ+ Pioneer During her five years with Paramount, Rainey recorded more than 100 songs. Among them, 1928’s “Prove It on Me Blues,” a sultry offering drizzled with not-so-hidden references to Rainey’s queerness. It is arguably one of the earliest song depictions of same-sex relationships in the blues (one of the lyrics is rumored to reference a 1925 lesbian orgy that resulted in Rainey’s arrest), and undercuts the brilliance of Rainey’s ability to subtly affirm her sexuality. She cleverly hid lyrics about lesbianism in earlier recordings like “Shave Em Dry” and “Bo-Weevil Blues,” but also addressed issues like domestic violence in “Black Eye Blues.” Rainey spent much of her professional life backed by male musicians, yet she never downplayed her complicated feelings for men, namely on songs like “Trust No Man” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The End of an Era Ma Rainey, Georgia Jazz Band JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Imahes As the roaring ‘20s came to a close, Rainey’s career began to slow down. The music industry became one of the many casualties of the Great Depression. Subsequently, Paramount went bankrupt and ceased all recordings in 1932, ending Rainey’s time with the label. The brand of blues that made Rainey famous had faded in popularity as swing jazz grew into a dominant genre. Rainey continued touring for a few years, but retired in 1935. With her music career over, Rainey settled back in Columbus where she ran a string of theaters — the Lyric, the Airdrome, and the Liberty Theatre. She died of a heart attack in 1939, at age 53. Over four decades after her death, Rainey began to receive widespread recognition. She earned a posthumous induction into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the GRAMMYs Hall of Fame. Her trailblazing blues technique inspired generations of artists including Dinah Washington, Big Mama Thornton, Melissa Etheridge, and Cyndi Lauper, who dedicated her Memphis Blues album to Rainey. Outside of music, Rainey influenced the writings of poet Langston Hughes, and was the inspiration for the character Shug Avery in Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Color Purple. In 2004, Rainey was added into the Library of Congress National Recording Register. Three years later, Rainey’s former home in Columbus was turned into a museum. The Columbus native’s legacy continues to be celebrated in her hometown, which hosted the first-annual Ma Rainey International Blues Festival in 2016. 

They deserve better #ThursdayThoughts

  • It does not matter if you’re a black American woman, Caribbean black woman, or an African black woman, justice seems to always elude the misrepresented, marginalized, and neglected women in this nation. News that is to no surprise but is always disheartening and enraging came out yesterday on the Breonna Taylor case. A Grand jury decided to not charge Louisville cops that killed Breonna Taylor. This has been a recurring theme of justice not being served to dating back to the murder of Emmit where the jury only needed an hour to make their decision to acquit his killers. In regards to that, the faces of the killers taking the lives of these black people to change, but the mentality of racism and hate remains to be passed down by generations. Protests have been ignited in the streets once again and rightly so, and the cycle of injustice continues under this land that states “liberty and justice for all. Leave a like and comment if you’d like to chime in. Also, give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts.
Breonna Taylor Commemorated with 7,000-Square-Foot Mural

The Forgotten story of the Black Cowboys of the Wild West (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present the story behind black cowboys in the Wild West and three prominent ones in particular. The three men I will discuss in this post are three of many other black cowboys who left their legacy and contributions to the Wild West and America, but America media seems to always gloss over their existence.

Many of the depictions of cowboys we’ve seen have been of white men and that’s due to Hollywood’s whitewashing of the wild west, but some of the first settlers were freed slaves who traveled west and became black cowboys and legends of the American frontier. 

After the Civil war and Reconstruction, America turned its attention to the newly settled lands in the Great Plains and the West. Despite the traditional depictions of cowboys in Hollywood such as John Wayne for example, the American West was settled by a large portion of freed slaves who made the territory their home and they made the most of it with the contributions that they brought. In the 1870s and 1880s, as many as 25 percent of the 35,000 cowboys in the old west were black cowboys. 

Freed slaves journeyed West to find their fortunes that were among cattle ranches and rows of crops. Before being freed, slaves were in charge of crops and took care of cows for their white owners and the vast availability the land had to offer gave them a new opportunity for many to escape the south. 

To get a better understanding, below are some prominent black cowboys who were famous for their skills riding horses, managing herds, and enforcing the laws. 

Bass Reeves 

In 1875, Bass Reeves became a U.S. Marshall who oversaw Oklahoma Territory before it was annexed as a state. Being a black man after Reconstruction was adverse on the daily, and to make things even more of a challenge Reeves job as U.S. Marshall came with constant conflicts. For instance, of the 200 Marshalls killed in the line of duty, 130 met their demise in Oklahoma. However, that didn’t deter the former slave from Arkansas. He was prepared conflicts if need be due to being an expert marksman with the rifle and pistol. That kind of weaponry training can be attributed to his time in Oklahoma Territory during the Civil War. 

Reeves served as a U.S. Marshall for 27 years and is widely regarded as the first true lawman of the Wild West. With the help of his Native American assistant, he tracked down as many as 30,000 criminals during his career. He achieved this through skill, but also with his unwavering persistence. Reeves used disguises when undercover to get close to criminals before capturing them. 

Bill Pickett 

Born in Texas in 1870, Bill Pickett was a master ranch hand who invented the art of bulldogging a method that subdued cattle by biting their lip. Pickett would observe bulldogs wrangle the cattle to the ground by biting their lips until the cow sat still. Pickett turned bulldogging into a way of wrestling cattle that humans could utilize. For example, he would ride up next to a cow or bull, and then lasso the animal and pull it to the ground. Pickett would then jump off his horse and next to the cow before biting the lip and tying the cow’s legs.

Bulldogging became a very popular and consistent main attraction for rodeos in the late 1880s and early 1900s. The technique eventually became outlawed due to animal cruelty concerns. In 1972, 40 years after his death Pickett became the first inductee into the National Rodeo Hall of fame. Below is a video depicting the art of bulldogging in action. 

Bob Lemmons 

Bob Lemmons grew up a slave before moving to West Texas. West Texas territory contained herds of wild mustangs, which were valuable commodities to ranchers settling in the Wild West. Lemmons had a unique approach that started with the trust of the herd. He would do this by working alone rather than in a group because having a large group of men would spook the herd. 

Lemmons infiltrated the herd of wild mustangs and then broke the lead the horse or in other words he would capture and use it as not only his ride but his leader of command for the rest of the horses, who would follow that leader horse he first captured back to his ranch. Furthermore, his lucrative work allowed him to earn enough money to buy a ranch and build up the large herds of horses and cattle. He died in 1947 at the age of 99. 

Leave a like and comment if you would like to chime in, and give my page a follow so you stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real.

The Tuskegee Airmen (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present the story behind the “Tuskegee Airmen”, how they formed, the adversity they faced and the ways their contributions to aviation help pave the way for future generation of black pilots. Below is the story, so let’s get started.

The date is March 19th 1941 and the U.S. War Department established the 99th pursuit Squadron, which along with a few other squadrons combined to become better known as the Tuskegee Airmen. This aviator team consisted of America’s first black military pilots and once assembled they had to not only endure with the racism at home (America) but confront it from enemies abroad. However, despite the extra obstacles they had to overcome, they would go on to compile an exemplary record in the Mediterranean and European theaters of War World II, and that would help them pave the way for desegregation of the military. 

Tuskegee Airmen
Tuskegee Airmen receiving their commissions at the Tuskegee Army Flying School in Alabama in 1942.

Even though African Americans had fought in every major U.S. conflict dating back to the revolutionary war, they were always confined to menial jobs that segregate them from whites. As late as 1925 an Army war college report called them “ a sub-species of the human family”. The rest of the report went with degrading remarks that held no truth whatsoever. You have to understand that physiological and physical pain was one of the ways that whites had to exude their “superiority” during the Jim Crow days. The rest of the quote stated; “they perform poorly as soldiers due to their cowardly, subserviant, superstitious, amoral, and mentality inferior nature. In retaliation black advocacy groups  and newspapers attempted to counter that pseudoscience. However, as WWII approached, the militarily remained staunchly opposed both to integration and to putting blacks in positions of authority. For example, in 1940 U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Marshall Plan, remarked that now was “not the time for critical experiments which would inevitably have a highly destructive effect on morale.” With that said, the navy and war secretaries agreed with the latter writing that “leadership is not embedded in the Negro race yet” and that mixing white and black troops would be “trouble.” 

Tuskegee Airmen prepare for a flight from Tuskegee Army Airfield, 1943.
Tuskegee Airmen prepare for a flight from Tuskegee Army Airfield, 1943.

Due to Jim Crow laws, blacks were barred from flying in the U.S. Army Air Corps (The predecessor to Air Force). In fact, they rarely were allowed to enter the cockpits. Moreover, census records show that only a few dozen licensed black pilots lived in the entire U.S. prior to WWII. That number would begin to finally increase when several historically balack colleges were included in the Civilian Pilot Training Program which congress created in 1939 to ensure that pilots would be available should a war break out. Even with implemented the Air Corps remained opposed to admitting black recruits. However, in 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Wilkie promised to desegregate the military, prompting his opponent, Demorcratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt , to authorize the entitlement of African American aviators, among other modest civil rights concessions aimed at keeping the blakc vote. On January 16th, 1941, it was then announced that an all-black fighter pilot unit would be trained at the Tuskegee institute in Alabama, a historically black college founded by Booker T. Washington. 

The War Department officially established the 99th Pursuit Squadron (later renamed the 99th Fighter Squadron on March 19, 1941, and it activated the unit three days later. Furthermore, before the first cadets even arrived, the program got a publicity boost when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was taken up in a plane by C. Alfred “Chief Anderson, a black aviation pioneer who served as the Tuskegee Institute chief flight instructor. Nevertheless, many top military officials, including the war secretary, reportedly expected the Tuskegee experiment to fail. As a result, local whites expressed opposition, and at one point nearly initiated a race riot following a tense confrontation with an armed black military policeman. Meanwhile, about 100 whites signed a petition lamenting that the Tuskegee Army Air Field which was built at a great expense purely so that preexisting army air fields wouldn’t have to integrate. This kind of action could be perceived as fear that might cut off the “only outlet of expansion for white citizens of Tuskegee.”

Tuskegee airmen attending a briefing in Italy in 1945. First row (l-r): Hiram E. Man, unidentified airman, Newman C. Golden, Bertram W. Wilson Jr., Samuel W. Watts Jr., Second row (l-R): Armour G. McDemoe, Howard C. Gamble, Harry T. Steward, Jr, Earle R. Lane, Wickliffe, Wyrain T. Shell, Harold M. Morris, John E. Edwards, John H. Porter, James H. Fischer, Wyrain T. Shell. Third row (l-r): William E. “Porky” Rice, Tony Weaver, Charles L. White, George Arnold Lynch, Samuel L. Washington, Calvin J. Spann, Frank N. Wright.
Tuskegee airmen attending a briefing in Italy in 1945. First row (l-r): Hiram E. Man, unidentified airman, Newman C. Golden, Bertram W. Wilson Jr., Samuel W. Watts Jr., Second row (l-R): Armour G. McDemoe, Howard C. Gamble, Harry T. Steward, Jr, Earle R. Lane, Wickliffe, Wyrain T. Shell, Harold M. Morris, John E. Edwards, John H. Porter, James H. Fischer, Wyrain T. Shell. Third row (l-r): William E. “Porky” Rice, Tony Weaver, Charles L. White, George Arnold Lynch, Samuel L. Washington, Calvin J. Spann, Frank N. Wright.

The airmen lived primarily in primitive tents in the inaugural class of Tuskegee pilots studied subjects such as radio code, navigation and meteorology. They also took to the air for more hands -on learning. In regards to that, of the 13 original cadets, five made it to graduation in March 1942, including Benjamin O. Davis Jr. who would eventually become the units commander. More graduations quickly followed, and the program was expanded to comprise not only the 99th Fighter Squadron, but also the 100th 301 st and 302nd fighter squadron, which together made up the 332nd Fighter Group. (Also considered Tuskegee Airmen are the black bomber pilots of the 477th Bombardment group, as well as all support personnel.) Overall, 922 pilots completed the Tuskegee training program, nearly half of whom were shipped overseas, where they gained fame for their unparalleled success at escorting bombers on long – range raids deep into Nazi – controlled terrority. They would fly some 1,600 missions and destroying over 260 enemy aircraft, the Tuskegee Airmen helped lay the foundation for Harry S. Truman’s decision  to desegregate the armed forces in 1948. 

The Freedom Riders (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present the story behind “The Freedom Riders”. This post is much needed to be presented after the recent passing of civil rights legend and former U.S. representative John Lewis who was the frontman so to speak in this group of activists. 

The Freedom Riders were a group of Black and White Americans civil rights activists who participated in Freedom rides, bus rides through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. During their travels, The Freedom Riders tried to use “whites – only” restrooms and lunch counters at the bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina, and other southern states. As expected they were met with hostility from police officers as well as horrific violence from white protesters. However, with all the adversity they endured, they had supporters as their actions and bravery were spotlighted on an international scale. 

John Lewis

The original members of Freedom Riders totaled at 13, seven African Americans and six whites left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. Their objective 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.

They would travel to 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.

Soon after 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 carried 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. Talk about a setup. 

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.

Federal Marshals Called In

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 another 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.

Kennedy Urges ‘Cooling Off’ Period 

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.

That same day, U.S. Attorney General Kennedy issued a statement urging a “cooling off” period in the face of the growing violence:

“A very difficult condition exists now in the states of Mississippi and Alabama. Besides the groups of ‘Freedom Riders’ traveling through these states, there are curiosity seekers, publicity seekers, and others who are seeking to serve their causes, as well as many persons who are traveling because they must use the interstate carriers to reach their destination.

In this confusing situation, there is an increasing possibility that innocent persons may be injured. A mob asks no questions.

A cooling-off period is needed. It would be wise for those traveling through these two Sites to delay their trips until the present state of confusion and danger has passed and an atmosphere of reason and normalcy has been restored.”

During the Mississippi 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.

Desegregating Travel

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.

Leave a like and comment if you’d like to chime in. Also give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real.

Soaring with strength (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in Black History 365 a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I want to present the story of the first licensed African American female pilot, Bessie Coleman aka “Brave Bessie,” “Queen Bess,” and “The Only Race Aviatrix in the World”.

A lot of people are familiar with aviator Amelia Earhart and Americans revere her as one of the pioneers in aviation. However, they were unsung individuals in American history and in this case pilots that have been neglected to be taught and discussed to Americans. During a time when segreation and discrimation was legal and the norm it was easier and more acceptable for white America to see a white woman achieving successful endeavors compared to a black woman who accomplished just as much as her (Earhart) and her white counterparts. 

Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta Texas in 1939 during a time and society full of poverty, Jim Crow discrimination, and segregation. At 23 she moved to Chicago to seek her fortune, but she came across hardships and found minimal opportunity there. She became aware of the wild tales of flying exploits from returning from WWI soldiers, and this inspired her to learn and explore aviation. Another reason that can be attributed to her desires in aviation was her brother who fought in WWI. After he returned home from France with stories for Bessie he told her that her dreams of becoming a pilot were futile compared to French women who were allowed to learn to fly and Bessie couldn’t. With all her aspirations to become an aviator and create her own adventures, there was a double obstacle and stigma she had to overcome to reach her goals and that being black and a woman in America. That would not deter her from achieving her goals and she went for it with much persistence even if her journey was adverse. 

Bessie Coleman

Coleman set her sights on France to reach her dreams and while staying there she learned French. In 1920, she crossed the ocean with all her savings and the financial support of Robert Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender, one of the first African American newspapers in the . For the next seven months, she learned to fly and in June of 1921, the Federation of Aeronautique Internationale awarded her an international pilot’s license. When she returned to the United States she was widely celebrated to the point where reporters were rushing to greet and get stories of her adventures.

african american women pilots | ELIZABETH BESSIE COLEMAN: FIRST ...

Over the next five years, Coleman performed at numerous airshows. She performed heart thrilling stunts, encouraging other African Americans to pursue flying and refusing to perform where black people were not admitted. When she tragically died in a plane accident in 1926, a famous writer and equal rights advocate Ida B. Wells presided over her funeral. An editorial in the Dallas Express stated, “There is reason to believe that the general public did not completely sense the size of her contribution to the achievements of the race as such”. 

Rocket Girls exhibit to honor pilot | Manning Live

If you’ve made it this far in the post, leave a like and comment to chime in. Give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real. 

4 little girls : 1963 Birmingham church bombing (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in my Black History 365 series where I present and explain historical events that have affected black people worldwide from the Americas, Africa, Caribbean and so forth. Some of the stories are familiar to some and some are not which is the reason I created this series to explore, educate and expand readers understanding of the black struggle and black triumphs in the face of obstacles and oppression.

It’s September 15th, 1963 and a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services at the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham Alabama killing four young girls; Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11).

The 16th Street Baptist church served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. who once dubbed Birmingham as a “symbol of hardcore resistance to integration”. Alabama’s governor George Wallace made racial segregation one of the central goals of his administration, and this created one of the most violent and lawless chapters of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. Once this was established their reign of terrorist attacks began and one of their targets was the church.

Baptist Street Church Bombing — FBI

When the bombing occurred it was the third in Birmingham in 11 days after a federal order came down to integrate Alabama’s school system. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were planted in the church basement, underneath what would turn out to be the girl’s bathroom. At 10:19 AM the bomb detonated killing Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins (all 14 years old) and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Immediately after the blast the church members rushed out the church discombobulated, in pain and bloodied. Covered in debris and broken stained glass surrounding them, they began helping survivors through the rubble. More than 20 other members of the congregation were injured in the blast. 

Remembering the Birmingham church bombing | Southern Poverty Law ...
The 4 girls. Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins (all 14 years old) and 11-year-old Denise McNair.

In the aftermath irate black protesters assembled at the crime scene. George Wallace sent hundreds of police and state troopers to the area to break up the crowd. Two young black men were killed that night, one by police and another by racist thugs. Meanwhile, public outrage over the bombing continued to grow, drawing international attention to Birmingham. At the funeral for three of the girls, one of the girls’ families preferred a separate, private service. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed more than 8,000 mourners. 

A well known Klan member, Robert Edward Chambliss was charged with murder and with buying 122 sticks of dynamite. In October 1963, Chambliss was cleared of the murder charge and received a six-month jail sentence and a $100 fine for the dynamite. During the FBI investigation three other men – Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Cash, and Thomas E. Blanton Jr. was arrested for having helped Chambliss commit the crime. Subsequently, it was later revealed that FBI chairman J. Edgar Hoover blocked their prosecution and shut down the investigation without filing charges in 1968. Justice for the murders became stagnant and bleak after the case was closed, but once general Bill Baxley reopened the case it resulted in the conviction of Chambliss in 1977 and he was sentenced to life in prison. 

Robert Edward Chambliss - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
Robert Edward Chambliss

Efforts to prosecute the other three men believed responsible for the bombing continued for decades. Even though Cash died in 1994, Cherry and Blanton were arrested and charged with four counts of murder in 2000. Blanton was sentenced to life in prison. Cherry’s trial was delayed after judges ruled he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. However, this decision was later reversed. On May 22nd, 2002 was convicted and sentenced to life, bringing a long-awaited victory to the friends and families of the four young victims.

16th Street Baptist Church bombing | History & Four Girls | Britannica

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