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Despite what appeared to be the Obama Campaign s strategy it was perhaps inevitable that the ascendance of an African American to the status of presumptive major party presidential nominee would lay bare the issues of race and social class in America Indeed U S Senator Barack Obama had avoided speaking publicly about race for so long that some in the political press had dubbed him the country s first post racial candidate In March 2008 however as the long primary contest against former First Lady Hillary Clinton dragged on race suddenly leapt to the forefront of the national political dialogue At issue was Obama s twenty year relationship with Jeremiah Wright the longtime pastor of Chicago s Trinity United Church of Christ When video footage surfaced in which Wright among other pronouncements appeared to suggest that the United States had brought upon itself the terrorist attacks of 11 September ...

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Alonford James Robinson

The third of eight children, Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Estella and Herbert Aaron. His first experience with professional baseball came in the Negro Leagues, as he moved up through the ranks with the Pritchett Athletics, the Mobile Black Bears, and the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1952, the Boston Braves of the newly integrated major leagues signed Aaron to play shortstop in their farm system. Moving from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Jacksonville, Florida, Aaron made it to the majors in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves (now the Atlanta Braves).

Aaron is considered by some to be the best baseball player in history. Over his twenty-three-year major league career, Aaron compiled more batting records than any other player in baseball history. He holds the record for runs batted in (RBIs) with 2,297, and was a Gold Glove Winner in 1958, 1959 ...

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Alma Jean Billingslea Brown

civil rights activist, educator, and businesswoman, was born Juanita Odessa Jones in Uniontown, Alabama, the youngest of eight children of Ella Gilmore Jones and Alex Jones Sr., an influential and prosperous black farmer in Perry County, Alabama. When Alabama telephone and electric companies refused to provide service to the Jones homestead, Alex Jones Sr. and his brothers installed their own telephone lines and wired their own homes for electricity. One consequence of the family's financial independence was that Juanita was able to attend boarding school from age five until she graduated from high school in Selma, Alabama, where she had older sisters in attendance at the historically black Selma University. After high school, in 1947 Jones enrolled in Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in business education with a minor in history and social studies. She returned to Alabama after earning a BS in 1951 ...

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Clayborne Carson

clergyman and civil rights leader, was born David Abernathy near Linden, Alabama, the tenth of twelve children of farm owners Will L. Abernathy and Louivery Bell Abernathy. Abernathy spent his formative years on his family's five-hundred-acre farm in rural Marengo County in southwestern Alabama. His father's economic self-sufficiency and industry spared the family from most of the hardships of the Great Depression. “We didn't know that people were lining up at soup kitchens in cities all over the country,” he would recall in his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down Abernathy 6 Along with other family members he attended Hopewell Baptist Church where his father served as a deacon and decided early to become a preacher a commitment strengthened by a conversion experience at the age of seven Abernathy attended high school at all black Linden Academy a Baptist affiliated institution Having little exposure to whites during ...

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Robert Fay

Ralph Abernathy was born in Linden, Alabama, to William and Louivery Abernathy. He earned a B.S. degree from Alabama State College, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1948. In 1951 Abernathy received an M.A. degree in sociology from Atlanta University and became pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He and Martin Luther King Jr., protesting segregated public transportation, led the successful boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955.

In 1957 Abernathy helped Dr. King found the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) to coordinate nonviolent resistance to segregation. After King's assassination in 1968, Ralph Abernathy became SCLC president until he resigned in 1977, after which he served as a pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. His autobiography, titled And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, was published in 1989.

See also Montogomery Bus Boycott.

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Kenneth H. Williams

Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve.

Abernathy’s parents owned a 500-acre farm, one of the more successful in Marengo County. His father, a community leader, served as head deacon of the local Baptist church for nearly forty years, became the first black in the county to vote and serve on a jury, and contributed heavily to building and maintaining schools in the area, including Linden Academy, the high school Ralph attended.

From the time he was a child Abernathy aspired to the ministry As he related in his autobiography The preacher after all was ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

minister, civil rights activist, and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. An Alabama native, Abernathy was one of twelve children born to successful farmers who had managed to rise from sharecropping to owning a five-hundred-acre farm. Abernathy's father was a deacon in a local church, and from a young age Abernathy wanted to join the ministry. He became an ordained Baptist minister in 1948. In 1950 he received a BS in mathematics from Alabama State University. He began what became a career in political activism while in college by leading demonstrations to protest the poor quality of food in the campus cafeteria and the lack of heat and hot water in campus housing. While in college he became interested in sociology, and he earned an MA in the subject from Atlanta University in 1951.

Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery ...

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Kerima M. Lewis

The African American members of the First Baptist Church in New York City withdrew their membership in 1808 when they were subjected to racially segregated seating. With Ethiopian merchants they organized their own church, called “Abyssinian” after the merchants’ nation of origin. The church was located at 44 Anthony Street, and the Reverend Vanvelser was its first pastor. Abyssinian numbered three hundred members in 1827 when slavery ended in New York. The Reverends William Spellman, Robert D. Wynn, and Charles Satchell Morris served as pastors during the church's early history. By 1902 the church was a renowned place of worship with more than sixteen hundred members.

The appointment of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in 1908 ushered in a new era of the church's history. His pastorate was devoted to spiritual and financial development. In 1920 he acquired property in Harlem and then oversaw the building ...

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Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

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Steven J. Niven

emigrationist leader, was born Henry Houston in Newton County, Georgia, to enslaved parents whose names are not now known. Most of what is known of Henry Adams's personal life is derived from testimony he offered in 1880 to the United States Senate during a government investigation of the causes of mass African American emigration from the former states of the Confederacy.

Henry was given the surname Adams when a planter of that name brought him and his family to Desoto Parish, Louisiana, in 1850. He used that surname for the rest of his life. Upon the planter's death eight years later ownership of Henry and his family was transferred to a teenage girl, Nancy Emily Adams who hired the family out to various plantations near the Texas Louisiana border Laboring alongside his father on the plantation of a man named Ferguson in Logansport Louisiana Henry Adams was ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

Primary Source

Challenges to the constitutionality or appropriateness of affirmative action programs would not end even with the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Indeed such programs—which attempt to mitigate the effects of a cultural history of inequity and racism—were at the beginning and remain enduringly controversial. Though part of the American landscape for generations, affirmative action programs have, of late, come under renewed scrutiny and attack. One such case was Adarand Constructors v. Pea et al. presented here below In 1989 Adarand Constructors a white owned company brought suit in federal court arguing that its rights had been violated when a minority owned business was granted a highway construction contract even though Adarand had submitted a lower bid The company charged that the preferences granted to minority owned businesses constituted an unfair advantage and a violation of the equal protection clause of ...

Primary Source

In the long tradition of American social activism the influence of the sisters Grimké looms large Natives of South Carolina Sarah Grimké and the younger Angelina Grimké Weld were among their country s earliest proponents of equal rights for all Americans as well as for that most cherished of liberal institutions the universal adult franchise They were also fierce abolitionists a position that frequently earned them the derision of male observers not a few of whom were their fellows in the fight against the institution of slavery who reckoned such political posturing unfit for women of good breeding The sisters also dared to shine a light on the rape of female slaves and had the temerity to suggest a sisterhood among women of all colors again to the outraged brays of Southern slaveholders and Northern abolitionists alike Too early for their time the convictions and beliefs of the sisters Grimké ...

Primary Source

Ella Josephine Baker (1903–1986) was a grassroots activist who helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), after having already worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for several years. Among the SNCC’s major accomplishments were the 1961 Freedom Rides and numerous initiatives to register African Americans to vote. The speech below is taken from a voter registration drive in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where Baker was introduced by fellow activist Dr. Aaron Henry (1922–1997). Her message in this excerpt demonstrates her commitment to making the civil rights movement more democratic—specifically, Baker often criticized civil rights organizations for being dominated by men. In this address, she playfully chastises Henry for suggesting that her involvement in the movement is a mere “fling,” and later calls out another leader who prematurely declares the movement to be nearing its completion.

Primary Source

At a time when women were often discouraged from joining the abolitionist movement, some of the most passionate and militant rhetoric came from political activist Maria W. Stewart (1803–1879). Self-educated and self-employed, Stewart began a series of lectures on equal rights and race relations in 1832. Though inspired by the work of abolitionist David Walker (1796–1830)—specifically his political tract Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829)—Stewart also used intense religious imagery and exhortation to make her point. These themes are evident in her pamphlet “Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build” (1831), the first political manifesto published by an African American woman. Soon, William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator was publishing her speeches including the one reproduced below which was delivered in Boston on 27 February 1833 Here the militancy for which she was so often criticized is ...

Primary Source

The Baptist minister and abolitionist Nathaniel Paul c 1793 1839 delivered the speech excerpted below on 5 July 1827 following the abolition of slavery in the state of New York The state had gradually worked toward emancipation starting with a 1799 law allowing for slaves born after that year to be freed after a long period of service twenty eight years for men twenty five for women Though it represented progress it was not bold enough for the increasingly popular Methodist church which pushed for a more comprehensive emancipation statute In 1817 Governor Daniel D Tompkins signed a law mandating freedom for slaves within ten years Paul s speech is memorable for its hopeful yet cautious tone and for its biting critique of the hypocrisy of a supposedly free country that still practices slavery This contradiction he says stain s the national character and renders the American republic a by ...

Primary Source

In March 2010 Shirley Sherrod b 1948 the Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture USDA delivered a speech before the state chapter of the NAACP What was supposed to be an inspirational address detailing Sherrod s rise to prominence and years of service instead became the fodder for a racially charged partisan debate that played out in the national news media In the speech reproduced below Sherrod frankly discusses her painful childhood in Georgia When Sherrod was a teenager her father was murdered by a white man who was never prosecuted for his crime The event compelled Sherrod to commit herself to combating the racial inequalities in the Jim Crow South At the same time she admitts to harboring a deep distrust of white people When I made that commitment she states I was making that commitment to black people and to black ...

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Howard Schweber

The phrase affirmative action was first used by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, in an executive order that prohibited federal government contractors from discriminating on the basis of “race, creed, color, or national origin,” and required them “to take affirmative action” to prevent such discrimination. The concept and its primary justification were further developed by President Lyndon Johnson, most famously in a speech at Howard University in 1965 F reedom is not enough You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying Now you are free to go where you want do as you desire and choose the leaders you please You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say You are free to compete with all the others and still justly ...

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Dolores E. Battle and Michelle Brown Douglas

The concept of affirmative action in America has been explored by sociologists, philosophers, legal scholars, journalists, and politicians. Although less than 2 percent of the 91,000 employment discrimination cases pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are reverse discrimination cases, those opposed to affirmative action programs frequently cite reverse discrimination and so-called quotas as having a negative impact on the professional and educational lives of white males. Politicians have either opposed or supported affirmative action programs. Few have viewed affirmative action from its original purpose, which was to take affirmative steps to incorporate minorities and women into the workforce. In examining the impact of affirmative action on women in America, it is necessary to review the history of equality for all persons in the United States and the underrepresentation of persons from minority groups and of women in the workforce in America.

Beginning with the Civil Rights Act of ...

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Joseph Wilson and David Addams

Affirmative action, a legal and social policy intended to foster equal opportunity in America, accelerated during the political and social ferment in the 1960s as a highly controversial concept and array of programs developed in response to the accumulated and lingering inequality that especially afflicted African Americans.

In a sense, affirmative action can be said to have begun when the idea was put forth in the post–Civil War era that formerly enslaved individuals should be accorded “forty acres and a mule,” that is, given compensation for their years of deprivation in the form of help in starting a new life. Or it could be argued that the executive order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of World War II which called for steering government contracts away from businesses that chose to discriminate racially gave rise to a form of affirmative action in that these businesses often ...