Elaine Brown: Leader and Activist

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

It is important to look back and examine the similarities and differences between the Black Power Movement of the past and the Black Lives Matter Movement of today, to see the important lessons learned and the goals that are still yet ahead of us in the quest for equality and justice. One of the most prominent organizations during the Black Power era was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. There were only a few figures who stood out or were as remembered from this movement as Elaine Brown. We recently came across a treasure trove of photographs in the RG 65 FBI Case File 157-3430 in the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 – 1978 (NAID 1513564) that depict Elaine Brown during some of the highlights of her involvement in the Black Power Movement. To obtain a copy of this file, please contact our FOIA office. Continue reading

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An Act to Establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Today’s post is by Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Throughout this month until November 9th the National Archives will display the act from 2003 that established the National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), opening this weekend on September 24th.

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Black Power Politics: The Congressional Black Caucus

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

This year is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Black Power movement in America. During the 1960s and 1970s, African Americans experienced an increase in the embrace of racial pride, self-determination, and started to create cultural institutions relating to their communities. The momentum of the Black Power movement also brought about a stronger desire for political power. Through black political organizing, African American politicians were able to refocus their attention towards an agenda that would better serve and improve black communities in America and throughout the world. Continue reading

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Bayard Rustin: The Inmate that the Prison Could Not Handle

Today’s post was written by Shaina Destine, a student intern in Textual Processing at the National Archives in College Park.
Bayard Rustin was the perpetual hero that history forgot.  I learned of Bayard Rustin in regards to his Civil Rights and Gay Rights work in my early 20s.  I heard about him being a Quaker and a Communist.  I even heard that he spent time in prison, however, his prison life is always glossed over.  I never knew the details.  In the last few weeks, I’ve spent time scanning his prison records from 1944 to 1946 (located in the RG 129 Notorious Offenders Files NAID 580698)when he was imprisoned for violating the Selective Service Act.
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Intake mugshot of Bayard Rustin at the Lewisburg Penitentiary, August 3, 1945

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Jesse Owens, American Hero

Re-post in Celebration of the Start of the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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

photo with Jesse Owens starting an Olympic race

Olympian Jesse Owens, NAID 595375

The new biographical movie about Jesse Owens, Race, will be released in theaters this Friday, February 19th. The title has a double meaning – alluding to Owens’ historic record breaking feats he performed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as well as his identity as an African American, which presented hurdles as a citizen of the United States. Continue reading

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Photographed: Summertime in 1970s Chicago

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

During the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsored the Documerica program that photographed subjects of environmental concern and everyday life in America. The series DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 – 1977 (National Archives Identifier 542493) contains photographs by several well-known photographers contracted by the EPA. Some of the subjects photographed in this series include National Parks, the Great Lakes, mountains, urban areas, and air and water pollution. This series consists of 35mm color slides and black and white negatives and prints. Also, within this series are images depicting black life in Chicago during the summers of the 1970s. These images were taken by photographer John H. White. Continue reading

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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.

 

SavetheDate

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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.

SavetheDate

[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

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