Category Archives: History

Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong

Unless you're among the handful of people who were taught the truth, much of what you know about Thanksgiving is mythology. America's history is full of half truths and outright lies. Just about everything I was taught about America when I was a child was fake, including the myth of Thanksgiving

What do you know about indigenous communities of people that we incorrectly refer to as Indians or Native Americans? The information you've accepted as fact, such as the story about Pocahontas is fake news.  

There are currently 573 federally recognized tribes in the United State. Last month, our nation celebrated Columbus Day, celebrating a man responsible for unspeakable atrocities against millions of native people.  

My brainwashing about how great America was began in kindergarten when I was taught the Pledge of Allegiance, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Fast forward 40 plus years to Colin Kaepernick's protest of the National Anthem, which  highlighted not everyone enjoyed justice or liberty. Ironically, the "Star-Spangled Banner" as originally written, glorified the deaths of slaves who were actually fighting for their freedom which includes justice and liberty. However, that was never mentioned in school.

The Fourth of July (Independence Day) celebrates the creation of a country where my ancestors were still enslaved!  Even the story about George Washington being the first president of the United States is not entirely true! Keep in mind that George Washington wasn't elected president until 1788 and inaugurated in 1789. The Continential Congress began in 1774 and the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Who ran things between 1774 – 1788 before Washington was elected?

There were 15 presidents prior to Washington. Peyton Randolph was the first of eight presidents of the Continental Congress, John Hancock was president when the "Declaration of Independence" was signed in 1776; which probably explains the large signature. Samuel Huntington was the last president of the Continental Congress and the first of ten presidents under the Articles of Confederation.  John Hanson, the third president under the Articles of Confederation is responsible for establishing Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November in 1782.

The American public is becoming more aware of historical misinformation. Attempts to remove monuments to despicable people and ideology have begun and real change has happened. Many cities celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day and Columbus, OH for the first time this year chose not to celebrate its namesake.  

“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

Some people are so indoctrinated in American propaganda, they can't or refuse to see the truth. American was built on stolen land and made rich by stolen labor and lives.

The 1790 Naturalization Act permitted only "free white persons" to become naturalized citizens, thus opening the doors to European immigrants but not others. Only citizens could vote, serve on juries, hold office, and in some cases, even hold property. 

The 1830 Indian Removal Act forcibly relocated Cherokee, Creeks and other eastern Indians to west of the Mississippi River to make room for white settlers. The 1862 Homestead Act gave away millions of acres of what had been Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. 

Indigenous people and people of color had their land stolen, their rights stripped away, were artifically held back by law, placed under restrictions and oppressed.

Don't let others tell you to forget about the past. Forgeting or lying about the past is the same as erasing your future. 

On the Supreme Court, difficult nominations have led to historical injustices

 

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 27, 2018. AP/pool image, Michael Reynolds

By Calvin Schermerhorn, Arizona State University

Far from being unusual, the hurried and partisan Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh mirrors several notable examples of similarly politicized confirmations in U.S. history.

Those conflicts, which ultimately placed justices on the court, yielded some of the most damaging civil rights decisions in our nation’s history.

Unlike any other branch of government, Supreme Court justices do not have to face voters at the polls. They have no term limits. Yet the high court is the final arbiter of constitutional rights and protections.

Controversial appointees who were rammed through hearings, or political careerists nominated for strategic reasons and confirmed despite scant vetting, handed down decisions that expanded slavery and rolled back civil rights.

Bad processes do not by themselves yield bad decisions. There have also been thinly vetted justices who have protected and extended civil rights, but such cases are in a minority.

Of course, all Supreme Court nominations are political because they embody the strategic priorities of the president. And the required Senate confirmation of a nominee may well be a “vapid and hollow charade,” in Justice Elena Kagan’s words, since partisan support matters over merit.

But as history shows, judicious confirmation hearings are vital to vetting a lifetime appointment that can affect citizens’ right to vote, access to courts, or the limits of presidential power.

Portrait of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney by George P.A. Healy. The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Bad process, bad decisions

Roger B. Taney was a partisan warrior who helped President Andrew Jackson kill the Bank of the United States by illegally draining its funds. Congress refused to confirm Taney as treasury secretary and censured Jackson.

So Jackson named Taney to the Supreme Court. The Senate refused to confirm him. The next year, after Jackson got a Democratic Senate, he renominated him, this time as chief justice. Taney was pushed hurriedly through confirmation.

The Taney Court was staunchly pro-slavery, rejecting states’ rights when Northerners asserted them to oppose slavery.

Taney’s most sweeping pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857 held that African-Americans “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” The decision ruled that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in any U.S. territory. Dred Scott is widely considered to be one of the worst decisions ever made by the court.

A critical time

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was able to replace the Taney Court with corporation-friendly Republicans like Samuel F. Miller of Iowa, whom he nominated in 1862. Lincoln’s court strategy was to appoint Republicans who would endorse presidential powers in a war to save the Union.

Like Taney, Miller had owned slaves but freed them. And he was a party loyalist. As Miller’s biographer claims, he “sought results first and then found the arguments to justify them.”

Miller’s appointment came just as Lincoln was contemplating the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln could have asked Miller his views on the scope of black freedom, but he never did. He never even met Miller. And with no opposition in Congress, the Senate confirmed Miller in just hours.

Miller’s appointment may have been shrewd politics but it hollowed out the Civil War’s crowning achievement, the abolition of slavery and constitutional protections for African-American citizenship, including equal protection of the laws and the right to vote.

It was Miller’s majority ruling in the 5-4 Slaughterhouse Cases in 1873 that had the effect of limiting civil rights protections for African-Americans under the 14th Amendment, which extended citizenship to African-Americans and forbade states to deny them equal protection of the laws. The ruling in effect gave states sole power over areas of citizenship not explicitly covered in the federal Constitution. That, in turn, ultimately led to the growth of racist Jim Crow laws in states.

Justice Joseph P. Bradley, appointed by Ulysses S. Grant. Supreme Court

President Ulysses Grant’s two nominees were also pushed through hastily and had an oversized impact on civil rights.

Those appointments – conservative pro-business Republican Joseph P. Bradley and political hack Morrison Waite – unwittingly undermined Grant’s own Justice Department’s civil rights enforcement.

In 1870 Grant appointed Bradley specifically to help business interests concerned about recent decisions that they believed harmed them. Bradley faced scant opposition from a majority-Republican Senate in bed with railroad and other corporate interests.

Four years later, Grant picked Waite, a crony of Grant’s Ohio friends, who had zero judicial experience. Called a “national nonentity” by a court historian, Waite’s appointment surprised everyone, including Waite. The Senate confirmed him without debate.

The unintended consequences of these two overtly political nominations became clear in U.S. v. Cruikshank, an 1876 court decision.

In April 1873, up to 150 African-Americans were murdered by whites in a conflict over two competing Louisiana governments. Among those whites was William Cruikshank.

Cruikshank and others who participated in the massacre were charged and convicted in federal court of civil rights violations under the Enforcement Act of 1870. That act made it a federal crime to violate civil rights and was passed with the intention of putting teeth in the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection of the laws and due process. The case considered by the court was an appeal of those initial convictions.

Justice Waite ruled that the 14th Amendment’s civil rights provisions, including the equal protections of the laws and right to due process, did not apply to the victims of the Colfax Massacre.

Justice Bradley concurred in the ruling, clearing Cruikshank. Indeed, Bradley declared that none of the Colfax Massacre defendants were alleged to have “committed the acts complained of with a design to deprive the injured persons of their rights on account of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Bradley and Waite’s responses constituted willful blindness to a naked act of racial terrorism. And these decisions gutted the 14th Amendment’s civil rights provisions, leading to the swift and violent rise of Jim Crow.

More damage

Bradley went on to rule in 1883 that the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which outlawed racial discrimination in public facilities, was unconstitutional. He did this at a time when blacks were being denied the right to vote, barred from businesses and murdered with impunity. Bradley tutted that with his ruling a black citizen “ceases to be the special favorite of the laws.” And the law ended protection for African-Americans from segregation in schools, theaters and even cemeteries.

It would be 74 years before Congress passed another civil rights act.

Not all justices involved in partisan nominations, or who were poorly vetted, handed down dreadful rulings.

Louis D. Brandeis’ nomination in 1916 led to a bitter partisan brawl infused with anti-Semitism. One witness at his confirmation accused him of “infidelity,” and another characterized Brandeis as “duplicitous”.

Louis Brandeis won a bitter nomination fight to the Supreme Court. Boston Journal, June 2, 1916

Yet Brandeis became one of the nation’s most renowned Supreme Court justices, standing up for free speech in Whitney v. California in 1927 and dissenting in Olmstead v. United States the next year against warrantless wiretapping.

Harold H. Burton was a surprise nomination when Democrat Harry Truman nominated the Republican senator from Ohio in 1945. The Senate dispensed with hearings and confirmed Burton without debate. But Burton defied expectations, shaping the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) ruling that desegregated schools and overturned the Jim Crow doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Back to the 19th century

More recently, contested nominations have revived the 19th-century practice of ramming through partisans whose decisions undermine civil rights.

The 1991 Clarence Thomas nomination evokes that legacy. With a thin resume, partisan credentials, and his nomination hastily pushed through by George H. W. Bush’s administration, Thomas won a lifetime appointment by a two-vote margin after an acrimonious hearing involving his alleged sexual harrassment.

Justice Thomas is arguably among the most conservative justices. He joined Chief Justice John Roberts in the landmark 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, like that of Morrison Waite, Joseph P. Bradley and Roger B. Taney, has been rushed. A partisan warrior, he has been hastily advanced, with the majority of his papers withheld and sexual assault allegations overtaking his hearings.

As American history has shown, this process comes with profound risks.The Conversation


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

St. Louis Arch A Symbol of “Negro Removal”?

On July 3, 2018, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated St. Louis Gateway Arch grounds was held. The history of the Arch is rooted in exclusion and racist policy. Black businesses were evicted to make room for the Arch and blacks were denied employment opportunities during the Arch construction. 53 years later, blacks were not represented in the ribbon cutting ceremony although the City of St. Louis has a majority black population.

 Officials and National Parks Service staff cut the ribbon to the new Gateway Arch visitor center and museum Tuesday.

The photo above is symbolic of how black people are constantly being removed for the benefit of others. The City of St. Louis removed blacks from the riverfront, sections of downtown including the Mill Creek Valley to build Pruitt Igoe.

Mill Creek Valley looking northwest towards Grand, St. Louis, MO.

The Mill Creek area was supposedly blighted, however, my father, who will be 90 later this year, told me many of the residents of Mill Creek were homeowners who took pride in their homes and kept them up. When I saw pictures of Mill Creek Valley, it looked very similar to the Soulard and Lafayette square neighborhoods.  

Mill Creek Valley family on moving Day

In 1959, demolition of the neighborhood began, displacing over 20,000 residents, 95% of whom were black. Keep in mind, during this time the federal government was still actively redlining and withholding funds to improve black neighborhoods. Of the $120 billion worth of new housing subsidized by the government between 1934 and 1962, less than 2 percent went to nonwhite families.

Former Mayor Raymond Tucker (at right) and then-civic leader and bond issue chairman Sidney Maestre look out over an area of Mill Creek Valley slated for clearance in 1956.

The Interstate highways wiped out many predominantly black neighborhoods and turned them into surface parking and highways or isolated them contributing to their failure. Even the Cookie Thornton shooting was related to black removal. Most recently, the false promises of Paul McKee and the NGA project resulted in the further displacement of black families and neighborhoods all under the guise of urban renewal. James Baldwin pointed out in a 1963 interview that, "urban renewal..means negro removal". 

People of African descent have played a large role in St. Louis since the city’s founding in 1764. Downtown St. Louis was a center of black cultural, economic, political, and legal achievements that have shaped not only the city but the nation as well. Early census figures show blacks, both free and slave, lived in St. Louis from its earliest days under French and Spanish colonial rule. By the 1820 census, 10,000 slaves lived in Missouri, about one-fifth of the state’s population, however only 347 "free colored persons" lived in Missouri. That same year, the Missouri Compromise admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state. Evidence of black life in downtown St. Louis has been erased from the City's landscape and memory. See: "African Americans in Downtown St. Louis". 

In 1935 St. Louis approved a bond issue for a project commemorating Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and to clear an area of empty, “blighted” warehouses. A study by the Post-Dispatch at the time of the 1935 vote found the riverfront wasn’t a derelict district that needed to be cleared. The paper found 290 active businesses and a 2% vacancy rate on 37 blocks that would become the Arch.

The St. Louis riverfront, looking northeast from the Old Courthouse in 1895. This area now contains the Gateway Arch. The buildings shown here were prized by many historic preservationists, who objected to the demolition of unique cast-iron structures

As Tony Messenger pointed out in his article, "Krewson's deputy mayor calls all-white Arch photo a 'symptom' of St. Louis' racial divide": In 1939, the city of St. Louis began clearing 486 buildings from the area near its riverfront. Most housed businesses owned and run by black St. Louisans. About 5,000 jobs were lost. 

Westward Expansion

Let's not forget the original motivation for the St. Louis Arch. It was built to honor St. Louis' role in westward expansion, a time when Manifest Destiny was used to push Native Americans and Mexicans out of their lands. It is estimated 10 million+ Native Americans were living on land that is now the United States when European explorers first arrived in the 15th century. It is estimated that over nine million Native Americans were killed after European settlers arrived.

"Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian."  

As the United States expanded westward, violent conflicts over territory multiplied. In 1784, one British traveler noted:

“White Americans have the most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians; and nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children.”

After the American Revolution, many Native American lives were already lost to disease and displacement. In 1830, the federal Indian Removal Act called for the removal of the ‘Five Civilized Tribes’ – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. 

Between 1830 and 1838, federal officials working on behalf of white cotton growers forced nearly 100,000 Indians out of their homeland. The dangerous journey from the southern states to “Indian Territory” in current Oklahoma is referred to as the Trail of Tears. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans had been removed from their homelands, thereby opening 25 million acres for predominantly European settlement.

Ferguson should have acted as a wake-up call to the entire St. Louis region. This year will mark the fourth anniversary of Michael Brown's death, but the City of St. Louis and the greater St. Louis region are either in denial or indifferent about its exclusionary institutionalized racist and oppressive nature. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly stated, “a riot is the language of the unheard".

Considering the history of what the St. Louis Arch commemorates and the history of its construction, the lack of diversity in the ribbon cutting symbolized St. Louis' culture of racism. It's time to start listening to the unheard!

The long history of separating families in the US and how the trauma lingers

There are two ways to enter the United States, legally or illegally. Entering the country illegally is a crime. If I commit an illegal act, no matter how well intentioned my actions are, I will be subject to arrest. If I am arrested with small children, I would have no reasonable expectation of not being separated from my my children.

Yes, many laws are unfair. Black people in the U.S. have been subject to walking and driving while black, and other while black actions have been criminalized including most recently, barbecuing and StarBucking while black. It is almost universally recognized that when you are arrested, even if you're arrested unfairly, your children will be separated from you while under arrest.

The worst example of forced child separation occurs within our criminal justice system. Just as the forced removal of Indian children became illegal in the late '70s, the United States began an accelerated process of mass incarceration that quintupled the number of U.S. prisoners. 

Many people spend weeks, months and even years locked up while they await trial, half a million of the 2.3 million people behind bars are simply there because they are too poor to pay bail  (even though we know that money bail only marginally impacts court attendance). Many of these mostly nonviolent people end up losing their jobs, homes or custody of their children before they’ve even had a chance to plead their case in court. 


By Jessica Pryce, Florida State University

During the last few weeks, hundreds of families have been separated, following the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal immigrants. Even though the separations have reportedly stopped, it is not clear when the families will be unified. There are also reports of children being possibly put in foster homes and at least one teenager missing, after walking out of a shelter.

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Immigrant children play inside the Catholic Charities RGV in Texas. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

This is not the first time that children have been separated. Exclusion and separation has impacted African-Americans during slavery, Native Americans during the Trail of Tears, and Japanese-Americans during internment, to name a few.

As a scholar who is actively engaged in child protection research and who examines the unnecessary removals of children from their parents, I am all too aware that the repercussions of such policies often take a lifetime to undo.

History of separating families

During the years of slavery, there was daily buying and selling of children from their enslaved parents. No legal restraints existed on slave owners, who chose to dispose of their property as they saw fit.

Another period of state-sanctioned separations was in the 1800s, after President Andrew Jackson authorized the Indian Removal Act. Native Americans, mostly youth, were forcibly taken out of their homes and communities and asked to walk for miles to a specially designated “Indian territory.” Thousands died on that journey. It has since been named the “Trail of Tears.”

The government, nonetheless went ahead with its policies and mandated that Native American children be educated apart from their families in boarding schools. This was a method of creating a distance between children and their Native American parents so that they would slowly let go of their native values – what scholars today describe as forced assimilation.

This practice went on until the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 when Native American parents were given the legal right to refuse boarding school education.

The internment of Japanese-Americans was also a time of enactment of exclusionary policies by the American government. President Roosevelt ordered that Japanese, many of them United States citizens, be forcibly removed and held in camps. Children, even infants, were placed in these camps with their parents, and sometimes without.

As is being done today, these separations were staunchly defended and rationalized, without much consideration of the negative and long-lasting trauma.

The long-term impact

Recent research on the impact of family separation during slavery focuses on the trauma that has been passed down over the years.

Scholar Joy DeGruy, in her seminal book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” describes the impact of that history on black families today.

It is “common sense,” adds DeGruy, who has spent many years researching the multigenerational trauma, that hundreds of people who endured slavery would continue to pass on behaviors, such as anger, violence and shame, down to contemporary generations.

Scholars have also researched the impact of American Indian boarding schools. Their findings included reports of abuse in boarding school and how that manifested in their later years. As children, they were found to have high levels of depression. Research has also linked the adverse childhood experience of boarding school with difficulty in managing stress as adults.

Within the foster care system, scholars have long researched the harm in multiple placements, meaning moving children from one foster care placement to another. Children who experience such unstable placement experience, after being separated from their families, suffer from profound distress and a loss of belonging.

The trauma of separation leaves deep physical and psychological impact that carries into adulthood. This essentially means the healthy development of a child is disrupted in many ways.

Separation of families in 2018

The consequences of adverse childhood experiences can be minimized if a child is in a loving and nurturing environment where they feel safe and are able to acquire appropriate ways to cope.

The ConversationThese past comparisons bring us to what is occurring today. President Trump’s executive order has stopped any additional separations, but it does not undo the damage that has already been set in motion.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Jessica Pryce, Executive Director, The Florida Institute for Child Welfare, Florida State University

African-Americans fighting fascism and racism, from WWII to Charlottesville

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Tuskegee Airmen and P-47. San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

In July 1943, one month after a race riot shook Detroit, Vice President Henry Wallace spoke to a crowd of union workers and civic groups:

“We cannot fight to crush Nazi brutality abroad and condone race riots at home. Those who fan the fires of racial clashes for the purpose of making political capital here at home are taking the first step toward Nazism.”

The Pittsburgh Courier, a leading African-American newspaper at the time, praised Wallace for endorsing what they called the “Double V” campaign.

Double_V_Campaign

The Double Victory campaign, launched by the Courier in 1942, became a rallying cry for black journalists, activists and citizens to secure both victory over fascism abroad during World War II and victory over racism at home.

There is a historical relationship between Nazism and white supremacy in the United States. Yet the recent resurgence of explicit racism, including the attack in Charlottesville, has been greeted by many with surprise. Just look at the #thisisnotwhoweare hashtag.

As a scholar of African-American history, I am troubled by the collective amnesia in U.S. politics and media around racism. It permeates daily interactions in communities across the country. This ignorance has consequences. When Americans celebrate the country’s victory in WWII, but forget that the U.S. armed forces were segregated, that the Red Cross segregated blood donors or that many black WWII veterans returned to the country only to be denied jobs or housing, it becomes all the more difficult to talk honestly about racism today.

Nazis and Jim Crow

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime rose to power in the 1930s, black-run newspapers quickly recognized that the Third Reich saw the American system of race law as a model. Describing a plan to segregate Jews on German railways, the New York Amsterdam News wrote that Nazis were “taking a leaf from United States Jim Crow practices.”

The Chicago Defender noted that “the practice of jim-crowism has already been adopted by the Nazis.” A quote from the official newspaper of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary organization, on the origins of the railway ban stated:

“In the freest country in the world, where even the president rages against racial discrimination, no citizen of dark color is permitted to travel next to a white person, even if the white is employed as a sewer digger and the Negro is a world boxing champion or otherwise a national hero…[this] example shows us all how we have to solve the problem of traveling foreign Jews.”

In making connections between Germany and the United States, black journalists and activists cautioned that Nazi racial ideology was not solely a foreign problem. A New York Amsterdam News editorial argued in 1935:

“If the Swastika is an emblem of racial oppression, the Stars and Stripes are equally so. This country has consistently refused to recognize one-tenth of its population as an essential part of humanity…It has systematically encouraged the mass murder of these people through bestial mobs, through denial of economic opportunity, through terrorization.”

Victory at home

When the United States entered WWII, African-Americans joined the fight to defeat fascism abroad. Meanwhile, the decades-long fight on the home front for equal access to employment, housing, education and voting rights continued.

These concerns prompted James G. Thompson, a 26-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, to write to the editors of the Pittsburgh Courier. His letter sparked the Double Victory campaign. Considering his service in the U.S. Army, which was racially segregated during WWII, Thompson wrote:

“Being an American of dark complexion and some 26 years, these questions flash through my mind: ‘Should I sacrifice my life to live half American?’ ‘Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow?’…‘Is the kind of America I know worth defending?’”

For Thompson and other African-Americans, defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis powers was only half the battle. Winning the war would be only a partial victory if the United States did not also overturn racial discrimination at home.

These ideals seemed particularly far away in the summer of 1943, when racial violence raged across the country. In addition to the riot in Detroit, there were more than 240 reports of interracial battles in cities and at military bases, including in Harlem, Los Angeles, Mobile, Philadelphia and Beaumont, Texas.

These events inspired Langston Hughes’ poem, “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943”:

“Looky here, America / What you done done / Let things drift / Until the riots come […] You tell me that hitler / Is a mighty bad man / I guess he took lessons from the ku klux klan […] I ask you this question / Cause I want to know / How long I got to fight / BOTH HITLER — AND JIM CROW.”

The end of Hughes’ poem calls to mind the swastikas and Confederate flags that were prominently displayed in Charlottesville and at other white supremacist rallies. These symbols and ideologies have long and intertwined histories in the U.S.

The ConversationAdvocates of the Double Victory campaign understood that Nazism would not be completely vanquished until white supremacy was defeated everywhere. In linking fascism abroad and racism at home, the Double Victory campaign issued a challenge to America that remains unanswered.


Matthew Delmont, Director and Professor of the School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies, Arizona State University

This article republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

The East St. Louis Race Riot Left Dozens Dead, Devastating a Community on the Rise

Three days of violence forced African-American families to run for their lives and the aftereffects are still felt in the Illinois city today.

Two National Guard escort an African-American man in the tense summer weeks of 1917 in East St. Louis, Illinois. (Bettmann)

No one really knows about this. . . . I know about it because my father, uncles and aunts lived through it,” Dhati Kennedy says.

He’s referring to an incident that survivors call the East St. Louis Race War. From July 1 through July 3, 1917, a small Illinois city located across the river from its Missouri counterpart was overrun with violence. Kennedy’s father Samuel, who was born in 1910, lived in East St. Louis when the conflict occurred. A smoldering labor dispute turned deadly as rampaging whites began brutally beating and killing African-Americans. By the end of the three-day crisis, the official death toll was 39 black individuals and nine whites, but many believe that more than 100 African-Americans were killed.

St. Louis Globe Democrat headline on Tuesday July 3, 1917

“We spent a lifetime as children hearing these stories. It was clear to me my father was suffering from some form of what they call PTSD,” Kennedy recalls. “He witnessed horrible things: people’s houses being set ablaze, . . .  people being shot when they tried to flee, some trying to swim to the other side of the Mississippi while being shot at by white mobs with rifles, others being dragged out of street cars and beaten and hanged from street lamps.”

Kennedy is the founder of the Committee for Historical Truth, a group that has spent 20 years commemorating the event and the subsequent black exodus from the city. This year, the Kennedys, survivors, historians and human rights activists are hosting three days of activities in East St. Louis and St. Louis, as well as on the Eads Bridge that connects the two cities. Many residents of East St. Louis used this bridge to flee into Missouri.

“Thousands of blacks were streaming across that bridge when what they called the ‘race war’ got into full swing,” Kennedy says. “When that happened, the police shut down the bridge, and no one could escape. Some, in desperation, tried to swim and drowned.”

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture holds within its collections a copy of the September 1917 issue of The Crisis, a NAACP publication. The magazine includes articles about the East St. Louis race massacres and the Silent Parade held in Harlem, New York, to bring attention to the atrocities happening in Illinois.

The September 1917 issue of The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Racial tensions began simmering in East St. Louis—a city where thousands of blacks had moved from the South to work in war factories—as early as February 1917. The African-American population was 6,000 in 1910 and nearly double that by 1917. In the spring, the largely white workforce at the Aluminum Ore Company went on strike. Hundreds of blacks were hired. After a City Council meeting on May 28, angry white workers lodged formal complaints against black migrants. When word of an attempted robbery of a white man by an armed black man spread through the city, mobs started beating any African-Americans they found, even pulling individuals off of streetcars and trolleys. The National Guard was called in but dispersed in June.

On July 1, a white man in a Ford shot into black homes. Armed African-Americans gathered in the area and shot into another oncoming Ford, killing two men who turned out to be police officers investigating the shooting. The next morning, whites pouring out of a meeting in the Labor Temple downtown began beating blacks with guns, rocks and pipes. They set fire to homes and shot residents as they fled their burning properties. Blacks were also lynched in other areas of the city.

Carlos F. Hurd, a reporter known for his harrowing interviews with survivors of the R.M.S. Titanic wreck, published a July 3 eyewitness report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The article was also quoted in The Crisis.

“The East St. Louis affair, as I saw it, was a man hunt, conducted on a sporting basis, though with anything but the fair play which is the principle of sport,” Hurd wrote. “There was a horribly cool deliberateness and a spirit of fun about it. ‘Get a nigger’ was the slogan, and it was varied by the recurrent cry, ‘Get another!’”

Hugh L. Wood, writing for the St. Louis Republicwas also quoted in The Crisis: “A Negro weighing 300 pounds came out of the burning line of dwellings just north and east of the Southern fright home. . . . ‘Get him!’ they cried. So a man in the crowd clubbed his revolver and struck the Negro in the face with it. Another dashed an iron bolt between the Negro’s eyes. Still another stood near and battered him with a rock. Then the giant Negro tumbled to the ground. . . . A girl stepped up and struck the bleeding man with her foot. The blood spurted onto her stockings and men laughed and grunted.”

The Crisis articles include more scenes of raw horror: a person was beheaded with a butcher knife, and a 12-year-old African-American girl fainted after being pulled from a trolley bus. Her mother stopped to help and a white crowd attacked, leaving the mother prostrate with a gaping hole in her head.

As Kennedy’s family prepared for a Sunday morning church service, they learned that whites were heading into the “African quarter.” His grandmother called everyone into the house, and his teenaged father and uncles prepared for battle. Some in the city—both white and black—had just returned from World War I.

“Uncle Eddie and some of the other young men were armed—he had a squirrel rifle. They staked out in front of our home and warded off the marauding white mob as they came down our street. They had to take cover because the white men were shooting at them,” Kennedy says. “There was a standoff if you will, and I understand from my uncle that it seemed to last for hours. They witnessed the burning of homes and people. . . .  People were hanged as well.”

By early Monday morning, the whole neighborhood was on fire. Kennedy’s family decided to run for the river under the cover of darkness.

“According to my uncles, it took four hours to get across that river. . . .They fashioned a raft out of old doors and charred wood to cross the Mississippi River and get to the St. Louis side,” Kennedy explains. “The raft [sprung] leaks, but they were able to get across.”

Even now, Kennedy says, the family deals with the aftermath of those harrowing days. His grandmother, Katherine Horne Kennedy, died several weeks after the riots from pneumonia and the stress of the crossing. To this day, the family tells children answering the door to look out of the window and stand aside—somebody might be waiting outside with a gun.

“My uncles said they had to stay on the Missouri side of the river, and in the east the horizon was just glowing for weeks from burning buildings. For days afterward, you could still hear screams and gunshots,” Kennedy says.

He is looking forward to the centennial commemoration because, as he explains, freedom did not come easily to African-Americans, and people need to know what happened. East St. Louis was not the only example of violence against blacks: Other cities suffered similar destruction, including Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, and Rosewood, Florida, in 1923.

The centennial begins with a film festival in East St Louis on July 1. The next day, a procession accompanied by drummers will leave from East St. Louis and proceed to the middle of the Eads Bridge. A memorial wreath will be placed in the river, and sky lanterns will be released in honor of those who died. There will be discussions at a local church on July 3, a day of resurrection.

But Kennedy notes that in East St. Louis, a stone’s throw from Ferguson, Missouri, the healing is far from over. Ferguson is ground zero for the Black Lives Matter movement, which erupted in the wake of the 2014 police killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown.

“With all of the talk of healing, especially after Ferguson—here we call it the uprising—my feeling is how can you heal over a festering sore?” Kennedy asks. “You’ve got to clean it out and disinfect it first, and to do that we have to know the truth.”


For information and videos about other race riots, visit the Race Riot and the Red Summer of 1919 pages at Court.rchp.com


Republished from article originally appearing in the Smithsonian


 

Oscar Micheaux – Filmmaker Pioneer

Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Although the short-lived Micheaux Book & Film Company produced some films, he is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century and the most prominent producer of race films.

Race films, mostly produced between 1915 and 1950 consisted of films produced for an all-black audience and featuring black casts. Micheaux produced both silent films and sound films when the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.

Micheaux was born on a farm in Metropolis, Illinois on January 2, 1884. He was the fifth child born to Calvin S. and Belle Micheaux, who had a total of 13 children. In his later years, Micheaux added an “e” to his last name. His father was born a slave in Kentucky. Because of its surname, his father's family appears to have been associated with French-descended settlers. French Huguenot refugees had settled in Virginia in 1700; their descendants took slaves west when they migrated into Kentucky after the American Revolutionary War.

In his later years, Micheaux wrote about the social oppression he experienced as a young boy. To give their children education, his parents relocated to the city for better schooling. Micheaux attended a well-established school for several years before the family eventually ran into money troubles and were forced to relocate to the farm. Unhappy, Micheaux became rebellious and discontented. His struggles caused internal problems within his family. His father was not happy with him and sent him away to do marketing within the city. Micheaux found pleasure in this job because he was able to speak to many new people and learned many social skills that he would later reflect within his films.

When Micheaux was 17 years old, he moved to Chicago, Illinois to live with his older brother, then working as a waiter. Micheaux became dissatisfied with what he viewed as his brother’s way of living “the good life.” He rented his own place and found a job in the stockyards, which he found difficult. He worked many different jobs, moving from the stockyards to the steel mills.

After being “swindled out of two dollars” by an employment agency, Micheaux decided to become his own boss. His first business was a shoeshine stand, which he set up at a white suburban barbershop, away from Chicago competition. He learned the basic strategies of business and started to save money. He became a Pullman porter on the major railroads, at that time considered prestigious employment for African Americans because it was relatively stable, well-paid, and secure, and it enabled travel and interaction with new people. This job was an informal education for Micheaux. He profited financially, and also gained contacts and knowledge about the world through traveling as well as a greater understanding for business. When he left the position, he had seen much of the United States, had a couple of thousand dollars saved in his bank account, and had made a number of connections with wealthy white people who helped his future endeavors.

Micheaux moved to Dallas, South Dakota, where he bought land and worked as a homesteader. This experience inspired his first novels and films. His neighbors on the frontier were all white. "Some recall that [Micheaux] rarely sat at a table with his white neighbors." Micheaux’s years as a homesteader allowed him to learn more about human relations and farming. While farming, Micheaux wrote articles and submitted them to the press. The Chicago Defender published one of his earliest articles.

Oscar Micheaux's South Dakota Homestead.

In South Dakota, Micheaux married Orlean McCracken. Her family proved to be complex and burdensome for Micheaux. Unhappy with their living arrangements, Orlean felt that Micheaux did not pay enough attention to her. She gave birth while he was away on business. She was reported to have emptied their bank accounts and fled. Orlean’s father sold Micheaux's property and took the money from the sale. After his return, Micheaux tried unsuccessfully to get Orlean and his property back.

Micheaux decided to concentrate on writing and, eventually, filmmaking, a new industry. He wrote seven novels. In 1913, 1,000 copies of his first book, The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Homesteader, were printed. He published the book anonymously, for unknown reasons. Based on his experiences as a homesteader and the failure of his first marriage, it was largely autobiographical. Although character names have been changed, the protagonist is named Oscar Devereaux. His theme was about African Americans realizing their potential and succeeding in areas where they had not felt they could.

The book outlines the difference between city lifestyles of Negroes and the life he decided to lead as a lone Negro out on the far West as a pioneer. He discusses the culture of doers who want to accomplish and those who see themselves as victims of injustice and hopelessness and who do not want to try to succeed, but instead like to pretend to be successful while living the city lifestyle in poverty.

He had become frustrated with getting members of his race to populate the frontier and make something of themselves, with real work and property investment. He wrote over 100 letters to fellow Negroes in the East beckoning them to come West, and only his older brother eventually came West. One of Micheaux's fundamental beliefs is that hard work and enterprise will make any person rise to respect and prominence no matter his or her race.

Micheaux’s first novel The Conquest was adapted to film and re-titled, The Homesteader.  In 1918, his novel The Homesteader, dedicated to Booker T. Washington, attracted the attention of George Johnson, the manager of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company in Los Angeles. After Johnson offered to make The Homesteader into a new feature film, negotiations and paperwork became contentious between Micheaux and him. Micheaux wanted to be directly involved in the adaptation of his book as a movie, but Johnson resisted and never produced the film.

Instead, Micheaux founded the Micheaux Film & Book Company of Sioux City in Chicago; its first project was the production of The Homesteader as a feature film. Micheaux had a major career as a film producer and director: He produced over 40 films, which drew audiences throughout the U.S. as well as internationally. 

This film, was met with critical and commercial success. It revolves around a man named Jean Baptiste, called the Homesteader, who falls in love with many white women but resists marrying one out of his loyalty to his race. Baptiste sacrifices love to be a key symbol for his fellow African Americans. He looks for love among his own people and marries an African-American woman. Relations between them deteriorate. Eventually, Baptiste is not allowed to see his wife. She kills her father for keeping them apart and commits suicide. Baptiste is accused of the crime, but is ultimately cleared. An old love helps him through his troubles. After he learns that she is a mulatto and thus part African, they marry. This film deals extensively with race relationships.

Micheaux contacted wealthy white connections from his earlier career as a porter, and sold stock for his company at $75 to $100 a share. Micheaux hired actors and actresses and decided to have the premiere in Chicago. The film and Micheaux received high praise from film critics. One article credited Micheaux with “a historic breakthrough, a creditable, dignified achievement”. Some members of the Chicago clergy criticized the film as libelous. The Homesteader became known as Micheaux’s breakout film; it helped him become widely known as a writer and a filmmaker.

In addition to writing and directing his own films, Micheaux also adapted the works of different writers for his silent pictures. Many of his films were open, blunt and thought-provoking regarding certain racial issues of that time. He once commented, “It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights”. Financial hardships during the Great Depression eventually made it impossible for Micheaux to keep producing films, and he returned to writing.

Micheaux’s second silent film was Within Our Gates, produced in 1920. Although sometimes considered his response to the film Birth of a Nation, Micheaux said that he created it independently as a response to the widespread social instability following World War I.

Within Our Gates revolved around the main character, Sylvia Landry, a mixed-race school teacher. In a flashback, Sylvia is shown growing up as the adopted daughter of a sharecropper. When her father confronts their white landlord over money, a fight ensues. The landlord is shot by another white man, but Sylvia's adoptive father is accused and lynched with her adoptive mother.

Sylvia is almost raped by the landowner’s brother but discovers that he is her biological father. Micheaux always depicts African Americans as being serious and reaching for higher education. Before the flashback scene, we see that Sylvia travels to Boston, seeking funding for her school, which serves black children. They are underserved by the segregated society. On her journey, she is hit by the car of a rich white woman. Learning about Landry's cause, the woman decides to give her school $50,000.

Within the film, Micheaux depicts educated and professional people in black society as light-skinned, representing the elite status of some of the mixed-race people who comprised the majority of African Americans free before the Civil War. Poor people are represented as dark-skinned and with more undiluted African ancestry. Mixed-race people also feature as some of the villains. The film is set within the Jim Crow era. It contrasted the experiences for African Americans who stayed in rural areas and others who had migrated to cities and become urbanized. Micheaux explored the suffering of African Americans in the present day, without explaining how the situation arose in history. Some feared that this film would cause even more unrest within society, and others believed it would open the public’s eyes to the unjust treatment by whites of blacks. Protests against the film continued until the day it was released. Because of its controversial status, the film was banned from some theaters.

Micheaux's 1925 Body and Soul starred Paul Robeson in his motion picture debut.

An escaped prisoner seeks refuge in the predominantly African-American town of Tatesville, Georgia, by passing himself off as the Rt. Reverend Isaiah T. Jenkins. He is joined in town by a fellow criminal, and the pair scheme to swindle the phony reverend's congregation of their offerings. Jenkins falls in love with a young member of his congregation, Isabelle Perkins, even though she is in love with a poor young man named Sylvester, who happens to be Jenkins’ long-estranged twin brother.

Jenkins steals money from Martha Jane, Isabelle's mother and convinces the young woman to take the blame for his crime. She flees to Atlanta and dies just as her mother locates her. Before dying, Isabelle reveals to her mother that Jenkins raped her and that he is the one who took her mother's money. She explains that she did not speak up before because she knew her mother would not believe her. 

Returning to Tatesville, Martha Jane confronts Jenkins in front of the congregation. Jenkins flees and during a twilight struggle he kills a man who tries to bring him to justice. The following morning, Martha Jane awakens and realizes the episode with Jenkins was only a dream. She provides Isabelle (who is not dead) and Sylvester with the funds to start a married life together.

Micheaux adapted two works by Charles W. Chesnutt, which he released under their original titles: The Conjure Woman (1926) and The House Behind the Cedars (1927). The latter, which dealt with issues of mixed race and passing, created so much controversy when reviewed by the Film Board of Virginia that he was forced to make cuts to have it shown. He remade this story as a sound film in 1932, releasing it with the title Veiled Aristocrats. The silent version of the film is believed to have been lost.

Ten Minutes to Live is another 1932 Micheaux film. A movie producer offers a nightclub singer a role in his latest film, but all he really wants to do is bed her. She knows, but accepts anyway. Meanwhile, a patron at the club gets a note saying that she'll soon get another note, and that she will be killed ten minutes after that.

Micheaux's films were coined during a time of great change in the African-American community. His films featured contemporary black life. He dealt with racial relationships between blacks and whites, and the challenges for blacks when trying to achieve success in the larger society. Micheaux films were used to oppose and discuss the racial injustice that African Americans received. Topics such as lynching, job discrimination, rape, mob violence, and economic exploitation were depicted in his films. These films also reflect his ideologies and autobiographical experiences. The journalist Richard Gehr said, “Micheaux appears to have only one story to tell, his own, and he tells it repeatedly”.

Micheaux sought to create films that would counter white portrayals of African Americans, which tended to emphasize inferior stereotypes. He created complex characters of different classes. His films questioned the value system of both African American and white communities as well as caused problems with the press and state censors

Oscar Micheaux (center) with an actor and possibly a crew member appearing in an advertisement for the Micheaux Film Corporation.

The critic Lupack described Micheaux as pursuing moderation with his films and creating a “middle-class cinema”. His works were designed to appeal to both middle- and lower-class audiences.

Micheaux said,

“My results…might have been narrow at times, due perhaps to certain limited situations, which I endeavored to portray, but in those limited situations, the truth was the predominate characteristic. It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights. I am too imbued with the spirit of Booker T. Washington to engraft false virtues upon ourselves, to make ourselves that which we are not.”

Micheaux died on March 25, 1951, in Charlotte, North Carolina, of heart failure. He is buried in Great Bend Cemetery in Great Bend, Kansas, the home of his youth. His gravestone reads: "A man ahead of his time".


List of Oscar Micheaux Films

The Homesteader (1919)

Within Our Gates (1920)

The Brute (1920)

The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920)

The Gunsaulus Mystery (1921)

The Dungeon (1922)

The Hypocrite (1922)

Uncle Jasper's Will (1922)

The Virgin of the Seminole (1922)

Deceit (1923)

Thirty Years Later (1928)

When Men Betray (1929)

Wages of Sin (1929)

Easy Street (1930)

A Daughter of the Congo (1930)

Darktown Revue (1931)

The Exile (1931)

Veiled Aristocrats (1932)

Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

Black Magic (1932)

The Girl From Chicago (1932)

Ten Minutes to Kill (1933)

Phantom of Kenwood (1933)

Harlem After Midnight (1934)

Murder in Harlem (1935)

Temptation (1936)

Underworld (1937)

God's Step Children (1938)

Swing! (1938)

Lying Lips (1939)

Birthright (1939)

The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940)

The Betrayal (1948)

Birthright (1924)

A Son of Satan (1924)

Body and Soul (1925)

Marcus Garland (1925)

The Conjure Woman (1926), adapted from novel by Charles W. Chesnutt

The Devil's Disciple (1926)

The Spider's Web (1926)

The Millionaire (1927)

The Broken Violin (1928)

The House Behind the Cedars (1927), adapted from novel by Charles W. Chesnutt


Part of the Court.rchp.com 2017 Black History Month Series


Much of the article text republished under license from Wikipedia

Annie Malone – Chemist, Inventor, Entrepreneur, philanthropist

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (August 9, 1869 – May 10, 1957) was an American businesswoman, inventor, and philanthropist. In the first three decades of the 20th century, she founded and developed a large and prominent commercial and educational enterprise centered on cosmetics for African-American women.

Annie Minerva Turnbo was born in southern Illinois, the daughter of enslaved Africans Robert and Isabella (Cook) Turnbo. When her father went off to fight for the Union with the 1st Kentucky Cavalry in the Civil War, Isabella took the couple's children and escaped from Kentucky, a neutral border state that maintained slavery. After traveling down the Ohio River, she found refuge in Metropolis, Illinois. There Annie Turnbo was later born, the tenth of eleven children.

Annie Turnbo was born on a farm near Metropolis in Massac County, Illinois. Orphaned at a young age, Annie attended a public school in Metropolis before moving to Peoria to live with her older sister Ada Moody in 1896. There Annie attended high school, taking particular interest in chemistry. However, due to frequent illness, Annie was forced to withdraw from classes.

While out of school, Annie grew so fascinated with hair and hair care that she often practiced hairdressing with her sister. With expertise in both chemistry and hair care, Turnbo began to develop her own hair care products.  At the time, many women used goose fat, heavy oils, soap, or bacon grease to straighten their curls, which damaged both scalp and hair.

By the beginning of the 1900s, Turnbo moved with her older siblings to Lovejoy, now known as Brooklyn, Illinois. While experimenting with hair and different hair care products, she developed and manufactured her own line of non-damaging hair straighteners, special oils, and hair-stimulant products for African-American women. She named her new product “Wonderful Hair Grower”. To promote her new product, Turnbo sold the Wonderful Hair Grower in bottles from door-to-door. Her products and sales began to revolutionize hair care methods for all African Americans.

A variety of Poro products available for sale during the companies operations.
Price list of select Poro products

In 1902, Turnbo moved to a thriving St. Louis, where she and three hired assistants sold her hair care products from door-to-door. As part of her marketing, she gave away free treatments to attract more customers.

Due to the high demand for her product in St. Louis, Turnbo opened her first shop on 2223 Market Street in 1902. She also launched a wide advertising campaign in the black press, held news conferences, toured many southern states, and recruited many women whom she trained to sell her products.

One of her selling agents, Sarah Breedlove Davis (who became known as Madam C. J. Walker when she set up her own business), operated in Denver, Colorado until a disagreement led Walker to leave the company.

Madame C. J. Walker

This development was one of the reasons which led the then Mrs. Pope to copyright her products under the name "Poro" because of what she called fraudulent imitations and to discourage counterfeit versions. Madame C. J. Walker became one of the wealthiest African-American women in the country. Annie Malone was a millionaire before Walker, yet unlike Madame Walker, Malone lived quite modestly, so Walker is often mistakenly credited as the first black female millionaire.

In 1902 she married Nelson Pope; the couple divorced in 1907. Poro was a combination of the married names of Annie Pope and her sister Laura Roberts. Due to the growth in her business, in 1910 Turnbo moved to a larger facility on 3100 Pine Street.

On April 28, 1914, Annie Turnbo married Aaron Eugene Malone, a former teacher, and religious book salesman. Turnbo Malone, by then worth well over a million dollars, built a five-story multipurpose facility.

Poro Lobby

Poro College advertising

In addition to a manufacturing plant, it contained facilities for a beauty college, which she named Poro College. 

General offices of Poro Products
Poro College Auditorium

The building included a manufacturing plant, a retail store where Poro products were sold, business offices, a 500-seat auditorium, dining and meeting rooms, a roof garden, dormitory, gymnasium, bakery, and chapel.

Poro rooftop garden

The Poro College building served the African-American community as a center for religious and social functions.

Shipping Department of Poro

The College's curriculum addressed the whole student; students were coached on personal style for work: on walking, talking, and a style of dress designed to maintain a solid persona. 

Poro College employed nearly 200 people in St. Louis. Through its school and franchise businesses, the college created jobs for almost 75,000 women in North and South America, Africa and the Philippines.

Vintage photo of graduation class with Annie Malone in the center (back row, with glasses) held at Big Bethel AME Church, Atlanta.
Diploma Day at Poro College, 1920

By the 1920s, Annie Turnbo Malone had become a multi-millionaire. In 1924 she paid income tax of nearly $40,000, reportedly the highest in Missouri.

While extremely wealthy, Malone lived modestly, giving thousands of dollars to the local black YMCA and the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC. She also donated money to the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home, where she served as president on the board of directors from 1919 to 1943. 

With her help, in 1922 the Home bought a facility at 2612 Goode Avenue (which was renamed Annie Malone Drive in her honor).

The Orphans Home is still located in the historic Ville neighborhood. Upgraded and expanded, the facility was renamed in the entrepreneur's honor as the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center. As well as funding many programs, Malone ensured that her employees, all African American, were paid well and given opportunities for advancement.

Her business thrived until 1927 when her husband filed for divorce. Having served as president of the company, he demanded half of the business' value, based on his claim that his contributions had been integral to its success. The divorce suit forced Poro College into a court-ordered receivership. With support from her employees and powerful figures such as Mary McLeod Bethune, she negotiated a settlement of $200,000. This affirmed her as the sole owner of Poro College, and the divorce was granted.

After the divorce, Turnbo Malone moved most of her business to Chicago’s South Parkway, where she bought an entire city block. Other lawsuits followed. In 1937, during the Great Depression, a former employee filed suit, also claiming credit for Poro's success. To raise money for the settlement, Turnbo Malone sold her St. Louis property. Although much reduced in size, her business continued to thrive.

On May 10, 1957, Annie Malone suffered a stroke and died at Chicago's Provident Hospital. Childless, she had bequeathed her business and remaining fortune to her nieces and nephews.  At the time of her death, Poro beauty colleges were in operation in more than thirty U.S. cities. Her estate was valued at $100,000.


Part of the Court.rchp.com 2017 Black History Month Series


Much of the article text republished under license from Wikipedia

Frederick Patterson – Black Automobile Manufacturer

Frederick Douglas Patterson (1871–1932) was an American entrepreneur known for the Greenfield-Patterson automobile of 1915, built in Ohio. He later converted his business to the Greenfield Bus Body Company. 

While in college at Ohio State University, he was the first African-American to play on its football team. He returned to Greenfield to join his father in his carriage business, which became C.R. Patterson and Sons.

C.R. Patterson & Son Carriage Ad

The younger man saw opportunity in the new horseless carriages, and converted the company in the early 1900s to manufacture automobiles, making 150 of them.

Development of an automobile began in 1914 and the first Patterson-Greenfield rolled out of the company’s Washington St. facility on Sept. 23, 1915. Priced at $850, the Patterson-Greenfield was offered as a touring or roadster and featured a 30hp Continental 4-cylinder engine, full floating rear axle, cantilever springs, demountable rims, electric starting and lighting and a split windshield for ventilation.

Later he shifted to making buses and trucks and renamed his company as Greenfield Bus Body Company. After Patterson's death in 1932, his son kept the business going through much of the Great Depression, finally closing it in 1939.

1917 Patterson-Greenfield Roadster

Named after the noted abolitionist, Frederick Douglas Patterson was born in 1871 as the youngest of four children of Josephine Utz (aka Outz) and Charles Richard Patterson. He had an older brother Samuel. Their father was an ex-slave who had escaped to Greenfield, Ohio from Virginia shortly before the American Civil War.

Charles Richard Patterson of C.R. Patterson & Sons

After getting established as a blacksmith in town, Charles had married Josephine Utz, a young local white woman. By the time Frederick was born, his father had a successful carriage business with a partner. The Pattersons encouraged the education of their children: Samuel, two daughters, and Frederick.

Just before the Civil War, Charles Patterson left slavery and headed north, bringing blacksmithing skills he learned in Virginia. Not long after settling in, Patterson began working at a carriage company. By 1870 he was a foreman and by 1873, Patterson had gone into business with J.P. Lowe, a white carriage maker.

The State of Ohio’s 1888 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report lists J.P. Lowe & Co., carriages, etc. with a staff of 10. It is believed that Patterson became a partner in the business that was popularly known as Lowe & Patterson, although its legal name remained J.P. Lowe & Co. until 1893 when Patterson bought out Lowe's share in the business and reorganized as C.R. Patterson, Son & Co. to reflect the involvement of Samuel C. Patterson, Charles’ youngest son.

Frederick graduated from the old Greenfield High School in 1888 and went on to Ohio State University. While at the university, he played on the football team in his junior year in 1891, the first African American to do so. He withdrew from college in his senior year before graduating, taking a job as a high school history teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a different career than his father's business, where his older brother was already working.

Frederick's brother Samuel entered the family business with their father. In 1893, Charles bought out his 20-year partner, J.P. Lowe, and renamed the carriage business C.R. Patterson & Son Company. In 1897, Charles became ill. By this time, Samuel had died. Frederick resigned his teaching position to return and help operate the family business. His father renamed it C.R. Patterson and Sons, and the younger man took on an increasing role.

Patterson got married in 1899 and had a family, including a son Postell Patterson.

After his father died in 1910, Frederick D. Patterson took over the business. Seeing the rise of "horseless carriages", he started development of the first Patterson-Greenfield car, completed in 1915. His two styles competed with Henry Ford's model T and sold for about $850. He was the first African-American to own and operate a car manufacturing company.

C.R. Patterson & Sons Automobile Ad

After producing about 150 vehicles, and having difficulty getting financing for expansion, Patterson decided to change his business rather than compete head on with the major Detroit industry.

A Patterson-Greenfield bus used by the local Greenfield school district

He built bodies for trucks and buses set upon a chassis made by Ford or GM. In 1920, he changed the name of his company to Greenfield Bus Body Company. 

Between 1922 and 1925 advertisements and press releases for the Greenfield Bus Body Co. appeared in the nation’s commercial vehicle trade journals. Although the firm's factory was located on Washington Street, near Lafayette, the 90 Webster Ave. address refers to its shipping address, which was located across from the railroad depot on the outskirts of town.

Early advertisement of Greenfield Bus Bodies

He built strong business relationships with numerous school districts, which became steady customers.

The Crash and Great Depression had a devastating effect on his company, as widespread financial problems caused his customers to cut back on bus orders. Patterson died in 1932. His son Postell Patterson, who had worked with him, closed the business in 1939.

No Patterson-Greenfield autos are known to exist, but some of his father's C.R. Patterson & Sons Company carriages have survived.


Note: There was another unrelated Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson born 30 years later, who became president of Tuskegee University and the found of the United Negro College Fund.


Part of the Court.rchp.com 2017 Black History Month Series


Article text republished from Wikipedia with additional source material from AfricaSource and Coachbuilt.

Cathy Hughes – Radio One and TV One Founder

Catherine L. Hughes, more commonly known as "Cathy" Hughes is an entrepreneur, radio and television personality, and business executive.

Hughes founded the media company Radio One, and when the company went public in 1999, she became the first African-American woman to head a publicly traded corporation. 

Cathy Hughes was born Catherine Elizabeth Woods on April 22, 1947, to Helen Jones Woods, a trombonist with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and William Alfred Woods, who was the first African-American to earn an accounting degree from Creighton University.

The family lived in the Logan Fontenelle Housing Projects while Hughes' father attended college. Hughes attended University of Nebraska-Omaha and Creighton University, her father's alma mater, but never completed her degree.

Cathy Hughes and her son Alfred Liggins III

Cathy Hughes became pregnant at age 16, her friends said her life was over. Her mother kicked her out of the house. Hughes said she “was in shock.” Pregnancy “was the beginning,” Hughes said. The birth of her son, Alfred Liggins, was “an impetus to achieve,” “It was the reason I took my life seriously for the first time as a teenager and made a promise to myself, my son and God that he would not become a black statistic.”

Cathy Hughes and son Alfred C. Liggins III

In the 1970s, Hughes created the urban radio format called "The Quiet Storm" on Howard University's radio station WHUR with disc jockey and fellow Howard student Melvin Lindsay.

Before radio, in the mid-1960s, Hughes worked for an African American newspaper called the Omaha Star. Hughes began her career in 1969 at KOWH in Omaha but left for Washington, D.C. after she was offered a job as a lecturer at the School of Communications at Howard University. 

In 1973, she became General Sales Manager of the university's radio station, WHUR-FM, increasing station revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year. In 1975, Hughes became the first woman Vice President and General Manager of a station in the nation’s capital and created the format known as the “Quiet Storm,” which revolutionized urban radio and was aired on over 480 stations nationwide.

In 1980, Hughes founded Radio One, and with then-husband, Dewey Hughes, bought AM radio station WOL 1450 in Washington, D.C.  After the previous employees had destroyed the facility, she faced financial difficulties and subsequently lost her home and moved with her young son to live at the station. Her fortunes began to change when she revamped the R&B station to a 24-hour talk radio format with the theme, “Information is Power.” Hughes served as the station's Morning Show Host for 11 years. WOL is still the most listened to talk radio station in the nation’s capital.

Cathy's son Alfred joined the company in 1985 as a salesman and by 1989 Alfred had risen to president. Cathy credits Alfred's leadership and vision as the driving force that took the company public and grew it into the media powerhouse it is today.

Radio One went on to own 70 radio stations in nine major markets in the U.S. In 1999, Radio One became a publicly traded company, listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. As of 2007, Hughes's son, Alfred Liggins, III, serves as CEO and president of Radio One, and Hughes as chairperson. Hughes is also a minority owner of BET industries.

In January 2004, Radio One launched TV One, a national cable and satellite television network which bills itself as the "lifestyle and entertainment network for African-American adults." Hughes interviews prominent personalities, usually in the entertainment industry, for the network's talk program TV One on One.

Both Cathy Hughes and her son, Alfred Liggins have been named Entrepreneur of the Year by the company Ernst & Young. She is a notable member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

In 2015, a local business organization unofficially named the corner of 4th Street and H Street NE in Washington, D.C. “Cathy Hughes Corner”.


Part of the Court.rchp.com 2017 Black History Month Series


Article text republished from Wikipedia.