Tag Archives: race

LBJ and the Great Society

CLIVE: School. Yep, yep. That’s how your mother and I got to talking. One day in civics they do whole lesson on LBJ, you know LBJ?
ANTHONY: Well, yeah, I—
CLIVE: Great Society. Have and have nots and til then Gloria Giosa barely gave me the time of day, right? She had herself a little after school job down the town hall and soon’s the bell rang off she go but one day Gloria Giosa and I got to talking and it turned out Gloria Giosa and I saw things eye to eye. We was all fired about about LBJ and it was spring time and we thought we was gonna go make a difference and we both signed up to hand out the free lunch…

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, promoted a series of domestic programs in the 1960s that were known as the Great Society. The two main goals of the programs were to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. In scope, the Great Society most closely resembled Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Great Society programs were enacted throughout the 1960s. Notable programs that were introduced during the Great Society and continue to this day include Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans act, improvements to Social Security, the National Endowment for the Arts, and federal funding for education.

Highlight from Johnson’s Great Society speech, given in 1964 in Ann Arbor, MI:

“The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in out time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what is adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.

But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”

Read the full text of Johnson’s speech here.

Thanksgiving’s a Black Man’s Holiday

CLIVE: Thanksgiving’s a black man’s holiday, bet you didn’t know.
ANTHONY: I, uh, no, I wasn’t aware.
CLIVE: 1863, Lincoln says to himself “This country done ripped in two, we need something bring us together, make us thankful we was almost in two but we not, we hanging by a thread, one thread, that’s still good. So he thinks on it and he says the whole land, everyone up in here, is invited to celebrate Thanksgiving. If the Indians and the pilgrims can do it, so can we, right? I mean think of all the foods Thanksgiving got? Those are stone cold New England it’s cold and about to get colder foods. And the black man—

On October 3, 1963, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln released a proclamation making the last Thursday of November a national holiday; a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” He did it at the prompting of writer Sarah Josepha Hale, who had been advocating for it to be a national holiday for 17 years. Before 1963, Thanksgiving was not widely celebrated outside of New England, and even there each state celebrated at a different time.

Highlight from the Thanksgiving Proclamation:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the Most High God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Read the complete text of the Thanksgiving Proclamation here.

Tiger Woods: A Thanksgiving Meltdown

DAVE (shaking his head): You get a load of that, huh? Greatest golfer in the whole wide world.
CLIVE: Morning news said she got that Cadillac good with those clubs.
DAVE: Well of course the guy’s sleeping around he’s richer than God: this is news? They’ll print anything I tell you. This is not news.

In the early morning hours of November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods got into a car accident as he was backing out of the driveway of his Windermere, FL home, according to ABC News:

Professional golfer Tiger Woods was injured in a car crash outside his Windermere, Fla., home early this morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 33-year-old Woods was driving a 2009 Cadillac SUV alone when he hit a fire hydrant and then slammed into a tree at 2:25 a.m., according to police reports.

According to ABC affiliate WFTV, Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor said Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, used a golf club to smash out the back window and get her husband out of the car.

 She told officers she was in their house when she heard the accident and came outside.

Saylor told WFTV police officers found Woods lying in the street with his wife hovering over him. Saylor said Woods was in and out of consciousness when the officers arrived.

This happened after the National Enquirer leaked the story of Woods having an affair with a New York City party girl named Rachel Uchitel.

The ENQUIRER is reporting exclusively in its print edition that  the 34-year-old brunette, who has a reputation for dating married celebrities, has been telling friends about a jet-set liaison with 33-year-old Tiger  that began in June.

Multiple sources, who passed polygraph tests, say Rachel told them that she and Tiger also stay in touch during his frequent travels through phone calls and “sexting,” sending each other racy text messages on their cell phones.

Here are a few images from the 2009 Thanksgiving week events:

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The History of the Golf Tee

CLIVE: So all us get happy with Thanksgiving cause of Mr. Lincoln and we spread it around and that’s why it’s just one more thing we add to this country like peanut butter and the golf tee. We invented that shit, the golf tee: look it up, write a book. We—

Dr. George Franklin Grant, the African American man that invented the golf tee, attended Harvard Dental School and graduated in 1870. He saw the need for the invention after being displeased with how the ball traveled after he hit it from a sand mound. Read more about him here.

An excerpt:

Dr. Grant was unhappy with the mess that came with the tee shot. The process of teeing the ball up involved pinching moist sand to fashion a tee. Doing that 18 times a round was enough to annoy Dr. Grant, so he came up with an invention that would forever have an impact. On Dec. 12, 1899, he received U.S. patent No. 638,920, the world’s first patent for a golf tee.

In 1991, nearly a century after his patent, the United States Golf Association finally gave Grant recognition for his contribution to the game of golf.

He also became the first African American professor at Harvard University while creating another invention.

bhm-07-grant

“That ain’t the Bermuda triangle you in…

…that’s the Goddamn middle passage.”

CLIVE: This the middle passage don’t you forget it, instead you ride it, you ride them, get along, don’t get swallowed up, left out at sea.

The middle passage is the second part of the three-part transatlantic trade, which lasted from the 1500s until 1807, when the transatlantic slave trade ended. Here are a few excerpts from this longer explanation.

The captives were about to embark on the infamous Middle Passage, so called
because it was the middle leg of a three-part voyage — a voyage that began and
ended in Europe. The first leg of the voyage carried a cargo that often included
iron, cloth, brandy, firearms, and gunpowder. Upon landing on Africa’s “slave
coast,” the cargo was exchanged for Africans. Fully loaded with its human cargo,
the ship set sail for the Americas, where the slaves were exchanged for sugar,
tobacco, or some other product. The final leg brought the ship back to
Europe.

The slaves were branded with hot irons and restrained with shackles. Their
“living quarters” was often a deck within the ship that had less than five feet
of headroom — and throughout a large portion of the deck, sleeping shelves cut
this limited amount of headroom in half.4 Lack of standing headroom was the
least of the slaves’ problems, though. With 300 to 400 people packed in a tiny
area5 — an area with little ventilation and, in some cases, not even enough
space to place buckets for human waste — disease was prevalent. According to
Equiano, “The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the
number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn
himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the
air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and
brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died.”

Award-winning African American playwright August Wilson creates the idea of a “City of Bones” in his famed century cycle, which are ten plays spanning the 20th century that depict the African American experience in the Hill district of Pittsburgh. In this interview, Wilson talks about the city of bones and its relation to Citizen, one of the characters from Gem of the Ocean:

“Those bones,” August Wilson will tell you, “are symbolically representative ofthe Africans who were lost during the Middle Passage”—the voyage of slaves from Africa to the Sea Islands and other destinations—“those whose ships sank into the ocean, the Africans who never made it to America. We find out through the course of the play what it is Citizen has done, and why he did this. Aunt Ester leads him to the answer. He has to find out what his duty is, and through that he can be redeemed.” 

Here are some images of slaves, slave ships, and the city of bones:

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Below is a painting by J. M. W. Turner called The Slave Ship or Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhon Coming On (1840), as well as a close-up of an area of detail in the same painting.

And an excerpt from a poem that Turner wrote which was shown in tandem with the painting.

“Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
Yon angry setting sun and
fierce-edged clouds
Declare the Typhon’s coming.
Before it sweeps your
decks, throw overboard
The dead and dying – ne’er heed their chains
Hope,
Hope, fallacious Hope!
Where is thy market now?”

More background on the painting can be found here.

Boston Busing Crisis: Timeline & Pictures

GLORIA: I’m sitting with you and Anthony under each arm, babies, and I’m sitting there next to my father, next to Pop-pop who voted for Nixon, Fran, this entire country voted for someone didn’t want even so much as a traffic light to change red and I’m watching people throw rocks at little black kids on the TV in Pop-pop’s den; I’m watching people out in Roxbury setting fires, dragging people out of cars and I’m thinking no one’s looking, I mean really looking at anyone like they’re a real person.  Your father and me looked at each other like we were real…real. Everything was so confused and the world got all mixed up and what kind of mother let’s all that happen to their kids if she can help it?

A SELECTED TIMELINE OF EVENTS

1954-5: The “separate but equal” doctrine is over-turned by Brown v. Board of Education, and a second Brown decision calls for school desegregation.

1957: Arkansas’ Governor calls on the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering Little Rock High School. President Eisenhower sends 1,000 paratroopers to restore order and escort the black students to class.

1965: Massachusetts passes a law against de facto segregation, the Racial Imbalance Act. It is not enforced.

1971: In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the Supreme Court decides courts can order school desegregation through forced busing.

Oct 2, 1973: three blacks accosted a woman in Roxbury, doused her with gasoline, and set her afire. Later that week, in revenge of the white women’s death, white youths in the Bunker Hill Project wreaked havoc on black families in an adjacent development

Oct 7, 1973: a gang of white youths broke the rear window of a car belonging to Ronald Resca (a white man married to a black women). When Resca ran from his apartment to confront the vandals he was severely beaten. The next morning Resca called the fire department to inform them that his car which had been previously vandalized was now on fire. Over the next days, several firebombs crashed through the windows of other black families in Charlestown.

June 21, 1974: Federal District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity rules that the school committee has consciously maintained two separate school systems. Garrity orders students to be bused city-wide to integrate the schools, starting that fall.

May 9, 1974: Congress begins impeachment proceedings against President Nixon stemming from the Watergate scandal.

August 9, 1974: Richard M. Nixon resigns the presidency as result of Watergate. Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as the 38th U.S. President, becoming the 6th President coping with Vietnam.

Sept 9, 1974: Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR) anti-busing rally.

Sept 12, 1974: First day of Phase I busing. Attacks on African-American students and communities begin. Riots and violence tear the social fabric of the city as a whole.

Oct 7, 1974:  A white mob attacks Andre Yvon Jean-Louis, who is black, as he drives into South Boston to pick up his wife. Black students in Roxbury riot in violent protest.

Oct 15, 1974: A white student is stabbed at Hyde Park High School; Governor Francis W. Sargent alerts National Guard.

Dec 11, 1974: A white student is stabbed at South Boston High; African-American students become trapped inside by an angry mob.

Dec 15, 1974: A demonstration occurs on Boston Common to end the use of busing as a means of desegregation.

May 10, 1975: Judge Garrity issues a desegregation plan for Phase II, expanding busing in the fall.

Sept, 1975: Phase II of Boston’s busing program moves into Charlestown, and coincides with an economy in crisis and an uptick in the loss of manufacturing and factory jobs for Charlestown’s predominantly white, Irish Catholic working class community.

April 5, 1976: Ted Landsmark, a young African American lawyer, is on his way into City Hall Plaza when a gang of white youths – on the Plaza protesting forced busing – attack him. After beating and kicking him, they stab him with a pointed end of a flag pole strung with the American flag. The photo of the stabbing is seen around the country, cementing Boston’s reputation as a racist city. Here’s an excellent excerpt from a much longer accounting of the event, by Louis P. Masur:

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The protesters he encountered were just leaving City Hall and headed toward the Federal Building. This was another in a series of marches conducted by students and parents ever since June 1974 when Federal Judge Arthur Garrity found that the Boston School Committee had deliberately maintained segregated schools in violation of the law, and ordered a program of busing to promote desegregation.

Some 200 white students from South Boston and Charlestown assembled for the march to City Hall Plaza. “We all wanted to belong to something big,” recalls one teenage protester, “and the feeling of being part of the anti-busing movement along with the rest of Southie had been the best feeling in the world.” Southie meant more than just the geographic place South Boston. It meant neighborhood and community and ethnic pride. Thinking of the long day ahead, some packed a snack. Some made signs that said “RESIST.” One student, before leaving his third-floor South Boston apartment, grabbed the family’s American flag.

From the start, the anti-busing movement identified itself with patriotism. The activists saw themselves as defending their liberty against the tyranny of a judge run amok. Boston’s celebration of Bicentennial events in 1975 and 1976 only reinforced the idea that they were carrying on in a tradition of American resistance: one anti-busing group had as its motto “Don’t tread on me.” At rallies and boycotts, protesters carried American flags and frequently sang “God Bless America.” Protesters against the Vietnam War often burned Old Glory, but not here, not among the mainly working-class Irish of Boston. […] As the students filed out of the chambers and headed outside, they passed a group of black students from a nearby magnet school going on a tour. Epithets flew, as did pieces of food—donuts, cookies, apples. Groups have moods, and the protesters, fueled with cocoa and patriotism, marched onto the plaza feeling righteous about their cause. At that moment, a black man turned the corner and headed in their direction.

[…] 

“The photograph presents a sickening sight. Landsmark is being grabbed from behind. He seems to be struggling to free himself as a large crowd looks on. The flag bearer’s feet are planted, his hands firmly grasping the staff, his eyes focused on his target. His hair flows back as he prepares to lunge forward. Attacker and victim are forever frozen in time, and we feel trapped beside them. We can glance away, but we cannot escape the horror of what we imagine the next instant will bring.

The image served as a harsh reminder that the triumphs of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s had turned tragic. Progress had been made, but alongside it stood backlash and failure. Americans cherished stories of wrongs righted, of darkness yielding to light, but Forman’s picture provided a poisonous counter-narrative. The brotherhood of man was a worthy ideal, and it even seemed at times that a strong foundation had been laid for its realization. But in a claustrophobic courtyard, a white man turned the American flag against a black man, and the ideal crumbled.

More photos of the era:

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Newspaper stories chronicling the stoning of students (click to enlarge):

Fall Arts Preview

Don Aucoin and The Boston Globe featured SPLENDOR in yesterday’s Fall Arts Preview. Here’s an excerpt:

Questions of Belonging Reverberate on Local Stages
By Don Aucoin
Boston Globe, Sept 7, 2013

Three years ago, Kirsten Greenidge’s “Thanksgiving’’ was the high point of “Grimm,’’ Company One’s evening of short plays by seven local writers adapted from tales by the Brothers Grimm.

During “Thanksgiving,’’ as three women from the same hometown pondered the paths their lives had taken, they spoke of an individualistic high school classmate named Fran Giosa, who had apparently been a social outcast. Afterward, Greenidge couldn’t get Fran, the other women, or that town out of her mind.

So she expanded “Thanksgiving’’ into a full-length drama. Titled “Splendor’’ and slated to premiere at Company One Oct. 18-Nov. 16, Greenidge’s play tells a story about belonging and not belonging — a theme that will be thrashed out on numerous Boston-area stages this fall.

The episodic “Splendor,’’ which spans the years 1965 to 2012, ranges across the intersecting lives of 10 residents of a working-class suburb of Boston, including Fran, the daughter of a white mother and a black father.

“ ‘Splendor’ became for me a way to explore that who’s in, who’s out, and why,’’ Greenidge said in a telephone interview. “I’m intensely interested in race, but when you add other things, it can be a little more difficult to figure out who’s in, who’s out.’’

As she delved deeper into the town and its inhabitants, the playwright said, the experience was akin to looking through a prism: “You keep holding it up to the sun and you see different angles. It’s not just race, it’s not just class, it’s not just gender: It’s all these things together.’’

Greenidge, who lives in Waltham, has demonstrated exceptional acuity in dramatizing those issues in plays like “The Luck of the Irish,’’ which premiered last year at Huntington Theatre Company, and “Bossa Nova,’’ performed at Yale Repertory Theatre in 2010.

In “Splendor,’’ Fran has returned from Chestnut Hill to her hometown after her marriage to a wealthy African-American man falls apart. She needs to decide whether the place where she grew up poor and ostracized can now be home to her and her young daughter, and whether the one solid friendship she had during her youth is worth rekindling. (She also has to map out a plan for dealing with her aggressively outspoken mother, who still lives in the town even while seeming to despise it.) Broadly speaking, Fran confronts a choice about who she is going to be.

Playwright Kirsten Greenidge. Photo by Aram Boghosian.