Monday, April 17, 2017

Historical Notes

World War one lasted from 1914 to 1918. Tons of African Americans had crucial roles in the war militarily, socially, and economically. Like most Americans, most African Americans initially opposed American military involvement in World War One. WWI was a war among imperial powers over the resources of the Earth. Colonial forces forced black people and other people of color (from other nations) in the frontlines of battles in numerous circumstances. Later, after the Lusitania was hit by a German U-Boat, America soon was involved in WWI. African Americans were divided. Some opposed the war out of moral, anti-war reasons. Some opposed the war because it was hypocritical to fight for democracy overseas when black people were denied fundamental human rights at home. Many black Americans supported the war for democratic reasons. We know that Woodrow Wilson (who was President during WWI) was a racist and never would desire true democracy to spread for all ethnicities on Earth. Also, Wilson hypocritically passed anti-civil liberty laws like the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act, which suppressed dissent. A. Philip Randolph and Chandler (who were editors of the socialist newspaper “The Messenger”) opposed the war. They wanted African Americans to resist military service. Both men were monitored by the federal government. Ironically, WEB DuBois supported the war as a way for black people to gain freedoms denied in America. About 370,000 black men were inducted in the Army. Black soldiers were forced to serve in many menial jobs and they faced racism and discrimination. So, black people were fighting overseas and home against discrimination and injustice. Emmett J. Scott was a private secretary to Booker T. Washington. He was the Special Assistant to Secretary of War Newton Baker during World War I in order to oversee the recruitment, training, and morale of the African American soldiers. Only a small percentage of black Americans were in combat. Yet, many African Americans joined the French military forces in combat. African Americans introduced the French to jazz, blues, and other cultural representations. Many black people said that the French were less prejudice against them than white Americans. Units were segregated. Over 2 million black men were registered for the draft. One of the most distinguished units was the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the "Harlem Hellfighters", which was on the front lines for six months, longer than any other American unit in the war. 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Merit. On February 18, 1919, the 3,000 veterans of the 369th Infantry were in a parade on Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street to 145th and Lenox (in NYC). The French Army awarded them the prestigious Croix de Guerre. In their ranks was one of the Great War’s greatest heroes, Pvt. Henry Johnson of Albany, N.Y., who, though riding in a car for the wounded, was so moved by the outpouring he stood up waving the bouquet of flowers he’d been handed during the February parade. It would take another 77 years for Johnson to receive an official Purple Heart from his own government.

Eugene Bullard was one of the greatest black soldiers in WWI. He was the first African American military pilot. He flew for France. He was born in Columbus, Georgia. His ancestors came from Haiti from the days of the Haitian Revolution. World War I began in August 1914, and on October 19, 1914, Bullard enlisted and was assigned to the third Marching Regiment of the Foreign Legion. He was awarded by the French. He stood up for civil rights and he was beaten by racists (including the police) in the Peekskill Riots. Bullard wanted to defend Paul Robeson’s right to perform in a benefit concert for the Civil Rights Congress. Black soldiers on August 23, 1917 resisted racism and many of these soldiers were kicked out of the military in Houston. The military created two combat divisions for African Americans. One, the 92nd Division, was composed of draftees and officers. The second, the 93rd Division, was made up of mostly National Guard units from New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Massachusetts. The army, however, assigned the vast majority of soldiers to service units, reflecting a racist belief that black men were more suited for manual labor than combat duty. From May 1918 to November 1918, the 371st and 372nd African American Regiments were integrated under the 157th Red Hand Division commanded by the French General Mariano Goybet. They earned glory in the decisive final offensive in Champagne region of France. The two Regiments were decorated by the French Croix de Guerre for their gallantry in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Corporal Freddie Stowers of the 371st Infantry Regiment was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor—the only African American to be so honored for actions in World War I. During action in France, Stowers had led an assault on German trenches, continuing to lead and encourage his men even after being wounded twice. Stowers died from his wounds, but his men continued the fight on a German machine gun nest near Bussy farm in Champagne, and eventually defeated the German troops. Stowers was recommended for the Medal of Honor shortly after his death, but according to the Army, the nomination was misplaced. Many believed the recommendation had been intentionally ignored due to institutional racism in the Armed Forces. In 1990, under pressure from Congress, the Defense Department launched an investigation. Based on findings from this investigation, the Army Decorations Board approved the award of the Medal of Honor to Stowers. On April 24, 1991 – 73 years after he was killed in action — Stowers' two surviving sisters received the Medal of Honor from President George H. W. Bush at the White House. After WWI, DuBois and others promoted Pan-African Congresses to advance freedom for black people worldwide. They wanted independence for colonized areas, but this would be a long process. Black women sacrificed in World War I as well. The National Association of Cored Women (NACW) and various clubs supported black troops. Many black women were nurses and met the needs of black soldiers. Many black women worked outside of the home in various jobs. They fought for greater pay and equitable working conditions. Black women fought against lynching and many were involved in strikes for better treatment (like in Mobile, Alabama).

Seattle grew fast in the 19th century. By July 14, 1873, the Northern Pacific Railway said that they chose the village of Tacoma over Seattle as the Western terminus of their transcontinental railroad. The railroad barons wanted to be take advantage of buying up land around the terminus cheaply not bringing the railroad into a more established Pacific port town. Seattle tried to create a railroad of its own. The Great Northern Railway came about in 1884 in Seattle. This caused Seattle to compete for freight. It would be until 1906 before Seattle had a major rail passenger terminal. Back then, problems existed in Seattle. It had newspapers and telephones. Yet, many people were lynched with the lynch law. Schools struggled and indoor plumbing was rare. That is why changes came about. Union organizing arrived first in the form of a skilled craft union. In 1882, Seattle printers formed the Seattle Typographical Union Local 202. Dockworkers followed in 1886, cigar makers in 1887, tailors in 1889, and both brewers and musicians in 1890. Even the newsboys unionized in 1892, followed by more organizing, mostly of craft unions. There was also anti-Chinese vigilantism or violent racism against Chinese people in Seattle.  In 1883, Chinese laborers played a key role in the first effort at digging the Montlake Cut to connect Lake Union's Portage Bay to Lake Washington's Union Bay. In 1885-1886, whites—sometimes in combination with some Native Americans—complaining of overly cheap labor competition, drove the Chinese settlers from Seattle, Tacoma, and other Northwest cities. Washington Territory back then was one of the first places of America to briefly allow women’s suffrage (or giving women the right to vote). Women had a strong history in early Seattle. The first bathtub with plumbing was in 1870. In the 1880's, Seattle got its first streetcar and cable car, ferry service, a YMCA gymnasium, and the exclusive Rainier Club. Seattle passed an ordinance requiring attached sewer lines for all new residences. It also began to develop a road system. The relative fortunes of Seattle and Tacoma clearly show the nature of Seattle's growth. Though both Seattle and Tacoma grew at a rapid rate from 1880 to 1890, based on the strength of their timber industries, Seattle's growth as an exporter of services and manufactured goods continued for another two decades, while Tacoma's growth dropped almost to zero. The reason for this lies in Tacoma's nature as a company town and Seattle's successful avoidance of that condition. The great fire came into Seattle in June 6, 1889. It was started by a glue pot. It burned 29 city blocks (almost all of them were filled with wooden buildings and about 10 brick buildings were burned too). It destroyed almost the entire business district. All railroad terminals and all but four of the wharves were burned. Major fires like this were common in Washington that summer: the center of Ellensburg was destroyed by fire on July 4 and downtown Spokane burned on August 4. Thanks in part to credit arranged by Jacob Furth, Seattle rebuilt from the ashes with astounding rapidity. A new zoning code resulted in a downtown of brick and stone buildings, rather than wood. In the single year after the fire, the city grew from 25,000 to 40,000 inhabitants, largely because of the enormous number of construction jobs suddenly created.  Still, south of Yesler Way, the open city atmosphere remained. The greatest boom period for Seattle occurred during the Klondike gold rush. Seattle, as well as the rest of the nation, was suffering from the economic panic of 1893, and to a lesser extent, the panic of 1896. Gold was discovered in August 1896 in the Klondike region of Canada. Almost one year later, on July 17, 1897, the steamer Portland arrived at Schwabacher's Wharf in Seattle. A publicity campaign engineered largely by Erastus Brainerd told the world of the Portland's "ton of gold," started the Klondike gold rush, and established Seattle as its supply center and the jumping-off point for transportation to and from Alaska and the gold fields of the Yukon. The rush ended the depression overnight for Seattle. The miners mined the gold. Seattle mined the miners

The leader of the antilynching movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a black woman named Ida B. Wells. She wrote newspapers, was involved in protests, and used other forms of activism to fight lynching. In her May 21, 1892 editorial, she defended the dignity of black people and exposed racism. Her best known work called “Southern Horrors” made known to the world that black people were being killed, lynched, and abused by racist terrorists. She also advocated self-defense. She wrote that: “…The lesson this teaches…which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give…” WEB DuBois, Walter White, and other early NAACP members fought against lynching. According to the NAACP, from 1889-1918, about 2,522 black men, women, and children were lynched or violently executed by racist mobs. Lynchers slandered black people in order to promote the system of white supremacy. Many of the dead bodies from lynching were displayed in public. Many non-black people fought against lynching, but the anti-lynching movement in America was headed by black Americans (especially black women). The Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs adopted a 1921 statement condemning lynching as a threat in society. The ASWPL or the Southern women for the Prevention of lynching existed in November of 1930. The NAACP fought to get anti-lynching legislation passed in Congress like the Dyer bill during the 1920’s and the Wagner-Costigan bill in 1933. Both bills wanted lynching to be a federal crime. These bills failed in part because of southern segregationist Democrats who opposed such legislation. Organizations fought hard (like Young Women’s Christian Association, Women’s Christian Missionary Society including Eleanor Roosevelt) and lynching declined by the 1940’s, but racism persists to this very day.

After the Great Migration of 1910, more black people lived in Northern cities. The religious landscape of the black American community evolved. Most black Americans back then and today are Christians, but alternative religious movements existed too. Black Hebrew Israelites grew from the late 19th century. Many of them follow Judaism and others follow a Messianic Judaism (in viewing Jesus Christ as the Messiah). One of the first groups of Black Hebrews, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, was founded in 1896 in Kansas, but it retained elements of a messianic connection to Jesus. They believe that black people are descendants from the ancient Israelites and that we must follow the commandments of Moses. After World War I, for example, Wentworth Arthur Matthew, an immigrant from Saint Kitts, founded a Black Hebrew congregation in Harlem, claiming descent from the ancient Israelites. He called it the Commandment Keepers of the Living God. He followed a form of Judaism. Black Israelites are diverse. Some are more tolerable and others are outrageous, misogynistic, and xenophobic. The Moorish Science Temple existed from Noble Drew Ali. This group believed that African Americans are descendants of the Moors of Northwest Africa and Islamic by faith. The Moors teach about racial pride, historical education, and spirituality. They have grown since the 1920’s.  In religious texts, adherents refer to themselves racially as "Asiatics," as the Middle East is also western Asia. Adherents of this movement are known as Moorish-American Moslems and are called "Moorish Scientists" in some circles. One cousin of the Moorish Science Temple is the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam was created by Wallace Fard Muhammad in the 1930’s. It was based originally in Detroit by July 4, 1930. The Nation of Islam believes in using action to build the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans and black people in general. The Nation of Islam is globally and it has been controversial since its inception. Elijah Muhammad is its famous leader. Malcolm X was once part of the NOI until he left it in 1964 to form the MMI & OAAU. Its membership (of the NOI) is estimated to be between 20,000 and 50,000 people today.  

From 1896 to 1954, massive civil rights organizations existed in America. The NAACP back then was the most powerful black civil rights organization numerically. It had local leaders, religious leaders, professionals, business people, working class people, etc. in its ranks. They worked against the lynching of black people. They also protested anti-black race riots. They fought for voting rights and defended workers’ rights too. From 1940 to 1946, NAACP membership increased from 50,000 to 450,000 members. Communists were involved in civil rights. Most black people weren’t Communists since Communists embraced atheism and the stigma many people placed on Communists. Communists had many successes, but the problem was that many of them supported the Hitler-Stalin pact, which was wrong. This caused Communist support in America to decline because of that blunder (as Hitler broke promises and was a racist liar). With the McCarthyism era, the NAACP made the mistake of kicking out any black person who was a Communist even sincere Communists desiring social change. Paul Robeson was an overt, sincere Communist who believed in freedom and justice. He was an anti-imperialist like WEB DuBois. The NAACP's legal department, headed by Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, undertook a litigation campaign spanning several decades to bring about the reversal of the "separate but equal" doctrine established in the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The NAACP was heavily involved in the courts to fight for change. The Regional Council of Negro Leadership was created in 1951 by T.R.M. Howard and their famous member was Medgar Evers. The RCNL wanted to end segregation and promote voting rights for black people. Many Jewish people and organizations were involved in the civil rights movement.  Many co-founders of the NAACP were Jewish. Jewish philanthropists supported the NAACP, civil rights groups, and schools for African Americans (like Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington in funding his Tuskegee University). Rosenwald also contributed to HBCUs such as Howard, Dillard and Fisk universities. The PBS television show From Swastika to Jim Crow discussed Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. It recounted that Jewish scholars fleeing from or surviving the Holocaust of World War II came to teach at many Southern schools, where they reached out to black students. After World War II, the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and the ADL were active in promoting civil rights. Also, black women had a big role in the civil rights movement. Dorothy Height, Diane Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, Jo Ann Robison, and other black women fought for freedom courageously. The National Association of Colored Women Clubs (NACWC) is an American organization that was formed in July 1896 at the First Annual Convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in Washington, D.C. That the National Association of Colored Women was the most prominent organization formed during the African-American Woman Suffrage Movement was due chiefly to the efforts of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell. Both women were educated and had economically successful parents. Mary Church Terrell was a black woman who fought against segregation in Washington, D.C. Finally, on June 8, 1953, the court ruled that segregated eating places in Washington, DC, were unconstitutional.  After the age of 80, Terrell continued to participate in picket lines, protesting the segregation of restaurants and theaters In D.C. During her senior years, she also succeeded in persuading the local chapter of the American Association of University Women to admit black members. She lived to see the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding unconstitutional the racial segregation of public schools. The Urban League wanted economic opportunities for African Americans.

By Timothy

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