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Frederick Douglass & W.E.B. Dubois on Lincoln

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fredFrederick Douglass

Oration in memory of Abraham Lincoln by Frederick Douglas, given on April 14, 1876, the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and of the emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia.
All day long he could split heavy rails in the woods, and half the night long he could study his English grammar by the uncertain flare and glare of the light made by a pine knot. He was at home on the land with his ax, with his maul, with gluts, and his wedges, and he was equally at home on water, with his oars, with his poles, with his planks, with his boat hooks.
And whether in his flat boat on the Mississippi river or at the fireside of his frontier cabin, he was a man of work. A son of toil himself, he was linked in brotherly sympathy with the sons of toil in every loyal part of the Republic. This very fact gave him tremendous power with the American people, and materially contributed not only to selecting him to the Presidency, but in sustaining his administration of the government.

1-web-dubois black history magazineW.E.B. Dubois

Quotation taken from The Crisis Magazine

Abraham Lincoln was a Southern poor White, of illegitimate birth, poorly educated and unusually ugly, awkward, poorly dressed.

He had little outwardly that compelled respect. But in that curious human way he was big inside. He had reserves and depths, and when habit and convention were torn away there was something left to Lincoln–nothing to most of his contemners.

There was something left, so that at the crisis he was big enough to be inconsistent — cruel, merciful; peace-loving, a fighter; despising Negroes and letting them fight and vote; protecting slavery and freeing slaves. He was a man – a big, inconsistent, brave man.

Singing

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A Legacy of Hope

by Phylis Vander Naald

Smiles spread across the soprano section as the singers congratulate themselves on maneuvering through an awkward transition in the Negro spiritual “Poor Man Lazarus.” They have rehearsed the song with its difficult harmonies only a few times. At the piano, director Kathryn Rayford’s face mirrors their satisfaction as she completes a short run of soprano measures to help the singers over the rough spots.

 
“All rrrrrright,” she says, but follows her praise with a warning that the instrumental assistance is about to end. For the sopranos, a capella factor in the spiritual tradition is about to kick in. “You ladies are on your own now,” Rayford says, shifting her fingers on the keyboard and nodding to the men in the back row. “I’m working for the tenors now.”

 
Rehearsals of The Negro Spiritual Choral Ensemble are aerobic exercises for Rayford. She moves many times from the piano bench to the director’s position in front of the choir and back again. Each new song she introduces requires a brief keyboard accompaniment in the first practice session. After the four vocal sections are familiar with their parts, the piano won’t be necessary. A pitch pipe is always within reach in Rayford’s pocket. She uses it to give the sopranos their starting note for familiar melodies. A bass singer, Walt Overton, gives his section the starting note at the same time on another pitch pipe. These are the only instruments heard during the ensembles performances.

 
The singers have become more confident about taking their cue from a pitch pipe since they began singing together about two years ago, Rayford says. “They’re all very good at catching on to this idea,” she adds. “At first they didn’t believe me when I told them we’d be singing without a piano.” Raised eyebrows eventually came down, but the singers’ enthusiasm is still high during rehearsals. “We’re very relaxed,” Rayford says. “If we sing a bunch of wrong notes in rehearsal, we all laugh about it. That way nobody is self-conscious about making mistakes.” The ensemble includes thirty singers, ranging in age from early 30s to 92. Rayford patterns their style on the Fisk University Jubilee Singers of Nashville, Tennessee, who introduced spirituals to the public in 1871. “We don’t have any trained voices here,” Rayford says. “This is a volunteer choir for anybody who wants to come and sing.”

 
Despite their inexperience, the group has garnered invitations to sing in several area churches, including a recent Lenten concert at Immanuel United Church Of Christ. The ensemble has also traveled to St. Louis and Kansas City for performances.

 
Members hope their influence will reach the younger generation, who could help carry on the spiritual tradition. Tenor Bill Shobe, a Sedalia police officer, acknowledges that spirituals are unfamiliar to most younger people, who favor current music and perhaps would rather avoid reminders of the slavery era. “I can visualize the music sometimes,” Shobe says. “You know where you’ve seen old movies of people working on the plantations and singing these songs while they work? I try to put myself there and try to sing that way, where you have one person humming a tune and then another joins in and another beside him. When you put it all together, it makes beautiful harmony.”
Catching the attention of young people is also Dorothy Kitchen’s dream for preserving the foundations of African-American music. She is historian for the group and sings alto. “We don’t want these songs to be lost,” Kitchen says. “They are a distinctly American contribution to the sacred music of the world.” At each concert she presents a brief history of spirituals, which spans the publication of nearly 6,000 songs. “Sometimes spirituals are confused with gospel music, but there’s a great difference,” Kitchen says. “Gospel has instrumental background and lots of hand clapping. The clapping can nearly drown out the words. You can hear the words clearly in spirituals. Each one has a point and a story to tell.”

 
Kitchen’s research doesn’t back away from the harsh aspects of slavery that generated the spirituals. “They speak of life and death, suffering and sorrow, love and judgment, grace and hope, justice and mercy,” she says. “It is a music created by people whose bodies may have been chained but whose spirits soared high.” Hope is the dominant emotion in the music. After each rehearsal the ensemble sings its theme song about how people can turn hopes and dreams into realities: “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place…”

 

BLACK SPIRITUAL

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Themes in Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”

by F.R. Singleton

 The renowned Czech composer Anton Dvorak recognized the significance of Negro spirituals and the contributions they made to American culture in his most famous symphony, “From The New World.”  In 1892  Dvorak came to the United States to direct the National Conservatory in New York.  During his stay of three years he became interested in the music of Blacks  and Indians when the critic Krehbiel brought it to his attention.  After hearing Harry T. Burleigh sing spirituals, Dvorak was greatly impressed and decided to imitate the style of the spiritual in his own music.  He left for Spillville, Iowa, where there was a Czech population, and began working on sketches for a symphony.  Dvorak’s Fifth Symphony in E minor, Op. 95, was completed in 1892.  Anton Seidl conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance on December 15, 1893.

Dvorak modeled his thematic material after the Negro spiritual with such great skill it is sometimes thought his melodies are of American origin.  The theme of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” runs throughout the first movement to symbolize the religious beliefs of the American people and their hope of a new life.  The famous English horn melody of the second movement displays all the melancholy and religious feeling of the negro Spiritual.  The third and fourth movements also reflect Negro music.

In an interview published in the New York Herald, Dvorak said, “I am convinced that the future music of this country  must be founded on what are called Negro melodies.  These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.

When I first came here I was impressed with the idea, and it has developed into a settled conviction.  These beautiful and various themes are the product of the soil.  They are American.  In the Negro melodies of America I discovered all that is needed for a great and noble school of music.  They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay, gracious, or what you will…. There is nothing in the whole range of compositions that cannot find a thematic source here.

 

The History of Black Spirituals

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Expressions from a bitter-sweet past.

by Dorothy Kitchen

The history of the spiritual goes back to the beginning of the African slave trade in the American colonies in 1619. Millions of men, women and children were brought to this country from different parts of Africa. Those who survived were forced into slavery. They were cut off from their native culture, scattered without regard to their tribal relations, compelled to adjust themselves to a completely alien civilization, to learn a strange language, and to endure the pain of slavery. It was from these people and from their suffering that this music sprang. There are over 6,000 examples of these tunes, which are known by many labels: Jubilees, folk songs, shout songs, sorrow songs, slave songs and religious songs. But they are most commonly called “spirituals” because of the deep religious feeling they express.

 
Many slaves embraced Christianity. They took this hope, their native African rhythms, and the King James Bible, and created a new form of music. Through these songs they expressed their hopes and fears, their faith and doubt. In the land of their imagination they told stories and drew vivid pictures of their internal landscape. There they dreamed dreams and declared visions in verses such as these:

Plenty good room in my father’s kingdom,
Going to choose my seat and sit down.
And these:
Freedom, oh freedom,
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.

Fisk University first introduced spirituals to the general American public in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1871. The Fisk Jubilee Singers gave many concerts in the United States and made two tours of Europe. Other Black universities followed, and they have kept alive this original American music, a Black music, a sacred music, a reminder of a painful past and a hopeful future. These songs of the soul and of the soil have enriched American music and the music of the world. They offer a clear and universal message:

Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land,
Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.
The message is that the God of Justice, the God of Christianity, is on the side of the oppressed and is the fulcrum of liberation. Spirituals are songs to be sung wherever people gather to glorify God’s name.

“THE BROWN BOMBER” Joe Louis Barrow Jr.

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by Elizabeth Singleton-Bruno

To the world he was one of the most dynamic, flamboyant, and charismatic champions the boxing league had ever seen. In June of 1938, at Yankee Stadium, in one of the most riveting fights of the century between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, countless fans around the globe and millions of Americans at home were glued to their radios for the opening bell. Just two years prior, Schmeling had crushed the “Brown Bomber’s” invincibility by knocking him out in the twelfth round. However, in an electrifying rematch, Louis’ relentless destruction of Schmeling heralded him as a hero forever, in the eyes of the nation and entire world.

In a career that spanned over three decades, Louis’ ringmanship as well as his boxing record were impeccable. The first Black champion since Jack Johnson, he became the standard by which others were judged. In his youth Louis’ skill blossomed at the Brewster Gym under the experienced eye of Atler Ellis. To assist him in the young boxers training, Ellis recruited Holeman Williams, a young Black middle-weight amateur, who later turned professional, as a sparing partner and teacher.

Ellis first matched his protege’ (Louis) against Johnny Miler, a White, light-weight fighter, who was a member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic team. Louis’ loss to Miler intensified his concentration on boxing. He left his job at Ford and entered the game whole heartedly. The Young boxer became disciplined and diligent in his training regimen.

Fourteen knock-outs later, Louis made the decision in 1933, to enter the Golden Gloves, a step toward turning professional. At this point Holeman recommended a more experienced trainer, George Slayton, who managed the Detroit Athletic Club.

Touring the country and winning most of his fights, Louis began to gain respect in amateur circles. A string of knock-outs sent the Young boxer to the 1933 Eolden Gloves National Championship in Boston. Throughout his fifth-four amateur bouts, Louis won forty-three knockouts, seven by decision and lost four, all by decision. Louis’ amateur fighting peak when he won the National American Athletic Union (AAU) Light- Heavy-weight Championship in St. Louis.

At the request of George Slayton, John Roxborough, who was from a wealthy, well-known, and prominent family in Detroit, was invited to watch Louis practice. Roxborough quickly spotted Louis’ potential and agreed to manage him. Louis’ boxing skills and talents flourished under Roxborough’s guidance. In 1934, due to strained personal finances, Roxborough turned to Julian Black, a clandestine night club owner in Chicago, for financial assistance. The two formed a successful manager’s regime that lasted up until World War II.

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

Throughout his professional boxing career, Louis fought and beat the best of them. From 1934 up until his retirement in 1951 he went ringside with greats such as Jack Krantz, Max Schmeling, Tony Galento, Billy Conn, Art Ramsey, Jersey Joe Walcott, Omelia Agramonte, and Rocky Marciano. With over sixty knock-outs under his professional belt, and countless other wins, Louis was only knocked-out twice in his career, once by Max Schmeling, in 1938, which marked his beginning of his career, and once by Rocky Marciano, in 1951, which marked the end of his career.

From Madison Square Gardens in New York to Hollywood, California, Louis mesmerized his ringside fans, while bludgeoning his opponents. One of the most exhilarating fights of Louis’ career was his bout with Jimmy Braddock. Braddock, who was nine years Joe’s senior, was considered a skillful boxer. Louis entered the ring against Braddock, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, and became the first contender to challenge the champions title in two years.

Braddock came out fighting, but the Brown Bombers’ jabs began taking their toll in the second round and by the sixth round, Braddock was going to throw in the towel. Joe threatened him and he continued. Louis’ punches were blinding and by the eighth round the champion knew he had Braddock right where he wanted him.

One of Joe’s jabs landed squarely in Braddock’s face and he followed with a powerful overhand right to his opponents jaw. Braddock fell face down on the canvas in a pool of blood.

With a thundering roar, the crowd of 42,000, more than 20,000 of whom were Black, rose to their feet as the referee introduced Joe Louis as the “winner and new heavy-weight champion”. Within seconds of the radio announcement of Louis’s victory, the streets of urban and rural centers throughout the world were filled with singing and shouting Blacks. More than 5,000 people paraded up Seventh Avenue in New York. It was only earlier that year that Hitler refused to acknowledge Black Olympic champions in track and field, Jesse Owens, Cornelius Johnson, Ralph Metcalf, Archie Williams and John Woodruff in Germany. As a result, Joe Louis’ victory symbolized a new era of hope for oppressed Blacks everywhere.

PERSONAL LIFE

Louis’ public image grew larger than life. Everyone liked him and many loved him. Throughout his life he remained an exceptional individual able to bridge barriers between the races, an accomplishment few could match in the mid-1900’s. He was a man’s man, strong, well-connected and exciting to be around. He was also a ladies’ man, handsome, romantic and a lavish spender. Louis married four times, twice to the same woman.

He had numerous affairs, trysts and associations with unknown as well as celebrated women. He had two natural children by his first wife, Marva, and later in his life, with Martha, his third wife he cared for two foster children and adopted four others.

Just before the Max Baer fight in 1935, Louis married Marva Trotter. He was 21, she 19. Marva first met Joe in 1934 at Chicago’s Trafton Gymnasium, where he was training. At the time, she was a stenographer for the Chicago Insurance Exchange. Upon the insistence of a friend, she went to watch Louis work-out. Later that evening he called Marva, whom he spotted amongst the fans.
Marva interested in perusing a relationship with Louis, whom she found handsome and charming, began to court him. When her mother died in 1935, he proposed to her saying “Now you need someone to take care of you.” Reverend Walter Trotter, Marva’s brother married the couple in the apartment of a friend on Edgecombe Ave in Sugar Hill, an elite section of Harlem, New York. Only a few intimate friends and relatives were in attendance.

Marva considered herself wife, lover, confidant, friend and teacher to her husband. Shortly after they married she hired, with her husbands approval, Russell Cowans, a Black journalist with a master’s degree in English, from the University of Michigan, to tutor him. When he wasn’t training or fighting, Joe was studying reading, writing and arithmetic with Cowan at night. Eventually they worked their way into a full high school curriculum.

Louis was so magnificent, and his accomplishments so unique for a Black at that time, that he attracted a circle of people who just wanted to be near him, some to inherit favors, others to merely bask in the glory of being in his shadow. Mingling with the likes of such stars as Lena Horne, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Lana Turner, Bob Hope, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington, to name a few, did not inhibit Louis from being down to earth and fun to be around.

To countless millions of Blacks and Whites, Joe Louis’ victories represented an era of change. With centuries past of second class treatment for Blacks, they now had one of their own, the first African American to be “respected” by people all over the world as a hero, and it was invigorating. One admirer remarked, “every time Louis won in the ring, it seemed to make up for all those beatings we took in the past. To many, Joe’s pride and dignity gave them newfound self-esteem.

HERITAGE
Louis’ heritage, like that of other southern Blacks, was mixed, but primarily stemmed from Africa. His maternal grandparents were sold into slavery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. George Shealey a White plantation owner, bought his great grandmother and her two children. There is also Black-foot Indian blood on his maternal side. Munroe Barrow was of James Barrow, the aprominent White planter in the Buckalew Mountains. Louis’ grandmother on paternal side, Victoria Harp Barrow, was half Cherokee (a descendant of a chief) and half White.

Many of Louis’ ancestors entered the United States through South Carolina’s busy slave port of Charleston. More than 65,000 slaves were imported into South Carolina from Africa during those years. Considered quite discriminating and experienced purchasers of Africans, South Carolinians chose slaves from the African Gold Coast first, then the Windward Coast, and finally the Upper Niger Valley, the region where the Mandingo lived, who were primarily used as house servants.

When the slaves were freed, Salem Bell, a neighboring white landowner sold Louis’ maternal great-grandfather 120 acres for five dollars an acre to be paid in crop over time. Louis’ great-grandfather was one of the first men to buy property in Alabama after slavery was abolished.

Although the family’s encounters with southerners may have been better than their peers, life for the Barrows and Brooks in the 1920’s remained barely above the subsistence level.

Enticed by recruiters who traveled throughout the South, and advertisements in southern black newspaper, the Barrows and Brooks packed up in 1926 and traveled to Detroit. The promising economic rewards and greater tolerance in northern urban centers attracted many southerners, making Detroit one of major cities during the great migration north. Poor People in the south, especially Blacks, were finding they couldn’t afford to live on the farm anymore. Unemployment was high and social conditions were dreadful. With wages rising in the north and the decline in European immigration, Blacks were able to get some of the new jobs, so they deserted the farms in droves.

Detroit was a particular popular destination because of its economic growth. Indeed, during the 1920’s it would show the largest gain in Black population of any U.S. city. It was here that Louis’ boxing career began. When Louis arrive in Detroit, he began attending Duffield School. Based on his academic interest, a teacher recommended a transfer to Bronson vocational school. Louis attended Bronson, until he was 17, and quickly gained proficiency in carpentry.

His closest friends most of his life came from the Black Bottom, a section on the east side of Detroit. Many of them gathered at the Calvary Baptist Church after school. These included Thurston McKinney, who really introduced Louis to boxing, and Freddie Guinyard, who became his advance man and personal secretary during his early boxing career.

LOUIS AND GOLF

Louis had interests other than boxing during his lifetime. As Shirley Povich, a sportwriter for the Washington Post once said, “Joe Louis was the greatest single factor in destroying the color line (in golf) merely by the force of his skill and personality”. Louis first took up golf in the mid 1930’s and soon after it became his favorite pastime. It suited his athletic ability and was far less demanding than boxing. Golf also absorbed his competitive nature and obliged his gambling instincts.

Ed Sullivan introduced Louis to golf when he was in New York once. Joe loved golf and had tremendous patience for the game. Whereas a lot of golfers didn’t like to practice, he did. Louis was as intrigued about the gambling of golf as he was the athletic challenge of the game. He was as well known on the golfing circuit for his risk taking as he was for his competence. From a number of accounts he probably lost close to half a million dollars on the sport.

Although Louis did not normally make waves regarding discrimination, golf, the only remaining segregated sport, became an exception for him in the 1950’s. Incensed by the inequities faced by his Black golf friends, he used the sport to make a public statement on behalf of all Blacks. It was one of the few times aside from his wartime activities that he did so.

Louis used the 1952 Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tournament in San Diego, California, as his vehicle. A six-handicap amateur golfer, he had been invited by the tournament committee to participate in the $10,000 San Diego Open golf tournament at Chula Vista. That, however, was before the committee was told by Horton Smith, president of the PGA, that its bylaws prevented a non-Caucasian player from competing in a PGA-sanctioned event.

Louis went to San Diego anyway. “I didn’t expect they’d let me play when I came down here,” Louis told reporters. But I wanted ’em to tell me personally. I want to bring this thing out into the limelight so the people can know what the PGA is.

Being the man that he was, Joe Louis gave so much to so many, pride, dignity, strength, style and, yes, money. An entire generation, both Black and White, were inspired and motivated by his success. This is why he was loved and admired by countless fans. During the 1950’s and throughout the rest of his life, Louis was frequently honored by the boxing world.

In 1954, The Ring inducted him along with Jack Dempsey and Henry Armstrong into the Boxing Hall of Fame. He was also installed in Madison Square Garden’s Hall of Fame in 1968. The inscription in the garden reads, “Highly respected sports celebrity and most active heavyweight champion in boxing history, the Brown Bomber put his title on the line twenty-five times. Eight defenses were made in the Garden with six ending in knockouts. His aggressive style and punching power accounted for ten first-round victories.”

The Jackie Robinson Foundation, established in 1973, wanted to give Louis one of its first Humanitarian Awards. However when he was selected, Louis was too ill to attend the dinner.
Frank Sinatra hosted a benefit for Louis at Ceasar’s Palace in 1978. Everyone from Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Cary Grant, to Muhammed Ali and Billy Conn were there. It was a big night for Joe. Even Max Schmeling, who on occasion stayed in contact with Louis throughout the years, flew over from Germany.

Also that year Secretary of the Army, Clifford L. Alexander, Jr., a Black who had grown up in Harlem listening to Joe Louis fights, presented him with the Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal. This is the highest honor the army can bestow on a civilian. In front of an audience of movie stars and boxing greats at Ceasar’s Palace, Secretary Alexander pinned the medal on Louis’ tuxedo. Years later, the Secretary fondly remembered the event, and stated he was so thrilled at finally meeting his hero. He described the former champion, by saying, “It was a greatness with style. When he boxed, he boxed with enormous style. When he won, he won with enormous style.”

FINAL MEMORIES

Like greatness past, all beginnings have an end. The sound of the trumpets ceases, and heroes go home. As a result of heart irregularities and severe high blood pressure, Louis suffered a slight stroke. His speech sounded slurred for the last year of his life. In 1980 his conditions deteriorated and a pacemaker was put in his chest. Joe finally told his doctor, “I’m ready whenever God wants to take me. I’ve lived my life and I’ve done what I need to do.”

Joe Louis died on Palm Sunday, April 12, 1981 of cardiac arrest, hours after being hailed by well-wishers attending the World Boxing Council heavyweight Championship fight between Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. On the morning of April 17, 1981, Good Friday, thousands of poor, humble, rich and famous flocked to Ceasar’s Palace Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas to attend the stirring Gospel service that followed Louis’ death. He lay in a copper casket in the middle of a boxing ring roped in red, white and blue and flanked by two honor guards from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. On the previous day thousands more had filed past his casket in the Hall draped in black.

At his funeral more than 800 people filled the chapel to capacity and an equal number outside listened to the service over a public address system. Louis was honored in song by Sammy Davis, Jr., and paid tributes by Frank Sinatra, a close friend for over forty years. The Reverend Jesse Jackson eloquently eulogized Louis as thousands of his fans paid their last respects. Bob Waters of Newsday suggested it would appropriate for Louis, as close to a king as any American ever was, be brought to his final resting place by a team of arch-necked horses. The procession of limousines, carrying the flag-draped coffin ended below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. With a three-shot salute and the playing of “Taps”, Joe Louis Barrows Jr. was laid to rest on a cool spring day surrounded by flowers, athletes, famed individuals and thousands of loyal fans.

The Return Of Malcolm X

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by Abdul Alkalimat

Malcolm X is the central figure in the most phenomenal revival in the history of Black political culture. While in the heart of every inner city ghetto Malcolm X was never forgotten, the last several years have seen a tidal wave of interest storm into the consciousness of Black youth throughout the world, including many third world youth and radical Whites as well.

Many people regard this as a fad and therefore reduce the Malcolm X revival to a basic American pattern, the transformation of an icon into a profitable commodity. After all, people in this country are taught that it is positive to sell anything you can to everybody. But from the point of view of the Black community this focus on Malcolm X represents a rebirth of consciousness and desire for change. It is this aspect of the Malcolm X revival that requires discussion if Black history is to be taken seriously, both its past and its future.

Even more than most people, Malcolm X was a man in motion. He experienced life so fully and so intensely in his brief forty years that one has to say he led several lives. Whenever someone attempts to define Malcolm X without regard to his full development he runs the risk of distortion. This is often done as a cover for sectarianism, for claiming Malcolm for one’s own political tendency. Evaluating Malcolm requires examining his entire life and not just one part of it.

With the collaboration of Alex Haley Malcolm wrote a classic autobiography in the great tradition of the slave narratives of Gustavus Vassa and Frederick Douglas and the autobiographical texts of Booker T Washington and WEB DuBois. This is our greatest single source of information about Malcolm X.

Malcolm was born May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Earl and Louise Little. His father was a Georgia-born Baptist preacher and an organizer for Marcus Garvey in the Universal Negro Improvement association. His mother was a Grenadian-born outspoken activist in the UNIA as well. He had nine brothers and sisters.

When Malcolm was six his father was brutally killed after suffering years of racist persecution, and six years later his mother succumbed to the pressure of the welfare system after trying to care for her children in poverty. She was committed to a mental hospital, where she stayed from 1937 to 1963.

After spending three years in a foster home and detention school, and still not escaping institutional racism and individual prejudices, he moved to Boston with his eldest paternal half-sister Ella Collins. In Boston he turned away from what he considered the critical imitative lifestyle of the Black middle class, and took to the cultural dynamics of the street, the nocturnal fast lane of pop culture.

First in Boston and then in New York, Malcolm explored the full range of illegal alternatives. He did everything that still haunts the Black community today: drugs, prostitution, robbery, violence in many forms. He formed a gang of thieves in Boston and quickly landed himself a prison term in 1946. At twenty-one he was a school dropout, a drug addict, and a convict. He put it this way in his Autobiography:

Looking back, I think I really was at least slightly out of my mind. I viewed narcotics as most people regard food. I wore my guns as today I wear my neckties. Deep down, I actually believed…one should die violently.

It was while incarcerated that Malcolm came to understand how he had been isolated and rendered powerless. At this extreme he experienced one of the great reversals of the 20th century, the rehabilitation and conversion of a hardened criminal. He met “Bimbi,” a prison intellectual, who taught him to respect language, books, and reasoning. Malcolm was also introduced to Elijah Mohammed, the leader of the Nation of Islam. These two men guided him to self-emancipation, to reading and writing his way to intellectual growth, and to a reversal of habits to reinforcing a new moral code.

He had gone into prison a degenerate criminal and after seven years had become a model of commitment, dedication, and discipline when he was released in 1952. Malcolm was now a man. He was moving in the path of his father, as a Black nationalist organizer attempting to save Black people from destruction by a white racist society.

For the next 12 years Malcolm became the main leader for the growth of the Nation of Islam from 400 to 40,000 members, with temples organized in virtually every major city in the United States. Malcolm went first to Detroit, then to Chicago to study with Elijah Mohammed. He was assigned to organize key cities. He became minister of the New York temple and national spokesperson for his organization and leader. He married and had six daughters.

Malcolm was an extremely devoted follower of Elijah Mohammed. However, strain developed, and on a personal and a political level the strain turned into conflict and led to separation. Mohammed was alleged to have fathered several children out of wedlock with two very young assistants, and in Malcolm’s eyes this was a devastating transgression exceeded only by the attempt to validate his behavior through biblical reference. Malcolm violated Mohammed’s mandate to remain silent after Kennedy’s assassination with his famous statement that “the chickens were coming home to roost.” Although he simply meant to say that “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” in Mohammed’s eyes this was an intolerable act of insubordination. Malcolm was silenced on December 3, 1963, and he formally proclaimed his independence from the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964.

Over the next year Malcolm spent nearly six months abroad after announcing the formation of two organizations, the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. In this last year of his life Malcolm visited and lectured in over a dozen countries and established himself as a theoretical leader of the Black liberation movement. He had become even more dangerous outside of the sectarian Nation of Islam, since people from all parts of the Black community and from all over the world were searching him out and seriously considering his ideological and political leadership. He became an advocate of world brotherhood. But Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, while lecturing to his followers. He was not yet forty years old.

The brief life of Malcolm X has become mythic in its implications. His career is a stark contrast to Martin Luther King’s. King was “to the Manor born,” a third generation preacher in a large middle class church in Atlanta, and a Morehouse College graduate with a Ph.D. from Boston University. Malcolm X was the son of an itinerant preacher who never had a permanent church, and he had to survive juvenile delinquency, a life of street crime, and drug addiction. Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King became great leaders, traveling different roads and leading different parts of the Black community, but both were brutally murdered.

Martin Luther King had reached great heights of accomplishment, but Malcolm X had just begun to climb. Malcolm appealed especially to the “bottom of the pile Negroes,” as he used to call the homeless and the unemployed, because he felt himself to be a victim as well.

The question remains, was he a demon or a genius? There were many in the mainstream who would argue that he was a harbinger of hate and racial violence, but this was usually the reaction of Whites or middle class Blacks who were not used to hearing the honest and articulate voice of the suffering Black masses. Echoes of slavery and the lynch mob in the sayings of an urban working class Black leader shocked many. Malcolm forced America and the world to see itself from the eyes of the Black victim.

Malcolm was nurtured in the lessons of the radical Black tradition. This tradition has been produced anew by each generation on an ad hoc basis as each has had to face and fight racism and poverty. But this radical Black tradition has also been symbolically reproduced as the continuity of cultural legacy in opposition to oppression. Traditions like this are greater than the leaders who maintain them. This is what is meant by the statement that you can kill a freedom fighter but not the fight for freedom. Malcolm was murdered, but now he is being born again in the minds of a new generation of Black youth.

Malcom X On History

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malcolm

 

“Of all the things that black men or any men study for that matter, history is qualified to reward all research.  You have to have a knowledge of history no matter what you’re going to do.  Anything that you undertake, you have to have a knowledge of history in order to be successful in it. The thing that has made the so called Negro in America fail more so than any other thing is your and my lack of knowledge concerning history.  We know less about history than anything else.  There are black people in America who have mastered the mathematical sciences ,have become professors and experts in physics, are able to toss Sputnik out in the atmosphere, out into space, they’re masters in that field.  We have black men who have mastered the field of medicine, we have blacks who have mastered other fields.  But very seldom do we have black men in America who have mastered the knowledge of history and the black man himself.”

Malcolm X

AboutBlackBoston.com

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CTL-AboutBlackBoston

Focused on blacks in Greater Boston you receive a web portal system offering presentation layer web pages, embedded audio and video and programmable databases interconnected with Facebook, Google +, WordPress, Google Blogger and Twitter communications channels online.

You can order advertising and job recruiting products and request marketing services and advice about gatekeepers to certain demographics in town that may interest you

Distribution channels include:
aboutblackboston.com (ABB)
blackboston.com
boston.blacksoftware.com
the Black Boston Blog Service sites
the @blackBoston Twitter Channel
the Roxbury.TV video playback site
the Facebook ABB networking page
the Google + presence
ABB is African American owned and operated.

Established in 2004, we created this site after failing to find a tourist brochure at Fanueil Hall that was representative of black Boston events and community activities.

Call (617) 942.1301 or write contact@blackboston.com.
Current Search Engine Ranking Results for a Black Boston web site

Google ranked site #1.
Yahoo ranks site #1
Bing ranks site #1 …
These rankings cover 14 keyword phrases relative to “Black Boston.”

Ask us about networking events.

Contact:

MURRELLI engineering
PO Box 300701
Jamaica Plain
MA 02130-0035

Phone: 617-942-1301
AboutBlackBoston.com