November 28, 2013
By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA
Three of the last Scottsboro Boys, African American youths falsely accused of raping two White women in 1931, were granted posthumous pardons by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“The long overdue pardon of the African American young men unjustly charged with rape in Alabama decades ago comes too late to provide any comfort to them, but at least will officially clear their names,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “We must recognize this as an opportunity to demonstrate the corrosive, unjust associations between criminality and race prevalent in the early 20th century and sadly, too much with us today.”
For years, the incident involving nine Black youths traveling on a train from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Scottsboro, Ala. and looking for work, encountered a gang of White youths on the train.
“The trouble began when three or four white boys crossed over the oil tanker that four of us colored fellows from Chattanooga were in,” wrote Haywood Patterson in his book “Scottsboro Boy,” co-authored with Earl Conrad. “One of the white boys, he stepped on my hand and liked to have knocked me off the train,” Patterson continued. “I didn’t say anything then, but the same guy, he brushed by me again and liked to have pushed me off the car. I caught hold of the side of the tanker to keep from falling off.”
After a series of epithets from the White boys, a melee ensued, and the Black boys got the best of the White boys, tossing them from the train. Angered by the defeat, they hurried to the next station, reported the altercation and alerted the sheriff at Scottsboro.
Unbeknownst to the Black boys, there were two White girls, dressed like boys, hoboing on the train. When the train pulled into the station, the White girls, afraid of being arrested from hopping the train, claimed they had been raped.
All of them – Patterson, Roy Wright and his brother, Andy, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Ozie Powell – were arrested and taken to jail.
Thus began their long ordeal, making them a cause celebre for years and commanding the attention of the NAACP and the International Labor Defense.
“Starting with the arrest of nine black men and boys on fabricated and completely contradictory allegations of the rape of two white women, the case proceeded through a serious of rushed and unfair trials,” Parker wrote. “The defendants were represented by counsel wholly unfamiliar with criminal defense work and unable to conduct even the most basic investigations. The jury deciding the case completely excluded African Americans and their deliberations were conducted under the very real threat of the lynching of the defendants.
“Although the alleged victims [Ruby Bates and Victoria Price] ultimately recanted their stories and admitted that their allegations of rape were complete fabrications, all of the men were convicted and all but one [13-year-old Roy Wright] sentenced to death. During the case, seemingly every ugly stereotype appeared, from the depiction of the criminally rapacious black male intent on ravishing white women to the attacks on the counsel who ultimately took on the case on remand as meddling, communistic Jewish lawyers from New York.”
In the succeeding years, the case was tried three times and eventually charges were dropped for four of the defendants. All but two of them served prison sentences. One was shot in prison by a guard. Two escaped, were charged with crimes, and were returned to prison.
Patterson escaped from prison in 1948 and two years later wrote his book before being snared again by the law. The governor of Michigan, however, refused to have him extradited to Alabama. Later, during a bar fight, he stabbed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. He died of cancer while serving a second sentence in 1952.
In 1946, Clarence Norris, the oldest of the defendants and the only one sentenced to death, and upon being paroled, he went into hiding. Gov. George C. Wallace pardoned him in 1976 and he authored an autobiography in 1979. He died in 1989, the last survivor of the Scottsboro Boys.
November 21, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Keeping the tradition of what his 72-year life has been about, civil rights icon Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. pledges to keep building and sharing when he celebrates his birthday at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Awards Gala on Friday Nov. 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“I thank God for my life, but my life is about building, building and sharing,” Rev. Jackson told the Sentinel this week.
People United to Serve Humanity (Operation PUSH) began operations on December 25, 1971 and was started by The Rev. Jackson to hold elected officials and corporations accountable on behalf of Blacks and other minorities.
“Right now the [number of] impoverished is growing,” he explained. “J.P. Morgan Chase is fined $14 billion instead of there being imprisonment, and the state of America and all I fought for is under attack. What’s happening is devastating. The impact of cutting Medicaid, food stamps and the unemployment rate is still to high.”
Moreover, Jackson said he is disturbed by the impact of Parent Plus Loans being cut and the cutting of Pell Grants.
“Morehouse College has had to close dorms because of a lack of students.”
Asked who should be held accountable, The Rev. Jackson emphatically concluded;
“The (president) Administration has to prioritize and it must address these tremendous loss.”
Jackson who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1984 turned 72 on October 8, is using the platform of his national civil rights organization to not only celebrate his life, but to also continue his fight for equality and social justice.
Significantly, the reverend just returned from meaningful visits to Nigeria, South Africa, and Brazil, addressing the critical issues facing the African Diaspora, and drawing links to the plight of African- Americans at home.
This year also marks critical landmark struggles in the U.S., from the fight to protect the Voting Rights Act from the regressive Supreme Court decision, to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Church bombings in Birmingham, to critical movements to protect the Affordable Care Act from the current onslaught in Congress.
Honorees at this year’s gala include: Lysa Heslov, founder and executive director of Children Mending Hearts; Robin Bronk, CEO, The Creative Coalition; Steve McKeever, music producer and CEO of Hidden Beach Records; Lester McKeever, principal of Washington, Pittman and McKeever; Andrew Young, former US Ambassador to the UN; Rev. Joseph Bryant, senior pastor, Calvary Hill Community Church; Jeffrey David Cox, Sr., National President, American Federation of Government Employees/AFL-CIO; Thomas Saenz, president and General Counsel, MALDEF.
Musical performances include Jin Jin Reevs and Hitzville.
Proceeds from the gala celebration are being directed to a commitment to providing scholarships for students across the country, to expand their higher education opportunities.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
November 21, 2013
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward Times
Family members of Malcolm X have filed suit to prevent the publication of the slain leader’s diary.
At issue is the diary Malcolm X kept during the year before his assassination, as he traveled through the Middle East and Africa. The diary has been reproduced for publication and lists the daughter of Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz, as an editor. Other family members, however, are filing suit, alleging that the publisher, Third World Press, does not own the rights to the diary.
Vice President of Third World Press, Bennett Johnson, contradicts the family’s claim and says the publisher has a contract signed by one of Malcolm X’s daughters.
A video promoting the publication of the diary shows the daughter of Malcolm X discussing the importance of the diary been added to the body of work already produced by Malcolm X.
“It’s really beautiful that we get to see Malcolm in his own voice – without scholars, historians or observers saying what he was thinking or what he was doing or what he meant” Shabazz says.
Third World Press says the memoir “described deep emotional connections [Malcolm X] developed during a period that was constantly colored by his prophetic sense of impending tragedy”. They also promote the diary as having a “unique” blueprint for African-Americans.
The diary is scheduled to be published on November 14, but court papers filed by the heirs of Malcolm X in Manhattan court could delay or even prevent publication.
November 21, 2013
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When lawmakers ratified the 15th Amendment in 1870, protecting voting rights for Blacks, opponents of the law lashed out, violently at times, employing literacy tests, poll taxes, and fraud in an effort to disenfranchise the new voters. It would be nearly 100 years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed many of those practices, ushering in a “new era in American democracy.”
A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on the economic conditions of low- and middle income families, chronicles past struggles and highlight current roadblocks that attempt to dilute the Black vote.
The report titled, “Voting Rights at a Crossroads” is the latest in the Unfinished March series that looks at the ambitious goals of the 1963 March on Washington and the work that is still needed to accomplish those goals.
According to the report, just one year before the historic march less than 30 percent of voting-aged Blacks were registered to vote in 11 states in the south, where most Blacks lived. A year later, Blacks still faced significant hardships exercising their right to vote.
“In 1964, in the five southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, only 22.5 percent of voting-age African Americans were registered to vote,” stated the report. “Particularly troubling, in Mississippi, only 5.1 percent of voting-age African Americans were registered, compared with 94.9 percent of whites.”
The abysmal voter registration record for Blacks was due largely in part to the discrimination that Blacks faced, often at the hands of state and local officials.
Despite a number of federal laws crafted to bolster voter protections under the 15th amendment, state and local officials continued a concerted effort to prevent Blacks from voting, including limiting or changing the registration period, requiring Blacks to get references from Whites to register, literacy tests and poll taxes.
When poor Whites complained about some of the laws that limited their voting rights, many states passed “grandfather” clauses that allowed White citizens, who were eligible to vote before the restrictive laws were passed, to continue to vote. The grandfather clauses extended to their descendants and excluded Blacks.
The report said that the success of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom inspired civil rights leaders to push for better voting protections under the law.
“The idea appealed to the civil rights leaders of the day, and the resulting March for Jobs and Freedom refueled the civil rights movement’s resolve to pass a voting rights law that delivered on the promise of voting rights for all,” stated the report. “The over 200,000 marchers who converged on the mall in Washington, D.C., were fully aware that the right to vote was inextricably tied to overcoming the socioeconomic problems they endured.”
The report continued: “Their determined campaign resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, seminal pieces of legislation that transformed American democracy.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the political landscape and voting in the United States in ways that the 15th amendment couldn’t. It banned the use of “tests and devices” with Section 2 and installed federal voting officials and observers at polling places.
“The Voting Rights Act also contains temporary provisions, including the Section 4 coverage formula and the Section 5 “preclearance provision,” which required that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination (as determined by a “coverage formula”) obtain federal approval before implementing any voting change. At first the coverage formula applied to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and 40 counties in North Carolina,” stated the report.
For decades state and local jurisdictions with the most egregious voting rights violations were forced to pre-clear changes in voting laws. Black voter registration grew. Now nearly 70 percent of voting-aged Blacks are registered. In the 2012 presidential election, Black voter turnout topped White voter turnout for the first time in our nation’s history. More than 66 percent of eligible Black voters went to the polls compared to about 64 percent of registered White voters.
The Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder cleared the path for Republican state legislators to pass new laws that threaten to disenfranchise minority voters. When the Supreme Court stripped section 4 of the Voting Right’s Act of 1965, effectively ending protections that voters had under section 5, voters were left virtually to fend for themselves, as politicians launched voting laws restrictive voting laws making it tougher for the young, the old, the poor and minorities to vote.
According to the report, “North Carolina’s legislature passed laws that restricted the types of photo identification used in order to vote, shortened early voting, ended same-day voter registration, and prohibited preregistration that allowed high school students to register to vote before their 18th birthday.”
Many southern states led by GOP lawmakers have launched voter ID laws to fight non-existent voter fraud.
“The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of ‘voter fraud’ is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the poll – an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning,” stated the Brennan Center report.
In Florida, state lawmakers “reinstated a program to purge voters,” a faulty program that was blocked by earlier lawsuits.
The report called on citizens to contact members of Congress and to urge them to pass new legislation that would restore section 4 of the VRA and reinvigorate the voter protections under section 5.
“The civil rights community and the public must now apply a heightened level of vigilance to ensure that the gains of the past 50 years are not lost, and to continue the historic trajectory of ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible voters,” stated the report.
The report continued: “Citizens must become engaged in their communities and ensure that their elected officials are aware that they are being watched and that attempts to roll back hard-fought gains will not be tolerated.”
November 21, 2013
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON (AP) —Honoring the legacy of John F. Kennedy, President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the assassinated president’s gravesite as a nation remembers that terrible day in Dallas a half-century ago Friday. Obama also recognized a group of distinguished Americans — including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey — with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award created by Kennedy.
Obama was joined at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday by Clinton, and each president held hands with Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, as they climbed a flight of stairs to the burial site on a steep hillside overlooking the nation’s capital.
First lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped their husbands place a large wreath of white flowers in front of the roped-off gravesite of America’s 35th president, which is marked by an ever-burning flame.
Both couples placed their hands over their hearts as taps sounded near a U.S. flag at half-staff before greeting Kennedy relatives, including some who arrived in Obama's motorcade.
The day of tributes began at the White House, where Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 living and deceased Americans for their contributions in fields ranging from sports and entertainment to science and public service.
“These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” Obama said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea Clinton and film director Steven Spielberg were among scores of people seated in the White House East Room for the ceremony, which Obama said is “one of my favorite events every year.”
Kennedy established the modern version of the medal but was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, weeks before he was to honor the inaugural group of recipients. Hundreds of notable figures since have received the honor.
Obama continued to lionize the slain president Wednesday evening at a dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in honor of the medal’s recipients. He said Kennedy stays in America’s imagination not because he was assassinated, but because he embodied the character of the people he led. Kennedy was defiant in the face of impossible odds, he said, and determined to make the world anew.
“This is a legacy of a man who could have retreated to a life of luxury and ease, but he chose to live a life in the arena,” Obama said. “Sailing sometimes against the wind, sometimes with it.”
At the awards ceremony Wednesday morning, Obama said a few words about each recipient. Of Clinton, he said the Arkansas Democrat’s presidency marked just the start of his work to make the world a better place, crediting his post-presidency humanitarian efforts as helping to save or improve the lives of millions worldwide.
“I’m grateful, Bill, as well, for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me, on and off the golf course,” Obama said to chuckles.
As a teenager, Bill Clinton shook hands with Kennedy in the Rose Garden the summer before the assassination when he and other high school students in the Boys Nation program came to Washington.
Obama said the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, didn't just break the stratospheric glass ceiling. “She blasted right through it,” becoming a role model for young girls, he said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Obama said. “Today our daughters, including Malia and Sasha, can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.”
Receiving the award for Ride, who died last year, was Tam O'Shaughnessy, who was introduced as Ride’s life partner.
The president made a point of highlighting those who had overcome additional obstacles and stigmatization because they are gay, black, female or Asian. He noted that early in her career, Oprah Winfrey’s bosses suggested she change her name to something more relatable.
“It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate to Oprah just fine,” Obama said.
On Friday’s assassination anniversary, Obama plans to meet privately at the White House with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program, also established by Kennedy.
The Clintons’ presence at Kennedy’s gravesite was sure to spark speculation about whether Obama has a favorite in the 2016 race to succeed him.
Every move by the former secretary of state is being scrutinized for signs of whether she’ll run. Vice President Joe Biden, another potential candidate, attended only the White House ceremony.