Black History Month: Chronicles of the Evolution of African American Life Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

Nine years ago in February, 2010, I wrote a series of 4 profiles on African Americans3 of whom were little known.  While their exploits were dramatic in all four instances, they were simply fundamentally, even stunningly life altering in some cases. In 2012, I synthesized the material from those four posts into one digest, which I am reprising in edited fashion today.

We live in an age in which, despite the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and the pervasiveness of the 24-7 news cycle, the names, exploits, and accomplishments of luminaries such as Henrietta LacksCharlotte Hawkins Brown, and Alexander Manly are enmeshed in an historical nebula; present, but barely known or visible.

By contrast, speak or write the name Barack Obama, and due to a variety of factors, almost anyone you meet in the civilized world is capable of spouting off a vast array of factoids, real, imagined, true or false.  As POTUS, President Obama certainly earned all the notoriety he amassed, while the relative lack of knowledge about LacksBrown, and Manly is in no way an accurate reflection of their relative importance.  All made important contribution to life, as we know it in America; at least one altered the dynamics of medical history around the world.

Alex Manly, who was African American, was also a descendent of Charles ManlyNorth Carolina’s 31st Governor.  In 1898Wilmington held the dual distinction of being North Carolina’s largest city, and predominantly black.  Mr. Manly was the editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, the only black-owned newspaper in the United States at the time.  He wrote a controversial editorial with both racial and sexual implications.  The piece was so super-charged that it is cited as the catalyst for the infamous November 10, 1898 Wilmington race riot. The gist of Manly’s editorial comments is aptly distilled in this quote:

  • “Our experience among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.”

The rest is history; it took three months, but in November, after the August editorial that included that quote, Wilmington burned…and Manly and the robust black leadership class fled the city.  Manly was an example of a bold and defiant voice that emerging black leaders would demonstrate in the American South and across this country in the coming years.  The reaction of much of Wilmington’s white citizenry was equally clear, and at that juncture, more powerfully defiant.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a native North Carolinian who was educated in Massachusetts, and who returned to her home state to lead an all girls’ school, which she later transformed into a Junior College.

Ms. Brown made her mark fostering and improving African American achievement, especially among women.  Her considerable legacy includes:

Henrietta Lacks is not from North Carolina (she hailed from neighboring Virginia), but her story’s impact permeates not only the Tar Heel (and Old Dominion) state, and the rest of the country, but spans the entire globe.  Ms. Lacks, who lived a short life, by almost any measure, died of cervical cancer at age 31 in 1951.  Posthumously, she would go on to have an inordinate impact on cancer treatment as well as a number of other serious diseases, all over the world, through cells removed prior to her death.  The essence of her story is that:

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered a scientific breakthrough related to Ms. Lacks’ cells. In a departure from anything the scientists had seen before, the cells culled from Ms. Lacks continued to grow, outside of her body, and after her death. In fact, they did not just survive, they multiplied. In a circular irony, cells from Ms. Lacks’ culture were used to help Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vaccine for polio in 1955. Of course, Ms. Lacks had marched to help find a cure for that disease just four years earlier.

Unarguably, the Barack Obama story is one that most Americans are familiar with, at least tangentially.  President Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, was born in Hawaii, graduated from Columbia University, and Harvard University Law School, and went on to become a Chicago community organizer.  Oh yeah, on November 4, 2008, he was elected President of the United States.  As such:

One of President Obama’s historic appointments was the selection of Eric Holder as Attorney General (He also subsequently appointed Loretta Lynch, also an African American, to filled the position when General Holder stepped down to pursue other interests).  That would hold special significance this month anyway, as Mr. Holder is African American.  It has taken on an added dimension however, as Dr. Sharon MaloneMr. Holder’s wife, distinguished in her own right, shares a part of her family history in a PBS Special, in which she details how her Uncle Henry, born nearly 30 after slavery ended officially, was one of thousands of black men arrested on fabricated charges and forced into labor camps and compelled to work without pay.  As Dr. Malone tells the story, she asks you to:

  • Imagine that this “convict leasing” system saw the groups of prisoners sold to private parties – like plantation owners or corporations – and that it was not only tolerated by both the North and South, but largely ignored by the U.S. Justice Department.
  • Now, imagine that nearly a century after your uncle served 366 days in this penal labor system, you find yourself married to the head of the U.S. Justice Department, who, ironically, just so happens to be the first African American in the position.

There are many reasons why this information is not just historically significant, but contemporarily relevant.  None is more compelling than debunking the idea that the vagaries and vicissitudes of slavery and its variant offshoots no longer plague our society in general and African Americans in particular.  As Dr. Malone put it:

  • “I want people to understand that this is not something that’s divorced and separate, and this doesn’t have anything to do with them.  If you were a black person who grew up in the South, some way or the other – whether or not you were directly involved in the system as my uncle was – you knew somebody who was, or your daily lives were circumscribed by those circumstances.”

Unless you are part of Dr. Malone’s immediate family, her Uncle Henry is likely even more of an unknown to you than Alex Manly, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Henrietta Lacks.  Yet, his story is as irrevocably interwoven into the fabric of African American and American History as that of President Obama.  In fact, African American History is American History.  Over the month that will end tomorrow, by all means, take at least one more moment to reflect on the fact it’s not just a month, it’s every single day, 24/7/365…”Black History Month: Chronicles of the Evolution of African American Life Redux!

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Klan Needs To Ride Again: A Shot Across The Bow

It’s time to Break It Down!

Believe it or not, the clause before the colon is the title of a real opinion piece, in a functioning American newspaper, on Valentines’ Day (Just 6 days ago), near the end of the second decade of the 21stCentury, in the United States of America. You might say you’re surprised? I would ask, why? Quoth Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover): “This Is America!” And today…that kind of “ish” is just de rigueur.

Occasionally, I have found that a post sometimes speaks for itself. This one is definitely a candidate for that distinction. Mr. Goodloe Sutton, the owner, publisher, and editor of the Democrat-Reporter, a weekly newspaper in Linden, Alabama, wrote the aforementioned editorial. See editorial below (unedited):

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again.”

“Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.

They do not understand how to eliminate expenses when money is needed in other areas. This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people.

People who do not understand the constitution do not like to be responsible.

Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil-doer (sic). Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what.

This is the same so what used when Democrats got us into World War I and World War II. Then they got us fighting in Korea. Next when the industrial Northeast wanted more money, they got us in the Vietnam War, and now into the Middle East War.

If you haven’t noticed, they did away with the draft so their sons would not have to go into battle.

Seems like the Klan would be welcomed to raid the gated communities up there. They call them compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.”

When asked in an interview whether he penned editorial, Mr. Sutton admitted he did and opined:

“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off.”

When reporters at the Montgomery Advertiser asked Sutton to elaborate what he meant by”cleaning up D.C.,” Sutton suggested lynching. He said:

“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.”

The reporter then asked Sutton if he believed it was appropriate for a newspaper publisher to call for lynching Americans. At that point, he doubled down on his position. Sutton responded:

“… It’s not calling for the lynchings (sic) of Americans. These are socialists-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?”

The reporter then asked Sutton if he recognized the KKK as a racist and violent organization? Sutton disagreed. He expounded:

“The Klan is like the NAACP. As for a violent organization, well, they didn’t kill but a few people. The Klan wasn’t violent until it needed to be.”

After learning of Sutton’s most recent editorial, and related and clarifying comments, the School of Communications at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, removed him from its Hall of Fame. The School released an accompanying statement:

“Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments. The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks, as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.”

Yes, this particular newspaper and its owner, publisher, editor are located in a small town in the Deep South. But don’t get it twisted. The views expressed by this individual are consistent with ideas widely shared on social media, and often in person, everyday by countless individuals across this country. One can hear similar opinions emanate from other outposts of the Fourth Estate, from the highest levels of government, from inside the spired towers of religion, and if the miscellany of fortune dictates, from the guy or gal next door. Remember where you heard it first thoughKlan Needs to Ride Again: A Shot Across the Bow!”

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AKA Member Scores A First In NC: Call Her Madam Chief Justice

It’s time to Break It Down!

Yesterday, NC Governor Roy Cooper announced he was appointing North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Cheri L. Beasley to the position of Chief Justice of NC’s highest court, following the retirement of Mark Martin. Beasley, who was elected to the NC Court of Appeals in 2008, served on that court until then Governor Beverly Perdue appointed her to the NC Supreme Court in 2012.

She was elected to her first full eight-year term on the Supreme Court in November 2014. Judge Beasley graduated from Rutgers University, where she became a 2013 Inductee into the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance Hall of Fame. She also graduated from the University of Tennessee Law School. Governor Jim Hunt first appointed her to the NC bench as a state district court judge in District 12 (Cumberland County) in 1999. She went on to win election in 2002, and again in 2006, at which time she won without opposition. This is Beasley’s 20th year as a judge, and her 7th on the Supreme Court. She was a Public Defender in Fayetteville before becoming a judge.

In what will be an historic occurrence, Beasley will serve as the state’s first African American female Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court. NC judges are usually elected, not appointed. However, when former Chief Justice Mark Martin announced he would retire this month, state law gave Governor Cooper the power to pick Martin’s successor. Since Cooper picked a current Associate Justice to fill Martin’s seat, that means Beasley’s seat will be vacant, which he will also need to fill. The net, net, is the court may move further to the left. The split had been 5-2, Democrats, before Martin’s resignation. If Cooper picks a Democrat to fill Beasley’s seat, the court will have a 6-1 Democratic majority.

This year, the NC Supreme Court will be 200 years old. Stating the obvious, Beasley noted the anniversary during Cooper’s announcement that she would ascend to the position, “This is not the North Carolina of 200 years ago.”

In introducing Beasley, Cooper added, she was the right woman for the job. Beasley added that she wanted to serve as an inspiration for young girls, and also that she would “make sure that our justice system is sound, and that we are indeed serving the people of North Carolina the way we should.”

As an aside, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., historically important in its own right, has garnered a fair amount of extra-special attention due to the recently announced Presidential candidacy of one of its esteemed members, Kamala Harris. All due respect to Senator Harris, but add Justice Beasley to the list of Alpha Kappa Alpha members making headlines. Moreover, while we have another 21 months, if all goes well for her, before we know whether Senator Harris will claim the position she seeks, Congratulations right now to Justice Beasley, a 2014 recipient of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Achievement Award. Also, it’s worth noting, tomorrow is her 53rdBirthday. Altogether now, Happy Birthday & Happy Valentine’s Day Chief Justice Beasley. AKA Member Scores a First in NC: Call Her Madam Chief Justice!”

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Welcome To Donald’s World: A Lot Has Changed – Redux

It’s time to Break It Down!

Originally Posted on January 31, 2018; reprised, February 6,2019

Last night, #45 gave his second State of the Union (SOTU) address. If you tuned in here to get my take on that, I extend my sincere apologies. Consider this post alternative programming. I am instead re-posting the sentiments I shared after last year’s SOTU message.

Over most of my adult life the Republican Party has campaigned perpetually to distinguish itself via frenzied non-stop marketing, self-labeling, and branding, as the Family Values Party, the Law and Order Party, and the Party undeniably and irrevocably committed to national defense. These standards were hallmarks embraced by evangelicals, fundamentalists, and the Christian Right. You might say it was a match made in Heaven.

A little over two and a half years ago, June 16, 2015, Donald J. Trump entered the fray of campaigning for the Presidency. From that day to this day, he has presented himself, first as the un-candidate, and for more than two years now, as the un-President; a man whom his supporters insist is not a politician, and whom many of his detractors contend is unworthy of his titles, President, and Commander-in-Chief.

This post is not intended to represent a critique of Mr. Trump. I’ve done that, and in all likelihood, I will do so again at some point in the future. Today, however, I will simply share a few observations about the human pretzels that so many erstwhile stout Republicans have forced themselves into, all in an effort to defend at all costs the words, actions, and policies of the man they say on one hand is not a politician, but on the other hand, find themselves perpetually dismissing/labeling so many of his behaviors and decisions, as “just politics.”

In keeping with my commitment to brevity, I’ll use just four examples of how the renowned Party of Lincoln transformed itself into the Party of Nixon (and the Southern Strategy), and then subsequently, pivoted to become the Party of Trump (and Good People on Both Sides). I fully appreciate that virtually no one wants to be called a racist. In contemporary American society, white Americans, in particular, bristle at the notion, the mere suggestion, that anyone might deign to use that appellation to refer to them or one of their own. To each and every person who feels that way, I have one, and only one thing to say. I truly believe the best way to avoid having that pointed verbal hand grenade tossed in one’s direction is to separate oneself from racist behavior, deeds…and people. A hint to the wise should be sufficient, or so I’ve been told.

I fervently believe that truism holds for and applies to white people in general, and as our country’s titular leader, to #45, specifically. As for the latter, I am frequently bemused whenever I hear Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters passionately knocking down any suggestion that Mr. Trump is a racist, or that he even says things that are accurately categorized as such.

Upon hearing often angry disavowals, I am reminded of one of Queen Gertrude’s lines from Act III, Scene II of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, circa 1600: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” In the event that the stilted language of a 17th Century English poet, penned in Shakespeare’s trademark iambic pentameter, is less than clear, the simplified CliffNotes-like interpretation is, Queen Gertrude was reacting in a fashion that let on that she considered the actor playing the Queen in the play was a stand-in for her, and that in that light, she (the actor) was being overly effusive and more pointedly, insincere.

Translation/relationship to #45 defenders and apologists: Folks who rush to deflect, divert, or deny that #45 is, at least on occasion, being, acting, and/or speaking in racist terms, are insincere, and over the top. If they don’t know better, they should know better. (For the record, I think they know better).

As we wend our way beyond AD 2 (Two Years After Donald), here are four quick observations about things that have changed since the GOP installed #45 as its North Star. In keeping with their pact with their now Dear Leader, #45 supporters, surrogates, and spinners, insist that these changes are all positive, or, in classic alternative facts/fake news fashion, that they actually do not in any way reflect changes.

  1. Family Values Party – As I noted in a previous post, (, evangelicals, fundamentalists, and the Christian Right endorse marriage and the family as the foundation of civilization. The synthesis of wedlock, faith, and spirituality were previously ingrained as keystone American values, or at least as GOP talking points. Then along came Mr. Trump with his penchant for swearing, creating less than truthful narratives (over 8,100 times in his two years as President, according to Washington Post and New York Times fact checkers), and if you believe 20 or more women…and Mr. Trump, in his own words, accosting women, to whom he is not wed. Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and all the folks who deem themselves true believers (In Trump they trust), gave him a mulligan on all that stuff. If the guardians of the Gates to Heaven feel that way, who am I to argue. Clearly…a lot has changed.
  2. Law and Order Party – For years, more than I can recall, the GOP has anointed itself as the foremost keeper of the flame of all things related to law enforcement. So, imagine my surprise when I see and hear daily, sometimes hourly, and if I’m watching CNN on a weekday, multiple times per hour, reports that one, several, or a whole host of Republicans are questioning the authority and or the good intentions of the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department, and/or any other entities comprised in what we Americans refer to loosely as the Intelligence Community. A couple of years ago, that would have been hard to imagine, if not altogether unthinkable. Now, it’s de rigueur. Just let me reiterate…a lot has changed.
  3. National Defense Party – I was a youngster for a significant part of the Cold War. Hazily, I recall Khrushchev pounding his shoe on his Delegate’s desk at the United Nations, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the Berlin Wall, and the fall of the Wall. My memories incorporate the fact that the United Soviet Socialists Republic (USSR), and subsequently Russia, was considered, by members of the GOP, our mortal enemy, global adversary, and geo-political rival…right up to and including, 2016, in its entirety. Suddenly, circa 2017, #45 has shown a greater propensity to demonstrate faith and confidence in Russia and Vladimir Putin than in our own country’s Intelligence Community. This includes initially refusing to execute sanctions approved in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 98-2. To be clear, that was a Senate in which the GOP owned a majority, by the way. TrumpWorld not only doesn’t think that’s out of character, its inhabitants believe it’s perfectly sane and logical to do so, and they give their guy digital high fives multiple times per day. Have I said…a lot has changed?
  4. Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and the Christian Right Party – On occasion, as a PK (Preacher’s Kid), I concede, I find myself out of step with certain elements of religious dogma. Prayerfully, I seek forgiveness. Conversely, when asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions, Mr. Trump said: “I’m not sure that I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that.” I don’t even know what to say about that one. I think I’ll just let it speak for itself. Oh yeah, one more time for the road…a lot has changed.

I’ve written before about the apparent hypocrisy of conservatives and would-be-saints, in regard to their unbridled support for #45. As we now hear, in addition to harassing folks that he appointed himself, members of his own Party, and a host of people heretofore deemed acceptable to the GOP writ large, he cleared the way to release a partisan GOP penned memo, written without the benefit of having evaluated the source data, while preventing the release of a parallel and explanatory memo from Democrats, all the while ignoring Justice Department warnings that such a release could result in causing irreparable harm. #45 has, through his attorneys, indicated that Mueller has not met the high threshold necessary to interview him in person. For an individual who claims there is neither collusion, nor obstruction, there is an abundance of actions, and yes, evidence, that casts doubt on that claim. In conclusion, “Welcome To Donald’s World: A Lot Has Changed – Redux!”

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