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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
[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.]
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s post was written by Tiffany Walker, Archives Technician in the Textual Processing Branch at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland
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:
To learn more about African American genealogical research:
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.
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.”All four victims died, “at the hands of persons unknown,” since no one had ever been prosecuted for this lynching.
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.
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.
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.
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.”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.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.
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.
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.”
(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.)