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Black History - Not Enough Time Or Space
2/24/2016 5:38:17 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I got the bright idea only about a week ago to write a story each week about some local contemporary Black History figure. I’m spontaneous so it didn’t occur to me six weeks ago. The thought came to mind the other day and that’s when I decided it was something to do.

Problem: Black History Month almost is over.

It would take the rest of the year to even scratch the surface of what’s important in Black History, never mind the shortest of the months of the year.

And because I’ve got some constrictions in terms of stuff I can do, one contemporary Black History figure each week certainly isn’t enough to profile all the local people who have contributed to Black History and our collective history.

I agree with many of those who say there should be no Black History Month.

There’s no French History Month or German History Month so why Black History Month?

The trick about that is French and German American history is incorporated into American History.

Black History is that American stepchild no one wants to talk about.

Black History is America’s shame.

Our kids learn the names of Black History figures like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington, but not who they were or the atrocities of American slavery that led them onto their paths in Black History. I heard something the other day - a fella saying if we want to see great figures in Black History often we only have to look to the man or lady next door.

People like Mary Moultrie, Naomi White and Rose Jenkins who led the Charleston Hospital Strike of 1969 or school administrator David Mack Jr., music instructors George Kenny and Rueben Rhett or Charleston’s first and only Black female city council members Brenda Scott and Hilda Jefferson. People right in our midst who made history in their respective areas and contributed immeasurably to the lives we enjoy today.

My failure to better plan Black History Month coverage means I won’t have the time in February to profile ‘Big Dog’s’ grandmama Septima ‘Mama Seppy’ Pointsette Clark whose home used to be on Henrietta Street behind Emanuel AME Church. Mama Seppy, as a teacher at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, taught Rosa Parks the trick she used to become the recognized mother of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

I wanted to write about Marjorie Amos-Frazier, a Clarendon County native who came to Charleston and became Charleston County Council’s first woman and African American member in 1974. In 1980 she was appointed to the S.C. Public Service Commission, its first woman and non-legislator. Most who knew her credit her elevation to those positions to her skills as a negotiator and fearless compulsion to articulate the needs of her constituents.

And I gotta mention Victoria DeLee of Ridgeville. In 1971 DeLee jolted Lowcountry politics by co-founding the United Citizens party and running for the First Congressional District seat as its candidate.

Endorsed by Shirley Chisolm of New York who was then the only Black woman in the House of Representatives, DeLee was defeated by Mendel Davis. Later she would criticize Blacks who failed to support her saying Blacks were “hung up” on the Democratic party.
“What I want more than anything is for white and Black races to to see each other as just folks,” she said.

I’ve been meaning to write a story about the aunt and niece duo, Joan Gladden Mack and Tessa Spencer-Adams. Many of us know Spencer-Adams as the local newswoman from television and radio. I learned only a little while ago she is Mack’s niece. Like her aunt, Spencer-Adams is making history. The sister is a hard working girl. I’m impressed.

I’m equally impressed with her aunt. I was at Barbara Gathers’ Black teachers’ recognition program last year when Mack was recognized for some of her contributions to our history. She was the first Black female to anchor a local prime time news show. I was dazzled by the James Island native’s accomplishments hosting shows for television and radio.

Speaking of Gathers, the Burke High School graduate grew up in the peninsula Charleston’s ‘Back Da Green’ community between President Street and Hagood Avenue.

Gathers made history on several fronts - culturally/professionally - and as an incomparable advocate of the human spirit. She was a pioneer in the field of equal employment opportunities and as a small business owner. For 10 years beginning in 1986 she was one of only a few Black entrepreneurs owning a store in downtown Charleston south of Calhoun Street.

I could go on and on about local Black History figures. And I’ve only named a few of the women I know. There literally are hundreds more, but I’m out of space. But like the guy said, if you want to see a Black History figure, look next door.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Peter Semler Submitted: 2/25/2016
Black History is a fundamental and inseparable part of American history and needs to be incorporated in US and foreign school books with the proper historical perspective. From a non-African-American perspective, Black History month seems to marginalize and not highlight the contribution of Black America since the foundation of the United States, Civil War, Reconstruction, Civil Rights struggle, post-Civil rights to the election of President Obama. We are living in a time when so many Americans are ignorant of US history and are willing to throw their blood soaked freedoms away.

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