10 Must-Have Books and Documentaries To Celebrate Black History Month

For many of us, learning about our history has been a personal endeavor. Generally, American education is largely Eurocentric and the history of people of color in this country centers around slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As we grow older, however, we realize there is so much more. Here are 10 must-have books and documentaries to kick-off this Black History Month. Use them to teach your children exciting facts about our rich and inspiring history.

For many of us, learning about our history has been a personal endeavor. Generally, American education is largely Eurocentric and the history of people of color in this country centers around slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As we grow older, however, we realize there is so much more.  Here are 10 must-have books and documentaries to kick-off this Black History Month. Use them to teach your children exciting facts about our rich and inspiring history.

1. African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross

Explore with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. (Amazon Product Review)

2. Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. Here, for the first time, is the story of the life of this extraordinary pioneer, told by his niece and grandniece, the award-winning television journalist Carol Jenkins and her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines. (Amazon Product Review)

3. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Wilson

The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes African-Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to “do for themselves”, regardless of what they were taught:

History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning (From Amazon).

4. Vintage Black Glamour

Vintage Black Glamour is a unique, sumptuous and revealing celebration of the lives and indomitable spirit of Black women of a previous era. With its stunning photographs and insightful biographies, this book is a hugely important addition to Black history archives. (Amazon Product Review)

5. When Black Men Ruled The World (Full Video on YouTube)

Hosted by Legrand H. Clegg II, “When Black Men Ruled The World” is a classic documentary of little known facts about the Black people of ancient history. The documentary discusses the migration, origin, and accomplishments of ancient Black people and their obvious impact on the modern world (From Atlantic Black Star).

6. Good Hair feat. Chris Rock

Chris Rock visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of the black community in this expos of comic proportions that only he could pull off. A raucous adventure prompted by Rock’s daughter approaching him and asking, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?, GOOD HAIR shows Chris Rock engaging in frank, funny conversations with hair-care professionals, beauty shop and barbershop patrons, and celebrities including Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symon, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt-N-Pepa, Eve and Reverend Al Sharpton all while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question. (Studio)

7. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

More than 40 years after the Black Panther Party was founded the group and its leadership remain powerful and enduring images in our popular imagination. This will weave together the voices of those who lived this story — police informants journalists white supporters and detractors those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. (Amazon Product Review)

8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley

With its first great victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the civil rights movement gained the powerful momentum it needed to sweep forward into its crucial decade, the 1960s. As voices of protest and change rose above the din of history and false promises, one voice sounded more urgently, more passionately, than the rest. Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it. (From Amazon)

9. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  (Amazon Product Review)

10. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

This unforgettable memoir was the basis for the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. This is the true story of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised as a freeman in New York. He lived the American dream, with a house and a loving family – a wife and two kids. Then one day he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the deep south. These are the true accounts of his twelve hard years as a slave – many believe this memoir is even more graphic and disturbing than the film. His extraordinary journey proves the resiliency of hope and the human spirit despite the most grueling and formidable of circumstances. (Amazon Product Review)

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About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

20 Awesome Children’s Books That Will Empower and Inspire Your Child

Our children deserve to be celebrated! Here are 20 empowering children’s books every parent, grandparent and teacher should have in their collection.

Our children deserve to be celebrated! Here are 20 empowering children’s books every parent, grandparent and teacher should have in their collection.

1. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarply

From Amazon: In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity.

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2. No Mirrors in My Nana’s House by Ysaye Barnell

From Amazon: A little girl discovers the beauty in herself–and the beauty of the world around her–not by looking in the mirror but by looking in her Nana’s eyes. Synthia Saint James’s gloriously bright illustrations in this paperback edition show young readers how to see the beauty, and the accompanying CD of Sweet Honey In The Rock singing the song lets them hear it.

3. In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall by Folami Abiade, et al.

From Amazon: In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall testifies to the powerful bond between father and child, recognizing family as our greatest gift, and identifying fathers as being among our most influential heroes.

4. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarply

From Amazon: This whimsical, evocative story about a girl named Keyana encourages African-American children to feel good about their special hair and be proud of their heritage. A BlackBoard Children’s Book of the Year.

5. Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan

From Amazon: Apart or together, near or far, day or night, from childhood to adulthood — the never-ending reach and power of a mother’s love touches every moment of every day, even when you least expect it. All you need to do is make sure to notice.

6. Marvelous Me by Lisa Bullard

From Amazon: Alex is a marvelous little boy who is just like other people in some ways, such as getting angry sometimes, but also unique because of his special laugh, his grizzly hugs, and his own interesting thoughts. Includes activities.

 

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7. Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson

From Amazon: Inspired by his family experiences and his parents’ paintings, a young boy creates four poems.

8. Happy to be Nappy by bell hooks

From Amazon: Legendary author bell hooks and Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka present a lyrical celebration, brimming with enthusiasm for girls and their hair. Nominated for an NAACP Image Award, this stunning picturebook is now available again in board book form.

9. Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

From Amazon: Deloris Jordan, mother of the basketball phenomenon, teams up with his sister Roslyn to tell this heartwarming and inspirational story that only the members of the Jordan family could tell. It’s a tale about faith and hope and how any family working together can help a child make his or her dreams come true.

10. Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

From Amazon: For the youngest member of an exuberant extended family, Sunday dinner
at Grannie’s can be full indeed – full of hugs and kisses, full of tasty dishes, full to the brim with happy faces, and full, full, full of love. With a special focus on the bond between little Jay Jay and his grannie, Trish Cooke introduces us to a gregarious family we are sure to want more, more, more of.

11. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

From Amazon: Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy’s persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer.

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12. Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

From Amazon: A little girl longs to see beyond the scary sights on the sidewalk and the angry scribbling in the halls of her building. When her teacher writes the word beautiful on the blackboard, the girl decides to look for something beautiful in her neighborhood. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things. Miss Delphine serves her a “beautiful” fried fish sandwich at her diner. At Mr. Lee’s “beautiful” fruit store, he offers her an apple. Old Mr. Sims invites her to touch a smooth stone he always carries. Beautiful means “something that when you have it, your heart is happy,” the girl thinks. Her search for “something beautiful” leaves her feeling much happier. She has experienced the beauty of friendship and the power of hope.

13. I Love My Cotton Candy Hair by Nicole Updegraff

From Amazon: Charlie is a caring, funny and friendly little girl. Like all children she’s beginning to face the struggles that we all go through with finding ourselves and trying to fit in. Follow this series as she learns and grows, and realizes there is nothing better than loving yourself and being happy just the way you are! In the first book of the series, I LOVE My Cotton andy Hair! Charlie rhymes her way into your heart with her perspective on the many goods and bads associated with her naturally curly “cotton candy hair” and finishes by saying “I love my hair and everything that comes with it.” The book is uplifting and fun for all children, but particularly young African American girls who are under a constant barrage of images of what the media identifies as beautiful or “good hair.”

14. I Am Loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children by Faye McCray

From Amazon: “I am” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language. What follows has the power to send our children on the path to greatness and fulfillment. This book of positive affirmations is designed to be read aloud with your favorite child or young adult. It is a beautiful collection of all that we see and want to see in the children we love.

15. Big Hair, Don’t Care Crystal by Swain-Bates

From Amazon: Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Despite her hair blocking the view of anyone that dares sit behind her and causing her to lose at hide and seek, she sings the praises of her big hair throughout this rhyming picture book. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any girl or boy who has ever felt a bit self-conscious about their hair and may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school.

16. Max and The Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper

From Amazon: Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But when the sky darkens and the moon disappears behind clouds, he worries that it didn’t follow him home after all. Where did the moon go—and what about Grandpa’s promise?

17. I am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt

From Amazon: If you believe it, you can achieve it! Princess Truly is smart, courageous, and can do anything she sets her mind to do. She can tame lions, race fast cars, fly to the moon, and dance on the stars.

18. When I’m Old With You by Angela Johnson

From Amazon: A small child imagines a future when he will be old with his Grandaddy. . . . The African-American child and grandfather are distinct individuals, yet also universal figures, recognizable to anyone who has ever shared the bond of family love across generations.

19. A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams

From Amazon: How will Gregory find his way back to Dad?Swish-swoosh . . . Gregory draws a lion in the sand. “Don’t go in the water, and don’t leave Sandy,” warns Dad. But the sandy lion grows a tail that gets longer and longer—and soon Gregory is lost on the beach. This wonderful read-aloud book brings to life a summer experience that is all too familiar for young children.

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20. Whose Knees are These? by abari Asim

From Amazon: Takes a loving look at knees from the vantage point of a mother’s lap.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

The Complicated History of Martin Luther King Day

In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time. It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon. If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe. The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected. In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader. Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day.

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In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time.  It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon.  If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe.  The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected.  In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader.  Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day:

1. A bill to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday was first introduced a few months after Dr. King’s death.

In 1968, a few months after Martin Luther King’s assassination, Congressman John Conyers (MI) and Senator Edward Brooke (MA) introduced a bill to make January 15, Dr. King’s birthday, a national holiday.  It didn’t go to the House of Representatives until 1979 and failed to pass by five votes.

2. The petition to support the holiday garnered close to six million signatures.

Shortly after Dr. King’s assassination, the King Memorial Center was founded in Atlanta.  The center launched a campaign to solicit support for a national holiday from the public and along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, garnered millions of signatures in support.  As of 2006, it was considered the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.

3. Stevie Wonder wrote the song “Happy Birthday” to gain support for the holiday.

In 1980, Stevie Wonder’s released the song “Happy Birthday” to popularize the campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. Lyrics include: “I just never understood/ How a man who died for good/ Could not have a day that would/ Be set aside for his recognition/ Because it should never be/ Just because some cannot see/ The dream as clear as he/ That they should make it become an illusion/ And we all know everything/ That he stood for time will bring/ For in peace our hearts will sing/ Thanks to Martin Luther King…”

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Letter From Birmingham City Jail

4. Senator Jesse Helms led a filibuster against the bill to create MLK Day.

In 1980, the bill passed in Congress but faced opposition in the Senate. Among those opposed to MLK Day were then-House Republican, now Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East, Republicans from North Carolina.  Helms and East criticized Martin Luther King for opposing the Vietnam War and accused him of being associated with communists.  In October 1983, when the bill once again came before the senate, Senator Helms led a filibuster against the bill.  He submitted a 300 page document alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called the document a “packet of filth,” threw it on the Senate floor, and stomped on it.  Although President Ronald Reagan initially opposed the bill, he signed the bill into law in 1983. The first official holiday was observed in 1986 by 27 states and the District of Columbia.

5. The NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California in protest of Arizona’s decision not to recognize the holiday.

Even after the bill passed, many states refused to recognize the holiday. Arizona was among them.  1n 1992, the NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California to protest the state’s failure to recognize the holiday. In response to the NFL’s protest and growing opposition, Arizona passed legislation to recognize the holiday.

6. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the holiday.

In 2000, South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill into law to make MLK Day an official state holiday. Prior to that, citizens could chose between celebrating MLK Day and other holidays celebrating members of the Confederacy.  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Virginia continue to combine MLK Day with other observances.

7. MLK Day is celebrated around the world.

Japan, Canada, Israel and The Netherlands hold celebrations in honor of Dr. King.

Sources:

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1872501,00.html

http://www.webcitation.org/5vnLjow8L

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

Living History: Meet Betty Soskin, America’s Oldest Park Ranger

At 94 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest living ranger for the National Park Service. She serves as Interpretive Ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. Today, she works up to five days a week and five hours per day. Her work entails giving two or three presentations in the park theater. She answers emails and requests from her office. She also conducts wildly popular bus tours through the areas that make up the park. She speaks honestly in her presentations about both discrimination and efforts for integration that occurred during WWII. Remarkably, she doesn’t use notes or a guide. Instead, she speaks from her lived experience and personal history. Her pace would be incredibly impressive for someone half her age. Here are eight facts you need to know about this American Shero.

At 94 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest living ranger for the National Park Service.  She serves as Interpretive Ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. Today, she works up to five days a week and five hours per day.  Her work entails giving two or three presentations in the park theater.  She answers emails and requests from her office.  She also conducts wildly popular bus tours through the areas that make up the park.  She speaks honestly in her presentations about both discrimination and efforts for integration that occurred during WWII. Remarkably, she doesn’t use notes or a guide.  Instead, she speaks from her lived experience and personal history.  Her pace would be incredibly impressive for someone half her age.  Here are eight facts you need to know about this American Shero:

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1. She was the great-granddaughter of enslaved Americans.

Soskin was born in Detroit, MI and lived part of her childhood in New Orleans before settling in Oakland, California.  Her parents were of Creole and Cajun descent and her great-grandmother was born into slavery in 1846.

2. She was an activist and artist.

In the 1950s, she and her husband were subject to death threats after they built a home in Walnut Creek, California, all-white suburb.  She became active in her local Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the Black Caucus of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  In the 1960s, she became a well-known songwriter in the Civil Rights Movement. Check out a song she wrote reposted on her blog here.

3. She was a part of the American Labor Movement.

During World War II, Soskin served as a file clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, which was an all African American union derivative that formed because segregationist policies allowed the White union to refuse their entry into the ranks.

4. She was a witness to the Port Chicago Disaster.

In 1944, 320 Americans, mostly African American sailors were killed when two ships being loaded with ammunition and bombs suddenly blew up. Soskin’s family hosted sailors who served in the U.S. Navy during that time.  Notably, the Port Chicago Disaster led to the Port Chicago Mutiny where  258 African American enlisted personnel refused to return to the disaster site and load ammunition until Navy officials changed load procedures to enhance safety.

5. She helped establish the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park where she currently serves.

Soskin served as a field representative for California Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock.  During this time, she became active in the early planning and development of the park set to memorialize women during World War II.   As someone who “lived it”, she became a fierce advocate for preserving the history of African American women during World War II.  She called attention to the often left out group who played a pivotal role in aiding the war effort while being denied basic rights and continuing to be treated as second class citizens within the country.

6. She is an active blogger.

Soskin is an active blogger and maintains updates that are reflections on her life and work. You can read her blog, which she regularly updates here.

7. She was honored by President Obama.

She has several interview requests and has received several honors from luminaries.  In 2015, President Barack Obama gave Soskin a commemorative coin to honor her as the oldest living park ranger.

8. She survived a vicious attack in July 2016.

On July 1, 2016, Mrs. Reid Soskin awoke to a masked man standing over her bed.  The assailant attacked her, ransacked her apartment and stole several things from her including the commemorative coin given to her by President Obama.  She survived the attack by escaping to a bathroom and barricading the door until the assailant retreated.  After the attack, she received hundreds of letters and emails.  A Go Fund Me page was set up for her through the National Park Service that helped her replace some things that were stolen.  She was sent a replacement coin with the Presidential Seal from the White House.  She was able to come out of the incident with only bruises, but her quick thinking and indomitable spirit kept her alive through the ordeal.

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Information attained from:

Betty Reid Soskin, CBreaux Speaks, http://cbreaux.blogspot.com/

Rachel Gillett, “Meet the 94-year-old park ranger who works full-time and never wants to retire”, http://www.businessinsider.com/94-year-old-park-ranger-betty-reid-soskin-interview-2016-8

Richmond Pulse, “Q&A: Nation’s Oldest Park Ranger Cites Outpouring of Support in Healing After Robbery”, http://newamericamedia.org/2016/08/qa-nations-oldest-park-ranger-cites-outpouring-of-support-in-healing-after-robbery.php

 

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About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

 

 

 

 

Why We Must Teach Our Children To Celebrate Labor Day

Since well before the Civil War, our people have participated in the fight for equal rights in the labor force. There is documentation of a strike by black caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard as early as 1835. Our ancestors fight was uniquely brutal since labor unions were segregated well into the 20th Century. The fight for equal rights in the workforce necessarily became intrinsic to the Civil Rights Movement. Here are 5 historic events everyone should know as we remember our ancestors this Labor Day.

Since well before the Civil War, our people have participated in the fight for equal rights in the labor force. There is documentation of a strike by caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard as early as 1835. Our ancestors fight was uniquely brutal since labor unions were segregated well into the 20th Century.  The fight for equal rights in the workforce necessarily became intrinsic to the Civil Rights Movement.  Here are 5 historic events everyone should know as we remember our ancestors this Labor Day.

1. Creation of the Colored National Labor Union

In December 1869, 214 delegates attended the Colored National Labor Union convention in Washington, D.C. This union was in response to the National Labor Union which excluded African American workers. The assembly sent a petition to Congress requesting direct intervention in the alleviation of the “condition of the colored workers of the southern States” by subdividing the public lands of the South into forty-acre farms and providing low-interest loans to African American farmers. A few years later, in 1871, the group followed up, sending a “Memorial of the Committee of the National Labor Convention for Appointment of a Commission to Inquire into Conditions of Affairs in the Southern States.” Congress did not respond to either petition. In 1896, when the Supreme Court handed down the Plessy v. Ferguson decision which gave official recognition to the “separate but equal” doctrine, government mandated “relegation of [African Americans] to second-class status was complete.”

2. Great Migration

According to the National Archives, “during the Great Migration of 1916-1930, over one million African Americans moved from the south to the north in search of better lives.”  Many found work due to the labor shortage created in the wake of the First World War.  African American representation grew in industrial employment, particularly in the steel, automobile, shipbuilding, and meatpacking industries. The U.S. government, under pressure from African American leaders who demanded representation in the policymaking and administrative councils of government, established special offices such as the Office of the Director of Negro Economics to help mobilize the African American work force for the war effort. The division was the first agency of its kind in the nation.

3. Elaine Massacre of 1919

The Progressive Farmers and Householders Union was started by sharecropper Robert Lee Hill to protect agricultural workers against exploitation and “advanc[e] the intellectual, material, moral, spiritual, and financial interests of the Negro race.” Following a meeting on September 30, 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, white law enforcement officials and vigilantes from neighboring counties and states attacked union officials and members, killing hundreds of African Americans. Whites formed militias against what they believed to be an insurrection and the Governor of Arkansas, Charles Hillman Brough deployed federal troops arresting hundreds of our people.  Due to government mandated repression and mass murder, the union was largely destroyed following the massacre. The massacre has been called one of the worst in American history.

4. A. Philip Randolph and The First March On Washington

In 1925, A. Philip Randolph, noted civil rights leader and labor organizer, began his fight for equal protection of our workers by gaining recognition of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters by the Pullman Car Company, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and the U.S. government. Early in 1941, A. Philip Randolph announced the creation of the March on Washington Committee, compelling President Roosevelt to issue an executive order ending racial discrimination in hiring by unions and employers and eliminating segregation in the armed forces. If President Roosevelt refused, Randolph promised that 100,000 Americans would march in Washington to end segregation. In response, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 which established the Committee on Fair Employment Practice (FEPC). According to the National Archives, “after asserting that national unity was being impaired by discrimination, the executive order declared it to be the duty of employers and of labor organizations to provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries, without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin.” All federal agencies concerned with defense production were ordered to administer such programs without discrimination, and all defense contracts were to include a provision “obligating the contractor not to discriminate against any worker because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”

5. The Second March on Washington

Unfortunately, the Committee on Fair Employment Practice (FEPC) ended in 1946.  Randolph’s group, however, continued to meet annually to reiterate demands for economic equality. In 1963, leaders began to plan a new March on Washington. According to the Reader’s Companion to American History (see below), the new March for Jobs and Freedom, led by A. Philip Randolph and organized by his longtime associate, Bayard Rustin, was expected to attract 100,000 participants; however, more than 200,000 Americans attended.  The March for Jobs and Freedom became known for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and spurred historic civil rights legislation and “redress through a number of court cases under Title VII, Equal Employment Opportunity, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

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Information attained from:

James Gilbert Cassedy, African Americans and the American Labor Movement, Federal Records and African American History, Prologue Magazine, Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2, http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/american-labor-movement.html.

Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, The Reader’s Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/march-on-washington.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising.

Must-See Historical Sites That Will Leave You Bursting With Pride

The United States is rich in history most of us never learn anything about. While much of it is painful, some of it will reaffirm your belief that we are a strong people rich in culture and resiliance. From coast to coast, here are some must-see historical sites that will leave you bursting with pride!

The United States is rich in history most of us never learn anything about. While much of it is painful, some of it will reaffirm your belief that we are a strong people rich in culture and resilience.  From coast to coast, here are few must-see historical sites by region that will leave you bursting with pride!

Northeast

Smith Court Residences (MA)

“The area of lower Joy Street and Smith Court was an important center of Boston’s 19th century black community.” William Cooper Nell, a tenant, was a leading abolitionist and law student.  He refused to take an oath when he was admitted to the bar because he didn’t support the US Constitution. According to the National Park Service, he was the author of several historical books including Colored Patriots of the American Revolution and he worked at various times for the Liberator, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and the Frederick Douglass’ Paper. He was also very active in the Boston Vigilance Committee and he sheltered or aided numerous self-emancipated slaves at 3 Smith Court.

W.E.B. DuBois National Historic Site (MA)

This National Historic Site is located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the town where prominent civil right activist, sociologist, writer, and Pan-Africanist, W.E.B. DuBois, lived during the first half of the twentieth century. It includes free walking tours of his now demolished homesite.

Tri-State

Austin F. Williams Carriage House (CT)

According to the National Park Service, in June of 1839, 53 members of the Mende tribe from present-day Sierra Leone were illegally captured and transported to Cuba and sold to Spanish planters. The men were loaded onto the ship Amistad which set sail for another Cuban port. Four days later, the Mende, led by Sengbe Pieh, took control of the vessel, killing some of their captors, and ordered the ship to sail to America. Brought into custody by the United States Navy, the Mende were imprisoned in New Haven, Connecticut, and charged with piracy and murder. A defense committee, including Austin Williams represented the Mende. The Supreme Court ruled that the Mende had been held illegally by force and that the siege and murder of their captures happened in self-defense. The Mende were ordered free on March 9, 1841. Upon their release, the Mende were taken in by members of their defense committee, including Austin Williams. Williams constructed a building on his property in which the male members of the group lived. This building is today the east section of the Austin F. Williams Carriage House.

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area (NY)

According to the website, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area “celebrates, interprets and preserves the wealth of places and stories associated with the Underground Railroad found within the City of Niagara Falls and the surrounding region.”

 

Mid-Atlantic

Frederick Douglass House (DC)

19th century abolitionist and writer, Frederick Douglass, resided in this 20-room home for the last 13 years of his life.  According to the National Park Service, the house, which sits on top of a 51-foot hill and is surrounded by eight acres of the original estate was restored to its 1895 appearance and is furnished with original objects that belonged to Frederick Douglass.

Mount Zion Cemetery (DC)

This Georgetown cemetery is composed of two separate adjacent cemeteries, the old Methodist Burying Ground and the Female Union Band Society Graveyard.  According to the National Park Service, this historic site “illustrates the significant contribution of African Americans to the development of Georgetown and the work of an early benevolent society organized by black women for their own benefit.”

South

 

American Beach Historic District (FL)

According to the National Park Service, “in 1935, the Pension Bureau of a pioneering black-owned business, Jacksonville’s Afro-American Life Insurance Company (“the Afro”), bought 33 acres of shorefront property on Amelia Island. Commercial establishments including motels, guest houses, restaurants, nightclubs sprang up along with new summer homes, and American Beach became a magnet for vacationing African Americans from across the country.  For day visitors, excursion buses ran between nearby minority communities and the beach.” On September 10, 1964, Hurricane Dora slammed into American Beach, damaging or destroying many homes and businesses. Some say the setback was further impacted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which opened all public facilities to African Americans dissuading visitors from staying on American Beach. Most hotels are gone now. However, the National Register of Historic Places has designated the original 33 acres as worthy of historic preservation.

 

Freedmen’s Town National Historic District (TX)

Following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, newly-freed African Americans begin creating their own communities across the country, many of them known as “Freedmen Town.” Despite setbacks, many Freedmen’s towns flourished including Houston’s Fourth Ward. Large numbers of African Americans left the east Texas plantations and arrived in Houston in 1866, settling along Buffalo Bayou. The community thrived, designated the “Fourth Ward” during a period in which Houston divided the city into political districts. Fourth Ward citizens paved the streets with bricks they made by hand and built a neighborhood, both physical and culturally, by utilizing their skills as carpenters, blacksmiths, preachers, lawyers, doctors and teachers. Today, the Fourth Ward is within a mile of Houston’s city center, bound on all sides by a progression of high-rise condos and office towers. Less than 30 historic structures out of hundreds remain.

 

Mid-West

 

Carver National Monument (MO) 

This monument honors George Washington Carver, former enslaved American, Botanist and Inventor. Carver’s reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families

Clearview Golf Club (OH)

According to the website, when PGA golfer, “Bill Powell encountered racial discrimination on the golf course after returning home from World War II, he decided to build his own place to play, one where people of all colors would be welcome.  In 1946 he established Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio: America’s Course.” Clearview was named a National Historic Site by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2001.

West

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park (CA)

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, in August 1908, Colonel Allen Allensworth, a former enslaved American and Union soldier, and four other settlers established a town founded, financed and governed by African Americans. Their dream of developing an abundant and thriving community stemmed directly from a strong belief in programs that allowed blacks to help themselves create better lives. By 1910 Allensworth’s success was the focus of many national newspaper articles praising the town and its inhabitants.

Berkely Square (NV)

According to the National Park Service, the Berkley Square subdivision, which is located in the area historically known as Las Vegas’ Westside, consists of 148 Contemporary Ranch-style homes designed by internationally-known African American architect Paul R. Williams. It was built between 1954 and 1955 and was the first African American built subdivision in Nevada. Berkley Square, bounded by Byrnes Ave, D Street, Leonard Ave and G Street, was built to provide adequate housing for a growing African American community prior to the Civil Rights movement. The development was financed in part by Thomas L. Berkley, a prominent African American attorney, media owner, developer and civil rights advocate in Oakland, California.

Hawaii and Alaska

African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawai’i (AADCCH) (HI)

According to the website, this museum repository collects and archives historical documentation to preserve 200 years of Black history in Hawaii and share it with the community to educate and enhance cultural appreciation.

Alaska Alcan Highway (AK)

African-American engineers played a critical role in constructing the Alaska Alcan Highway.  According to Wikipedia, the road was originally built mostly by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a supply route during World War II. In 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers assigned more than 10,000 men, about a third were black soldiers, members of three newly formed “Negro regiments”. The Juneteenth Alaska Alcan Highway Celebration commended the soldiers in 2011 with the help of unexpected ally, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising.

How to Confront Bias in the Classroom

While as adults, we learn to sweep powerless microaggressions under the rug, when it comes to our children, these behaviors, especially in the educational system, can be irrevocably damaging. We are often forced to fight for them, even when we haven’t always been willing to fight for ourselves.

by Faye McCray

It’s a burden that can be uniquely ours.  And by ours, I mean people of color.  As we move into different career paths or socioeconomic statutes or merely try to introduce ourselves to different experiences, the rooms tend to get less brown.  In a good room, it’s a fleeting thought.  You notice but it doesn’t silence you. In fact, it may encourage you to be brighter, since you are already standing out.  In a difficult room, the otherness can be palpable, leaking from every stare and comment.  You are center court, dodging decades of expectations, and assumptions about your thoughts, beliefs and lifestyle.  You have to fight your way out without shrinking or being defined.

At thirty-something, I feel like an old pro but when it comes to my kids, I still feel like a rookie.  While as adults, we learn to sweep powerless microaggressions under the rug, when it comes to our children, these behaviors, especially in the educational system, can be irrevocably damaging. We are often forced to fight for them, even when we haven’t always been willing to fight for ourselves.  It was with this thought in mind that I wondered, how would I defend my child against bias in the educational setting?

For us, the seemingly inevitable came in my eldest’s second grade year when he came to me and declared that Ms. V*, a paraeducator at his school “…did not like brown boys.”  As I listened to him rattle off the list of infractions: from telling him and other brown boys she was “watching” them to telling him he wasn’t better than anyone else to accusing him of lying about asking to use the bathroom, it was clear she was targeting him but connecting the dots between her behavior and racism would be a much more daunting task.  After all, racism is a very strong accusation.  By definition, it means “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”  That’s heavy.  I knew going into his school ready to hurl that word at the first one to listen wasn’t the way to be heard. Whether I believed it to be true or not.

1. Remain calm.

My husband’s karate teacher used to teach self defense to women. He said the women would always start off throwing weak jabs and hits, too shy to use their full strength.  However, as soon as the instructor challenged them to fight like they were protecting their children, all bets were off.  I would wager nothing makes a human more feral than the thought of having to protect your children.  However, when it comes to protecting our children in the education setting, we must remain calm. In spite of what reality TV has taught us, no one ever hears you when you’re yelling. This I know. Though my first instinct was to contact the school immediately upon learning of this educator’s behavior, I knew I needed to calm down first.  In my case, it meant waiting for my husband to come home so we could strategize, have some tea, and get a good night’s sleep.

2. Identify your objective.

In our case, we wanted the behavior to stop. We were fortunate Ms. V was a paraeducator and not his primary teacher. We adored his primary teacher.  We also had a great relationship with his school’s administrators. We didn’t think we were confronting a systemic problem but more of a problem with this particular educator.  Thus, we knew disciplinary action could potentially rectify the situation. We also knew from previous interactions with Ms. V, discussing the issue directly with her may cloud our objective.  She wasn’t personable and seemed like the kind of small-minded individual that may antagonize the situation.  We knew calmly discussing the issue with the principal was the best way to find a solution for the problem.

Identifying your objective is crucial in determining what path of redress you should take. If you suspect the problem is systemic, your starting point may be beyond the administrators but with the school board.

“Make [the issue] child specific. All parents are critical of their children’s progress. Everyone will understand that. When you start with race, you put people on the defensive and that is counterproductive.”

3. Focus on the child.

Princess Lyles, Executive Director of Democracy Builders, an organization focusing on parental advocacy in public schools, recommends: “Make [the issue] child specific. All parents are critical of their children’s progress. Everyone will understand that. When you start with race, you put people on the defensive and that is counterproductive.”

Our first step was sitting down with the principal and expressing our disappointment with our son’s experience. We used phrases like, “Ms. V’s words made our son feel vulnerable” and “Ms. V made him feel targeted.”  We let the principal know our son was enthusiastic about learning and looked forward to going to school each day.  We were worried his interaction with this educator would ruin that.  Our son didn’t have a history of behavioral problems or problems with any other teachers in the school.  This made it clear that the issue was more with this particular educator.

4. Document and investigate.

We were fortunate that our principal was very receptive so our battle ended there. In fact, while we used words like “vulnerable” and “targeted.”  She used phrases like “resistant to change” and “from a different time.”  It was clear we were ALL on the same page.

Although our principal was receptive to our grievances, we were prepared to go further.  Our son’s concern about Ms. V’s interaction with all “brown boys” stemmed from weeks of watching her berate and target brown children.  We knew he wasn’t the only one at stake.

Lyles recommends documenting your child’s allegations, observing interactions (where possible) and talking with other parents.  “Poke around to see if there are similar circumstances,” she said.  If the issue warrants going beyond teachers and administrators, you may have to  bring your grievances to the school board.  In which case, you want to prepared.

5. Explore other options.

“Education is a partnership,” said Lyles. “To the extent the school isn’t working to make it a partnership, it may not work for you.  Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, you will constantly be on a mission to find the school that’s the right fit.”

The truth is, not everyone is cut out to be the Norma Rae of inclusive education. Often your priority is to protect your child and that’s okay.  If your child is attending a private school or if a private school is within your means, the solution may be as easy as finding another private school.  If private school is not an option, many school districts offer open enrollments, charter schools and variance applications that open the door to attending schools outside of your neighborhood.  Do your homework and know your options.

“You are your child’s best advocate.”

6. Remain involved.

Whether it’s the beginning, middle or end of your child’s educational career, it is important to remain involved.  My husband and I are both active members of our school community. We have held positions on the PTA and volunteered regularly in our son’s classrooms. We also encourage constant dialogue with our children’s teachers and administrators.  When I emailed my son’s principal to request a meeting, she already knew who we were.  She knew we were invested in our child’s education, not just when there was a problem but when things were going well.  After our meeting, she also knew we wouldn’t just disappear. We would remain active and thus, she would remain accountable.

Even if your work schedule makes it difficult to give face time at your child’s school, emails and social media make it easier to remain active.  Send an email checking in every once in awhile.  Ask about your child’s progress and what you can do at home.  Be sure to introduce yourself and your child to school administrators where possible.

“You are your child’s best advocate,” said Lyles.  The best way to avoid problems is to be there before they start.

*name changed.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising.