Unbought and Unbossed: Shirley Chisholm and the 1972 Presidential Run

Today’s post was written by Tiffany Walker, Archivist in the Textual Processing Branch at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic Presidential nomination, thus becoming the first woman in United States history to lead the ticket of a major political party. However, Clinton was not the first woman to run for President of the United States.

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This item is a photograph of President William J. Clinton greeting Shirley Chisholm, Ambassador-Designate to Jamaica, in the Oval Office of the White House. The image was photographed by Robert McNeely. [NAID 2842929]

Shirley Chisholm is best known for becoming the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972. Elected to Congress in 1968, Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She represented New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1968 to 1983.

A0294-10A 600dpi scan from Negative

This photograph depicts President Gerald R. Ford seated at the Cabinet Room table signing a proclamation on Women’s Equality Day 1974. Standing behind him are Representatives Yvonne Brathwait Burke (D-California), Barbara Jordan (D-Texas), Elizabeth Holtzman (D-New York), Marjorie S. Holt (R-Maryland), Leonor K. Sullivan (D-Missouri), Cardiss Collins (D -Illinois), Corinne C. Boggs (D-Louisiana), Margaret M. Heckler (R-Massachusetts), Bella S. Abzug (D-New York), and Shirley Chisholm (D-New York). [NAID 12082600]

Chisholm’s campaign slogan, “unbought and unbossed,” recalled her rise from the daughter of working class immigrant parents to her success as a voice for the people in her capacity as Congresswoman. Despite the drive and will to succeed, Chisolm’s campaign only managed to spend $300,000 in funding.

From the start, Chisholm faced struggles and opposition during her 1972 presidential campaign. She was ignored by much of the Democratic establishment, struggled with being seen as a symbol, as opposed to a serious political candidate, and faced opposition from all sides including from prominent black male colleagues. Chisholm expressed her frustrations with this aspect of her campaign a decade later stating, “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.”

President Nixon meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Cabinet Room (NAID 7822054)

President Nixon meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Cabinet Room (NAID 7822054)

Still, Chisolm persisted and later remarked in her book The Good Fight, “I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo… The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready’ to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start.”

After her political career had come to an end in 1983, Chisolm taught politics and sociology at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Her efforts inspired many to go on to pursue political careers against all odds and she continues to inspire today.

 

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“Turn this Town Out”: Stokely Carmichael, Black Power, and the March against Fear

Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Supervisory Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

The March against Fear that took place in June 1966, is considered the last great march against racism of the 1960s Civil Rights era in the South. Participants of this march included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). After activist James Meredith was shot in the leg on day two, these organizations continued where he had to leave off. During this march from Memphis, TN to Jackson, MS, the evolving ideologies of these organizations clashed, thus marking a shift from an era of mostly passive/nonviolent action to more active and direct protest. Additional details on the Meredith March are discussed by Jamie White, former National Declassification Center (NDC) employee, in his February 5, 2014 blog, “James Meredith and his March against Fear.”

RG 65 Classification 44 (Civil Unrest) Headquarters Case Files, (National Archives Identifier 2329984) contains correspondence, memorandums, photographs, newspaper clippings, reports, transcripts, and telegrams relating to violations of civil rights laws. Case file #44-33352, Mississippi (1966) Meredith March, Stokely Carmichael consists of investigative documentation regarding the March against Fear. Several of the reports and statements in this case file refers to the actions that occurred on June 16, 1966 in Greenwood, Mississippi.

During the march, Stokely Carmichael, who was the current Chairman of SNCC, used his rhetoric and passion to alter the direction of the Civil Rights movements towards a black power agenda. Carmichael, a 24-year old, recent graduate from Howard University became active with SNCC in 1961. He participated in voter registration in the South and spent time at Parchman State Prison Farm in Mississippi for attempting to integrate passenger trains. In 1965, Carmichael assisted black Alabamians with their voter registration efforts and was exposed to the techniques and ideologies of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO). The LCFO used the black panther as its symbol, members openly carried guns, and they believed in “black power for black people.” The LCFO, along with SNCC ran its candidates against the all-white democrat party members in Alabama elections.

FBI Case File 44-33352_Page_23

On June 16, 1966, marchers began to set-up camp on the grounds of the Stone Street Elementary School in Greenwood, Mississippi. There was some confusion as to whether or not the marchers had permission to set up tents on the public school’s grounds. Local white officials confronted the marchers and told them they were not allowed on the school’s property. Carmichael, Robert Smith, and Bruce Bains continued to pitch tents and threaten to have marchers “turn this town out” if arrested. The three men were arrested and charged with trespassing.

Carmichael was released from jail several hours later. He immediately went to address the 1,500 marchers at a nearby rally. Fellow SNCC member Willie Ricks, who had been prepping marchers all day, encouraged Carmichael to use the slogan “Black Power” during the speech. Ricks and Carmichael had become familiar with the phrase black power by watching its use with the LCFO, and defined it as a call for black political and economic power. And on the night of June 16, 1966, Carmichael proclaimed to the crowd, “We been saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothin. What we got to start saying now is Black Power! We want Black Power.”

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of when Carmichael and other marchers shifted the Civil Rights agenda from freedom now to Black Power. Many African Americans began to embraced the notions of black self-empowerment, political power, and economic independence. At the conclusion of this march, SCLC began protesting against economic inequality and the Vietnam War, SNCC’s new leadership focused on black power and Pan-Africanism, and CORE moved towards economic empowerment and black power.

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[SAVE-THE-DATE. October 2016, The Say It Loud! Employee Affinity Group along with the National Archives Foundation will be hosting a multi-generational panel discussion on Black Power titled “Revolutionary Movements: Then and Now –  Black Power and Black Lives Matter” at the National Archives at Washington, D. C. Stay tuned for more details.]

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Tribute: Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.” ~ Muhammad Ali

On June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali passed at the age of 74 in Phoenix, Arizona. He was a professional boxer and one of the greatest athletes in the world. Known for his boxing skills and trash talking, Ali was both inspirational and controversial. Ali won three world heavyweight championship titles, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, named Sportsman of the Year, received the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Ali also was an activist and humanitarian, who raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and the Special Olympics.

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION MUHAMMAD ALI, A BLACK MUSLIM, ATTENDS THE SECT'S SERVICE TO HEAR ELIJAH MUHAMMAD DELIVER THE ANNUAL SAVIOR'S DAY MESSAGE IN CHICAGO. THE CITY IS HEADQUARTERS FOR THE BLACK MUSLIMS. THEIR $75 MILLION EMPIRE INCLUDES A MOSQUE NEWSPAPER, UNIVERSITY, RESTAURANTS, REAL ESTATE, BANK AND VARIETY OF RETAIL STORES. THE MUSLIM LEADER DIED FEBRUARY 25, 1975 (NAID 556247)

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION MUHAMMAD ALI, A BLACK MUSLIM, ATTENDS THE SECT’S SERVICE TO HEAR ELIJAH MUHAMMAD DELIVER THE ANNUAL SAVIOR’S DAY MESSAGE IN CHICAGO. THE CITY IS HEADQUARTERS FOR THE BLACK MUSLIMS. THEIR $75 MILLION EMPIRE INCLUDES A MOSQUE NEWSPAPER, UNIVERSITY, RESTAURANTS, REAL ESTATE, BANK AND VARIETY OF RETAIL STORES. THE MUSLIM LEADER DIED FEBRUARY 25, 1975 (NAID 556247)

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. was born on January 12, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He began boxing at the age of 12, after threatening to “whip” the person who stole his bicycle. Ali won six Kentucky Golden Glove titles, two national Golden Glove titles, and a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. At the age of 22, Clay won his first heavyweight title by defeating reigning champion Sonny Liston.

Photograph of King Hussein of Jordan and President Gerald R. Ford Greeting Heavyweight Boxer Muhammad Ali in the Receiving Line at a State Dinner Held in His Majesty's Honor (NAID 7840017)

Photograph of King Hussein of Jordan and President Gerald R. Ford Greeting Heavyweight Boxer Muhammad Ali in the Receiving Line at a State Dinner Held in His Majesty’s Honor (NAID 7840017)

In 1962, Clay met Malcolm X, who became his spiritual advisor and friend. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1964 and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1967, Ali refused to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs. He was charged with draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. The conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1971. The National Archives holds records relating to his arrest and successful appeal in the series Case Files and Enclosures Relating to Cassius Clay, Jr. (Muhammad Ali), 1967-1969 (NAID 22930205).

During his exile, and continuing after his reinstatement to the boxing world, Ali started making television appearances where he had the opportunity to be openly vocal about the state of black people in America. He often expressed opinions about the reality of inequality, bigotry, and racism experienced by African Americans on a daily basis; as well as his support of social movements like Black Power and Civil Rights.

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Ali was involved in several legendary boxing matches. In 1974, he fought George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, in an event promoted by Don King billed as the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali also fought Joe Frazier in 1975 in Quezon City, Philippines, in the “Thrilla in Manila.”  He continued his boxing career with matches against Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick. Ali retired from boxing in 1981 at the age of 39.

Before his sporting and civic contributions were recognized by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Muhammad Ali was chosen to light the flame in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

Muhammad Ali’s life and legacy in and outside of the ring proves that he was truly The Greatest.

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Revisiting Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’: History Channel Premieres Remake on Memorial Day

Today’s post was written by Tiffany Walker, Archives Technician in the Textual Processing Branch at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

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Alex Haley addressing Department of Housing and Urban Development employees in Washington DC [NAID 24070480]

The History Channel has produced a four part, 8 hour remake of the 1977 miniseries ‘Roots,’ which is based on the 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. The series is set to air from May 30th through June 2nd and will be broadcast on the History Channel, Lifetime, and A&E.

The original series, along with Haley’s novel sparked an increase in public interest in genealogy in the late 1970’s, particularly among African Americans. Haley performed a fair amount of his genealogical research for his novel with the assistance of former National Archives staff member  James “Jimmy” Dent Walker, who was a research consultant at the time. With the release of the novel and series, and with the expertise of staff members like Walker, the genealogical research profile of the National Archives rose tremendously among members of the genealogical research community and the public.

To learn more about James “Jimmy” Dent Walker visit the National Archives Prologue article:

 James D. Walker: Lone Messenger to International Genealogist

To learn more about African American genealogical research:

Genealogy Notes

Black History at NARA

Posted in Diaspora, Genealogy, Slavery and the Slave Trade, Tribute | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lynching of Women in United States Blog Series: The Lynching of Belle Hathaway

Today’s blog was written by Dr. Trichita M. Chestnut, Management and Program Analyst in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

This is the second blog post on a series of blogs on the lynching of women in the United States.

Lynching remains one of the most disturbing and least understood atrocities in American history. During the Postbellum and Reconstruction periods, mob violence in the South became a tool for maintaining the racial order. African American men, women, and children now comprised the majority of victims of lynch mobs and lynchings assumed an increasingly sadistic nature.

Between 1837 and 1946, 173 women were victims of white mob violence in the United States. Of the 173 women lynched: 144 were African American, 25 were white, 3 were Mexican, and 1 was Native American. 164 of these women met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs in the South. Women, who moved outside the well-defined boundaries of the rigid moral and social order of the Post-Reconstruction period, were challenging the cult of true womanhood and the domination of white males and sex-role mandates. In extreme situations, women who would not conform were lynched.

There are case files on the lynching of women in Georgia, found in Record Group (RG) 60 the General Records of the Department of Justice and RG 65 Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the these records, you will find correspondence, newspaper clippings, telegrams, petitions, and resolutions from ordinary Americans as well as notable anti-lynching and civil rights activists and organizations relating to the lynching of African Americans in the United States.

In Georgia, the state with the second largest number of females lynched, had 18 female victims of lynch mobs from 1884-1946: 17 were African American and 1 was white. The series Straight Numerical Files, 1904-1974 (National Archives Identifier 583895) contains correspondence regarding the lynching of women in the United States.

“Dear President, imagine a poor helpless woman being marched thru the streets to a post and amidst her piteous cries and protesting her innocence, she is strung up and lynched like a brute…” E.D. Rosemond of Ashville, North Carolina wrote to President William Taft on January 24, 1912, describing the lynching the 6th female victim in the state of Georgia, Belle Hathaway.

 

Letter to President William Howard Taft from E. D. Rosemond (NAID 583895), page 1

Letter to President William Howard Taft from E. D. Rosemond (NAID 583895), page 1

 

Letter to President William Howard Taft from E. D. Rosemond (NAID 583895), page 2

Letter to President William Howard Taft from E. D. Rosemond (NAID 583895), page 2

On January 22, 1912, an unknown assailant shot and killed Norman Hadley, a young white married farmer, while sitting in his home. That afternoon authorities arrested four African-American tenants, including Belle and three men, and charged them with the crime of murder in Hamilton, Harris County. Although Sheriff Hadley, the victim’s uncle feared no lynching would occur, a white mob had been mobilizing and planning that entire day and night. By 9 o’clock that evening, a mob of 100 white men overpowered the jailer and took the four prisoners, who were marched out-of-town at gunpoint. “There they were quickly strung up. Immediately their writhing bodies became silhouetted against the sky, revolvers and rifles blazed forth and fully 300 shots were fired before the mob dispersed. The Negroes protested their innocence to the last, but the mob would have none of it.”

Newspaper clipping about the incident (NAID 583895) [Subject to copyright restrictions]

Newspaper clipping about the incident (NAID 583895) [Subject to copyright restrictions]

All four victims died, “at the hands of persons unknown,” since no one had ever been prosecuted for this lynching.

 

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Ernie “The Express” Davis

Today’s blog was written by Kevin L. Bradley, Archives Technician in the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

In 1961, Ernie Davis became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. He was an intelligent and talented athlete from Syracuse University. Born on December 19, 1939 in Elmira, New York, Davis was a standout high school athlete at the Elmira Free Academy.

Davis faced many challenges and celebrated many successes during his collegiate years at Syracuse University. As a student-athlete, he had to balance issues of racism, sportsmanship, and academics. In 1960, Davis played in the Cotton Bowl Classic against the Texas Longhorns in Dallas, Texas. He and the other African-American players had to endure ugly racial slurs, as well as having objects thrown at them from the Longhorn fans and players. Despite the distractions of the game, Davis ran for one touchdown and caught a record-setting 87-yard touchdown pass, as well as intercepted a pass that led to a 3rd Orangeman touchdown. Syracuse defeated Texas 23-14 and Davis became the Cotton Bowl Classic MVP.

ST-274-1-61 5 December 1961 President Kennedy meets Heisman Trophy winner Ernest Davis at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City. The President was attending the National Foundation (Football) Hall of Fame Dinner. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

ST-274-1-61 5 December 1961
President Kennedy meets Heisman Trophy winner Ernest Davis at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City. The President was attending the National Foundation (Football) Hall of Fame Dinner.
Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Davis was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 1962, which was presented by the New York Athletic Club. After winning the Heisman Trophy, Davis had the honor to meet one of his biggest fans, President John F. Kennedy at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

ST-274-2-61 5 December 1961 President Kennedy meets Heisman Trophy winner, Ernest Davis at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The President was attending the National Foundation (Football) Hall of Fame Dinner. Others unidentified. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, in the JOhn F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

ST-274-2-61 5 December 1961
President Kennedy meets Heisman Trophy winner, Ernest Davis at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The President was attending the National Foundation (Football) Hall of Fame Dinner. Others unidentified.
Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, in the JOhn F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

In 1962, Ernie Davis was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, who acquired the pick from the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately, he never played a game in the National Football League (NFL). Shortly after he was drafted, Davis was diagnosed with a highly toxic form of leukemia. Ernie Davis died on May 18, 1963, he was only 23.

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“When It Was So Rough that You Couldn’t Make It”: Voting Rights in the Early 1960s

Today’s blog was written by Stacey Chandler, Textual Reference Archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Part I: Mapping the Barriers

A basic law protecting the right to vote “without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” has been part of the American story for almost 150 years. The law evolved through the decades, but for much of its history, one thing remained the same: the Federal government had no real way to make the states obey it. That changed with the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, when new rules gave the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to sue counties and states that denied voting rights to eligible black citizens. In 1961, the Kennedy Administration decided to test these new rules in the American South, where activists were battling what civil rights leader Aaron E. Henry called a “structureless system,” in which “only those people that the system wanted registered, got registered.”

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Voter registration statistics for counties in Mississippi, January 1960. [BMPP-024-005-p0027]

Some civil rights advocates disagreed with the Administration’s heavy focus on voting rights, pointing out the array of injustices black Americans faced: black students still segregated in schools; black customers refused service in diners, hotels, and public transit; black homebuyers denied loans and housing; civil rights protestors attacked and killed. Thurgood Marshall expressed concern that “the Attorney General determined that the solution would be in the field of public elections…in the meantime, Negroes were being killed and denied their rights.” But journalist Simeon Booker bluntly explained the administration’s reasoning, remembering what “one of the Kennedys” told him: “A man has first got to become President before he can help Negroes, and Negroes can’t help a man become President, unless it is voting for him at an election.”

Meanwhile, Aaron E. Henry was working for grassroots change as Director of the Mississippi State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Henry was skeptical that the DOJ would really help black voters: “We had been studied so damn many times by agents from the federal government. …We know nothing’s going to happen because we’ve been through this ritual time and time again.” But, Henry noted, many local activists concluded “we’re not going to give you the opportunity to say that you didn’t do anything because we didn’t cooperate with you.” Soon, black communities across the South were collaborating with small teams of traveling DOJ lawyers, speaking out as witnesses and giving tips for investigation. The decision to help with these cases could often be a dangerous one, as Henry described in a 1961 letter to the President.

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Aaron E. Henry describes voter discrimination in Mississippi and the harassment endured by a witness for one of the government’s cases. [JFKWHSFHW-004-034-p0011]

Back in his Washington office, DOJ Civil Rights Division Chief Burke Marshall stuck pins in a huge wall map to track every voter discrimination case his lawyers were working on. Marshall’s map, now part of the JFK Library archives, highlights not only the labor of those lawyers, but the experiences of black Southerners in the early 1960s. The handwritten notations along the bottom of the map – “1971(a)” and “1971(b)” – point to sections of voting rights law, revealing the real-life struggle behind each pin.

Green pins mark counties where lawyers filed “1971(a)” cases. In U. S. voting rights law, Section 1971(a) guaranteed all eligible citizens the right to vote, but black citizens who tried to register in these counties reported that unfair local rules kept them from the polls.  States and counties accused of 1971(a) violations used a range of tactics to disenfranchise people, from high poll taxes and literacy test standards to complicated identification procedures and limited operating hours. Purple pins mark the counties where lawyers were still investigating these rule-based violations.

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Close-up image of Burke Marshall’s map of voter discrimination cases in Mississippi. [BMPP-061-015]

Red pins show where lawyers filed “1971(b) cases.” In these counties, black voters described facing threats or violence when trying to register, which Section 1971(b) specifically outlaws. In some counties, harassment was limited to economic reprisal: landlords punishing would-be voters with eviction, or shop-owners boycotting suppliers who had tried to register. Other counties saw reports of physical violence against black voters and their supporters, including arson, assault, and murder. Blue pins mark intimidation cases still under investigation.

These investigations were often far-reaching, and included not only local witnesses, but local archives, too. A new “records demand” rule from the 1960 Civil Rights Act helped lawyers look for proof of discrimination in a county’s own voting records; the yellow pins mark the counties where lawyers were researching in those records. For one case alone, lawyers studied 36,000 voter registration forms obtained through records demands. At one time, Burke Marshall estimated, there were roughly 125 pins in the map, marking ongoing trials, investigations, and records demands in over 100 Southern counties.

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Schedule of DoJ lawyers traveling through Mississippi to photograph voting records and try discrimination cases. [BMPP-005-008-p0071]

Confronted with the barriers of unfair rules and the very real threat of dying for the cause, black Southerners continued trying to register, encouraging others to register, and advocating for social and legislative change. Through projects like Freedom Vote, the Voter Education Project, and local registration drives, Aaron Henry later reflected, voting rights activists worked “to stimulate people to go down and register to vote, or try, even when it was so rough that you couldn’t make it.”

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Telegram from Julian Bond of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) asking for federal protection from expected violence during a voter registration drive. [JFKWHCSF-0368-006-p0045]

(Future posts in this series will explore cases of voter discrimination in more depth, highlighting events and documents from the early 1960s voting rights movement.)

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“National Negro Health Week”: 1915 to 1951

Today’s post was written by Tiffany Walker, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

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National Negro Health Week Posters, NAID 522915

 “National Negro Health Week” began in 1915, in response to disturbing findings by the Tuskegee Institute that highlighted the poor health status of African Americans in the early part of the 20th Century. At a session of the Tuskegee Negro Conference in 1914, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington brought forth data, which showed the economic costs of the poor health status of the black population in the United States.

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National Negro Health Week Poster, NAID 522915

The U. S. Public Health Service then instituted “National Negro Health Week” in response to these findings, in order to improve the health status of the black population by educating members of the community, providing greater access to healthcare, and encouraging an increased number of black professionals in the field of public health. National Negro Health Week was observed during the first week of April, and focused on educating black communities throughout America on methods of acquiring health care and informing students on proper health practices.

The creation of National Negro Health Week resulted in the formation of the National Negro Health Movement, which formed to improve the status of black health in America year round. Organizations that participated in this movement included the Annual Tuskegee Negro Conference, the National Medical Association, the National Negro Business League, and the National Negro Insurance Association. The movement, in collaboration with the U. S. Public Health Service, published the “National Negro Health News” quarterly. The publication focused on planning for annual National Negro Health Week activities, as well as reporting on new data and reports related to the status of black health.

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“National Negro Health News Volume 1, Number 2”, NAID 7586131

One particular health issue that faced the black population in the 20th century was the amount of individuals contracting tuberculosis. Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service Taliaferro Clark, M.D. reflected on the importance of addressing the relatively high mortality rate of black tuberculosis patients as compared to whites. In his 1932 “The Negro Tuberculosis Problem” address, he stressed the importance of black medical professionals, specifically, the role that the black public health nurses could play in combating this high mortality rate.

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“National Negro Health News Volume 1, Number 2”, NAID 7586131

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“National Negro Health News Volume 1, Number 2”, NAID 7586131

The 1930s saw a significant increase in the number of black women entering into the nursing profession, which had previously been dominated by white, single women. The number of black women in the nursing profession steadily increased throughout the 20th century, and would eventually rise from just a few thousand in the beginning of the century to hundreds of thousands by the end. Programs like the National Negro Health Week and the subsequent National Negro Health Movement helped to play a role in this increase in the earlier part of the 20th century. Photographs from the series Public Health Service Historical Photograph File, 1880-1943 (NAID 522915) helped to spread the positive image of the black public health nurses to members of the black community. These images were staged, in order to encourage more African-American women to enter the profession.

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“Mrs. Mabel J. Kimbrough, Public Health Nurse, District of Columbia Health Department.” (Illustration of National Negro Health Week Bulletin, 1937.) NAID 522915

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“Mrs. Mabel J. Kimbrough, Public Health Nurse, District of Columbia Health Department, with client.” (Illustration of National Negro Health Week Bulletin, 1937.) NAID 522915

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African-American Women Astronauts Making their Mark in Space Exploration

Today’s Women’s History Month Blog was written by Alexis Hill, Assistant Registrar in the Exhibits Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

All kinds of people have dreamt about flying into outer space, but only a select few are chosen to make this dream a reality. Out of this select few, a small number are women and an even a smaller number are African American. The series Mission Photographs Taken During the Space Shuttle Program, 4/12/1981 – 7/21/2011 (NAID 12562338) contains digital photographs of every space shuttle mission during its twenty year tenure. The photographs include the missions that Mae C. Jemison, Stephanie D. Wilson, and Joan E. Higginbotham were a part of. These African-American women astronauts were determined to reach the stars, and, while in the process, have inspired a new generation of space explorers.

Dr. Mae C. Jemison made her mark in space exploration history as the first African-American women to fly into space. She flew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-47) as a science mission specialist in September 1992. Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She entered Stanford University at age sixteen and received her B. S. in Chemical Engineering and a B. A. in African and Afro-American Studies in 1977. She also attended Cornell Medical College and earned her Doctorate of Medicine in 1981. Before beginning her career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1987, Jemison was a member of the Peace Corps as a medical officer in West Africa. During her first flight in space, she conducted several scientific experiments, including two-bone cell research, weightlessness, and motion sickness. Dr. Jemison resigned from NASA in 1993 to pursue a career in higher education and became an advocate for science education.

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Stephanie D. Wilson was the second African-American woman astronaut to fly into space. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and received her B. S. in engineering science from Harvard University in 1988. Wilson also received her Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1992. She joined NASA’s astronaut program in 1996, and flew on three shuttle flights as a mission specialist. Her first flight was on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-121), the second Return to Flight mission from July 4 – 7, 2006; her second flight was aboard  Discovery (STS-120) from October 23 – November 7, 2007 and her last flight was also on Discovery (STS-131) from April 5 – 20, 2010. Wilson is still a part of NASA’s astronaut program and has received numerous awards, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2009 and 2011) and NASA Space Flight Medal (2006, 2007, and 2010).

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Joan E. Higginbotham is the third African-American female astronaut to fly into space. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Higginbotham received her B. S. from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1987. She then received her Masters of Management Science (1992) and Masters in Space Science (1996) from the Florida Institute of Technology. She joined NASA in 1987 and was selected for astronaut training in 1996. She flew her first and only mission on Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-116) from December 9 – 22, 2006. Higginbotham received the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the Black Rose Award. She resigned from NASA in 2007.

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To Boldly Go Where No (Wo)Man Has Gone Before…

Today’s post was written by Ms. Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

“Space, the final frontier…” these are the words recited at the beginning of every episode of the national treasure that is Star Trek: The Original Series. Widely known to be an inspiration to geeks, nerds, sci-fi buffs and world leaders alike, Star Trek remains an enduring symbol and example of what the future could be for humanity and space exploration. One actress from the show has worked for decades in an effort to recruit women and people of color in order to ensure that Lieutenant Uhura would not be the only black woman in space.

black and white photograph of a group of people including Nichelle Nichols standing in front of a spacecraft

Actress Nichelle Nichols at the Visitor Information Center, John Glen Research Center at Lewis Field (NAID 17468123)

Lt. Uhura was portrayed by Nichelle Nichols from 1966 to 1991. As communications officer on the Starship Enterprise, Uhura was fourth in command on the vessel, highly intelligent, and strong in her own agency. That all of these qualities were portrayed by an African American woman was shocking to home viewing audiences in the 1960s, who were accustomed to seeing them as domestics and subservient characters when they were onscreen. Nichelle Nichols (and Gene Rodenberry’s creation) carried out a mission that sought to normalize black people being intelligent and more than servile domestics.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognized the positive impact and influence Nichols presence on the TV screen had, and in the late 1970s, hired the actress to recruit women and people of color for the Space Shuttle Program. This partnership led to many appearances, speeches, and personal visits to airfields and other government sites such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), seen in the press release below (from RG 342, Records of US Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations).

black and white photograph of Nichelle Nichols holding a piece of a satellite

Nichelle Nichols holding a piece of a satellite presented by Capt. David Martin at NORAD, 1/6/1977, RG 342

NORAD press release regarding Nichelle Nichols' visit to NORAD

Many astronauts have credited Nichols and the character of Lt. Uhura as an inspiration to them for seeking out opportunities with NASA, including: Ronald McNair, Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and the first African American woman in space – Mae Jemison. Nichelle Nichols continues an alliance with NASA – most recently taking a flight with the flying observatory SOFIA in 2015.

–Live Long and Prosper

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