Why America Needs Black History Month


 

Black History has not been incorporated or included into most American school curriculum. Recently I have spoke with a young white co-worker who is from my Mom’s Hometown of Dayton, Ohio and came of age in the 1990s. Let’s say he is in his mid to late 20s a well educated young man who admitted to me that he had never heard of many of the Black Artists, Scientists, Inventors, Photographers, Painters, Sculptors, Writers etc… that I know and admire.

Many white young people especially those raised in the Mid-West or the South, ie the “Bible Belt” do not know or have even heard about Blacks who built America. Says a lot about the American “Mis-education system” which excludes entire races and populations because they don’t fit into our lopsided concept of America.

Also one of the younger white assistant curators at my museum workplace who recently curated a Block Buster exhibit of a living African-American artist had to admit that he never knew or learned about the Great Migration until he curated the special exhibit. That’s sad.  So in the U.S.A. you’re not really receiving an education so much as an indoctrination into all things white. White is seen as worthy whereas Black and Native American cultures and contributions are rarely acknowledged.

Black History is American History!!

Here is some more information about the Great Migration and artist Jacob Lawrence who chronicled this important passage of American History.  I have had the opportunity to see this collection at MoMA twice.

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, 1940-41 (*long version*)

 

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series

 

History Brief: The Great Migration

 

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New York Today: Celebrating Black History ~~Frederick Douglass


 

This New York Times article is from last year Feb. 2016 but still relevant and well worth a reprint.

 

Photo

The Frederick Douglass Memorial at the northwest corner of Central Park.CreditMichelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Updated at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 2016

Good morning on this gray Monday.

When Frederick Douglass reached New York in 1838, after narrowly escaping the clutches of slavery, he wrote in a letter to a friend, “I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.”

Today, an eight-foot bronze sculpture of Mr. Douglass stands on the northwest corner of Central Park, along a boulevard named after him.

Indeed, New York has long been a hub of black life in America, from the Harlem Renaissance to the elections of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Shirley Chisholm, and the city is rich with monuments, events and exhibits celebrating that history.

As Black History Month begins today, here are a few things worth exploring:

At the Arsenal in Central Park, the Ebony Society presents an exhibition on the legacy of African-American public service.

As always, the Schomburg Center in Harlem has a large array of panels and lectures. This month’s selection includes discussions on teaching about slavery in New York, on the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat and on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Regardless of what you choose, kick off the month with “Harlem,” the poem by Langston Hughes, who was born on this day in 1902.

And be sure to explore a new compilation of unpublished photos of black history from the New York Times’s archives.

 

Frederick Douglass Biography from Biography.com

http://www.biography.com/people/frederick-douglass-9278324#civil-war-and-reconstruction

Synopsis

Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was born into slavery sometime around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish home rule. Among Douglass’s writings are several autobiographies eloquently describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War, including the well-known work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. He died on February 20, 1895.

Life in Slavery

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, around 1818. The exact year and date of Douglass’s birth are unknown, though later in life he chose to celebrate it on February 14. Douglass initially lived with his maternal grandmother, Betty Bailey. At a young age, Douglass was selected to live in the home of the plantation owners, one of whom may have been his father. His mother, an intermittent presence in his life, died when he was around 10.

Frederick Douglass was eventually sent to the Baltimore home of Hugh Auld. It was there that Douglass first acquired the skills that would vault him to national celebrity. Defying a ban on teaching slaves to read and write, Auld’s wife Sophia taught Douglass the alphabet when he was around 12. When Auld forbade his wife’s lessons, Douglass continued to learn from white children and others in the neighborhood.

It was through reading that Douglass’s ideological opposition to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers avidly and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass creditedThe Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights. Douglass shared his newfound knowledge with other enslaved people. Hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly church service. Interest was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. Although Freeland did not interfere with the lessons, other local slave owners were less understanding. Armed with clubs and stones, they dispersed the congregation permanently.

With Douglass moving between the Aulds, he was later made to work for Edward Covey, who had a reputation as a “slave-breaker.” Covey’s constant abuse did nearly break the 16-year-old Douglass psychologically. Eventually, however, Douglass fought back, in a scene rendered powerfully in his first autobiography. After losing a physical confrontation with Douglass, Covey never beat him again.

Freedom and Abolitionism

Douglass tried to escape from slavery twice before he succeeded. He was assisted in his final attempt by Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore with whom Douglass had fallen in love. On September 3, 1838, Douglass boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland. Murray had provided him with some of her savings and a sailor’s uniform. He carried identification papers obtained from a free black seaman. Douglass made his way to the safe house of abolitionist David Ruggles in New York in less than 24 hours.

Once he had arrived, Douglass sent for Murray to meet him in New York. They married on September 15, 1838, adopting the married name of Johnson to disguise Douglass’s identity. Anna and Frederick settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which had a thriving free black community. There they adopted Douglass as their married name. Frederick Douglass joined a black church and regularly attended abolitionist meetings. He also subscribed toWilliam Lloyd Garrison‘s weekly journal The Liberator.

Eventually Douglass was asked to tell his story at abolitionist meetings, after which he became a regular anti-slavery lecturer. Garrison was impressed with Douglass’s strength and rhetorical skill, and wrote of him in The Liberator. Several days after the story ran, Douglass delivered his first speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention in Nantucket. Crowds were not always hospitable to Douglass. While participating in an 1843 lecture tour through the Midwest, Douglass was chased and beaten by an angry mob before being rescued by a local Quaker family.

At the urging of Garrison, Douglass wrote and published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. The book was a best seller in the United States and was translated into several European languages. Although the work garnered Douglass many fans, some critics expressed doubt that a former slave with no formal education could have produced such elegant prose. Douglass published three versions of his autobiography during his lifetime, revising and expanding on his work each time. My Bondage and My Freedom appeared in 1855. In 1881, Douglass published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which he revised in 1892.

Following the publication of his autobiography, Douglass traveled overseas to evade recapture. He set sail for Liverpool on August 16, 1845, and eventually arrived in Ireland as the Potato Famine was beginning. He remained in Ireland and Britain for two years, speaking to large crowds on the evils of slavery. During this time, Douglass’s British supporters gathered funds to purchase his legal freedom. In 1847, the famed writer and orator returned to the United States a free man.

Upon his return, Douglass produced some abolitionist newspapers: The North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass’ Paper, Douglass’ Monthly and New National Era. The motto of The North Star was “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”

In addition to abolition, Douglass became an outspoken supporter of women’s rights. In 1848, he was the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked the assembly to pass a resolution stating the goal of women’s suffrage. Many attendees opposed the idea. Douglass stood and spoke eloquently in favor, arguing that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. The resolution passed. Yet Douglass would later come into conflict with women’s rights activists for supporting the Fifteenth Amendment, which banned suffrage discrimination based on race while upholding sex-based restrictions.

Civil War and Reconstruction

By the time of the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the country. He used his status to influence the role of African Americans in the war and their status in the country. In 1863, Douglass conferred withPresident Abraham Lincoln regarding the treatment of black soldiers, and later with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage.

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, declared the freedom of all slaves in Confederate territory. Despite this victory, Douglass supported John C. Frémont over Lincoln in the 1864 election, citing his disappointment that Lincoln did not publicly endorse suffrage for black freedmen. Slavery everywhere in the United States was subsequently outlawed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Douglass was appointed to several political positions following the war. He served as president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank and as chargé d’affaires for the Dominican Republic. After two years, he resigned from his ambassadorship over objections to the particulars of U.S. government policy. He was later appointed minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti, a post he held between 1889 and 1891.

Douglass became the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States as Victoria Woodhull‘s running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872. Nominated without his knowledge or consent, Douglass never campaigned. Nonetheless, his nomination marked the first time that an African American appeared on a presidential ballot.

In 1877, Douglass visited one of his former owners, Thomas Auld. Douglass had met with Auld’s daughter, Amanda Auld Sears, years before. The visit held personal significance for Douglass, although some criticized him for the reconciliation.

Family Life and Death

Frederick and Anna Douglass had five children: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Redmond and Annie, who died at the age of 10. Charles and Rosetta assisted their father in the production of his newspaperThe North Star. Anna remained a loyal supporter of Frederick’s public work, despite marital strife caused by his relationships with several other women.

After Anna’s death, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York. Pitts was the daughter of Gideon Pitts Jr., an abolitionist colleague. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Pitts worked on a radical feminist publication and shared many of Douglass’s moral principles. Their marriage caused considerable controversy, since Pitts was white and nearly 20 years younger than Douglass. Douglass’s children were especially displeased with the relationship.

Douglass and Pitts remained married until his death 11 years later. On February 20, 1895, he attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. Shortly after returning home, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

Ain’t I a Woman?


sojourner-truth

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/sojtruth-woman.asp

Modern History Sourcebook:
Sojourner Truth:
“Ain’t I a Woman?”, December 1851


Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

http://www.sojournertruth.com/p/aint-i-woman.html

Sojourner Truth Biography

Synopsis

Born in upstate New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. She devoted her life to the abolitionist cause and helped recruiting black troops for the Union Army. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

Born Into Slavery

Born Isabella Baumfree circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was one of as many as 12 children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree in the town of Swartekill, in Ulster County, New York. Truth’s date of birth was not recorded, as was typical of children born into slavery, but historians estimate that she was likely born around 1797. Her father, James Baumfree, was a slave captured in modern-day Ghana; Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bet, was the daughter of slaves from Guinea. The Baumfree family was owned by Colonel Hardenbergh, and lived at the colonel’s estate in Esopus, New York, 95 miles north of New York City. The area had once been under Dutch control, and both the Baumfrees and the Hardenbaughs spoke Dutch in their daily lives.

After the colonel’s death, ownership of the Baumfrees passed to his son, Charles. The Baumfrees were separated after the death of Charles Hardenbergh in 1806. The 9-year-old Truth, known as “Belle” at the time, was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100. Her new owner was a man named John Neely, whom Truth remembered as harsh and violent. She would be sold twice more over the following two years, finally coming to reside on the property of John Dumont at West Park, New York. It was during these years that Truth learned to speak English for the first time.

http://www.biography.com/people/sojourner-truth-9511284

http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Archive/LegacyOfFaith.htm

Sojourner Truth
A Life and Legacy of Faith


(Written for the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek in association with the Historical Society of Battle Creek.  Written by Mary G. Butler, with special thanks to Dorothy and Michael Martich, Martin Ashley, Michael Evans, Timothy Hoyle, Zoe Kimmel and Thea Rozetta Lapham.)

Sojourner Truth was perhaps the most famous African-American woman in 19th century America. For over forty years she traveled the country as a forceful and passionate advocate for the dispossessed, using her quick wit and fearless tongue to fight for human rights.

(Link to a four part annotated biography)

Her life

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery about 1797 in Ulster County, New York. Known as Isabella, her parents were James and Betsey, the property of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. As a child she spoke only low Dutch and, like most slaves, never learned to read or write.

About 1815 Isabella married Thomas, a fellow slave, and bore five children — Diana (b. 1815), Peter (b. 1821), Elizabeth (b.1825), Sophia (b. 1826) and a fifth child who may have died in infancy.

Isabella was sold to four more owners, until she finally walked to freedom in 1826, carrying her infant daughter, Sophia.

She settled in New York City until 1843, when she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, announcing she would travel the land as an itinerant preacher, telling the truth and working against injustice.

During the next several years, Truth lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she purchased a home, and in Ohio. She traveled around the east and midwest preaching for human rights. This illiterate ex-slave was a powerful figure in several national social movements, speaking forcefully for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment.

03-Portrait-mini.jpg (5421 bytes)In the course of her travels, she befriended many of the leading reformers and abolitionists of the day, including Amy Post, Parker Pillsbury, Frances Dana Gage, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Laura Haviland, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Truth supported herself by selling portraits, captioned “I sell the Shadow to support the Substance.” She also received income from the sale of her biography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, A Northern Slave, written in 1850 by her friend, Olive Gilbert.

Her grandson, Sammy Banks, accompanied Sojourner on many of her lecture tours. He could read and write for her and was an invaluable companion until he died in 1875, at the age of twenty-four.

Sojourner first came to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1856 when she was invited to address the radical Quaker group, the Friends of Human Progress. The next year she moved to Michigan, buying a home in the nearby settlement of Harmonia.

15-Homestead-mini.gif (4964 bytes)Ten years later, Sojourner moved into Battle Creek, converting a small barn on College Street into her home. She lived there with her daughters, Diana and Elizabeth, until her death.

While she lived in Michigan, Truth continued her national human rights crusade. In the 1860s thousands of freedmen and former slaves fled to Washington, D.C., seeking safety and jobs. However, the federal government was totally unprepared for this influx. There was no place for the ex-slaves to live, very little food and no employment. Sojourner worked at Freedman’s Village and for the Freedman’s Bureau trying to improve their living conditions.

Maryland residents frequently came into Freedman’s Village to steal children. If the parents complained, they were put into the guardhouse. Truth learned of these kidnappings and she encouraged the parents to protest. When the camp commanders threatened to imprison her also, Sojourner replied that, if they tried, she would “make this nation rock like a cradle.”

She was very active in relocating the former slaves to western states like Kansas. Sojourner lobbied the government to give them free land and to pay their transportation costs to their new homes. She carried petitions with her, urging people to sign them, asking, “Why don’t some of you stir ’em [the government] up as though an old body like myself could do all the stirring.”

Her death

Sojourner Truth died at her home on College Street on November 26, 1883. Her funeral service, reportedly attended by 1,000 people, was held at the Congregational-Presbyterian Church. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek.

The words inscribed on her tombstone, “Is God Dead?” came from an 1852 encounter between Truth and another noted ex-slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. They were both attending a meeting in Salem, Ohio, and Douglass had been speaking very despondently. A hush came over the audience as Sojourner rose and admonished Douglass, asking, “Frederick, is God gone?”

19a-Tombstone-mini.jpg (5354 bytes)Her tombstone gives her age as 105. Truth herself encouraged speculation about her age, enjoying the added notoriety it gave her to be called the “world’s oldest lecturer.” According to the few available records, she was 86 when she died.

Her message (also read “Words of Truth” on our speeches menu)

Almost six feet tall, Truth was a striking woman with a charismatic presence. When she addressed an audience, her low resonant voice, especially when raised in song, could still the most hostile crowd.

Sojourner Truth often testified to the demeaning nature of slavery and the redeeming power of faith. She declared that her soul was “beclouded and crushed” while in slavery. “But how good and wise is God, for if slaves knowed what their true condition was, it would be more than the mind could bear. While the race is sold of all their rights — what is there on God’s footstool to bring them up?”

“But I believe in the next world. When we get up yonder, we shall have all them rights ‘stored to us again.” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, Oct. 1856)

But Truth was unwilling to wait to get to Heaven to have her rights — or those of any persecuted person — restored.

Preaching for racial equality, she asked, “Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)

Truth was not intimidated by convention or authority. She learned to manipulate establishment institutions to effect reforms. During her lifetime she brought, and won, three lawsuits. This was very unusual for a woman, especially for an illiterate ex-slave. She retrieved her son, Peter, who had been sold illegally from New York State into slavery in Alabama. She also won a slander suit in New York City and a personal injury case after she was injured in a street car incident in Washington. D.C.

Sojourner was legendary for her sense of humor, which she frequently used to deflate self-righteousness. She ridiculed the contrast between the earnest message of some of the women social activists and the frivolous clothing they wore. “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative,Book of Life, p.243)

Probably her most famous address, known as “Ain’t I A Woman,” was made at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 28, 1851. Sojourner asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were equal in capability to men. “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?” She concluded her argument, saying “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”(Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851)

Although Sojourner Truth was not an active participant in the Underground Railroad, she did assist many blacks who had previously traveled this route to freedom by helping them find new homes.

Keeping her memory alive (read”a Suitable Memorial” )

Frances Titus, wife of prosperous Quaker miller Richard Titus, was Truth’s friend, traveling companion, sponsor and lecture manager. She also revised Gilbert’s Narrative and added a Book of Life section. After Sojourner died, Titus published a final edition of the Narrative which included memorial tributes.

Titus collected donations and erected a marker on Sojourner’s grave three years after her death.

In 1892 she commissioned Franklin C. Courter, an art professor at nearby Albion College, to portray the meeting between Truth and President Abraham Lincoln at the White House on October 29, 1864. The painting depicted the President showing Truth the “Lincoln Bible,” which had been presented to him by the black people of Baltimore, Maryland.

When it was completed, the painting was displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Later it hung in the lobby of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where it was destroyed in the Sanitarium fire in 1902. However, the image had been preserved by Frank Perry, a local photographer, who took a picture of the painting before the disasterous fire.

Battle Creek is proud of Truth’s life and legacy and there are many local memorials and tributes to this remarkable woman. Beginning in 1897, a succession of clubs, societies and memorial associations were established in her honor. In 1935 a stone in the history tower in Monument Park was dedicated to Truth.

In recent years a marker was placed on her gravesite, memorializing her family members buried there (1961), May 18 was proclaimed Sojourner Truth Day (1968), the Calhoun County portion of M66 was designated Sojourner Truth Memorial Highway (1976) and a Michigan Women’s Studies Marker was erected downtown (1987, later moved to Kimball House Museum).

In 1987 the state and Calhoun County Bar Associations installed a plaque in the former Hall of Justice. The local club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs holds an annual Sojourner Truth luncheon recognizing dedicated students and civic leaders. Afterwards, they gather at Truth’s grave for a memorial service.

A United States postage stamp was issued in her honor at the Sojourner Truth Library in New Paltz, New York, on February 5, 1986. Sojourner has also been installed in both the Michigan (1983) and National Women’s Hall of Fame at Seneca Falls, New York (1981).

In 1997 Battle Creek marked the 200th anniversary of Truth’s birth with a year-long celebration. The events culminated with a national Woman’s Conference, focusing on past and present issues in Truth’s tradition, and the publication of a special edition of Heritage Battle Creek magazine.

The continuing symbolic importance of Sojourner as a seeker after truth was recently recognized on an inter-planetary level when the Mars Pathfinder Microver was named in her honor.

 

Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, “No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.”
(Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, page 4)

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Fannie Lou Hamer


 

This is Well Worth a ReBlog for Black History Month Feb. 2017!! Celebrating the Women Warriors of the Civil Rights Movement!!  Long Live the Revolution!!

Fannie Lou Hamer ~~ One of the Queen Mothers of The Civil Rights Movement

I know that this weekend Americans are celebrating the Birthday and Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. but I want to focus on the Mothers of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Many Americans have no idea about these great African American Women who risked life and limb for the freedoms we now all enjoy and some take for granted. They endured jail under harsh conditions and were often beaten within an inch of their lives just because they wanted to register to have the Right to Vote!  Seems shocking but in terms of American History these protests, marches and speeches took place a scant 50 or 60 years ago. As I have heard some of the elders say, We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants. Fannie Lou Hamer is one of those Giants.

“God will not have his work be manifest by cowards,”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fannie Lou Hamer – “I Don’t Mind My Light Shining”

 

Fannie Lou Hamer – “We’re On Our Way”

 

Fannie Lou Hamer – “Until I am Free You are Not Free Either”

 

Fannie Lou Hamer : At the 1964 Democratic National Committee

As most of my readers know by now I’m not a woman who holds her tongue. I’m bold, brash, outspoken and unafraid. I call things as I see them. A Revolutionary, Activist and Outcast all wrapped into One! I’m beholden to no man save the Lord God. Real Life. Real Talk. Grown Folks speech.  Where do I get my Fierceness from?

I have neither chick nor child. Thelma Palmer Varner

I’m Free, Black & 21. Edward G. Palmer

Deborah all you need to do in this life is Stay Black, pay taxes and die. Edward G. Palmer

I also remember all the stories from my mother Mable Elizabeth Palmer, Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks, Maternal Aunts Helen James and Gladys Young; Paternal Aunts Helen Palmer Garcia and Thelma Palmer Varner of what it was like to be Black during the early part of the 20th Century. Jim Crow at it’s worst. Now there is a resurgence of hatred against People of Color and those who follow faiths outside Christianity. Yes History does repeat itself. The Tea Party, Christian Identity Movement, American Nazi Party, Klu Klux Klan, Fox News are all wearing the same White hoods under their three piece designer suits.

Back in 2014 when I turned 55 I entered the Council of Elders. I take my position and responsibilities seriously. I cannot and will not stand idly by while people are persecuted, harassed and bullied simply for the color of their skin. I believe everything happens for a reason. God, the Universe, Lord, Jehovah or Creator places us in certain situations to see what we will do, how we will react and will we really Live our Christianity or whatever faith you follow. As the Bible says, Faith without works is dead.

So as the expression goes if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen!  Okay So you know what’s coming next!! Get Ready!!

F.E.A.R ~~ False Evidence Appearing Real

We hide behind that Wall of Silence thinking if I’m just quiet enough I can slip under the radar. They won’t see me. I can hide and everything will be alright not knowing or not caring that Silence = Death.

We’ve become a society of trained apathetic circus clowns who when the powers that be say jump we ask how high. If we shuck and jive continually bowing down to the institution plantation head clowns. If we kiss their ass long enough perhaps we will be permitted the privilege of being allowed to slave another day.

Reduced to a mass of sniveling groveling cowards we’ve sold our birthrights for the few crumbs that drop from the Overseers table. We rant and rave against Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Staten Island and other atrocities but back away from the injustice in our own backyards. Completely ignoring all the weapons within reach, easily at our disposal. All we have to do is pick them up use them but instead we say it’s not happening to me so I’m safe. Safe for how long? Who guarantees that you’ll magically be released at the age of 62 or now 66? There are no outside saviors. It’s you that will make a difference. Do you really think that by ignoring the cries of others that evil, harm, & wickedness won’t come your way? You’re living in a glass bubble. And why post scriptures of peace, love and redemption without acknowledging that even Jesus got angry and threw the money-changers out of the Temple. But No we mix idly among thieves, robbers, rapists, stalkers tethered to electronic mind numbing devices entranced by technological marvels ignoring the mud and filth accumulating on our clothes while building empires in the sand. Yes the brainwashing has been completed successfully and the new slave masters smile from on high.

 

Mable Elizabeth Palmer — A Memoir (an excerpt)


Mable Elizabeth Palmer
Mable Elizabeth Palmer

My father’s family has attempted to demonize my mother but though she was a woman troubled by the many demons schizophrenia forces into residence inside your head she loved us more than she loved herself.

Despite some of the trauma I went through as a child over all I had a good childhood. Funny how when you get older you put things in perspective plus some of the illnesses your parents have visited your doorstep.

Mable Elizabeth Palmer — DeBorah Ann Palmer

How do you quash a lie that seems to gain new life and resurrect with every generation? The Past, we often seek to bury it but only succeed in hiding it but like the undead its gnarled dirt encrusted six fingered rips off the death shroud, tears off the lid of the casket and pushes through layers of earth to reveal itself.

Out of the smiling photos of the 50s and 60s I’m a mini-me of my Dad with his full toothy grin and that twinkle in his eye always reading to play a practical joke or mimic the scary monster from Chiller Theater but I’m internally composed of my mother’s keen powers of observation and dry humor that served her well in dealing with challenging situations.

Betrayed by the playmates of my youth Condemned to an endless purgatory search for love, acceptance & belonging.

Wandering A Wasteland Of sorrow and disappointments, seeking and desiring a bond that never truly existed. 
We who have been cast out from the tribe abandoned only to know longing but never fulfillment. Trapped by lies and falsehoods that should have long been discarded. Caught in an emotional web of deceit hoping for escape, a kind of salvation, a type of redemption. Oh where is my savior who will rescue and mend my broken soul. Locks shorn, sitting in sackcloth and ashes I await the delivering Angel of Death.

My Mom passed away in August 1998 but with all the 2012 drama I’ve felt closer to her than ever before. I believe she is speaking through me charging me to tell her story. Her spirit and mine are one flesh, our souls are reconciled one to another, the veil of death lifted for a time such as this.  The small town girl born in Davy, WV, raised in Jim Crow, Dayton, Ohio who marries the big city boy (my Dad Edward Palmer) from Harlem, USA.  The battle began when a small town country girl vs the sophistication of the Harlem Niggrati or what we now call Ghetto Fabulous.  She was the cornerstone rejected and misunderstood by her husband’s family.
Way back then they was not knowing that cells have genetic memory. The in-laws tried to make the simple girl from Dayton, Ohio into a pariah after the birth of their disabled son but the reality of the discourse was not to be. I’m here to cease the motion of 15 years of lies, fable, tall tales and innuendos. I exist to give validation to the voice that was never heard. The child Stephen fertilized with essence seed from without the boundaries had come to save us. His is the seed of many generations back, the DNA that coalesces make believes with reality. His earthly soul is subject to the confines of this life’s limitations but Stephen’s spirit soars with the Angels whose quest is to serve the Lord.

Mable was held in a panorama spun by coveted lovers, who were harlots through celibacy making death a closer journey to Heaven.
With this confession my Mother’s Soul residing within me is at rest. She rages no more, her anguish has been extinguished.

My mother and I share broken lives, shattered in similar places we cut ourselves on shards of pain, our fractured lives seeking to mend.

Now I attempt to retrieve the scattered pieces, seeking to restore the jigsaw puzzle of Isis, long in disarray, bent and twisted from misuse, abuse and false accusations. Fraying the edges making impossible even imperfect fits.
Sitting across from her flesh & blood ghost, linking hands we grant each other absolution long sought from others outside our circle but only possible for us, from us.
In retrospect I have become her, a woman of strength, fortitude, courage, virtue and character; strong willed and loyal to a point.

My mother taught us basic human decency, a trait sorely lacking in many children and adults.

After I graduated from college at age 43, actually even before that I battled depression. I’ve been hooked on all types of anti-depressants, pain killers and have an off and on dalliance with drink. By the way doctors and therapists knowingly make drug addicts out of their patients. I stopped taking all my anti-depressant medicines in 2007. As you know medical science has since proved those medications turn you into a zombie and cause depression/suicidal thoughts. I’d rather be depressed and a functioning human being than a suicidal zombie.

Now I not only understand but know what my mother felt. Even though my Mom had been gone for years I’m closer to her than ever before, because I’m more like her. In a way I am her and me at the same time.

In the ensuing years since that incident I too have battled depression. I have attempted suicide several times as recently as earlier this year. The demons are forever with me. However they are held at bay through faith in God, prayer and my brother Stephen.

Stephen has become my earthly salvation, my reason for being. How can I leave my beautiful brother alone on this earth knowing that for him the earth, moon, stars and sun revolve around me? Whenever he sees me his whole face lights up. When the workers at his residence or his teachers at his day treatment program ask him Stevie who’s that? He proudly answers my sister. One day I was feeling really down, depressed and discouraged and Stephen’s group home called to tell me they were coming by for me to sign some paperwork. I met the van outside and before the worker could place the papers into my hands Stephen leapt out the van and gave me a big hug! I was pleasantly surprised because people with autism are not really physically expressive. Stephen hugs but usually gingerly. This time he gave it his all. Somehow he must have known or God told him that I needed that hug.

To any of the doctors who might be reading this today and originally diagnosed Stephen back in 1963, Stephen has a job which he loves, enjoys living in his group home, participates in many social activities, has had girlfriends, etc… Yes Stephen has broken barriers. The barriers of doubt and labels from the medical community and from society.

My Mom Mable Elizabeth Palmer finally received the medication she needed in 1995 after my Dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My father Edward Palmer passed away on May 13, 1995. Mom and I were left with each other. The medicine cleared her mind so we could really get to know one another. I asked her why. She said I was overwhelmed. I understood. By then I was an adult woman in my 30s. My mother and I made peace with each other and became good friends. Alas this paradise of togetherness only lasted three years. Cancer claimed Mommy August 2, 1998 sending my life into a tailspin from which I’m just now beginning to recover.