Friday, February 10, 2012

Beyond Birmingham

Black History Month
February is Black History Month. Perhaps it is more politically correct to say African-American History Month. Justin O. Smith has sent a post submission celebrating the history of Black-Americans.

JRH 2/10/12
Beyond Birmingham

By Justin O. Smith
Sent: 2/9/2012 3:09 PM

In acknowledging Black History month, I daresay the pain, suffering and heartbreak endured by Black America from our nation's inception through the 1960s are all fairly peripheral and unimaginable for today's generation. However, a good many Americans are old enough that they still retain the memories of the Jim Crow laws and the actual fights many of them led in order to secure their civil rights and a path to real freedom.

During the years of slavery, slaves were considered 3/5 of a person. They spent long hours in the fields with poor shelter and rations and often under the lash; families were often separated through indiscriminate sales. Even after the Emancipation Act, some whites sought to keep black people afraid and powerless through lynchings. It is no wonder bitter resentment arose among black people, as they realized they still would not receive equal treatment.

The dark years of America's race relations forced black people to view the U.S. Constitution as an impotent document where they were concerned. Some African-American leaders, such as Rev. Henry M. Turner and Marcus Garvey, suggested to their followers that freedom could only be found by leaving the U.S. Turner petitioned the U.S. government in April of 1862 for support for a black colony in Central America, and sixty years later, Garvey advocated for "black race purity" and a return to their ancestral African homeland.

Atrocities, abuses, double standards and the Law's inequity concerning people of color stoked the fires of unrest, from Garvey's day through the 1950s. Black people were regularly intimidated and murdered by whites. Malcolm X, well known Civil Rights leader, witnessed four of his uncles and his father murdered during his lifetime.

As a young boy, I saw a news report that showed Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) fighting with New York City police during the Civil Rights protests, and I understood then that something was intrinsically wrong with the U.S. legal code as applied towards the black communities. Anyone hearing Powell's passionate words that day could tell that his fight was right and true!

For too long, America denied men, women and children of color their right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" and "due process of law." David Walker illuminated this hypocrisy in 1829 in 'Appeals to the Colored Citizens of the World.' Walker exclaimed, "See your Declaration America! Do you understand your own language?...was your suffering under Great Britain one hundredth part as cruel and tyrannical as you have rendered ours under you?"

Before America's better angels finally prevailed, men and women, such as Walker, Frederick Douglas, founder of the abolitionist 'North Star' newspaper, and Sojourner Truth, broke that first hard ground leading to future success stories like those of Professor Carol M. Swain (Vanderbilt), Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rep./Lt Col Allen West; and no one should forget Rep. West as he stated, "I'm not an African-American...I'm an American!" Even more, millions of unsung black heroes, the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, all contributed to Dr. Martin Luther King's ultimate success of the 1964 Civil Rights Movement.

"...when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly carrying our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence." - Letter from Birmingham Jail 1963/ MLK

By Justin O. Smith
Justin O. Smith
P.O. Box 1945
Murfreesboro, TN 37133

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