Black History Month

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Memphis Massacre

Memphis, Tennessee - It was one of the worst race riots in Memphis history (began Tuesday and ended Thursday). Whites killed black people for 3 days.

The massacre began after white police shot at black Army veterans, from the Union Army. There were prior complaints of police brutality. Yet, none had been resolved.

After the shooting incident, white mobs raced into the black areas of Memphis. Thus began a days long rampage of whites who murdered, burned, and raped in the black community.

More than 46 black people were murdered. Two (2) whites died. No whites died because of black people. 75 black people were injured. Over 100 black people were robbed. 5 black women were raped.

Whites destroyed 91 homes, 4 churches and 8 schools. White mobs destroyed every black church and school in Memphis. By Thursday, May 3rd, Federal troops had restored order.

By 1870, the black population of Memphis had fallen by 25%, compared to 1865. No one was charged or held accountable. No black person was compensated for their loss.

The Federal government refused prosecution. They claimed it was a state matter. The State of Tennessee and local officials refused to investigate or charge anyone for the mayhem.

Corporations Got Civil Rights

Washington, D. C. - The United States Supreme Court gave civil rights to corporations. The case was Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886). This decision made a legal fiction (corporation) equal to a United States citizen.

Civil Rights protections were meant for black people. It was meant to unite the nation after the Slavery War. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments do not use 'corporation.'

The Fourteenth Amendment used 'persons' in its text. The Supreme Court decided 'persons' included corporations. This gave corporations protection under the U. S. Constitution. The decision was unanimous.

Black citizens can be hurt and jailed, but not corporations. The United States Supreme Court made no distinction. Corporations had all the benefits of law, without all the risk.

Birmingham May Bombings of 1963

Birmingham, Alabama - Bombs exploded at the home of A. D. King (Martin Luther King's brother), and under the room where Martin Luther King had stayed the previous nights.

The first bomb was placed by a uniformed police worker. He drove a marked police car to the home of A. D. King. There he placed a bomb near the porch. The second was thrown at Room 30, of the Gaston Motel.

There was a month-long protest in Birmingham, for racial justice. Finally, local white Birmingham politicians and bureaucrats agreed to concessions. On Friday, May 10th, they agreed to limit racial discrimination and lessen segregation.

In response, on Saturday, May 11th, a white supremacist rally was called outside Birmingham, in Bessemer, Alabama. That evening, at 10:45 p.m., a bomb exploded at A. D. King's home, planted by the Birmingham police.

Just before midnight, at 11:58 p.m., the bomb exploded at the Gaston Hotel. The explosion could be heard across town.

President John F. Kennedy remarked, 'the people who've gotten out of hand are not the white people, but the Negroes by and large.' On this basis, Kennedy called on the military to enter Birmingham.

No deaths or injuries were caused by the explosive devices (bombs). Martin Luther King had left earlier, to go to Atlanta.

The guest, in the room below King's, slept elsewhere. He had planned to sleep there, to get a break from the meetings at his house. But, fatigue forced him to sleep at home.

The bomb at the home of A. D. King did not do enough damage to cause injury. No one was prosecuted for the bombings.

Robert Smalls' Escape

Charleston, South Carolina - Robert Smalls escaped slavery with a Confederate military transport ship. It was one of the most daring escapes of the American Slavery War (1861-1865).

Fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter. It was a lightly armed Confederate military transport. This was under command of Charleston's District Commander, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley.

The CSS Planter surveyed waterways and laid mines. It also delivered dispatches, troops, and supplies.

Smalls piloted the Planter in Charleston harbor and beyond. This included area rivers and the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Smalls and the Planter's crew saw the federal blockade ships, from Charleston harbor. They were in the outer harbor, seven (7) miles away. Smalls had the confidence of the Planter's crew. To the Planter's owners, the crew behaved.

Sometime in April 1862, Smalls planned an escape. He met the other enslaved, except one. That one he did not trust.

Friday, May 12th, 1862, the Planter stopped at Coles Island, on the Stono River. A Confederate post was being dismantled. The ship loaded four large guns. The guns were to be sent to a fort in Charleston harbor.

At Charleston, the Planter added 200 lb (91 kg) of ammunition and 20 cord (72 m3) of firewood.

Friday evening, May 12th, the Planter was docked. It was at the wharf, below General Ripley's headquarters. Its three (3) white officers left the ship to spend the night ashore. Smalls and the crew remained on board, as usual.

Before departure, Smalls asked Captain Relyea to allow crew families to visit. The request was granted. But, Smalls was told the families must depart before curfew.

The families arrived onboard. There, the plan was revealed to them. Only Hannah, Smalls' wife, knew he wanted to escape.

Hannah never knew her husband planned to escape that night. She resisted, at first. But, she told him, 'It is a risk, dear, but you and I, and our little ones must be free. I will go, for where you die, I will die.'

Other women resisted. They cried and screamed, and the men struggled to quiet them. After, the initial shock, those women were glad for a chance at freedom.

Later, three (3) crew members made a pretense that family members had been escorted back home. It was a trick. The crew members circled around and hid on another ship. It was docked at the North Atlantic wharf.

Around 3 a.m., Saturday, May 13th, Smalls, with seven of the eight slave crewmen, began their escape. Smalls wore the captain's uniform. He wore a straw hat similar to the captain's.

While working on the Planter, Smalls watched Captain Charles C. J. Relyea. Smalls learned his manners to complete the disguise. He hoped to fool onlookers from shore.

Smalls sailed the Planter past Southern Wharf. He stopped at another wharf, where his wife and children boarded. Families of other crewmen boarded, too.

Smalls had to get past five Confederate harbor forts. At each fort, he gave the correct signals at checkpoints.

Around 4:30 a.m., the Planter made it past the last fort, Fort Sumter.

The Fort Sumter alarm was raised after the Planter was beyond gun range. Smalls replaced the rebel flags with a white bed sheet, his wife brought. Then, Smalls headed to the Union Navy fleet.

The USS Onward was about to fire on the Planter, until a crewman saw the white flag. The sheet was difficult to see, in the dark. The sunrise made it visible.

John Frederick Nickels, Captain of the Onward, boarded the Planter. Smalls asked to display a United States flag. The Planter and its cargo were surrendered, to the United States Navy.

Everyone on the Planter, escaped enslavement and made it to freedom.

MOVE Bombing

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The Philadelphia Police Department used a bomb, in an airstrike, that killed 11 people. It was dropped on the roof of a home. The neighborhood was densely packed. The Philadelphia Fire Department let the fire burn out of control.

MOVE was the Christian Movement For Life. It was a back-to-nature group of black people, led by John Africa. From 1981, MOVE members lived in a row home, at 6221 Osage Avenue, in Philadelphia.

For years, neighbors complained about MOVE members. The complaints were about trash around the house and confrontations with neighbors. MOVE used a bullhorn to make announcements, of political messages, in the neighborhood.

Mayor Wilson Goode and police commissioner Gregore J. Sambor evacuated the neighborhood before their planned attack on the MOVE house. They promised that everyone could return after twenty-four (24) hours.

Monday, May 13, 1985, five hundred (500) police workers arrived at the MOVE house. The police were there to arrest MOVE members and clear the house.

There were 13 people inside the MOVE house. 8 were adults and 5 were children. The police ordered everyone to leave. MOVE members did not respond.

The police fired tear gas bombs into the house. The MOVE members fired at the bomb throwers. Police fired ten thousand (10,000) rounds at the house.

The police barrage stopped. The MOVE members stayed inside. Next, Commissioner Sambor ordered the house be bombed, from the air.

At 5:27 p.m., Frank Powell was head of the Philadelphia police bomb disposal squad. Powell lit a 45 second fuse to C-4 (an explosive used in the Vietnam War). From a helicopter, Powell dropped the bomb, on the still occupied MOVE house.

The bomb exploded on the roof and started a fire. Mayor Goode ordered that the fire should not be put out until the bunker burned. That was one and a half (1 1/2) hours after the fire started.

As a result, 11 people died. 6 adults and 5 children, aged 7-14, were killed. Ramona Africa was one of the survivors. She said the police shot at them as they tried to escape the fire.

Ramona Africa was charged and convicted of riot and conspiracy, as a survivor of MOVE. No city employees, politicians, or officials were criminally charged for the attack.

Aiyana Jones Murdered

Detroit, Michigan - On Sunday, in a midnight police raid, Joseph Weekley killed Aiyana Jones. It was part of a reality television show.

Detroit Special Response Team (SRT, aka SWAT) workers burst into the home of 7-year old Aiyana (pictured left). She slept next to her grandmother, Mertilla Jones.

Unknown to them, Detroit police prepared to raid the home. It was filmed for the reality television show on AMC, called First 48.

At 12:40 a.m., the police assault team threw a flash bang grenade. It went through the front window of the home, where Aiyana slept.

The grenade caused Aiyana's clothing to catch fire. As Mertilla tried to put out the fire, Weekley entered the home. He was armed with an MP5 machine gun and a ballistic shield..

Inside the home, Weekley shot and killed Aiyana. Weekley claimed Mertilla grabbed his gun. No fingerprints from Mertilla were found on Weekley's MP5 gun.

Weekley was not fired. Kym Worthy, the Wayne County Prosecutor, cleared Weekley of any charges for Aiyana's murder.

A protest was held in 2016, for Aiyana's murder. Weekley had been selected to co-chair the Detroit Police Department's Committee on Race and Equality.

Brown v. Board of Education Decided

Washington, D. C. - The United States Supreme Court decided school segregation of students was illegal. Ir was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Brown was not the only school segregation case considered. It included cases from Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, and Virginia. They were all rolled into one decision.

There was one key question. 'Does the racial segregation of children in school deprive them of an equal education?' The U. S. Supreme Court decided yes.

It was not until the 1960s, that schools began to desegregate in number. The process was slow by 1965 and was never fully realized. Schools are still very segregated.

Whites challenged integration and protested. White parents left integrated schools, as 'bad' schools. Or, whites called neighborhoods 'bad' if there were too many black children.

A tragedy of the decision is that it destroyed all-black schools. By the time of the decision, many of these schools had unique cultures that catered to black students. That disappeared.

Many black teachers, principals, and administrators lost their jobs. White schools rarely hired them. If black people were hired, it was into a hostile setting. They were undermined by white teachers, administrators, school boards, and the white students.

Today, the damage of this decision is seen today. When the students are mostly black, the hand giving the grade, is often white (or at least not black). It has led to decades of poor performance, low graduation rates, and high delinquency.

Plessy v. Ferguson Decided

Washington, D. C. - The United States Supreme Court decided black people can be legally segregated in America. This decision made state segregation laws into national law. Black Americans were made into legal second-class citizens, nationwide.

The Court made several key decisions.

The state had sole power to decide who is black or white.

The (13th) Thirteenth and (14th) Fourteenth Amendments gave no protection to black people against legal exclusion.

Legal exclusion of black people has not harmed them.

The government owed no debt to black people, if harmed by legal exclusion.

Malcolm X Born

Omaha, Nebraska - Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little. His mother was Louise Helen Little (née Norton, born in Grenada). His father was Earl Little (born in Georgia).

Malcolm X's father was an outspoken Baptist lay preacher. Both his parents followed Pan-African activist Marcus Garvey.

What's Going On? Album Released

Detroit, Michigan - Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? album was released. It was one of the most important and timeless recording albums of the Vietnam War era.

Motown founder, Berry Gordy feared the lyrics were too honest. Gaye said the album was a hit. Gordy released the full album on Motown's sub-label, Tamla.

1.'What's Going On' 3:53 (Marvin Gaye, Al Cleveland, Renaldo 'Obie' Benson)
2. 'What's Happening Brother' 2:43 (Gaye, James Nyx Jr.)
3. 'Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)' 3:49 (Gaye, Anna Gordy Gaye, Elgie Stover)
4. 'Save the Children' 4:03 (Gaye, Cleveland Benson)
5. 'God Is Love' 1:41 (Gaye, A. Gaye, Stover Nyx)
6. 'Mercy Mercy Me' (The Ecology) 3:16 (Gaye)

Side two
1. 'Right On' 7:31 (Gaye, Earl DeRouen)
2. 'Wholy Holy' 3:08 (Gaye, Benson Cleveland)
3. 'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)' 5:26 (Gaye, Nyx)

The single, What's Going On?, was released January 20, 1971.

Tulsa Race Riot Began

Tulsa, Oklahoma - Two days of murder, riots, and chaos began in Tulsa. At the time, only 49 were counted as dead. 36 were black and 13 were white. Actual deaths range from 75-300. It all began because of a rumor.

Monday, May 30, 1921, two teenagers worked at a store in the Drexel building. Dick Rowland was a 19 year-old, black male. He worked on boots. Sarah Page was a 17 year-old, white female. She was an elevator operator.

The two were touching each other in the elevator. A white man saw the two. Page screamed.

On May 31, 1921, Rowland was arrested at his home. He was charged with attempted rape. By 7:34 p.m., rumors had spread through the white community. It was started by white lawyers and newspapers. This included the Tulsa Tribune.

As rumors spread, hundreds of whites came to the courthouse. They were there to lynch (murder) Rowland. The white sheriff Willard M. McCullough was in charge of the case.

McCullough blocked the courthouse doors. He was inside with twenty-five (25) other police. They were on the top floor of the courthouse.

By 9:00 p.m., about 100 black people came to the courthouse. They were armed. Many were former World War 1 veterans. Some were dressed in military uniform. McCullough told them all was under control.

By 10:00 p.m., the armed black men returned. By this time, there were thousands of whites at the courthouse. Unarmed whites looted nearby gun stores, pawn shops, and sporting goods stores. The whites stole guns and ammunition.

The white mob shouted 'bring the rope.' Racial slurs were hurled at the black men. The whites wanted to murder all the black men at the courthouse. The race riot was under way.

After many deaths, Rowland was never tried for a crime. He was not harmed in the riot.

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