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

Posted in Civil Rights Protest & Issues, Tribute/News, World War II Era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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

Posted in Diaspora, Genealogy, Slavery and the Slave Trade, Tribute/News | Tagged , , , , , ,

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

This 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.

Continue reading

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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]

Continue reading

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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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