Archive for March 2012
It is all he has left a video of him. I watch it often. Of when he graduated from kindergarten, you know how they do those parties. He was wearing his cap, a shirt and a tie,” Lopez said.
Fidmar Fidel “Merlos-Lopez lost his son in a fire last week in a Shenandoah row house along with his cousin, aunt and 7-month-old half-brother. The funeral is set for Monday, with burial the followi day. He wants to see his son one last time.
He can’t, despite his attornies attempts, A Mexican national said he has been barred from entering the United States to bury his 10 year old boy.
I told the customs officer that all I want is a permit to see my boy for one last time. They treat me as if I am a criminal,” Lopez, 34, a bus driver, said in an interview Saturday. “Right now, I need their support, and they are refusing to help me.” He still waits with hope at the U.S. Mexican border near Laredo, Texas since word of the fire.
Can you imagine? Your son is dead in a fire and you can’t even get across. It’s clear they are giving us the runaround,” said Elizabeth Surin, his Philadelphia-based immigration lawyer.
A spokeswoman for the border agency did not return a phone message left at her office Saturday.
Lopez was a teenager when he entered the United States illegally in 1995 and wound up in Shenandoah, a blue-collar town with a large Hispanic population. He married a U.S. citizen who gave birth to Damien in 2002. He later divorced Damien’s mother and married his current wife, Danielle Lopez, who’s also a U.S. Citizen. Unfortanately, in 2007, police in nearby Frackville stopped Lopez for running a red light and turned him over timmigration authorities. He agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily and began the process of applying for legal permanent residence.
Surin, his immigration lawyer, said he was well on his way to getting his green card and rejoining his family in Shenandoah when tragedy struck.
umanitarian parole is granted to immigrants who have a compelling emergency that requires temporary entry into the United States. It is used sparingly: The government approves only about 25 percent of the 1,200 applications it gets each year.
Surin said Lopez qualifies. In fact, the Mexican husband of Tiffany Sanchez, the 29-year-old woman who died in the fire, was granted humanitarian parole to attend the funeral, she said.
Surin said border officials told her that Lopez was denied entry because he didn’t have a relationship with Damien. She said it’s just the opposite: Lopez shared partial custody of Damien and paid his ex-wife child support before leaving the United States.
Lopez, who worked as a mechanic in Shenandoah, said he was very close to his son.
“Though he hadn’t seen Damien in more than three years, they spoke over the phone twice a week.
“He used to tell me, ‘Come back, come back,’” he said. “I have been thinking that maybe it’s my fault because there may have been a reason he asked me that.”
His current wife said Lopez, who lives in Naucalpan de Juarez, a suburb of Mexico City, had been looking forward to returning to the United States. Now he’s desperate to get back, if only for a few days. But time is running out.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Danielle Lopez, 28, a hairdresser who was born and raised in Shenandoah. “It’s his child, his flesh and blood, his firstborn son. It’s horrible.”
For a while now, we’ve known that black men are more likely to end up in prison than white men. Why isn’t this changing?
Whether you’re a serial killer or as pure as a poster child for the Scouts, nothing counts as much as your race when it comes to encounters with police and the criminal justice system in the United States.
It’s even true for Colorado, a state with a population close to 90 percent non-Hispanic white.
As a result, a disproportionate number of African-Americans, particularly men, wind up spending more time in prison — and are more likely to wind up on death row — than their white and Latino counterparts charged with similar offenses.
This is based on evidence provided by data from U.S. departments of corrections, the U.S. Department of Justice, and public-policy research organizations such as the Justice Policy Institute, and it was reiterated on Feb. 19 by the speakers at a conference in Boulder spearheaded by a law student troubled by the lack of attention given to this subject in general.
“It was in the spring of ’08 that I heard about this, about four months after the Supreme Court ruled on the drug sentencing law as it pertains to selling cocaine,” says Jennifer Ford, who is due to graduate in early May. “I thought, ‘This deserves more than one day in my criminal justice class.’”
The result was an unprecedented event for its kind at CU, as far as Ford or England s of 2008, the latest census data, Colorado had a population of 4,939,456, 89.7 percent of which is non-Hispanic whites, compared to 20.2 percent Hispanic and 4.3 percent African-American — the two largest ethnic minority groups.
The reasons for racial disparity aren’t always based on overt racism in the criminal justice system, or the implied higher criminality within racial minority communities, according to law enforcement insiders and analysts at the Boulder conference.
It’s more about the persistence of false perceptions, inefficient criminal justice practices, and some very poor law-making — issues Colorado reform activists say have created a perfect storm of incarceration rates for African-American
“Racial disparity is on all levels,” says Christie Donner, executive director and founder of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition based in Denver. “And it starts with more blacks and Hispanics being stopped and detained for questioning than white people, regardless of where they happen to be. Let’s face it; this isn’t happening in white suburbia, even though we know there are more white people committing crimes.”
Not so fast, says Dr. Tracie Keesee, a black woman who rose through the ranks to become division chief for research, training and technology for the Denver Police Department.
“We hear from people in these communities where the stops are happening that this is working, that it’s making a difference in reducing the amount of crime in their neighborhoods. So who do we listen to? In the end, it really should be about making sure everyone understands the law and why it is being applied. And making sure that, for whatever the reason, you are applying the law equitably.”
However, evidence of justice skewed by race becomes even more marked, reform advocates say.
“Where there is discretion to be exercised by judges and parole departments, we are not seeing it [equity],” Donner says. For instance, she says, “harsher penalties are generally given to blacks and Hispanics for the same [drug] offenses committed by whites. And there is more mitigation of sentences in favor of whites.”
Where there is little leeway in sentencing, mandatory guidelines may offer their own form of unequal justice.
For instance, the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Kimbrough v. United States recognized that under then-mandatory federal sentencing guidelines, a dealer of crack cocaine — the form most popular among black users — was subject to the same sentence as a trafficker dealing in 100 times more of powder cocaine — the form most popular among whites and non-white Hispanics.
The court’s decision in that case granted judges greater discretionary power in sentencing dealers who sell cocaine — but it wasn’t retroactive for those already in prison.
Drug offenses, a category that includes simple possession of illegal drugs, are responsible for the greatest number of incarcerations and are blamed for the explosion in prison population growth over the years. Again, African-Americans in Colorado are far more likely to be sentenced for these offenses than their white counterparts, despite federal studies that show that, number-wise, whites account for most of the drug abuse.
Proponents for change in Colorado have proposed legislation, considering the changes to be much-needed reform in the past. But opponents say the changes are bureaucratic meddling that will only assist criminality.
For example, the governor-appointed Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice was formed in 2007 to study Colorado’s criminal sentencing and advise legislators on how to deal with the skyrocketing costs of ever-expanding incarceration.
But when its recommendations resulted in a bill last year that would have reduced penalties for nonviolent crimes, particularly first-offense drug crimes, and given judges more alternatives to incarceration, state prosecutors quickly opposed it, and it was defeated.
Reformers tried again this year. House Bill 1201, sponsored by Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, (and in the Senate by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver), was approved by Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22, and is currently slated for a second reading and preliminary vote on the House floor.
It addresses one of the perennial complaints of minority communities — the police stop of a person, whether in a car or as a pedestrian, without probable cause. It was written with the input of law enforcement.
The bill would require police when requesting a search, without probable cause, of a person’s body or car to read a statement informing that person of his/ her right to refuse that search, and to get written consent for such searches.
Among the opponents of the bill is the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, a private trade group that represents 20 out of Colorado’s 22 district attorneys.
Executive Director Ted C. Tow says the group’s position is that the bill overreaches, taking a problem he says is “more of concern to Denver” than the rest of Colorado and “going beyond what even the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled regarding the subject.”
“The bill is about keeping criminals from being prosecuted,” he said in a phone interview. “It won’t stop racial profiling, if that’s what proponents are hoping for. It’ll just scare police officers from pursuing a search if they think it’s necessary. It won’t stop people from claiming they gave written consent under duress, or protect any evidence lost if a police officer forgets to have a piece of paper signed. It will create confusion and an extra hoop for police officers to have to jump through.”
At the Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee hearings, advocates of the bill said it was about putting balance in an area where the police have complete discretion to ask for a search without any probable cause, let alone a reasonable suspicion.
“There have been other states and jurisdictions that have chosen to regulate consent-searches,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, who at the hearing singled out New Jersey, Rhode Island and Minnesota as examples. “And the sky has not fallen in.”
Middleton said she proposed the bill at the request of her constituents.
“My main focus is usually education,” Middleton said at a recent town hall meeting in Aurora. “This is a bill that I brought because this is what my constituents asked for. It’s clear from what my constituents were saying that there’s a lot of confusion around ‘consent searches’ under current law.Individuals are often unaware of their right to choose.”
Middleton later said in a statement, “The intent of the bill is to provide consistency and a transparency to consent-search proceedings. It merely clarifies an existing right, and I believe provides a new tool to law enforcement to enhance trust within our local communities.”
Art Way of the Denver-based Colorado Progressive Coalition, who also testified at the hearing, agreed.
“Even in communities that have asked for more policing. This causes so much resentment that it understandably builds up distrust of the police and a resistance to cooperating.”
“Ideally, this bill will help deal with a lot of underlying problems to racial disparities by reaffirming everyone’s Fourth Amendment rights,” he said during a recent interview. “If we can improve the respectful interaction between police and the community, we can improve safety generally.”
This month the United States celebrates the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 to commemorate our shared history of the civil rights movement and our nation’s continued progress towards racial equality. Yet decades later a broken criminal-justice system has proven that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.
Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
Below we outline the top 10 facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color.
1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.
2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searchedduring a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make uptwo-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.
4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.
5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percentover the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
It’s a name in which many white folks roll their eyes, Al Sharpton. He is put into many categories and stereotyped as a troublemaker, an instigator, an antagonist and just plain in-your-face, angry would be another one.
I see Al Sharpton through different eyes, and I’m white. I see Al Sharpton in a sense as a hero and I could care less what anyone says because it’s true. Allow me to ask just this one question, what would the black community and people do without him. Many complain about him citing another crime, asking where Sharpton is now if it includes an African American. Hey, look, that’s not his agenda, it’s not what he does. He shows up for the underdog and yes he has an agenda, whether self serving or not, it is effective.
Right now, Sharpton is the shadow of the Sanford Police Department. He is out there organizing and protesting. His message is if George Zimmerman is not arrested for the shooting of Trayvon Martin soon he will call for an escalation in peaceful civil disobedience and economic sanctions, although he wouldn’t say it would be against Sanford.
If not him, then who? Who would stand for the racial predjudice and crimes against blacks if not for Sharpton, he is effective and knows how to capture the media’s attention. I have no problem saying that I believe racism exists, and anybody who is white who says it doesn’t is a liar. I know too much, there is less justice for the African American person than the caucasion.
There too me is no justifying what happened to Trayvon, and I see no better person for the case. Zimmerman should be brought to swift justice and the judge should throw the book at him, he killed a kid. He is a bully, a menace, and heartless despite how much his family protests in the other direction.
If anything, I would hope Al Sharpton would be grooming someone to act in his stead in case something ever happened to him, because he is needed. I have no doubt in my mind this was a racial crime, nobody is going to convice me otherwise, Zimmerman got a gun, wanted to play cop and killed a kid. Send him up the River, and rock on Sharpton!
Richmond Heights, MO
Anna Brown was just beginning to make progress. Several months back, her children were taken away from her because her home was disheveled, and she needed medical treatment for depression.
Her children were taken to stay with her mother and in the interum, Anna sought refuge at several homeless shelters. Her family said she was thriving at the St. Louis Empowerment Center and was determined to get her life together.
Then why is she dead! Several weeks back, Anna’s leg began to throb and she went to the emergency room to find out what was wrong. They sent her away, she went twice more begging for help and was again turned away. Finally on the third attempt to receive medical treatment, she refused to leave, she had enough pain and wanted to find out why her foot was swollen and she was unable to walk.
She was arrested for refusal to leave the hospital, she was at this point screaming. The hospital was convinced she wanted nothing but drugs, so they sent for security. At this point, Anna, mother of two children was screaming for help when a physician told the police she was fit for incarceration. She tried desperately to appeal to them all by telling them she could not walk, instead of looking deeper into the problem in which there were symptoms that perhaps something was wrong, they sent her to jail from the hospital.
At the police station, and at this point, she could not walk, she was in too much pain, so the police dragged Anna to a cold concrete jail cell where they left her on the floor. She died 15 minutes later.
Her family is outraged and wants answers, and to tell you the truth so do I. Anna Brown was homeless, destitute, and needed help. The hospital’s main concern was getting rid of a homeless person to the extent that they sent her off to die in a jail cell. She was only 29 years old, and that dream she had would never come to pass.
Her family is of course, outraged and is seeking justice, but I look at the bigger picture. Just how many Anna Brown’s are there in our society, and how many die because they cannot seek medical treatment for conditions which are deadly. This was a tragedy, this woman should not have died, in fact, her life was looking up. The hospital showed no mercy.
Anna Brown’s relatives will have to explain to her children that their mother is not coming home, Anna Brown will never fulfill her dream of pulling her family together, she is just another homeless person and written off and deemed unworthy.
Her name was Anna Brown, she was a person, a human being, she deserved better than what was dished out to her in her final hours. She deserved like any other to die a dignified death, but instead she was the victim of smug doctors who I do hope lose what they have worked for all these years to become a doctor. They don’t deserve to be doctors, they failed their oath and because of them, others were affected and hurt.
Anna Brown, just another John Doe
So now what? Although we will never know exactly what happened the night of February 26th, 2012 to Trayvon Martin, we must rely on common sense and statements made from George Zimmerman.
Yet, I get the impression that Zimmerman isn’t going to speak the truth, he comes across dishonest and angry. So do we re-enact the scenerio, or do we just simply go by the facts and use good old fashion common sense.
Zimmerman has a history of violence, yet he was deployed as the Neighborhood Watch Volunteer, which many said went to his head. His persoanlity indicates that the man had a thirst for power and also a fetish for young black men. On one occasion, he was fired from a job to secure parties when one woman got a little out of line due to alchohol. Zimmerman picked her up and threw her across the room and this resulted in a sprained ankle for the woman. Who does this, I ask?
His co-workers and people aquainted with him across the board stated he had a wicked side and that his personality was hot and cold. The son of a white judge and his mother an hispanic court clerk, he seemed to evade trouble in the past after being arrested for domestic violence and violating an officer. All I’m going to say for sure is this guy was a real card, ready to blow at any given time. He had no business in law enforcement although it was his dream to become a police officer, this guy should not ever had access to a gun with his mental state. He wanted to be a hero.
On February 26th, Trayvon walked home from the convenience store and entered the gated community in which his father lived with his girlfriend. Zimmerman pursued him immediately, following him and stalking him as Trayvon spoke on the phone with his girlfriend. The last words she heard were “why are you following me” before the phone became muzzled. Nobody except Zimmerman what happened after that, but something doesn’t make sense. Let’s just look at Zimmerman’s size compared to Trayvon’s size, tell me what this indicates. And from this point forward, I commence my own theory that Zimmerman scared this kid out of his wits, Trayvon asked repeatedly according to the girlfriend, “why are you following me”, and I would be scared too. Zimmerman did everything wrong, he called 911 disbatch who told him explicitly not to follow Trayvon. He was told that a car was being disbatched with the real law, but Zimmerman refused to listen.
After that it doesn’t much matter does it, Zimmerman was always the aggressor, we could speculate all we want, but the fact remains that Zimmerman wanted to be a cop, a hero, and had something to prove. Trayvon must of figured he was in big trouble and decided to man up and defend himself rather than bring trouble to his home for who knew who this nut was. As I read the reports on that night, I cannot see anything Trayvon did wrong, he was frightened, Zimmerman did not communicate to him why he was being followed, what was Martin supposed to think. He defended himself, and paid with his life. Dead – at the tender age of 17 years old, leaving scores of loved ones behind to try to make sense of an unnecessary tradgedy.
I’ve known people like Zimmerman, and believe you me, these are not the type of people you ever offer a position of authority. I don’t know what the personality complex is, but these people crave power and abuse it, they stretch it as far as they can and are usually hated. Zimmerman was one of them, a man trying to make a name for himself and ended up being a wannabe cop.
That would be all well and good except for the fact that he killed a kid, and here’s where I have big problems with the justice system. This was a screw up from the beginning, the crime scene was tainted, the cop assumed everything Zimmerman told him despite the fact that Trayvon was without a weapon. Being brought in for questioning, they let him go, now that is where I have to stop and pause. Let him go? Shooting a kid in cold blood, a kid who was unarmed, the differentials in sizes of victim and perpetrator? Were the police asleep or am I dreaming.
Trayvon Martin’s body was sent to the morgue and it took three days before his frantic parents found him. A mess is what I call it, a rotten mess. I indict the police department for failing to do their job in investigating the background of George Zimmerman especially in light of a murder, where they would have found he had a zest for violence. Instead of admitting they bungled the investigation, they chose to protect the police officer who investigated the crime scene, they chose that! That was their choice, and for that they should be held accountable, this guy killed a kid.
It took some time before the press got wind of it, and of course there is outrage all over the country, both blacks and whites want justice for Trayvon. More troubles me, the fact that Zimmerman’s father and brother are now coming forth defending Zimmerman’s actions stating he was afraid he was going to die. It is truly sad and outrageous.
Zimmerman is still free, not on bond, but free. He hasn’t been charged or indicted, but word has it he is crying for himself. Many people are coming forward to speak openly about Zimmerman’s aggressive behavior in the past and still, no arrest.
Nobody’s going to tell me with my fine mind that Trayvon turned into a monster the night of February 26th while talking on the phone with his girlfriend. This case is all wrong, and it won’t be righted until Zimmerman is behind bars doing a lofty sentence.
This guy wanted to be a hero, he had a fetish for young black men as it is told by many, he was predjudice and a child is dead. No justice, no peace is what is being chanted now and I couldn’t agree more. It is time to take a closer look at the criminal justice system, and in my opinion, those cops are just as guilty as Zimmerman. They let this happen, and they should pay the price.
As for Trayvon’s family, I pray for you, you have had no time to grieve, no privacy even to grieve. You lost your beautiful son at the hands of a maniac and as a parent, I know this will haunt you forever. But what’s worse is what they have to go through just to get justice for their son, this shouldn’t be, no. They have to live every day knowing Trayvon’s murderer is out there roaming free.
Zimmerman has been protected by his father for too long, he’s too much of a coward to come forth now and his family is protecting him, yet he owned a gun. No sense at all.
There will never be any justice for Trayvon Martin, there can’t be, this kid lost his life, he will never go to college, he will never marry or have children. He will never experience life in any sense which is natural, the child is gone.
Zimmerman needs to be put away, he was always a ticking bomb, time to put him where he belongs, with all the other dreamers in the penetentiary. Keep him there while your at it!
To the Black People who were forced to come to this land, Black Nationalism was a top priority. Self-government was what Blacks wanted more than anything else. Between 1850 and 1860, Blacks became more daring in their determination to rule themselves. For 250 years they had expressed their nationalistic desires by rebelling against whites, terrorizing whites and establishing camps that were governed by Black People.
Those espousing nationalist or separatist philosophies have envisioned nationalism in quite different ways. For some, Black Nationalism demanded a territorial base; for others, it required only separate institutions within American society. Some have perceived nationalism in strictly secular terms; others, as an extension of their religious beliefs. Black Nationalists also differ in the degree to which they identify with Africa and African culture.
The movement, which can be traced back to Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association of the 1920s, sought to acquire economic power and to infuse among blacks a sense of community and group feeling. Many adherents to black nationalism assumed the eventual creation of a separate black nation by African Americans. As an alternative to being assimilated by the American nation, which is predominantly white, black nationalists sought to maintain and promote their separate identity.
Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), deplored black acceptance of white standards of beauty, for example, in preferring straight hair or a lighter skin color. During the 1920s he refused to place advertisements for hair straighteners or purported skin whiteners in Negro World, the UNIA newspaper. In the 1960s black nationalists embraced the political slogan Black Power, but they also proclaimed that “black is beautiful.”
W. E. B. Du Bois, one of America’s foremost black intellectuals and a leading figure in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP), had strong ties to Africa. In 1919 he organized the first Pan-African Congress. During the 1920s he traveled to Africa. Yet for most of his life, Du Bois rejected Black Nationalism. In the 1920s he opposed Marcus Garvey and the UNIA. During the 1930s, as Du Bois grew more radical, he turned to socialism and internationalism rather than to Black Nationalism. But during the harsh anticommunism of the Cold War era, Du Bois lost his faith in American society. In 1961 he abandoned the United States and settled in Ghana, where he died two years later, shortly after taking Ghanaian citizenship.
In 1966 Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Black Panther Party, which advocated militant self-defense and Black Nationalism. The Black Panther Party, like SNCC Black Power advocates, embraced a Black Nationalism that was primarily secular and political. By contrast, Nation of Islam leaders Elijah Muhammad and the charismatic Malcolm X grounded their goals of racial separation in religious precepts. Black Muslims sought to establish separate economic enterprises, finding a religious justification for a racially separate business life.
In the late 1960s, at the height of the Black Power Movement, two acquaintances of Malcolm X, Gaidi Obadele and Imari Abubakari Obadele assembled a group of 500 militant black nationalists in Detroit, Michigan, to discuss the creation of a black nation within the United States. On March 31, 1968, 100 conference members signed a Declaration of Independence outlining the official doctrine of the new black nation, elected a provisional government, and named the nation the Republic of New Africa (RNA). The Republic of New Afrika took the concept of Black Nationalism to its ultimate stage when, in 1968, it declared Black People to be free and independent of the United States government.
The Republic of New Afrika declared Black People’s independence because it “believes that Black People in Amerikkka make up a nation of people, a people separate and apart from the Amerikkkan people. The RNA also believes that as a nation of people, We are entitled to all of the rights of a nation, including the right to land and self-determination. The RNA further believes that all the land in Amerikkka, upon which Black People have lived for a long time, worked and made rich as slaves, and fought to survive on is land that belongs to Us as a People, and it is land We must gain control of because, as Malcolm X said, land is the basis of independence, freedom, justice and equality. We cannot talk about self-determination without discussing it within the context of land. Therefore, the RNA [identified the five states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as Black People's land and] believes that gaining control of Our land is the fundamental struggle facing Black People. Without land, Black Power, rights and freedom have no substance.
According to Wilson Jeremiah Moses in his famous work Classical Black Nationalism, African nationalism as a philosophy can be examined from three different periods giving rise to various ideological perspectives for what we can today consider what African nationalism really is.
The first being pre-Classical African nationalism beginning from the time the Africans were brought ashore in the Americas to the Revolutionary period. After the Revolutionary War, a sizable number of Africans in the colonies, particularly in New England and Pennsylvania, were literate and had become disgusted with their social conditions that had spawned from Enlightenment ideas. Certain organizations as the Free African Society, African Masonic lodges and Church Institutions would serve as early foundations to developing independent and separate organizations.
By the time of Post-Reconstruction Era a new form of black nationalism was emerging among various African-American clergy circles. Separate circles had already been established and were accepted by African-Americans because of the overt oppression that had been in existence since the inception of the United States. This phenomenon led to the birth of modern African nationalism which stressed the need to separate and build separate communities that promote strong racial pride and also to collectivize resources. This ideology had become the philosophy of groups like the Moorish Science Temple and the Nation of Islam. Peaking in the Sixties African Nationalism brought on a heightened period of religious, cultural and political nationalism.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940) was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the African Diaspora to their ancestral lands.
Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet). The intent of the movement was for those of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled “African Fundamentalism” where he wrote:
||Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country…
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. Of eleven siblings, only Marcus and his sister Indiana survived until maturity. Garvey’s father was known to have a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. He also attended the elementary schools in St. Ann’s Bay during his youth. Sometime in 1900, Garvey entered into an apprenticeship with his uncle, Alfred Burrowes, who also had an extensive library, of which young Marcus made good use.
In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. He lived in Costa Rica for several months, where he worked as a time-keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for a daily newspaper titled La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912. After years of working in the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College taking classes in Law and Philosophy, worked for the African Times and Orient Review, published by Dusé Mohamed Ali, and sometimes spoke at Hyde Park‘s Speakers’ Corner. Garvey’s philosophy was influenced by Booker T. Washington, Martin Delany, and Henry McNeal Turner. It is said that Dusé Mohamed Ali influence shaped Garvey’s speeches, and led him to organize the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914 (Vincent, 1971). It has been suggested that the UNIA motto, “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”, originated from Dusé Ali’s Islamic influence on Garvey (Rashid, 2002). Garvey named the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League. At the National Conference of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1921, a Los Angeles delegate named Noah Thompson spoke on the floor complaining on the lack of transparency in the group’s financial accounts. When accounts were prepared Thompson highlighted several sections with what he felt were irregularities.
After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, Garvey arrived in the U.S. on 23 March 1916 aboard the S.S. Tallac to give a lecture tour and to raise funds to establish a school in Jamaica modeled after Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Garvey visited Tuskegee, and afterward, visited with a number of black leaders. After moving to New York, he found work as a printer by day. He was influenced by Hubert Harrison. At night he would speak on street corners, much like he did in London’s Hyde Park. It was then that Garvey perceived a leadership vacuum among people of African ancestry. On 9 May 1916, he held his first public lecture in New York City at St Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and undertook a 38-state speaking tour. In May 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica and began advancing ideas to promote social, political, and economic freedom for blacks. On 2 July, the East St. Louis riots broke out. On 8 July, Garvey delivered an address, titled “The Conspiracy of the East St. Louis Riots”, at Lafayette Hall in Harlem. During the speech, he declared the riot was “one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind”. By October, rancor within the UNIA had begun to set in. A split occurred in the Harlem division, with Garvey enlisted to become its leader; although he technically held the same position in Jamaica.
Garvey next set about the business of developing a program to improve the conditions of those of African ancestry “at home and abroad” under UNIA auspices. On 17 August 1918, publication of the widely distributed Negro World newspaper began. Garvey worked as an editor without pay until November 1920. By June 1919 the membership of the organization had grown to over two million. On 27 June 1919, the Black Star Line of Delaware was incorporated by the members of the UNIA, with Garvey as President. By September, it obtained its first ship. Much fanfare surrounded the inspection of the S.S. Yarmouth and its rechristening as the S.S. Frederick Douglass on 14 September 1919. Such a rapid accomplishment garnered attention from many.
Edwin P. Kilroe, Assistant District Attorney in the District Attorney’s office of the County of New York, began an investigation into the activities of the UNIA, but apparently didn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing or mismanagement. After being called to Kilroe’s office numerous times, Garvey wrote an editorial on Kilroe’s activities for the Negro World. Garvey was arrested and indicted for criminal libel in relation to the article, but charges were dismissed after Garvey published a retraction. While in his Harlem office at 56 West 156th Street on 14 October 1919, Garvey received a visit from George Tyler, who told him that Kilroe “had sent him” to get Garvey. Tyler then pulled a .38-caliber revolver and fired four shots, wounding Garvey in the right leg and scalp. Garvey was taken to the hospital and Tyler arrested. The next day, it was let out that Tyler had committed suicide by leaping from the third tier of the Harlem jail as he was being taken to his arraignment. By August 1920, the UNIA claimed four million members. That month, the International Convention of the UNIA was held. With delegates from all over the world in attendance, over 25,000 people filled Madison Square Garden on 1 August 1920 to hear Garvey speak.
Another of Garvey’s ventures was the Negro Factories Corporation. His plan called for creating the infrastructure to manufacture every marketable commodity in every big U.S. industrial center, as well as in Central America, the West Indies, and Africa. Related endeavors included a grocery chain, restaurant, publishing house, and other businesses.
Convinced that blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. However, it was abandoned in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers with interests in Liberia. In response to suggestions that he wanted to take all Africans of the Diaspora back to Africa, he wrote, “We do not want all the Negroes in Africa. Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there.”
Charge of mail fraud
In a memorandum dated 11 October 1919, J. Edgar Hoover, special assistant to the Attorney General and head of the General Intelligence Division (or “anti-radical division”)  of The Bureau of Investigation or BOI (after 1935, the Federal Bureau of Investigation), wrote a memorandum to Special Agent Ridgely regarding Marcus Garvey. In the memo, Hoover wrote that:
Sometime around November 1919 an investigation by the BOI was begun into the activities of Garvey and the UNIA. Toward this end, the BOI hired James Edward Amos, Arthur Lowell Brent, Thomas Leon Jefferson, James Wormley Jones and Earl E. Titus as its first five African-American agents. Although initial efforts by the BOI were to find grounds upon which to deport Garvey as “an undesirable alien”, a charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey in connection with stock sales of the Black Star Line after the U.S. Post Office and the Attorney General joined the investigation.
The accusation centered on the fact that the corporation had not yet purchased a ship with the name “Phyllis Wheatley“.[clarification needed] Although one was pictured with that name emblazoned on its bow on one of the company’s stock brochures, it had not actually been purchased by the BSL and still had the name “Orion”. The prosecution produced as evidence a single empty envelope which it claimed contained the brochure. During the trial, a man known as Benny Dancy testified that he didn’t remember what was in the envelope, although he regularly received brochures from the Black Star Line. Another witness for the prosecution, Schuyler Cargill, perjured himself after admitting to having been told to mention certain dates in his testimony by Chief Prosecutor Maxwell S. Mattuck. Furthermore, he admitted that he could not remember the names of any coworkers in the office, including the timekeeper who punched employees’ time cards. Ultimately, he acknowledged being told to lie by Postal Inspector F.E. Shea. He said Shea told him to state that he mailed letters containing the purportedly fraudulent brochures. The Black Star Line did own and operate several ships over the course of its history and was in the process of negotiating for the disputed ship at the time the charges were brought. Assistant District Attorney, Leo Healy, who had been, before becoming District Attorney, an attorney with Harris McGill and Co., the sellers of the first ship, the S.S. Yarmouth, to the Black Star Line Inc., was also a key witness for the government during the trial. Of the four Black Star Line officers charged in connection with the enterprise, only Garvey was found guilty of using the mail service to defraud. His supporters called the trial fraudulent. While there were serious accounting irregularities within the Black Star Line and the claims he used to sell Black Star Line stock could be considered misleading, Garvey’s supporters contest that the prosecution was a politically motivated miscarriage of justice.
When the trial ended on 23 June 1923, Garvey had been sentenced to five years in prison. Garvey blamed Jewish jurors and a Jewish federal judge, Julian Mack, for his conviction. He felt they had been biased because of their political objections to his meeting with the acting imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan the year before. In 1928, Garvey told a journalist: “When they wanted to get me they had a Jewish judge try me, and a Jewish prosecutor. I would have been freed but two Jews on the jury held out against me ten hours and succeeded in convicting me, whereupon the Jewish judge gave me the maximum penalty.”
He initially spent three months in the Tombs Jail awaiting approval of bail. While on bail, he continued to maintain his innocence, travel, speak and organize the UNIA. After numerous attempts at appeal were unsuccessful, he was taken into custody and began serving his sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on 8 February 1925. Two days later, he penned his well known “First Message to the Negroes of the World From Atlanta Prison”, wherein he made his famous proclamation:
||Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.
Professor Judith Stein has stated, “his politics were on trial.” Garvey’s sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge. Upon his release in November 1927, Garvey was deported via New Orleans to Jamaica, where a large crowd met him at Orrett’s Wharf in Kingston. Though the popularity of the UNIA diminished greatly following Garvey’s expulsion, he nevertheless remained committed to his political ideals.
On 4 October 1916, the Daily Gleaner newspaper in Kingston published a letter written by the Very Rev. Fr. Raphael Morgan, a Jamaican-American priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with over a dozen other like-minded Jamaican-Americans, who wrote in to protest Garvey’s lectures. Garvey’s views on Jamaica, they felt, were damaging to both the reputation of their homeland and its people, enumerating several objections to Garvey’s stated preference for the prejudice of the American whites over that of English whites. Garvey’s response was published a month later, in which he called the letter a conspiratorial fabrication meant to undermine the success and favour he had gained while in Jamaica and in the United States.
While W. E. B. Du Bois felt that the Black Star Line was “original and promising,” he added that “Marcus Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor.” Du Bois feared that Garvey’s activities would undermine his efforts toward black rights.
Garvey suspected Du Bois was prejudiced against him because he was a Caribbean native with darker skin. Du Bois once described Marcus Garvey as “a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head.” Garvey called Du Bois “purely and simply a white man’s nigger” and “a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro … a mulatto … a monstrosity.” This led to an acrimonious relationship between Garvey and the NAACP. Garvey accused Du Bois of paying conspirators to sabotage the Black Star Line to destroy his reputation.
Garvey recognized the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, and in early 1922, he went to Atlanta, Georgia, for a conference with KKK imperial giant Edward Young Clarke. According to Garvey, “I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying.” Leo H. Healy publicly accused Garvey of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan in his testimony during the mail fraud trial.
After Garvey’s entente with the Klan, a number of African-American leaders appealed to U.S. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty to have Garvey incarcerated.
In 1928, Garvey travelled to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race. This petition outlined the worldwide abuse of Africans to the League of Nations. In September 1929, he founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party, which focused on workers’ rights, education, and aid to the poor. Also in 1929, Garvey was elected councilor for the Allman Town Division of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC). However, he lost his seat because of having to serve a prison sentence for contempt of court. But, in 1930, Garvey was re-elected, unopposed, along with two other PPP candidates.
In April 1931, Garvey launched the Edelweiss Amusement Company. He set the company up to help artists earn their livelihood from their craft. Several Jamaican entertainers — Kidd Harold, Ernest Cupidon, Bim & Bam, and Ranny Williams — went on to become popular after receiving initial exposure that the company gave them. In 1935, Garvey left Jamaica for London. He lived and worked in London until his death in 1940. During these last five years, Garvey remained active and in touch with events in war-torn Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) and in the West Indies. In 1937, he wrote the poem Ras Nasibu Of Ogaden in honor of Ethiopian Army Commander (Ras) Nasibu Emmanual. In 1938, he gave evidence before the West Indian Royal Commission on conditions there. Also in 1938 he set up the School of African Philosophy in Toronto to train UNIA leaders. He continued to work on the magazine The Black Man.
In 1937, a group of Garvey’s rivals called the Peace Movement of Ethiopia openly collaborated with the United States Senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, in the promotion of a repatriation scheme introduced in the US Congress as the Greater Liberia Act. In the Senate, Bilbo was a supporter of Franklin Roosevelt‘s New Deal. Bilbo, an outspoken supporter of segregation and white supremacy and, attracted by the ideas of black separatists like Garvey, proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on 6 June 1938, proposing to deport 12 million black Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment. He took the time to write a book titled Take Your Choice, Separation or Mongrelization, advocating the idea. Garvey praised him in return, saying that Bilbo had “done wonderfully well for the Negro”. During this period, Evangeline Rondon Paterson, the future grandmother of the 55th Governor of New York State, David Paterson, served as his secretary.
On 10 June 1940, Garvey died after two strokes, putatively after reading a mistaken, and negative, obituary of himself in the Chicago Defender which stated, in part, that Garvey died “broke, alone and unpopular”. Because of travel restrictions during World War II, he was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.
Rumours claimed that Garvey was in fact poisoned on a boat on which he was travelling and that was where and how he actually died. In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica. On 15 November 1964, the government of Jamaica, having proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero, re-interred him at a shrine in National Heroes Park.
Marcus Garvey was married twice: to Jamaican Pan-African activist Amy Ashwood (married 1919, divorced 1922), who worked with him in the early years of UNIA; then to the Jamaican journalist and publisher Amy Jacques (married 1922). The latter was mother to his two sons, Marcus III (born 17 September 1930) and Julius.
Ruby Nell Bridges Hall (born September 8, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi) moved with her parents (Abon and Lucille Bridges) to New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 4. In 1960, when she was 6 years old, her parents responded to a call from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans School system. She is known as the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. She attended William Frantz Elementary School at 3811 N Galvez St, New Orleans, LA 70117.
William Frantz Elementary School building in 2010
In Spring 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of several African-Americans in New Orleans to take a test to determine which children would be the first to attend integrated schools. Six students were chosen; however, two students decided to stay at their old school, and three were transferred to Mcdonough. Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father initially was reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to “take this step forward … for all African-American children.”
The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live With. As Bridges describes it, “Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.” Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very proud of her.”
As soon as Bridges got into the school, white parents went in and brought their own children out; all teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. They hired Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, to teach Bridges, and for over a year Mrs. Henry taught her alone, “as if she were teaching a whole class.” That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal’s office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, only allowed Ruby to eat food that she brought from home. Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Bridges Hall has said “scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us.” At her mother’s suggestion, Bridges began to pray on the way to school, which she found provided protection from the comments yelled at her on the daily walks.
Child psychiatrist Robert Coles volunteered to provide counseling to Bridges during her first year at Frantz. He met with her weekly in the Bridges home, later writing a children’s book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, to acquaint other children with Bridges’ story.
The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. She has noted that many others in the community both black and white showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals’ car on the trips to school.
Ruby Bridges Hall in 2010
Ruby Bridges, now Ruby Bridges Hall, still lives in New Orleans. For 15 years she worked as a travel agent, later becoming a full-time parent. She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences”. Describing the mission of the group, she says, “racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”
In 1993, Bridges Hall began looking after her recently orphaned nieces, then attending William Frantz Elementary as their aunt had before them. She began to volunteer as a parent liaison three days a week. Eventually, publicity related to Coles’ book caused reporters to locate Bridges Hall and write stories about her volunteer work at the school, which in turn led to a reunion with teacher Henry. Henry and Bridges Hall now sometimes make joint appearances in schools in connection with the Bridges Foundation.
Bridges is the subject of the Lori McKenna song “Ruby’s Shoes.” Bridges’s childhood struggle at William Frantz Elementary School was portrayed in the 1998 made-for-TV movie Ruby Bridges. Bridges was portrayed by actress Chaz Monet; the movie starred Lela Rochon as Ruby’s mother, Lucille ‘Lucy’ Bridges, Michael Beach as Ruby’s father, Abon Bridges as well as Penelope Ann Miller as Ruby’s teacher, Mrs. Henry, and Kevin Pollack as Dr. Robert Coles.
On January 8, 2001, Bridges was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton.
Like hundreds of thousands of others in the greater New Orleans area, she lost her home (in Eastern New Orleans) to the catastrophic flooding in the failure of the levee system during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In October, 2006, the Alameda Unified School District dedicated a new elementary school to Ruby Bridges, and issued a proclamation in her honor.
In November 2006 she was honored in the Anti-Defamation League’s Concert Against Hate.
In 2007 the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis unveiled a new exhibit documenting Bridges’ life, along with the lives of Anne Frank and Ryan White.
Bridges meets with President Obama and discusses her portrait on the wall.
In 2010, she had a 50th year reunion at Frantz Elementary with Pam Foreman Testroet, who, at age 5, was the first white child to break the boycott that ensued from Bridges’ attendance at that school. Bridges continues to tour as an inspirational speaker against racism. In 2011, she visited St. Paul’s Episcopal School, a K-8 school in Oakland, CA. Her visit coincided with the unveiling of the Remember Them humanitarian monument by Mario Chiodo, which includes a sculpture of the young Ruby Bridges.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court‘s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement.
For much of the sixty years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation. This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment (“no State shall… deny to any person… the equal protection of the laws.”).
The plaintiffs in Brown asserted that this system of racial separation, while masquerading as providing separate but equal treatment of both white and black Americans, instead perpetuated inferior accommodations, services, and treatment for black Americans. Racial segregation in education varied widely from the 17 states that required racial segregation to the 16 that prohibited it. Brown was influenced by UNESCO‘s 1950 Statement, signed by a wide variety of internationally renowned scholars, titled The Race Question. This declaration denounced previous attempts at scientifically justifying racism as well as morally condemning racism. Another work that the Supreme Court cited was Gunnar Myrdal‘s An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Myrdal had been a signatory of the UNESCO declaration. The research performed by the educational psychologists Kenneth B. Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark also influenced the Court’s decision. The Clarks’ “doll test” studies presented substantial arguments to the Supreme Court about how segregation had an impact on black schoolchildren’s mental status.
Brown v. Board of Education
In 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their twenty children.
The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. Separate elementary schools were operated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in twelve communities with populations over 15,000. The plaintiffs had been recruited by the leadership of the Topeka NAACP. Notable among the Topeka NAACP leaders were the chairman McKinley Burnett; Charles Scott, one of three serving as legal counsel for the chapter; and Lucinda Todd.
The named plaintiff, Oliver L. Brown, was a parent, a welder in the shops of the Santa Fe Railroad, an assistant pastor at his local church, and an African American. He was convinced to join the lawsuit by Scott, a childhood friend. Brown’s daughter Linda, a third grader, had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary, her segregated black school one mile (1.6 km) away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was seven blocks from her house.
As directed by the NAACP leadership, the parents each attempted to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood school in the fall of 1951. They were each refused enrollment and directed to the segregated schools. Linda Brown Thompson later recalled the experience in a 2004 PBS documentary:
- . . . well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out . . . to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.
The Kansas case, “Oliver Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas,” was named after Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man at the head of the roster. Also, it was felt by lawyers with the National Chapter of the NAACP, that having Mr. Brown at the head of the roster would be better received by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. The thirteen plaintiffs were: Oliver Brown, Darlene Brown, Lena Carper, Sadie Emmanuel, Marguerite Emerson, Shirley Fleming, Zelma Henderson, Shirley Hodison, Maude Lawton, Alma Lewis, Iona Richardson, and Lucinda Todd. The last surviving plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, died in Topeka, on May 20, 2008, at the age of 88.
The District Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which had upheld a state law requiring “separate but equal” segregated facilities for blacks and whites in railway cars. The three-judge District Court panel found that segregation in public education has a detrimental effect upon negro children, but denied relief on the ground that the negro and white schools in Topeka were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricular, and educational qualifications of teachers.
Supreme Court review
The case of Brown v. Board of Education as heard before the Supreme Court combined five cases: Brown itself, Briggs v. Elliott (filed in South Carolina), Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (filed in Virginia), Gebhart v. Belton (filed in Delaware), and Bolling v. Sharpe (filed in Washington D.C.).
All were NAACP-sponsored cases. The Davis case, the only case of the five originating from a student protest, began when sixteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns organized and led a 450-student walkout of Moton High School. The Gebhart case was the only one where a trial court, confirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court, found that discrimination was unlawful; in all the other cases the plaintiffs had lost as the original courts had found discrimination to be lawful.
The Kansas case was unique among the group in that there was no contention of gross inferiority of the segregated schools’ physical plant, curriculum, or staff. The district court found substantial equality as to all such factors. The Delaware case was unique in that the District Court judge in Gebhart ordered that the black students be admitted to the white high school due to the substantial harm of segregation and the differences that made the schools separate but not equal. The NAACP’s chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall—who was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967—argued the case before the Supreme Court for the plaintiffs. Assistant attorney general Paul Wilson—later distinguished emeritus professor of law at the University of Kansas—conducted the state’s ambivalent defense in his first appellate trial.
Unanimous opinion and key holding
In spring 1953 the Court heard the case but was unable to decide the issue and asked to rehear the case in fall 1953, with special attention to whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibited the operation of separate public schools for whites and blacks.
The case was being reargued at the behest of Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, who used re-argument as a stalling tactic, to allow the Court to gather a unanimous consensus around a Brown opinion that would outlaw segregation. Chief Justice Vinson had been a key stumbling block. The justices in support of desegregation spent much effort convincing those who initially dissented to join a unanimous opinion. Even though the legal effect would be same for a majority versus unanimous decision, it was felt that it was vital to not have a dissent which could be relied upon by opponents of desegregation as a legitimizing counterargument.
Conference notes and draft decisions illustrate the division of opinions before the decision was issued. Justices Douglas, Black, Burton, and Minton were predisposed to overturn Plessy. Fred M. Vinson noted that Congress had not issued desegregation legislation; Stanley F. Reed discussed incomplete cultural assimilation and states’ rights and was inclined to the view that segregation worked to the benefit of the African-American community; Tom C. Clark wrote that “we had led the states on to think segregation is OK and we should let them work it out.” Felix Frankfurter and Robert H. Jackson disapproved of segregation, but were also opposed to judicial activism and expressed concerns about the proposed decision’s enforceability. After Vinson died in September 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice. Warren had supported the integration of Mexican-American students in California school systems following Mendez v. Westminster.
While all but one justice personally rejected segregation, the self-restraint faction questioned whether the Constitution gave the Court the power to order its end. The activist faction believed the Fourteenth Amendment did give the necessary authority and were pushing to go ahead. Warren, who held only a recess appointment, held his tongue until the Senate, dominated by southerners, confirmed his appointment.
Warren convened a meeting of the justices, and presented to them the simple argument that the only reason to sustain segregation was an honest belief in the inferiority of Negroes. Warren further submitted that the Court must overrule Plessy to maintain its legitimacy as an institution of liberty, and it must do so unanimously to avoid massive Southern resistance. He began to build a unanimous opinion.
Although most justices were immediately convinced, Warren spent some time after this famous speech convincing everyone to sign onto the opinion. Justices Robert Jackson and Stanley Reed finally decided to drop their dissent to what was by then an opinion backed by all the others. The final decision was unanimous. Warren drafted the basic opinion and kept circulating and revising it until he had an opinion endorsed by all the members of the Court.
The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself, drawing on research conducted by Kenneth Clark assisted by June Shagaloff. This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were “equal”, which under Plessy they nominally should have been, but whether the doctrine of separate was constitutional. The justices answered with a strong “no”:
Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does… Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system… We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Topeka middle schools had been integrated since 1941. Topeka High School was integrated from its inception in 1871 and its sports teams from 1949 on. The Kansas law permitting segregated schools allowed them only “below the high school level.”
Soon after the district court decision, election outcomes and the political climate in Topeka changed. The Board of Education of Topeka began to end segregation in the Topeka elementary schools in August 1953, integrating two attendance districts. All the Topeka elementary schools were changed to neighborhood attendance centers in January 1956, although existing students were allowed to continue attending their prior assigned schools at their option. Plaintiff Zelma Henderson, in a 2004 interview, recalled that no demonstrations or tumult accompanied desegregation in Topeka’s schools:
- “They accepted it,” she said. “It wasn’t too long until they integrated the teachers and principals.”
The Topeka Public Schools administration building is named in honor of McKinley Burnett, NAACP chapter president who organized the case.
Monroe Elementary was designated a U.S. National Historic Site unit of the National Park Service on October 26, 1992.
Not everyone accepted the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In Virginia, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. organized the Massive Resistance movement that included the closing of schools rather than desegregating them. See, for example, The Southern Manifesto. For more implications of the Brown decision, see Desegregation.
In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out his state’s National Guard to block black students’ entry to Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by deploying elements of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Arkansas and by federalizing Faubus’ National Guard.
Also in 1957, Florida‘s response was mixed. Its legislature passed an Interposition Resolution denouncing the decision and declaring it null and void. But Florida Governor Thomas LeRoy Collins, though joining in the protest against the court decision, refused to sign it arguing that the attempt to overturn the ruling must be done in legal methods.
In 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace personally blocked the door to Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent the enrollment of two black students. This became the infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door where Wallace personally backed his “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” policy that he had stated in his 1963 inaugural address. He moved aside only when confronted by General Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard, who was ordered by President John F. Kennedy to intervene.
The intellectual roots of Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation in 1896 under the doctrine of “separate but equal” were, in part, tied to the scientific racism of the era. However, the popular support for the decision was more likely a result of the racist beliefs held by many whites at the time. In deciding Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rejected the ideas of scientific racists about the need for segregation, especially in schools. The Court buttressed its holding by citing (in footnote 11) social science research about the harms to black children caused by segregated schools.
Both scholarly and popular ideas of hereditarianism played an important role in the attack and backlash that followed the Brown decision. The Mankind Quarterly was founded in 1960, in part in response to the Brown decision.
School desegregation has been argued to have contributed to white flight.
Legal criticism and praise
William Rehnquist wrote a memo titled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases” when he was a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson in 1952, during early deliberations that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In his memo, Rehnquist argued: “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by ‘liberal’ colleagues but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.” Rehnquist continued, “To the argument . . . that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minorities are.” Rehnquist also argued for Plessy with other law clerks. However, during his 1971 confirmation hearings, Rehnquist said, “I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson’s tentative views for his own use.” Justice Jackson had initially planned to join a dissent in Brown. Later, at his 1986 hearings for the slot of Chief Justice, Rehnquist put further distance between himself and the 1952 memo: “The bald statement that Plessy was right and should be reaffirmed, was not an accurate reflection of my own views at the time.” In any event, while serving on the Supreme Court, Rehnquist made no effort to reverse or undermine the Brown decision, and frequently relied upon it as precedent.
Some aspects of the Brown decision are still debated. Notably, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, himself an African American, wrote in Missouri v. Jenkins (1995) that at the very least, Brown I has been misunderstood by the courts.
- Brown I did not say that “racially isolated” schools were inherently inferior; the harm that it identified was tied purely to de jure segregation, not de facto segregation. Indeed, Brown I itself did not need to rely upon any psychological or social-science research in order to announce the simple, yet fundamental truth that the Government cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race. . . .
- Segregation was not unconstitutional because it might have caused psychological feelings of inferiority. Public school systems that separated blacks and provided them with superior educational resources making blacks “feel” superior to whites sent to lesser schools—would violate the Fourteenth Amendment, whether or not the white students felt stigmatized, just as do school systems in which the positions of the races are reversed. Psychological injury or benefit is irrelevant . . .
- Given that desegregation has not produced the predicted leaps forward in black educational achievement, there is no reason to think that black students cannot learn as well when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an integrated environment. (. . .) Because of their “distinctive histories and traditions,” black schools can function as the center and symbol of black communities, and provide examples of independent black leadership, success, and achievement.
Some Constitutional originalists, notably Raoul Berger in his influential 1977 book “Government by Judiciary,” make the case that Brown cannot be defended by reference to the original understanding of the 14th Amendment. They support this reading of the 14th amendment by noting that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 did not ban segregated schools. Other originalists, including Michael W. McConnell, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in his article “Originalism and the Desegregation Decisions,” argue that the Radical Reconstructionists who spearheaded the 14th Amendment were in favor of desegregated southern schools.
The case also has attracted some criticism from more liberal authors, including some who say that Chief Justice Warren’s reliance on psychological criteria to find a harm against segregated blacks was unnecessary. For example, Drew S. Days has written: “we have developed criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of racial classifications that do not depend upon findings of psychic harm or social science evidence. They are based rather on the principle that ‘distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality,’ Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). . . .”
In his book “The Tempting of America” (page 82), Robert Bork endorsed the Brown decision as follows:
- By 1954, when Brown came up for decision, it had been apparent for some time that segregation rarely if ever produced equality. Quite aside from any question of psychology, the physical facilities provided for blacks were not as good as those provided for whites. That had been demonstrated in a long series of cases . . . The Court’s realistic choice, therefore, was either to abandon the quest for equality by allowing segregation or to forbid segregation in order to achieve equality. There was no third choice. Either choice would violate one aspect of the original understanding, but there was no possibility of avoiding that. Since equality and segregation were mutually inconsistent, though the ratifiers did not understand that, both could not be honored. When that is seen, it is obvious the Court must choose equality and prohibit state-imposed segregation. The purpose that brought the fourteenth amendment into being was equality before the law, and equality, not separation, was written into the law.
In June 1987, Philip Elman, a civil rights attorney who served as an associate in the Solicitor General’s office during Harry Truman’s term, claimed he and Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter were mostly responsible for the Supreme Court’s decision, and stated that the NAACP’s arguments did not present strong evidence. Elman has been criticized for offering a self-aggrandizing history of the case, omitting important facts, and denigrating the work of civil rights attorneys who had laid the groundwork for the decision over many decades. However, Frankfurter was also known for being one of court’s most outspoken advocates of the judicial restraint philosophy of basing court rulings on existing law rather than personal or political considerations. Public officials in the United States today are nearly unanimous in lauding the ruling. In May 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the ruling, President George W. Bush spoke at the opening of the “Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site“, calling Brown “a decision that changed America for the better, and forever.” Most Senators and Representatives issued press releases hailing the ruling.
In 1955, the Supreme Court considered arguments by the schools requesting relief concerning the task of desegregation. In their decision, which became known as “Brown II“ the court delegated the task of carrying out school desegregation to district courts with orders that desegregation occur “with all deliberate speed,” a phrase traceable to Francis Thompson‘s poem, The Hound of Heaven.
Supporters of the earlier decision were displeased with this decision. The language “all deliberate speed” was seen by critics as too ambiguous to ensure reasonable haste for compliance with the court’s instruction. Many Southern states and school districts interpreted “Brown II” as legal justification for resisting, delaying, and avoiding significant integration for years—and in some cases for a decade or more—using such tactics as closing down school systems, using state money to finance segregated “private” schools, and “token” integration where a few carefully selected black children were admitted to former white-only schools but the vast majority remained in underfunded, unequal black schools.
For example, based on “Brown II,” the U.S. District Court ruled that Prince Edward County, Virginia did not have to desegregate immediately. When another court case in 1959 ruled that the county’s schools finally had to desegregate, the county board of supervisors stopped appropriating money for public schools which remained closed for five years, from 1959 to 1964. White students in the county were given assistance to attend white-only “private academies” that were taught by teachers formerly employed by the public school system, while black students had no education at all unless they moved out of the county.
In 1978, Topeka attorneys Richard Jones, Joseph Johnson and Charles Scott Jr. (son of the original Brown team member), with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, persuaded Linda Brown Smith—who now had her own children in Topeka schools—to be a plaintiff in reopening Brown. They were concerned that the Topeka Public Schools’ policy of “open enrollment” had led to and would lead to further segregation. They also believed that with a choice of open enrollment, white parents would shift their children to “preferred” schools that would create both predominantly African American and predominantly European American schools within the district. The district court reopened the Brown case after a 25-year hiatus, but denied the plaintiffs’ request finding the schools “unitary”. In 1989, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit on 2–1 vote found that the vestiges of segregation remained with respect to student and staff assignment. In 1993, the Supreme Court denied the appellant School District’s request for certiorari and returned the case to District Court Judge Richard Rodgers for implementation of the Tenth Circuit’s mandate.
After a 1994 plan was approved and a bond issue passed, additional elementary magnet schools were opened and district attendance plans redrawn, which resulted in the Topeka schools meeting court standards of racial balance by 1998. Unified status was eventually granted to Topeka Unified School District #501 on July 27, 1999. One of the new magnet schools is named after the Scott family attorneys for their role in the Brown case and civil rights