By Beverly Gadson-Birch
As we continue to recognize the history of Black achievements, I promised to share more fact history from “The Afro-American in United States History” copyrighted in 1969 and written by Benjamin DaSilva, Milton Finkelstein and Arlene Loshin. A second edition came out in 1972.
Know your rights!! “The United States was set up as a democracy. Under the democratic form of government, the people have three rights. First, Access to Government- the people have a right to equal access to the government. Each qualified person has the right to vote, speak to government officials and work for changes within that government. Second, social rights- each person “should know” he will be treated right in his daily life. Third, Civil Rights- is simply due process and “equal protection” under the law.
According to Wikipedia, William Monroe Trotter, 1872-1934, Harvard graduate, a black newspaper editor and real estate businessman based in Boston, Massachusetts. He was also an activist for African-American civil rights. He was the first man of color to earn a Phi Beta Kappa key from Harvard. After noticing the increase segregation in northern facilities, he devoted his life and assets to activism. He joined W. E. B. Du Bois in founding the Niagara Movement in 1905. “It was Monroe who first made the demand for “Freedom Now! In 1890, black citizens from 21 states and the District of Columbia met in Chicago. They formed the Afro-American League. They asked for four changes in American life: (1) Black children should receive an equal share of the money being spent for schools. (2) Each person should receive a fair trial. (3) Laws should be passed to end lynchings. And, (4) Most important, all men should have the right to vote.” It is important to note that these demands were made in 1890 and (1) In 2019, 129 years later, Black children are still not receiving their fair share of educational dollars. (2) Blacks, particularly black males, are still not receiving fair trials. (3) “documented” lynchings are as recent as 1968 and add to that documented “murder by cops”. And, (4) Blacks right to vote is still being challenged (Voting Rights Act of 1965). The system continues to orchestrate ways to limit black votes.
Under the Niagara Movement, born out of the Afro-American League, five demands were made: (1) All people should have the right to vote. (2) The kind of life caused by Jim Crow laws had to end. (3) All should have the right “to walk, talk, and be with them that wish to be with us.” (4) Equal protection of the laws had to begin at once. (5) There must be better schools for Blacks across this country.
W.E.B. Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt) joined the Movement to end Jim Crow. He was a historian, Civil Rights Activist, Pan-Africanist, Author, Writer and Editor. He was born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He also attended Harvard University (1895). Some of his works are the “The Souls of Black Folk, Black Reconstruction and The Crisis”. He did many studies on the impact of slavery even after they were declared “free”. Ironically, although DuBois was considered a man of stature, his son died with diphtheria after he spent the night looking for one of three doctors in Atlanta since no white doctor would treat his child. He wrote about this in his “Passing of the First Born” in “The Souls of Black Folk.”
In 1910 Du Bois accepted the directorship of the recently formed NAACP. He moved to New York City and served as the Editor of the organization’s monthly magazine The Crisis.
The fight for equal rights and protection under the law continues. Freedom is never free. It seems for every step forward, there are two steps backwards. Blacks must unite in order to take two steps forward. You can’t take a back seat when Rosa Parks took a front seat. You can’t drop out of school when Mary Jane McLeod Bethune founded a private school for African American students. You can’t give up your right to vote when Fannie Lou Hamer, born of sharecroppers’ parents, was a powerful advocate for voting rights. She was arrested and beaten brutally leaving her with lifelong injuries from a blood clot in the eye, kidney and leg damage. You can’t sit on the sidelines when heavyweight boxing champion (1908-1915) John Arthur Johnson got in the ring. You can’t expect to win the race like Wilma Rudolph if you never start out.
Are Y’all listening?