Saturday, December 29, 2007



The compilation of this "lexicon" is intended to provide a brief and convenient guide to the vast array of significant names, terms and events associated with the history of black Americans. Although I have made an attempt to include most of the relevant names and terms common to African American History, this listing is not all-inclusive. Biographical entries, for example, are limited to deceased black Americans and references to current events are not emphasized. That notwithstanding, users of this blog are encouraged to contact me regarding significant omissions and errors. The names and terms are arranged alphabetically for your convenience. Much of the material presented here has been gleaned from my Lexicon of Afro-American History, originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1975 and long since out of print. I will make a serious attempt to update the names and terms as necessity dictates. CLICK ON INDIVIDUAL NAMES AND TERMS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THIS PAGE.


ABBOTT, ROBERT S. Born on St. Simon Island, GA in 1870, Robert S. Abbott generally is regarded as one of the "fathers" of black journalism in the United States. Educated at Beach Institute, Chaflin College and Hampton Institute, Abbott entered Kent Law School (Chicago) in 1896 and was awarded a law degree in 1899.

Following the completion of his legal studies, Abbott practiced law in Topeka, Kansas and Gary, Indiana. Although he was a competent attorney, Abbott soon drifted from the legal profession into journalism, which he referred to as his "first love." In 1905, he founded the Chicago Defender, ultimately to become one of the largest and most influential black owned and oriented newspapers in early twentieth century America.

Abbott was a born crusader and, like the newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, a practitioner of "yellow journalism" -- an early twentieth century journalistic practice that emphasized extreme sensationalism and exaggerated detail in order to capture the attention of the masses, and thereby increase newspaper circulation. By the time of his death in 1940, Abbott had increased the Defender's circulation from 300 to nearly 200,000.


ABERNATHY, RALPH DAVID Prominent civil rights leader and Baptist minister, Ralph David Abernathy, was born in Linden, Alabama in 1926. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then graduated from Alabama State College, subsequently doing his graduate work at Atlanta University. Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Following the successful boycott, Abernathy and King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which quickly became the leading edge of the "black nonviolence movement" in the United States. Like King, Abernathy preached nonviolence as a means of attaining social change. Following King's death, he led the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C. Ralph Abernathy died in 1990. His autobiography is entitled And the Walls Came Tumbling Down (1989).


ABOLITIONISM In the usual sense of the term, abolitionism refers to the loosely organized northern movement during the mid-nineteenth century which advocated the destruction (abolition) of African American slavery in the United States. Anti-slavery sentiment (as opposed to abolitionism per se) had existed in varying degrees from the colonial period of American history onward. The typical proponent of antislavery sentiment was well-meaning, but moderate, content to hope for and at times (albeit rarely) advocate the painless and gradual extinction of the institution of slavery. To be sure, there were some exceptions to this general rule. The Society of Friends (Quakers), for example, is usually credited with being the only group to collectively advocate abolitionism during the pre-revolutionary era. The Quakers — at least after the conversion or expulsion of recalcitrant slave-owning members — believed that slavery was inconsistent and incompatible with the teachings of Jesus and, accordingly, Quaker activists such as Anthony Benezet set out to persuade non-Quakers as to the advisability and morality of abolitionism.

Antislavery sentiment increased measurably in the North as a result of the ideological implications of the American Rev­olution. The intellectual ferment of the eighteenth century En­lightenment and the libertarian principles of the revolutionary struggle with Great Britain combined to dramatically illustrate the ideological inconsistency of keeping slaves on the one hand while fighting for liberty on the other. This realization, coupled with Quaker activism, prompted northern state legislatures to provide for the gradual emancipation of slaves in the North by 1804; and this action, together with other antislavery measures such as the Northwest Ordinance (1787), and the establishment of the American Colonization Society (1816), provided a solid foundation for the emergence of the abolitionist movement of the 1830's.

Not satisfied with gradualism or with the use of indirect tactics, the abolitionists of the 1830's were decidedly activistic, calling for immediate action to eradicate the institution of slavery in the United States. Prominent among their ranks was William Lloyd Garrison, who founded the American Antislavery Society in 1833. Garrison was convinced that slavery was a sin and that the immediate uncompensated emancipation of all African American slaves was America's most urgent priority. As the result of the tireless efforts of Garrison and fellow-abolitionists Theodore Dwight Weld, Elijah Lovejoy and Theodore Parker, nearly 200,000 Americans had joined antislavery and abolitionist societies by 1850. In addition to these "card-carrying" abolition­ists, historian John Garraty estimates that "many hundreds of thousands more had become what would today be called 'fellow travelers,' unwilling to stand up and be counted but generally sympathetic to the movement."

Although it is true that the abolitionists often could not agree upon exact tactics and strategy, they remained united as to their ultimate goal. As historian Richard 0. Curry has written, despite "divisions in their ranks and vilification and abuse by a hostile public, the abolitionists were a dedicated minority that could not be silenced." This lack of silence, of course, did much to intensify the sectional hostility which ultimately resulted in the American Civil War.


AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE The term "African slave trade" is often used synonymously with the term "Atlantic slave trade." Although there is a certain validity in using the two expressions interchangeably, most authorities prefer to distinguish between "Africa" and "Atlantic." Whereas the "Atlantic slave trade" refers to the passage of black slaves from Africa to the western hemisphere, the "African slave trade" is usually used to de­scribe the passage of slaves from Africa to Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and, occasionally, to slave-trading activities within Africa.

Predating the "Atlantic slave trade" by nearly a century, the "African slave trade" (i.e., the passage of slaves from Africa to Europe) had its inception during the mid-1400's. Owing to the fact that Europe lacked a plantation-type economy and also because Europe was not suffering from a chronic labor shortage during those years, the "African slave trade" was relatively short-lived and certainly not comparable to the extent and dura­tion of the transatlantic traffic. Between 1460 and 1500, for example, the average annual number of African slaves trans­ported to Europe was about a thousand, a figure which was dwarfed by the annual number of slaves shipped to the New World during the following four-hundred years.


ALBANY MOVEMENT The Albany Movement refers to the at­tempt on the part of civil rights advocates to desegregate and to eliminate racial discrimination in Albany, Georgia during the summer of 1962. Sponsored by a number of national civil rights organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Con­ference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Albany Movement was a coordinated, city-wide campaign to achieve racial equality through nonviolent means. Generally speaking, the Albany Movement did not accomplish its stated goals. White solidarity and an effective police force, coupled with friction and division among the ranks of the blacks themselves, served to limit the movement's momentum. Nevertheless, the Albany protest marches, demonstrations and numer­ous arrests (including that of Martin Luther King for "parading without a permit") once again focused national attention on the continuing struggle of African Americans to secure full citizen­ship rights in the United States.


ALDRIDGE, IRA F. Born in New York in 1807, Ira Frederick Aldridge was acknowledged as one of the best Shakespearean actors in the nineteenth century. His stage career began in New York when he joined the African Theater Company in 1821, but northern racial prejudice persuaded the aspiring actor to move to Europe. He studied briefly in Scotland before embarking on a stage career in London during the early 1830's. He soon acquired fame throughout most of Europe, especially for his portrayal of Othello. Aldridge died in 1867, never having per­formed professionally in his native America.


ALEXANDER, ARCHIE A. Born in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1888, Archie A. Alexander attended the University of Iowa, receiving a B. S. degree in Civil Engineering in 1912. In addition to his scholastic achievements at the university, Alexander distin­guished himself on the gridiron as an outstanding linesman, earning the nickname "Alexander the Great."

Following graduation, Alexander became a design engineer for a Des Moines bridge company. In 1914, he formed his own engineering firm which operated until 1929. In that year, Alex­ander and a former classmate joined forces and formed the engineering firm of Alexander and Repass, a business which ultimately became highly respected in engineering and architec­tural circles. Among their many achievements, Alexander and Repass built the Tidal Basin Bridge in Washington, D.C., an airfield in Alabama, a million dollar sewage disposal plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a number of roads and bridges throughout the east and midwest.

The height of Alexander's career was reached when he was appointed to the post of Territorial Governor of the American Virgin Islands in 1954. Unfortunately, failing health forced Governor Alexander's resignation a year later. He died in 1958.


ALLEN, RICHARD One of the earliest black leaders in the United States, Richard Allen was the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Born a slave in Pennsylvania in 1760, Allen was raised on a Delaware plantation. An early and zealous convert to Methodism, Allen was determined to preach the Gospel. Earning enough money by cutting wood and driving wagons to purchase his freedom, the youthful preacher traveled and proselytized throughout the Middle Atlantic states during the 1780's, ultimately settling in Philadelphia in 1786.

As the result of numerous racial restrictions and pressures imposed on black worshipers at Philadelphia's St. George Meth­odist Church, Allen and similar-minded blacks decided to es­tablish their own church in 1787. Named the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Allen's newly-formed organization became the nucleus of one of the earliest and most influential black religious denominations in the United States. In 1816, Allen called a meeting of representatives from other "separate" black churches in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. This meeting resulted in the formal establishment of the AME Church on a national basis. Allen, in turn, was elected bishop of the new denomination, a position which he held until his death in 1831.

Currently, the AME Church is divided into eighteen episcopal districts, most of which are in the western hemisphere. With nearly six thousand separate churches and a membership roster of approximately 1.2 million, the AME Church continues to exercise a tremendous influence in black communities, both in the United States and abroad.

The AME Church should not be confused with the AME Zion Church. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was established in New York City in 1796 under the leadership of Peter Williams and James Varick. Similar to the experiences of Allen and his fellow Philadelphians, New York blacks were more or less forced into creating their own separate religious denomination in view of the existing discriminatory practices found in the predominantly white Methodist churches in the city. Although some differences do exist, the doctrines and liturgy of the AME Zion Church and the AME Church are essentially the same. Current membership of the AME Zion Church is well over one million.


AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY An outgrowth of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1831 by WilliamLloyd Garrison, the American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1833 as a national organization dedicated to the immediate and uncompensated abolition of slavery in the United States. A massive publicity program was instigated by the Society in an attempt to bolster membership. As the result of this campaign, which included the publication of numerous periodicals and the mass circulation of antislavery pamphlets, the Society could claim over two thousand local chapters with a total membership of approximately 200,000 by 1850. Aside from Garrison, who more or less dominated the organization with his uncompromising and militant brand of charismatic leadership, other leaders of the American Anti-Slavery Society included Theodore D. Weld, George G. Finney and the Tappan brothers, Arthur and Lewis.


AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY The American Coloni­zation Society was founded in 1816 for the express purpose of returning free American blacks to their "ancestral homeland" in Africa. This private "repatriation" organization was granted a charter by the government of the United States,' which not only supported the scheme but also helped the Society in nego­tiating with native African chiefs for land along the coast of what is now Liberia. Members of the Society included such prominent Americans as Bushrod Washington, Henry Clay and John Randolph.

The colony of Liberia itself was formally established in 1822, with its capital, Monrovia, named after President James Monroe. The first group of "repatriated" blacks arrived shortly there­after. Although nearly one-third of this initial group succumbed to disease within a short time, the colony continued to grow. By 1830 the American Colonization Society could boast of having settled over 1,400 blacks in Liberia. The majority of these had been "free Negroes," but after 1827 an increasing number of American slaves were being manumitted expressly for the pur­pose of "repatriation." By the end of the 1850's approximately 12,000 American blacks had been resettled in Liberia.


AMERICAN DILEMMA In 1937, the Carnegie Corporation of New York invited Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish sociologist at the University of Stockholm, to direct "a comprehensive study ofthe Negro in the United States, to be undertaken in a wholly objective and dispassionate way as a social phenomenon." Accept­ing this charge, Myrdal and a team of prominent historians, political scientists, economists, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists painstakingly collected data and compiled exhaustive research reports concerning the status of the African American, past and present.

A major portion of Myrdal's research was formally published in 1944 as An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Hailed by one reviewer as "one of the best political commentaries on American life that has ever been written," Myrdal's massive study traced African American history from its origins up through the early 1940's, concentrating on racism; economic, judicial and political discrimination against the black; segregation and social stratification; and the emer­gence and effectiveness of black protest organizations.

Myrdal's principal theme revolved around the disparity between American ideals and practices. He maintained that the "Amer­ican Negro problem" was basically a moral dilemma involving a conflict between "moral valuations on various levels of con­sciousness and generality." He argued that America's dilemma "is the ever-raging conflict between, on the one hand, the valua­tions preserved on the general plane which we shall call the 'American Creed,' where the American thinks, talks, and acts under the influence of high national and Christian precepts, and, on the other hand, the valuations on specific planes of individual and group living, where personal and local interests; economic, social, and sexual jealousies; considerations of com­munity prestige and conformity; group prejudice against parti­cular persons or types of people; and all sorts of miscellaneous wants, impulses, and habits dominate his outlook."

By drawing attention to this "moral dilemma" and to the dis­parity between American theory and practice concerning blacks, Myrdal's treatise played a significant role in the rise of egali­tarian racial sentiment in the late 1940's and beyond.


AMERICAN NEGRO ACADEMY Based on the assumption that educated African Americans have a special responsibility for uplifting the black race, the American Negro Academy was organized by the Rev. Alexander Crummell on March 5, 1897, in Washington, D.C. Charter members included Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the distinguished poet, and W.E.B. Du Bois, who succeeded Crummell as president of this black brotherhood of academicians in 1908.Goals and objectives of the American Negro Academy included the promotion of the arts and sciences, the formulation of intellectual curiosity and the fostering of higher education among black Americans.


AMERICO-LIBERIANS Americo-Liberians are the current-day descendants of the approximately 12,000 Afro-Americans who were "relocated" or "colonized" on the western coast of Africa in the early nineteenth century under the auspices of the Amer­ican Colonization Society.


AMISTAD MUTINY Slave mutinies were a constant threat to captains of ships engaged in the Atlantic slave trade. It has been estimated that nearly two hundred slave-inspired mutinies occurred during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries alone. A classic example of this form of black resistance to enslave­ment is the Amistad mutiny of 1839.

The Amistad was a Spanish coastal schooner which set sail from the Havana slave market to the port of Granaja, Puerto Principe on June 28, 1839. Enroute, the African human cargo, led by Singbe-Pieh (called "Joseph Cinque" by the Spanish), successfully revolted and slew the ship's captain and most of the crew with sugar cane machetes. Although Cinque and his fellow mutineers had ordered the remaining Spanish aboard to steer an eastern course toward Africa, navigational trickery on the part of the Spanish ulti­mately resulted in the Amistad reaching Long Island, near Montauk Point, in American waters. Subsequently seized by an American naval vessel, the Amistad mutineers were arrested and charged with piracy on the high seas.
The Van Buren administration in Washington, hoping to avoid an international confrontation with Spain and domestic aliena­tion of southern slave-holding interests, wanted to return the Amistad mutineers to their Spanish "owners." American aboli­tionists, however, quickly came to the defense of Cinque and his fellow Africans. The abolitionists enlisted the support of former
president John Quincy Adams, who eloquently defended the Amistad mutineers before the United States Supreme Court in 1841. Adams argued that the Africans themselves had been kidnapped illegally according to the various international prohibi­tions against the slave trade and were, therefore, free. The Court, with one dissenting vote, agreed with Adams and declared that the former Spanish slaves were indeed free and entitled to return to their African homeland.






ARMSTRONG, LOUIS Acknowledged by some as being the "King of Jazz" and by others as being "the best trumpet player in the world," Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong was certainly a legend in his own time. Born in New Orleans on July 4, 1900, Armstrong learned to play the bugle and cornet during his early teens. In 1919, he became a member of Kid Ory's jazz band in New Orleans, moving to Chicago in 1922 to play second cornet in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Following brief stints with the bands of Fletcher Henderson (New York) and Erskine Tate (Chicago) during the late 1920's, Armstrong formed his own band and cut a series of recordings which became immensely popular and assured his success.

During the early 1930's, "Satchmo" began to play and sing with the "big bands," popularizing what was called "scat singing" (singing without words), one of his enduring trademarks. His subsequent world tours (first private ventures, then as a good-will ambassador for the Department of State), his many film appearances (including the immortal "Pennies from Heaven" with Bing Crosby) and his popular recordings (especially "Blueberry Hill" and "Hello, Dolly") made Armstrong one of the most loved entertainers of the twentieth century. His death in New York on July 6, 1971 saddened not only the music industry but the world community as well.


ATLANTA COMPROMISE The "Atlanta Compromise" is an ex­pression which historically has been used to describe the content and the implications of a speech delivered by Booker T. Wash­ington at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition in 1895. Encouraging his fellow blacks to adopt a policy of peaceful coexistence with white southerners by respecting the "color-line" and by self-help and self-improvement, Washington maintainedthat the future of America's black population was dependent upon the need for vocational (as opposed to liberal arts) educa­tion rather than upon immediate agitation for civil rights.

Urging African Americans to "cast down your bucket where you are," Washington went on to emphasize the danger "that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in pro­portion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin and not at the top."


ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE Referring to the forced transport of black Africans to the western hemisphere, the modern Atlantic slave trade had its inception during the early sixteenth century. Since the Portuguese pioneered in the exploration of the western coast of Africa, it is not surprising that Portugal was the first European country to take advantage of the rich economic po­tential involved in the selling of human slaves. The Portuguese were able to maintain a virtual monopoly over the Atlantic slave trade during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. From the mid-seventeenth century on, however, the slave trade became intensely competitive, with Holland, England and, in due course, the United States becoming involved.

The ultimate destination of the overwhelming majority African slaves transported across the ocean during the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries included the
West Indies, Central America and South America. Beginning in th mid-eighteenth century, an increasing number of African slaves were being transported to North America. Historians do not agree on the number of slaves carried across the Atlantic to the New World during these four centuries. Estimates range from a minimum of fifteen million to a maximum of nearly sixty million. Most authorities would agree that the number was not less than fifteen million and probably more than twenty million. This figure, of course, merely presents the number of Africans who arrived in the New World alive. Millions of others were killed during slave-raiding expedi­tions in Africa and countless others died enroute to the western| hemisphere.

Although most Europeans during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries recognized and perhaps even sympathized with the fact that the slave trade had its share of "evils" and "cruelties," they nevertheless were able to justify and provide a rationale for its existence. It was argued that slavery was as old as antiquity. Accordingly, there was little fear that they were opening a Pandora's box by the creation of a "new" institution and the mechanical means which made this institution possible. Secondly, the Europeans generally justified the slave trade in terms of their alleged Christian mission and charity; i.e., they were doing the African a favor by "rescuing" him from the depths of "savagery" and "heathenism." But perhaps the primary motivating factor which prompted the Europeans — and later the Americans — to engage in and support the existence of the slave trade was to take advantage of the possibility of high financial return. As it happened, this return, according to historian Eric Williams, was so immense that it in large part financed the rise of a mature industrial capitalism in western Europe.

Similar to the differences existing between historians as to the actual number of Africans transported to the New World via the Atlantic, there are a number of interpretations concerning the effect the slave trade had upon Africa itself. John Hope Franklin has argued that the Atlantic slave trade dealt Africa a "body blow"' from which it is still recovering. "The removal of the flower of African manhood," according to Franklin, "left the continent impotent, stultified, and dazed." Fellow historians August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, however, have challenged this traditional assumption. Arguing that the slave trade "en­couraged the development of a substantial [native] mercantile group," Meier and Rudwick maintain that "in spite of the social disruption it caused, the transatlantic trade did not general­ly lead to a breakdown in West African social and political organization."

For additional information concerning the Atlantic slave trade, especially as it relates to its operational aspects, see: AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE, BARRACOON, CABOCEER, COASTAL FOR­EST KINGDOMS, COFFLE, MIDDLE PASSAGE, SLAVE COAST, and SLAVE TRADE SUPPRESSION.


ATTUCKS, CRISPUS Of the many incidents which preceded and to some extent "caused" the American Revolution, the Boston Massacre ranks as one of the more dramatic. British troops had been sent to Boston in 1768 to protect unpopular customs of­ficials from colonial harm and harassment. On March 5, 1770 a group of American demonstrators confronted a squad of men from the 29th British Regiment. The Americans taunted and jeered the "lobsterbacks" and, in a moment of panic, the British troops fired their muskets into the crowd, killing five and wound­ing six others. Among the five fatalities and reportedly the first to fall was Crispus Attacks.

Contemporary accounts refer to Attucks as a "mulatto" and despite periodic attempts to disprove it, there seems little doubt that Crispus Attucks was indeed an African American. [A late-nine­teenth century historian, J. B. Fisher, asserted that Attucks was a full-blooded Indian, maintaining that the terms mulatto and Indian were used interchangeably in colonial New England. A more recent appraisal has been offered by noted historian Ben­jamin Quarles, who depicts Attucks as "a Negro of obscure origin, with some admixture of Indian blood."]

Although the exact story may never be known, most modern historians believe that Attucks was a runaway slave from Framingham, Massa­chusetts, who had settled in Boston in the early 1750's. In 1750, for example, his alleged "master," William Brown of Framingham, published a reward advertisement in the Boston Gazette for "a mulatto fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispus; 6 feet 2 inches high, short, curl'd hair, his knees together than common."

Similar to the question of Attucks' identity, historians have differed in regard to his motivation (and that of the other colonists) on the day of the "massacre." Nineteenth century black historian George Washington Williams, for example, por­trayed Attucks as a conscious martyr who poured "out his blood as a precious libation on the altar of a people's rights.' On the other hand, modern historian Nathan Huggins has sug­gested that Attucks "and his white comrades were more motivated to harass the British military than to strike a blow for liberty and independence." Whatever the motivation, the death of Crispus Attucks did assume the status of martyrdom to thousands of American colonists in the immediate period preceding the Revolution. His sacrifice (be it deliberate or an accident of folly) has long since been recognized and his place as an African American "hero" will undoubtedly persevere.


BACK TO AFRICA MOVEMENTS "Back to Africa" movements within the African American community in the United States have existed in various forms and at various times from the early eighteenth century to the present day. According to historian John Hope Franklin, the earliest scheme for the resettlement of American blacks in Africa was sponsored by a New Jersey resident in 1714. During the remainder of the eighteenth century and throughout most of the nineteenth century, a number of "resettlement" or "colonization" plans were proposed and/or undertaken. The American Colonization Society, for example, "repatriated" approximately 12,000 African Americans to Liberia between 1822 and the beginning of the American Civil War. The overwhelming majority of these early "Back to Africa" movements were sponsored by white Americans whose attitudes fluctuated between genuine humanitarian guilt feelings about unconcealed racism, and a desire for absolute racial separation. Similarly, black attitudes toward these early colonization ven­tures varied from extreme enthusiasm and anticipation (from slaves) to apathy and outright rejection (from free blacks).

Modern "repatriation" schemes, such as Marcus Garvey's Black Zionist movement during the early twentieth century, have been sponsored by blacks whose motivations have varied from es­capism to idealism to a genuine search for identity. A contem­porary African news-journal, for example, has estimated that approximately two thousand black Americans are currently in Africa "seeking their roots." The extent of their success in finding these roots, of course, will vary from individual to indi­vidual. No absolute consensus exists among those African Amer­icans who have already made the trek to their ancestral home­land and then returned to the United States. Many have re­turned disillusioned, while others sing the praises of "the Jordan over the sea."

Most black Americans, of course, have no intention of "return­ing" to Africa. As literary critic Harold Cruse has pointed out, the Afro-American "is wedded to America and does not want to return to his ancestral Africa except in fancy, per­haps." Cruse maintains that "three hundred years of rearing in the United States has separated us from Africa in ways more insurmountable, culturally speaking, than time gaps of centuries, if the present attitudes of our Afro-American intellectuals and artists are any indication. It must be clearly understood that our racial and cultural experience as a group is distinctly American."

For additional information concerning "Back to Africa" movements, see: AMERICAN COLONIZA­TION SOCIETY, MARCUS GARVEY, and BLACK MUSLIMS.






BANNEKER, BENJAMIN Born of a free mother and slave father in 1731, Benjamin Banneker ultimately became one of the m prominent and respected blacks in the early history of the United States. Although he only received the equivalent of eighth-grade education, Banneker was exceptionally intelligent. His mathematical aptitude and knowledge of astronomy, for example, enabled him to accurately predict the solar eclipse of 1789. In 1791 he began publishing an annual scientific almanac which in large part was devoted to mathematics and astronomy but which also included useful information concerning medical science and chemistry. Banneker is credited with having invented the first workable clock constructed in the United States.

In addition to his inventiveness, his mathematical genius and his writing ability, Banneker was also a surveyor. In this capacity, he became the first black presidential appointee when President Washington chose him to assist Andrew Ellicott and Pierre-Charles L'Enfant in surveying Washington, D.C. When L'Enfant, the team leader, abruptly resigned in the midst a dispute with government officials, Banneker was able to precisely reproduce the Frenchman's plans and blueprints of the national capital from memory. He died in 1806.


BANNEKER, BENJAMIN Born of a free mother and slave father in 1731, Benjamin Banneker ultimately became one of the m prominent and respected blacks in the early history of the United States. Although he only received the equivalent of eighth-grade education, Banneker was exceptionally intelligent. His mathematical aptitude and knowledge of astronomy, for example, enabled him to accurately predict the solar eclipse of 1789. In 1791 he began publishing an annual scientific almanac which in large part was devoted to mathematics and astronomy but which also included useful information concerning medical science and chemistry. Banneker is credited with having invented the first workable clock constructed in the United States.

In addition to his inventiveness, his mathematical genius and his writing ability, Banneker was also a surveyor. In this capacity, he became the first black presidential appointee when President Washington chose him to assist Andrew Ellicott and Pierre-Charles L'Enfant in surveying Washington, D.C. When L'Enfant, the team leader, abruptly resigned in the midst a dispute with government officials, Banneker was able to precisely reproduce the Frenchman's plans and blueprints of the national capital from memory. He died in 1806.


BARNETT, IDA B. WELLS Born in Mississippi in 1864, Ida Wells Barnett became a champion of equal civil rights for all races and, perhaps more significantly, a dedicated crusader against the practice of lynch-law in the United States during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to her career in journalism (she served as editor of the Memphis Free Speech), Barnett was an active pamphleteer and speaker on the subject of lynching. She ultimately became chairman of the Anti-Lynching Bureau of the National African Council. In 1908, Barnett became the first president of the Negro Fellowship


BAKER, JOSEPHINE Born Freda Josephine McDonald in 1906, Josephine Baker was a sensational singer and dancer during the 1920 - 1940 time-frame. She was an American-born African American who became a French citizen in 1937. Nicknamed "Black Venus" and "Black Pearl," she was mostly noted as a singer, but in her earlier years was a celebrated dancer. During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance in opposition to German territorial control of France. She died in Paris in 1975, having performed in France for a half-century.




BARRACOON Resembling a cattle corral, a barracoon or slave-pen was a stockade within the typical African slave-factory or coastal fort in which captured natives were kept or "stored" until they could be sold to European traders. Generally, males were chained, while women and children were allowed relative freedom of movement within the barracoon, which itself was protected by one or more guards in a corner watch-tower. In addition to the regular barracoon, there were a number of "floating" barracoons along the African slavetrading coast. In effect, the "floating" slave-pen was a large anchored raft located on creeks, rivers and estuaries. Similar to the regular barra­coon, the "floating" variety housed prospective slaves prior to negotiations for their sale.


BASIE, COUNT Born William Basie in 1904, "Count Basie" was an African American jazz pianist, bandleader and music composer. His early career centered in New York City, working in dance halls and vaudeville. He subsequently moved to Kansas City, a major jazz center, playing with Walter Page's Blue Devils (1927) and Bennie Morton's band (1929). Basie formed his own band in 1935, producing for 40 years a distinctive style and sound marked by a "powerful yet relaxed attitude." He is best remembered for his exceptional composition of "One O'Clock Jump." The Count died in 1984.


BETHUNE, MARY McLEOD Born on July 10, 1875, Mary Jane McLeod was the daughter of ex-slave cotton farmers near Mayesville, South Carolina. During her youth, she decided to enter the missionary field. Toward this end, she attended Scotia Seminary in North Carolina for seven years and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for one year. When her application for a missionary position in Africa was rejected by the Presbyterian Board of Missions, however, she redirected her vocational inter­ests to the teaching profession and, in the meantime, married Albertus Bethune.

In 1904, Mrs. Bethune founded the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida. Beginning with five students, one dilapidated building which she rented, and very little cash, Mrs. Bethune slowly nurtured her little school until it had become a respectable edu­cational institution with a student body of six hundred in 1923. In that year, the Daytona school affiliated itself with the Board of Education of the Methodist Church and, concurrently, merged with Cookman Institute for Boys at Jacksonville to form Bethune-Cookman Institute. Mrs. Bethune served as president of the Institute (later to be renamed Bethune-Cookman College) until 1947. Following her retirement, she continued to serve the col­lege in the capacity of president-emeritus and trustee until her death in 1955.
In addition to her educational interests and activities, Mrs. Bethune gained national prominence as an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was a member of Roosevelt's un­official "Black Cabinet," which also included black notables Ralph Bunche and Robert C. Weaver.

Mrs. Bethune also served on the Advisory Committee of the National Youth Administration and was President Roosevelt's Special Advisor on Minority Affairs between 1935-1944. Winner of the NAACP's Spingarn Award in 1935 for "contributions to Negro education," Mrs. Bethune was also active in African Amer­ican women's organizations. She was president of the National Association of Colored Women between 1926-1930 and founder-president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1935 to 1949. See also: BLACK CABINET.




BIRMINGHAM MANIFESTO The Birmingham Manifesto, dated April 3, 1963, was the statement of purpose issued by the black inhabitants of Birmingham, Alabama, at the outset of what was later called the "Birmingham Crisis" of 1963. The "crisis" itself began with a number of mass demonstrations and protest marches against racial discrimination in Birmingham. On April 12, Martin Luther King, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and one of the principal organizers of the Birming­ham protest, was jailed "for parading without a permit." In protest demonstrations during the first week of May, thousands of marching blacks were met with fire hose, police dogs and ultimate police detention.

Following several bombings (including one which destroyed the home of Dr. King's brother) and a prolonged riot accompanied by destruction and violence in mid-May, President John F. Kennedy threatened to intervene with federal troops. The threat had the effect of easing racial tensions somewhat, but only until September. In response to attempts to integrate Birming­ham public schools, a number of blacks were killed, a riot was precipitated and a black Sunday School was bombed, leaving four young girls dead and a number of other children seriously injured. The September violence, fortunately, was short-lived. From that point on, no major racial riots occurred in Birming­ham. Nevertheless, the events in that city during 1963, including the issuance of the Manifesto, did have the effect of profoundly dramatizing to the nation as a whole the plight of blacks in the United States.

Pointing out that "the patience of an oppressed people cannot endure forever," the Birmingham Manifesto declared that "very little of the democratic process touches the life of the Negro in Birmingham. We have been segregated racially, exploited economically, and dominated politically." Maintaining that Bir­mingham itself "has acquired the dubious reputation of being the worst big city in race relations in the United States," the Manifesto concluded by appealing "to the citizenry of Birming­ham, Negro and white, to join us in this witness for decency, morality, self-respect and human dignity. Your individual and corporate support can hasten the day of liberty and justice for all."


BLACK CABINET Presidents of the United States preceding Franklin D. Roosevelt generally did not rely heavily upon black advisers or specialists, even in the area of minority affairs. During the Roosevelt era, however, a relatively large group of African Americans were appointed to responsible advisory positions within the federal government. Although the number of black advisers to Roosevelt fluctuated from year to year, the group itself became known as the President's Black Cabinet. Prominent members of the Black Cabinet were Mary McLeod Bethune, Ralph Bunche, William H. Hastie, Eugene K. Jones, Lawrence A. Oxley, Robert C. Weaver and Robert L. Vann.

According to historian John Hope Franklin, Roosevelt's cadre of African American advisers differed from black advisers in previ­ous administrations in a number of important respects. "In the first place," Franklin states, "the number of 'Black Cabineteers' was fairly large, in contrast to the small number of whom previ­ous Presidents had relied for advice. In the second place, they were placed in positions of sufficient importance that both the government and the Negro population generally regarded the appointments as significant. They were not persons whose relationship with the government was nebulous and unofficial. They were oath-bound servants of the people of the United States."


BLACK CAPITALISM During the national presidential campaign of 1968, the term "black capitalism" repeatedly was used in reference to an economic panacea which would uplift the black masses by encouraging black ownership of business and industry in predominantly black areas. Black ownership, in turn, would automatically result in a high degree of racial pride and self-sufficiency. The concept itself, of course, is not new. Booker T. Washington's emphasis upon self-help, thrift and industriousness during the late nineteenth century, for example, is indicative of the fact that the typical African American leader has historically recognized the importance and desirability of black capitalism. Similarly, nearly every twentieth century black protest movement or organ­ization, including Garveyism, the Black Muslims and Black Power, has advocated or (in the case of Garveyism) has put into practice the idea of black capitalism.




BLACK CODES Following the American Civil War, many south­ern whites feared that the newly freed blacks would take ad­vantage of their freedom by inciting a general uprising in the hope of not only "retaliating" against their former masters but also of dispossessing them of their property. Such fears, coupled with traditional and ingrained racial assumptions, resulted in the passage of what were called black codes throughout the former Confederacy in 1865-66.

In many respects similar to the repressive slave codes of the antebellum period, the new black codes were designed to severely limit the mobility and personal liberties of African Americans in the South. In a very real sense, the black codes of 1865-66 repre­sented an attempt on the part of southern legislators to "legally" evade the Thirteenth Amendment. Many states, for example, pro­hibited blacks from drinking liquor and possessing firearms. Seditious speeches, insulting gestures or acts against white people, and curfew violations by blacks were punishable offenses. Vagrancy laws were common and generally provided local law enforcement authorities with the power to "farm-out" vagrants to employers as punishment for their "crime." This, of course, was a form of forced labor somewhat similar to antebellum slavery. Moreover, the employment relationships between white employers and black employees were remarkably reminis­cent of the master-slave relationship. The South Carolina black code of 1865, for example, provided that "all persons of color who make contracts for service or labor, shall be known as servants, and those with whom they contract shall be known as masters." The South Carolina law also provided that if a black resigned his job, he could be arrested and imprisoned for breach of contract.

Rejecting the southern rationale that the black codes were necessary in order to reestablish adequate and workable relations in a bi-racial society, the North reacted quickly by generally supporting a more forceful reconstruction policy advocated by congressional radicals as opposed to the relatively lenient policy endorsed by President Johnson. Moreover, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1868) ultimately had the effect of nullifying the black codes by "officially" conferring citizen­ship upon the African American and by providing that no state "shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United .States." See also: FOUR­TEENTH AMENDMENT and SLAVE CODES.




BLACK HISTORY MONTH Black History Month (February) was created in 1976 by The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. The month-long celebration was an expansion of Negro History Week, which was established by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Woodson selected the week in February that embraced the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

With the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s, many African Americans began to complain about the insufficiency of a week-long celebration. In 1976, The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History replaced Negro History Week with Black History Month, often referred to as "African American History Month" or "African Heritage Month."


BLACK JEWS The thousands of black members of the Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in the United States are commonly referred to as Black Jews. Concentrated in a handful of large urban areas such as Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the Black Jews, like Jews everywhere, observe the rituals and holidays stemming from ancient Hebraic tradition. Historically, members of the Ethiopian Hebrew con­gregation have been closely-knit and clannish and, moreover, somewhat apathetic to the aspirations of the American black movement in general. Although there is some evidence that younger members of the faith are becoming more interested in black activism, cultural and religious preoccupations continue to eclipse racial considerations in the typical Black Jewish community.


BLACK MANIFESTO Formally issued on May 4, 1969 by James Forman, co-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee between 1964-66, the "Black Manifesto" was a reflec­tion of the conclusion reached at the National Black Economic Development Conference held in Detroit in 1968. The "Mani­festo" demanded that African-Americans be paid "reparations" by the white religious establishment for its alleged complicity in the historical subjugation of the black race.

The preamble of the "Black Manifesto" charged that black Americans historically had been "victimized by the most vicious, racist system in the world." The preamble went on to demand "of the white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues which are part and parcel of the system of capitalism, that they begin to pay reparations to black people in this country. We are demanding $500,000,000 from the Christian white churches and the Jewish synagogues. This total comes to fifteen dollars per nigger. This is a low estimate, for we maintain there are probably more than 30,000,000 black people in this country. Fifteen dollars a nigger is not a large sum of money, and we know that the churches and synagogues have a tremendous wealth and its membership, white America, has profited and still exploits black people."

Among other things, it was proposed that the reparations money be used for the creation of a southern land bank, a new black university, a black anti-defamation league and a number of publishing and printing industries to help "generate capital for further cooperative investments in the black community, provide jobs and an alternative to the white-dominated and controlled printing field."

The immediate reaction of the white religious establishment was one of shock and dismay, especially after the five hundred million dollar demand was later increased to three billion dollars. Nevertheless, many church leaders and organizations have since recognized their responsibility to assist African-Americans in their attempt to overcome the severe socioeconomic straitjacket im­posed by years of racial discrimination.


BLACK MUSLIMS The Black Muslims are members of a religious black nationalist organization formally called the Nation of Islam. Founded in Detroit in 1930 by F. D. Fard, an obscure peddler and prophet, leadership of the Muslim movement rested in the hands of Elijah Muhammad (originally Elijah Poole). From 1934 until his death in early 1975, Muhammad was recog­nized as the "messenger" of Allah on earth: "There is No God But Allah. Muhammad is His Apostle."

Claiming a tie to the Islamic peoples of the world, Black Muslims accept the general tenets of the religion of Islam, including the rigidly monotheistic belief in one omnipotent, omniscient and merciful God (Allah) and in the obligatory worship of Him. Additionally, Muslims advocate a rigorously moral (if not puri­tanical) life style. The use of tobacco and alcohol is expressly prohibited, as is adultery. Muslim women are expected to dress with extreme modesty, foregoing the use of jewelry, lipstick and other ordinary cosmetics. Members are also expected to practice personal habits of thrift, hard work and personal cleanliness.

In addition to its religious dimension, the Nation of Islam has advocated a policy of racial separation and black nationalism. Branding whites as "devils," the Muslims denounce any form of integration, including intermarriage. Elijah Muhammad main­tained that "integration is a clever trick of the devils. We should not be deceived [into] thinking that this offer of integra­tion is leading us into a better life." In 1964, Muhammad stated that the Muslims wanted "to be allowed to establish a separate state or territory. . . either on this continent or elsewhere. We believe that our former slave-masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory for the next twenty to twenty-five years — until we are able to produce and supply our own needs. Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality, we demand complete separation."

During the early 1960's, the leading voice of the Black Muslims was Malcolm X, who had been converted to Muhammad's teach­ings while in prison. Following his release, he became an out-
spoken and provocative defender of the Muslim belief that whites constitute a devil race whose sole ambition is the at­tempted emasculation of the black race. Separation of the two races, he concluded, was the only solution to America's racial problem: "We don't think that it is possible for the American white man in sincerity to take the action necessary to correct the unjust conditions that twenty million black people here are made to suffer morning, noon, and night." This being the case, Malcolm continued, "instead of asking or seeking to integrate into the American society we want to face the facts of the problem the way they are, and separate ourselves."

Largely as the result of strained relations between the two, Elijah Muhammad suspended Malcolm from the Muslim sect in 1963. Following the assassination of Malcolm in 1965, the Muslims suffered a brief decline as a result of the popular belief that they were directly involved in the slaying. Since then, however, Muslim strength (especially in regard to their black capitalistic ventures) has been revived and it continues to be one of the major black nationalist groups in the United States.

Among the more notable Muslim "converts" was Muhammad Ali (originally Cassius Clay), the former heavyweight boxing champion. Short­ly before his much publicized bout with George Foreman in late 1974, Ali was interviewed on national television by former black football player turned actor Jim Brown. Defending his belief in the Muslim doctrine of separatism, Ali stated that racial separation is inherent in the very order of Nature, pointing out that sparrows do not mix with pigeons, nor chickens with bluebirds. Hence, it is contrary to Nature for the human races to mix. See also: BLACK CAPITALISM, BLACK NATIONAL­ISM and MALCOLM X.


BLACK NATIONALISM As it is most commonly employed, the term "black nationalism" refers to the belief in and desirability of the political and ideological re-creation of a black African world, one in which the African-American can find renewed dignity and purpose. As such, black nationalism can be equated with black separatism, in all of its infinite varieties. Similar to Zionism (Jewish nationalism), which historically advocated the establishment of a Jewish national state or homeland for Jews, black nationalism historically has advocated the creation of a black national state or homeland (in Africa or within the United States) for blacks. Throughout the twentieth century, a number of black nationalist (separatist) groups in the United States have renounced integration in favor of racial separation as the only means for blacks to achieve complete freedom, pride and human dignity. The most significant of these groups have been Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Associa­tion (UNIA) and the Black Muslim movement. For a fuller dis­cussion of black nationalism, see: BACK TO AFRICA MOVEMENTS, BLACK MUSLIMS, BLACK POWER and MARCUS GARVEY.


BLACK PANTHERS The "Black Panther Party for Self Defense" was founded in Oakland, California in October 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Both Newton and Seale had become convinced that black Americans, especially those trapped in innercity ghettos, were being subjected to continual police har­assment and brutality. Both believed that the typical police of­ficer was a "racist-fascist pig" acting as a tool for greedy ghetto merchants and landlords whose exploitation of innercity blacks assumed extreme proportions. The Black Panther Party, there­fore, was established to act as a self-defense counterweight to this alleged police harassment and brutality.

Regarding themselves as the champions of the black masses against the police, Newton, Seale and other Panthers system­atically undertook to survey police practices and actions in the Oakland area, patrolling through the innercity with cameras and loaded weapons. According to Seale, the Panthers had no intention of provoking confrontations with police officers per­forming their officially assigned duties. Their only intent was to establish a mutual tolerance between the police force and the black community in order to protect the latter. "We will change this society," Newton once said. "It is up to the oppressor to decide whether this will be a peaceful change. We will use whatever means is necessary. We will have our manhood even if we have to level the earth." Despite these professions of self-defense and in large part the result of continual verbal assaults by the Panthers against the police, confrontations between the two groups became commonplace during the late 1960's. In 1967, for example, Newton was wounded and charged with the murder of a white policeman during an Oakland Shootout. Then, in 1968, the unarmed Panther national treasurer, Bobby Hutton, was killed in another Panther-police shootout which also in­volved Eldridge Cleaver, former convict, noted author of Soul on Ice and Panther minister of information. Cleaver, on parole at the time, fled to Algeria to avoid prosecution. By 1970, the leadership hierarchy, as well as the general membership of the Black Panther Party had been depleted as the result of such incidents.




BLACK POWER The concept of "black power" was one of the most controversial, debated and least understood of the many precepts which emerged during the black civil rights "revolu­tion" of the 1950's and 1960's. First coined by Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the slogan "black power" was popularized during the June 1966 march through Mississippi begun by James Meredith to demonstrate the necessity of black voter registration.

Almost immediately, white Americans cringed at the thought of a violent black revolution aimed at the destruction of the white power structure and the establishment of black political control over the United States. Most whites and a fair pro­portion of moderate black civil rights leaders such as Roy Wilkins (NAACP) and Martin Luther King (SCLC) equated "black power" with "black racism" or with a quest for "black su­premacy." Wilkins, for example, defined black power as meaning "antiwhite power," while King lamented that "a doctrine of Black Supremacy is as evil as White Supremacy." It is now relatively clear, however, that these initial reactions to the term "black power" were premature.

Aside from being an expression calculated to inspire racial pride, integrity and solidarity among African Americans, black power was and is based on the assumption that blacks should wield
political control (i.e., power) where they constitute a majority of the population (e.g., inner cities) as well as proportionate political influence in other areas where blacks live but do not constitute the majority. In this respect, according to black political scientist Charles V. Hamilton, black power is a "clear alternative to acts of expressive or instrumental violence, be­cause it means the legitimate involvement of masses of black people in activities and institutions which affect their lives. Black Power is not only interested in an equitable distribution of goods and services, it is also vitally concerned with an equi­table distribution of decision-making powers."

Similarly, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) adopted a resolution endorsing the concept of black power and, in the process, attempted to dispel the notion that the concept itself would ultimately lead to a white bloodbath. "Black Power is not hatred," the resolution began. "It is a means to bring the Black Americans into the covenant of Brotherhood. Black Power is not Black Supremacy; it is a unified Black Voice reflecting racial pride in the tradition of our heterogeneous nation." Echoing the moderate sentiments of CORE, black militant Julius Lester has written that "black power is not anti-white people, but is anti-anything and everything that serves to oppress. If whites align themselves on the side of oppression, then black power must be anti-white. That, however, is not the decision of black power."

Friday, December 28, 2007


BLACK REPUBLICAN RECONSTRUCTION "Black Republican Reconstruction" is an expression used to describe those years during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War in which former black slaves, with the aid of northern carpetbaggers and southern scalawags, won election to political offices throughout the former Confederacy. The term "Black Republican" itself was an expression of contempt used by white southerners to describe white Radical Republicans who aided freedmen in their quest for public office during the late 1860's and early 1870's. During this period, nearly thirty southern blacks won election to the U. S. Congress, while two southern state legislatures (Louisiana and South Carolina) were dominated by black major­ities for a brief time. With but few exceptions, however, these black office-holders were used as pawns by the real "rulers" of "Black Republican" governments, the carpetbaggers and scala­wags. Southern freedmen were unscrupulously used by Re­publican politicians to build a viable party machine in the South while never sharing in the spoils of office in proportion to their numerical strength. See also: CARPETBAGGERS and RAD­ICAL REPUBLICANS.








BLAND, JAMES Born in Flushing, New York in 1854, James Bland was a noted minstrel comedian and composer, gaining fame in both Europe and the United States. During the course of his life, Bland wrote more than six hundred popular songs, including "Oh Dem Golden Slippers" and "In the Evening by the Moonlight." His most popular composition, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," was adopted as Virginia's official state song in 1940. Bland himself died of pneumonia on May 5, 1911.






BOJANGLES BILL ROBINSON Born Luther Robinson in Richmond, Virginia in 1878, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was undoubtedly one of the greatest of all American tap-dancers. He began dancing while still a child and progressed from local clubs and saloons in Rich­mond to the vaudeville circuit during the early 1900's. His first appearance on the legitimate stage in Blackbirds of 1928 made Robinson an overnight sensation. The play ran for more than a year at the Liberty Theater on Broadway. Subsequently, "Bo-jangles" went on to Hollywood, where he danced in a dozen major motion pictures, including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm with Shirley Temple. Similar to many Hollywood personalities, Robinson made millions of dollars during his career, but owing to unwise investments and lavish living he died penniless in 1949


BOLLING V. SHARPE The Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education (347 U. S. 483) which prohibited states from maintaining racially segregated public schools was based on the Court's belief that such prohibition was in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment, in turn, is applicable only to the individual states and not to the District of Columbia. In other words, being under federal authority and as the result of the fact that the powers of the federal government are not re­stricted by an equal protection clause, the Brown decision per se was not applicable to the District of Columbia. This problem was resolved by invoking the Fifth Amendment's due process clause, which was applicable to the District. The case in question was Bolling v. Sharpe (347 U. S. 497).

The Court's unanimous decision, delivered on the same day of the Brown decision, was read by Chief Justice Warren: "In view of our decision that the Constitution prohibits the states from maintaining racially segregated public schools, it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a lesser duty on the Federal Government. We hold that racial segregation in the public schools of the District of Columbia is a denial of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. See also: BROWN V. BOARD OF EDU­CATION.




BRAITHWAITE, WILLIAM S. African American poet and critic William Stanley Braithwaite (1878-1962) edited and published an annual "Anthology of Magazine Verse," which featured poetry written by such notables as Edgar Lee Masters and Carl Sand­burg. Additionally, Braithwaite was a well known book reviewer for the Boston Transcript during the early twentieth century. As a poet, he was extremely prolific, with his best known books of verse being Lyrics of Life and Love (1904), The House of Falling Leaves (1908) and The Book of Restoration Verse (1909). Recipient of the NAACP's annual Spingarn Award (for the "highest or noblest achievement by an American Negro") in 1918, Braithwaite devoted his later years to education, teach­ing creative literature and poetry at Atlanta University.


BRAWLEY, BENJAMIN A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Benjamin Brawley (1882-1939) was a poet and a writer of fiction. His major claim to fame, however, was the contribution he made to literary and social history. Among Brawley's most significant books were A Short History of English Drama (1921); A New Survey of English Literature (1925); The Negro Genius (1937); and Negro Builders and Heroes (1937). Edu­cated at Morehouse College, the University of Chicago and Harvard, Brawley later taught at a number of colleges, includ­ing both Morehouse and Howard University.


BROWN, JAMES Coming Soon.


BROWN, JOHN A controversial white abolitionist, John Brown was born on May 9, 1800 in Connecticut. For the greater part of his life, Brown was a drifter, living in at least five different states, working as a cattle drover, tanner, wool merchant and farmer. In the meantime, he had married twice and had fathered a total of twenty children.

His fierce hatred of the institution of Afro-American slavery did not actively surface until he moved to Kansas in 1855. In the midst of a bitter controversy over whether Kansas should enter the Union as a free or slave state, Brown and severalcompanions took the law into their own hands by raiding a proslavery settlement on Potawatomi Creek, dragging five unsuspecting settlers from their cabins and brutally murdering them. Known as the "Potawatomi Massacre," this incident not only brought Brown a degree of national "recognition," but also reenforced his own belief that his crusade against the evils of slavery was divinely inspired.

He next proposed that a black republic be established in the mountains of Maryland and Virginia where escaped slaves could gather and more effectively defend themselves against white racism and slave hunters. Toward this end, in October 1859, Brown and a group of his followers, both black and white, staged an attack upon the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, hoping to secure enough arms and ammunition to properly outfit his proposed "republic." As it turned out, how­ever, Brown's raid was a complete fiasco. After a two day siege during which ten of his men were killed by federal troops, Brown himself was captured.

Charged with treason, conspiracy and murder, Brown was con­victed and executed on December 2, 1859. The manner in which he conducted himself during his trial and immediately preceding his execution, however, assured that sectional hostility between the northern and southern states would continue unabated. Brown refused to enter a plea of insanity. He insisted to the end that he was an agent of God sent to free the slaves. "If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded," he said during his trial, "I say, let it be done." It was done, but in the process John Brown was transformed into a martyr to the cause of freedom by northern sympathizers and, concurrently, viewed as a "typical abolitionist" by southern proslavery interests.


BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION The unanimous 1954 Su­preme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U. S. 483) climaxed years of pressure and litigation by the NAACP and other concerned groups and individuals over the question of the legal status of American blacks in regard to public education. Harbinger of a new era in the legal struggle for black equality in the United States, the Supreme Court declared that racial discrimination in state-supported public schools was unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This decision, of course, ran contrary to the 1896 decision of the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U. S. 537) which sanctioned the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine. This doc­trine maintained that equality of treatment is satisfied when blacks and whites are provided equal facilities, even though these facilities may be separate. Therefore, although the Brown decision's primary thrust was against segregated public educa­tion, it also struck out at all Jim Crow laws which were based on the "separate but equal" doctrine.

In delivering the opinion of the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that state-imposed racial segregation of public school facilities was detrimental to the psychological well-being of black children. "To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race," Warren stated, "generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the com­munity that may affect their hearts and minds in a way un­likely ever to be undone. Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected. We con­clude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "sepa­rate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Prior to the Brown decision, racial segregation of public school facilities was required by law in seventeen states and in the District of Columbia. Within this area, approximately eight million white children were attending approximately 35,000 white schools, while nearly three million African-American children were enrolled in 15,000 black schools. These figures prompted the New York Times (May 18, 1954) to assert that "probably no decision in the history of the Court has directly concerned so many individuals."

The Brown decision of 1954 established the constitutional prin­ciple, but did not supply the necessary enforcement decree. One year later, therefore, the Supreme Court mandated that deseg­regation of public school facilities should begin "with all de­liberate speed" toward "full compliance with our May 17, 1954, ruling." However, many states and individual school districts adopted a snail's interpretation of the Court's "with all deliberate speed" ruling. Fifteen years after the initial Brown decision, approximately eighty percent of southern black children con­tinued to attend segregated schools. In response, the Supreme Court in 1969 revised its previous stand by declaring in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (396 U. S. 19) that the standard of "all deliberate speed" was no longer "con­stitutionally permissible" and ordered desegregation "at once." Although this order did prod many states and school districts into action, complete desegregation of the nation's schools (both southern and northern) has not yet become a reality. See also: BUSING, ROLLING V. SHARPE, JIM CROWISM, PLESSY V. FERGUSON and SWEATT V. PAINTER.


BROWN, WILLIAM WELLS William Wells Brown (1815-1884) was a pioneer black novelist, dramatist and travel writer. Born in Kentucky as a slave, Brown escaped bondage when he fled to Canada in 1834. While in Canada, he worked as a steward on Lake Erie ships and, in the meantime, became self-educated. In 1849, he traveled to Europe, where he stayed for five years. His sojourn in Europe provided him with the material needed to publish a travel book (Three Years in Europe, 1852), the first published by an African American. In addition to this achieve­ment, Brown is credited with having written the first novel (Clotel, or the President's Daughter, 1853) and the first drama (The Escape, 1858) published by a black American.


BRUCE, BLANCHE K. Born a slave in Prince Edward County, Virginia in 1841, Blanche Kelso Bruce was the first African Amer­ican to serve a full term in the United States Senate. Repre­senting Mississippi from 1875 to 1881, Bruce was one of over twenty blacks elected to Congress during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century.

During his senatorial career, Bruce actively supported civil rights for all Americans, including not only blacks but also the American Indian and the Chinese. He participated in an inves­tigation of alleged election frauds and was a staunch advocate of improving the Mississippi River's navigational potential in order to enhance both domestic and foreign trade. Upon comple­tion of his term in the Senate, Bruce remained in the federal service. In 1881, President Garfield appointed him to the post of Register of the Treasury. He retained this position until 1885 and was reappointed to it by President McKinley in 1897. In the interim, he served as Recorder of Deeds in the District of Columbia, receiving this appointment from President Harrison in 1891. Bruce died on March 17, 1898.


BUFFALO SOLDIERS For a generation following the Civil War, two regiments of black cavalry of the U. S. Army, the Ninth and the Tenth, served meritoriously on the western frontier. Concentrated at one time or another in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and the Dakotas, these troops were called "buffalo soldiers" by the American Indians. The traditional account is that the Indians saw a similarity between the hair of the black soldier and that of the buffalo. The term was not used in a derogatory manner since the buffalo was considered to be a sacred animal by the Indians. Accordingly, the black troopers willingly accepted this designation, even to the point of adopting the buffalo as a portion of their regimental insignia.


BUNCHE, RALPH Coming Soon.


BURLEIGH, HARRY T. Harry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) was an internationally known Afro-American singer and com­poser during the early twentieth century. An accomplished bari­tone and church soloist, Burleigh was a native of Erie, Penn­sylvania. Fond of music from his childhood, he was awarded a scholarship in 1892 to the National Conservatory of Music in New York, where he studied under and was befriended by the noted composer Antonin Dvorak. Dvorak's fifth symphony, "From the New World," contains sections which were inspired by Burleigh's spirituals. Long-time baritone soloist at New York's St. George's Episcopal Church and at Temple Emanuel, one of America's largest Jewish synagogues, Burleigh's concert tours included appearances before American presidents and European royalty, twice giving command performances for King Edward VII of Great Britain. During his lifetime, Harry T. Burleigh composed over two hundred original songs.


BUSING Busing refers to the controversial process of transport­ing public school children (white or black, depending on the circumstances) by bus to schools outside their neighborhoods where necessary to achieve racial balance and to prevent de facto segregation. Most common in the North, attempts at busing were begun in the early 1960's. In most cases, busing was met with a degree of parental resistance, especially but not universally on the part of white parents. At the beginning of the 1974-75 academic year, for example, white parents in Boston, Massachusetts reacted angrily to a court-ordered busing program intended to integrate Boston public schools. The opening of school in Boston on Sep­tember 12 (more than twenty years after the Supreme Court declared that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal"), was marred by a number of ugly incidents, including the stoning of school buses containing black children (several of whom were injured) and a partial white boycott of classes. See also: DE FACTO SEGREGATION.


CABOCEER Derived from the Portuguese cabociero, meaning headman or official, caboceers were the directly-appointed agents of coastal West African chiefs who were responsible for the actual procurement of slaves from the interior. Acting as a middleman between the chief and European (or American) trader, the caboceer would procure slaves and deliver them to coastal forts or slave-factories in preparation for the actual trading process. The slave-factories were manned by a European-in-residence called a "factor." Generally the employee of a large slave trading company, the "factor" was responsible for main­taining and caring for the slaves during the period between their delivery by the caboceer and the arrival of slave ships for transport to the western hemisphere. See also: ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE and BARRACOON.


CALLOWAY, CAB Coming Soon.




CARDOZO, FRANCIS L. Born a "Free Negro" in Charleston, South Carolina in 1837, Francis L. Cardozo's early life was devoted to the hope of entering the ministry. Following an excellent education which included four years of undergraduate training at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and three additional years at Presbyterian seminaries in Edinburgh and London, Cardozo became pastor of the Temple Street Congrega­tional Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
Following the Civil War and his return to South Carolina, Cardozo's interests gravitated toward politics. He was a delegate to the South Carolina constitutional convention in 1868. In that same year, he was elected Secretary of State of South Carolina, a position he held until 1870. In 1872, he was elected State Treasurer. Reelected in 1876, his term of office was cut short by the Compromise of 1877 and the return of "white rule" to South Carolina. Moving to Washington, Cardozo extended his career by serving in both the Treasury and Post Office depart­ments. In addition, from 1884 to 1896, he served as principal of Washington's black high school. Cardozo died in 1903.




CARPETBAGGERS The term "carpetbaggers" historically has been used to describe those northern politicians, adventurers, federal employees and idealists who migrated to the South duringthe Reconstruction era after the American Civil War. The term itself is derived from the popular impression that these indivi­duals, in their hurry to reach the South, packed what belong­ings they could in "carpetbags," a form of luggage used during the mid-nineteenth century. Together with their southern coun­terparts, the so-called "scalawags," the "carpetbaggers" and southern blacks, protected by federal bayonets, controlled a number of southern state and municipal governments for several years after 1867. See also: BLACK REPUBLICAN RE­CONSTRUCTION.


CARVER, GEORGE WASHINGTON One of the most prominent and distinguished American blacks during the early twentieth century, George Washington Carver was born of slave parents in Missouri in 1864. A sickly child with a pronounced stammer, Carver worked as a farm hand, tried homesteading and wander­ed a great deal during his teenage years. As a result, he was in his mid-twenties before he completed high school. Determined to further his education, Carver worked his way through Iowa State College (Ames), from which he received a B. S. degree in 1894. He remained at Iowa State serving as an assistant botanist and head of the college greenhouse until he received his master's degree in agriculture and bacterial botany in 1896.

Shortly after earning his M. S. degree, Carver received and accepted an invita­tion from Booker T. Washington to teach and continue his research activities at Tuskegee Institute. He remained at Tuskegee until his death in 1943. In the meantime, Carver gained national and international fame as a pioneer in chemurgy, the science of utilizing organic products in the manufacture of non-organic products (e.g., using soybeans as the base for the making of plastics). He was also a pioneer in the field of dehydration, long before the process became an integral part of the American food industry.

Throughout his career, Carver was primarily concerned with improving southern agricultural conditions and, at the same time, improving the lot of southern blacks. Toward these ends, he was instrumental in persuading southern farmers to diversify their crops in order to escape dependence on a single crop (cot­ton) system. In place of cotton, which was depleting the soil and which suffered from the scourge of the boll weevil, Carver successfully advocated the cultivation of soil-enriching peanuts and sweet potatoes. Concurrently, he developed a number of processes to deal with peanut and sweet potato surpluses. Fromthe peanut, for example, he made such diverse products as cheese, coffee, flour, ink, milk, soap and insulation board.

Although many national laboratories periodically tried to lure Carver away from Tuskegee, he remained loyal to Booker T. Washington's school throughout his life. He was not particularly interested in fame or fortune. Most of his inventions and proc­esses were never patented. On one occasion, he explained that his scientific ability was a gift from God and that inventions and processes should be universally shared without enhancing the financial status of the inventor. Buried alongside of Booker T. Washington, Carver's epitaph appropriately reads: "He could have added fortune to fame but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."


CATO CONSPIRACY The first serious slave uprising in the Amer­ican colonies was the Cato Conspiracy of 1739. Led by a black slave named Cato, this uprising took place about twenty miles west of Charleston on a plantation at Stono. Hoping to reach Florida, Cato and about fifty to sixty slaves raided a warehouse, securing arms and ammunition. Marching to the beat of two drums, the conspirators began their trek south, killing any white who attempted to interfere. Pursued by a vigilante group of armed whites, the determined rebels, with the exception of about a dozen, were captured or killed. Before the conspiracy ended, a total of thirty whites and forty-four blacks lost their lives. See also: SLAVE CONSPIRACIES.






CHARLES, RAY Coming Soon.


CHATTEL Literally defined, the term chattel refers to a movable item of personal property (chattel personal) or any interest in real estate less than a freehold (chattel real). An integral aspect of Afro-American slavery was the dehumanizing legal definition of slaves as being chattel. In the antebellum South, most state slave codes defined the slave as constituting personal property (personalty or chattel personal). On the other hand, several states, including Louisiana and (before 1852) Kentucky, legally defined the status of slaves as being real estate (realty or chattel real). See also: SLAVE CODES.


CHEATHAM, HENRY P. An alumnus of Shaw College, Henry P. Cheatham (1857-1935) served as United States Congressman from North Carolina between 1889-93. Preceding his congres­sional career, Cheatham was Register of Deeds for Vance County, North Carolina (1884-88) and principal of the State Normal School at Plymouth (1888). His later years were spent as super­intendent of a black orphanage in North Carolina, a position he held from 1901 until his death in 1935.


CHESNUTT, CHARLES W. The son of runaway slaves from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1858. Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the entire family returned to Fayetteville. Chesnutt remained in North Carolina until 1883. Disgusted with southern racial attitudes, he moved to New York and, later, returned to Cleveland. Largely self-educated, Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar in 1887. In addition, he was an accomplished stenographer, having worked for Dow Jones in New York and for a railroad company in Cleveland. It was as a writer of novels and short stories, however, that Chesnutt acquired national recognition.

Although he had written a column for the New York Mail and Express and had contributed a number of articles and poems to newspapers and journals during the early 1880's, Chesnutt's first important work, "The Goophered Grapevine," did not ap­pear in the Atlantic Monthly until 1887. This was followed by two collections of short stories published in 1899 (The Conjure Woman and The Wife of His Youth). His first novel, The House Behind the Cedars (1900), dealt convincingly with a black girl's attempt to "pass" as white. Most of his stories and novels, in­cluding his final two books, The Marrow of Tradition (1901) and The Colonel's Dream (1905), were sensitively written ac­counts of the American racial dilemma from a black man's point of view. Chesnutt died in 1932.


CHICAGO DEFENDER Founded in 1905 by Robert S. Abbott, the Chicago Defender was one of the most influential black edited and published newspapers during the early twentieth century. Widely circulated throughout the South, the Defender was instrumental in encouraging southern blacks to migrate to the North during the first World War. Portraying the North as a "land of promise" for African-Americans, the Defender at­tacked southern racism and the economic plight of southern blacks. "To die from the bite of frost," the newspaper asserted, "is far more glorious than at the hands of a mob."

Advertisements for help in the classified columns of the Defender as well as occasional headlines ("MORE POSITIONS OPEN THAN MEN FOR THEM") were specifically written to entice
southern blacks to seek their fortune and perhaps fame in the North. More significant were the repeated appeals of the Defender for southern black men to exert their manhood in the cause of human dignity. "Every black man for the sake of his wife and daughter," proclaimed the Defender, "should leave even at a financial sacrifice every spot in the South where his worth is not appreciated enough to give him the standing of a man and a citizen in the community." See also: ROBERT S. ABBOTT and GREAT MIGRATION.




CHRISTIAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH With nearly a half million communicants, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) is the third largest black Methodist body in the United States. Original members of the CME Church (about 250,000) represented the black members of the Methodist Epis­copal Church South (ME) who successfully petitioned for a church of their own in 1871. Until 1956, the CME Church was known as the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.








CIVIL RIGHTS As generally understood, civil rights are those rights belonging to an individual by virtue of his or her status as a citizen or as a member of civil society. In the United States, many authorities attempt to distinguish between civil rights and civil liberties, although many others equate the terms or at least fail to differentiate between them. In the case of those seeking to distinguish between the two terms, civil rights is most often defined as racial equality before the law as stated and guaranteed by the Civil War amendments and subsequent amendments to the Constitution as well as pertinent legislation (e.g., Civil Rights Acts) and judicial decisions. Civil liberties, on the other hand, are taken to mean those guarantees of the original Bill of Rights (e.g., the freedoms of religion, speech, and of the press) and those of state constitutions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS The term Civil Rights Act has been used no less than eight times since 1866 to describe legislative meas­ures adopted by the United States Congress to protect and guarantee African American civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, for example, was designed to protect freedmen against southern black codes and other discriminatory measures. In ad­dition, the 1866 act stated that "all persons born in the United States ... are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States," and as such all were entitled to equal treatment in rights and privileges. This section of the act was later incor­porated into the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868, thereby over­turning the Dred Scott decision of 1857 which had denied the status of citizenship to blacks.

Passed by Congress on March 1, 1875, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 guaranteed that "all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment" of public accommodations such as theaters, inns, hotels and forms of public conveyance. The act carried a fine for violation of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000, or imprison­ment for thirty days to one year. In 1883, however, the Supreme Court of the United .States declared this Act unconstitutional, arguing that Congress did not have the authority to regulate the social mores of private individuals.

It was not until 1957 that Congress once again addressed itself to the plight of African Americans in their attempt to secure civil equality before the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 prohibited any action which would infringe upon or deny to persons the right to vote in federal elections, authorizing the Attorney General to bring suit when such persons were denied their constitutional right to vote. The 1957 act also created the Civil Rights Commission and established a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. Although this legislation was criticized by many as being a token attempt to deal with a serious national problem, its significance lies in the fact that it re­presented a reversal of the federal policy of laissez faire in the realm of civil rights which had existed since 1875.

The Civil Rights Act of 1960 reenforced the 1957 legislation by providing for court enforcement of voting rights and requir­ing that voting records be preserved. Additionally, in an at­tempt to guarantee that school desegregation orders were en­forced, the act contained limited criminal penalty provisions relating to bombing and to the obstruction of federal court orders.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was undoubtedly the most com­prehensive and significant piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress. Despite an extended southern filibuster, sup-
porters of the legislation had sufficient strength to muster the necessary votes for passage on July 2, 1964. This act prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations and in programs receiving federal assistance. In addition, discrimination by employers and unions was prohibited; an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established; and the enforcement apparatus of voting laws and school and public facilities deseg­regation orders were significantly strengthened.

Three additional legislative measures since 1964 occasionally have been referred to as Civil Rights Acts. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, discussed elsewhere in this book, strengthened pen­alties for interference with voting rights, while congressional legislation in 1968 and 1970, respectively, prohibited housing discrimination in most cases and amended and extended the Voting Rights Act of 1965. See also: CIVIL RIGHTS CASES, CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION and VOTING RIGHTS ACT.