Monday, July 17, 2017

History of Black America (from the late 1960's to the early 1970's)

There is always the beauty of Blackness since the beginning of human history. The modern Black is Beautiful cultural movement started in America by the 1960’s by African Americans. It also spread into South Africa by Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness Movement. Black is Beautiful is self-explanatory. It means that Black is glorious, beautiful, strong, and inspirational. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in many of his speeches, especially from 1966 to 1968, said that Black is Beautiful. The movement wanted black people to love their natural features and fight for justice. It was a movement that wanted us as black people to always love our skin, our melanin, our hair, our facial features, and our African being. It was an antidote to the evil of internalized racism and colorism (back in the day, self-haters had paper bag parties where African Americans with lighter skins complexions were only allowed in social circles. My father talked about these evil social gathering back in the day). Black people are beautiful regardless of hue. The beauty of Blackness has been articulated by a diversity of black people from Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, black women leaders, the NOI, and other black Nationalists. One of the earliest promoters of Black is Beautiful is John Rock. John Rock didn’t verbatim use the term black is Beautiful, but in one speech, he did promote the beauty of the blackness of our people by saying, “"the beautiful, rich color ... of the negro.” Throughout his life, he promoted equality and justice for black Americans. He lived to see the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The law promoted equal protection under the law or all American citizens. He lived to see the existence of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Black is Beautiful movement is part of the Black Power movement and the overall black freedom movement. By the late 1960’s, more African Americans wore Afros, dashikis, spoke Swahili and other African languages, etc. Many black people started to investigate African history, study black African art, and rejected the racial stereotypes that were so prominently shown in the mainstream media back during the early 20th century. Self-love is a very powerful force that has inspired our people for a very long time. Black is Beautiful has been shown in Soul Train, weddings, the streets, in the rural areas, and in other places globally. Muhammad Ali’s confidence, Cicely Tyson’s talent, Angela Davis’ intellectual power, and Nina Simone’s wisdom outline the power of Blackness in action.

The period of the 1960’s to the 1970’s saw an explosion of the growth of black political power. Many black people started to be mayors, lawyers, Congress people, etc. The majority of our people were in the Democratic Party. In November 1967, Carl Stokes was the first black elected mayor  of one of America’s 10 largest cities in November of 1967. The campaign was long and tough. He was supported by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. too. Stokes later spoke his views. By 1967, many people viewed Dr. King as too radical. In the same year, Richard Hatcher was elected Mayor pf Gary, Indiana. African American political leaders won victories against white candidates. Gary Hatcher was mayor for five terms before his defeat in a 1987 primary. Carl Stokes served for two terms before he voluntarily stepped down in 1971. Back during the 1960’s, Cleveland was in a Civil Rights Movement of its own. Its black population was about 37 percent by 1967. Black people had disproportionately lowest paying jobs and white people in Cleveland had disproportionately higher wage jobs. Many whites left Cleveland. Unemployment rates were high for black residents by 1966. The election of Stokes had mostly black support while most white people voted for his Republican opponent. Black mayors started to experience many of the same issues and controversies as previous white mayors. Many black mayors would be progressive and many black mayors would go and compromise to appease reactionary forces. Carl Stokes faced massive opposition as mayor. He opened city hall jobs to black people and women. He formed Cleveland: Now!, which is a program that used public and private resources in trying to revitalize Cleveland neighborhoods. Carl Stokes continued to work. He was reelected in 1969. Many black mayors believed that finding a niche in the system would cause progress for black people. Yet, the system of capitalism in urban communities will not go far enough to cause social liberation for all since capitalism by its nature promotes inequality and disparities economically. Only 2 of Stokes’ 10 first appointments went to black people. He hired the right wing Michael Blackwell as police chief. This was a shock to black people who experienced police terror during the Hough rebellion. Blackwell’s rhetoric and black nationalists groups like the Black Nationalists of New Libya were real in Cleveland. Stokes tried to keep the peace by joining a July 21, 1968 march to remember the 2 year anniversary of the Hough rebellion. 2 days later, the  the Black Nationalists of New Libya were in a shootout with Cleveland police and the Ohio National Guard, sparking a rebellion that lasted five days. Seven people, three of them cops, were killed; fifteen people, 11 of them officers, were injured. A FBI report said that people wanted him or Stokes assassinated including other black liberals. So, Stokes ordered the police to watch or surveil New Libyan Leader Fred Ahmed Evans. Evans was captured and Evans said that the group’s weapons were purchased with funds from Stokes’ neighborhood redevelopment program. In 1969, Stokes embraced the reactionary “law and order” rhetoric. He gained backing of local business, the media, and national Democrats. Stokes appointed Benjamin O. Davis Jr. as director of public safety. Davis supported the police suppression of local black nationalists in Cleveland. Davis agreed with the police using soft core bullets that expand on impact. Davis resigned by 1970. Stokes faced scandals and the same challenges that other black politicians faced. One issue was that many mayors experienced fiscal problems which came before they took office, but some of them used neoliberal policies and cut services from workers and resources sent to the poor. As early as the 1970’s, the right wing backlash was in full swing. In 1968, political leader Beualah Sanders was part of the National Welfare Rights Organization who wanted to help the poor. She spoke in Chicago on August 22, 1968. She was the leader of the NWRO too. Shirley Chisholm was in a state of NY seat in 1964. She was a Congresswoman by 1968. She was a progressive Democrat who believed in health care rights, civil rights, and human justice. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the Congress. The Black Expo featured black leaders in promoting economic causes too. Kenneth Gibson was the first black mayor of Newark in 1970. Coleman Young was the first black mayor of Detroit. Tom Bradley was the first black mayor Los Angeles. Maynard Jackson would be elected as the first black mayor of Atlanta by the 1970's too. One of the greatest events of black political history was the National Black Political Convention which was held in March of 1972 in Gary, Indiana. Back then, many black people wanted an independent black political movement to be independent of both the Republican and Democratic parties. They wanted to be use liberation politics. This is why this convention was created. The convention was diverse. It included black liberals, progressives, socialists, nationalists, Republicans, Democrats, etc. This comes during the time of FBI using COINTELPRO harassing black activists. Political establishment leaders wanted to co-opt the struggle. In 1972, black people wanted mass action. The preamble of the National Black Political Agenda was very radical and progressive. It exposed both major parties and wanted radical change in society. Mayor Richard Hatcher convened the meeting. Black Nationalist Amiri Baraka was involved in the meeting too. Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan was there along with Queen Mother Moore (who wanted reparations. She is a great Black Nationalist legend). Jesse Jackson of PUSH was there and called for a Black Liberation Party. It lasted from March 10-12, 1972. There was a debate in the meeting on whether to ally with Democrats or be independent politically. The promises of continued support for the Democrats were not enough to stop a walkout by the convention's Michigan delegation. These delegates, many of whom were NAACP leaders and trade union officials, were worried that any association with the National Black Political Agenda would damage their relationship to the Michigan Democratic Party. Jackson and Baraka wanted to stop the walk out, but it was too later. Many members of the convention wanted Palestinian liberation. Back then, that was extremely taboo. The Black Agenda was eventually dumped in favor of the Congressional Black Caucus' watered-down Black "Bill of Rights." Although the convention formed a National Black Political Assembly, the perspectives of this group were left largely undefined. The 2nd National Black Political Convention took place in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was in 1974. Many statements wanted to promote an independent black party. Afterwards, the convention’s leaders left the organization. Many black leading politicians followed the Democratic machine. The National Black Political Conventions wanted independent black movement for change legitimately. Members wanted a black independent party. It was a glorious dream. They were sidetracked by establishment forces who desired imperialism and slick policies of neoliberalism instead of black liberation.

One of the greatest parts of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was the Black Power salute shown by Gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos on October 16, 1968. They were sprinters. They wore black socks without shoes and use the black gloved fist as the Star Spangled Banner was played. They expressed solidarity with the Black Freedom Movement in America. Both sprinters were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. This was a group in favor of human equality. It was created in 1967 by sociologist Harry Edwards and others including Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The group wanted to oppose racism in sports, racial segregation in America, and apartheid in South Africa. Smith said that the project was about human rights, of "all humanity, even those who denied us ours." Most members of the OPHR were African American athletes or community leaders. They once called for a boycott of the 1968 Olympics unless 4 conditions are met like South Africa and Rhodesia not being in the Olympics, Muhammad Ali’s world heavyweight title restored, Avery Brundage to not be the President of the International Olympic Committee, and hiring more African American assistant coaches. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. supported the boycott. While the boycott largely failed to materialize, African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Australian sprinter Peter Norman wore OPHR patches during the medal ceremony for the 200-metre race. Despite being a primarily African-American organization, the OPHR was supported by white athletes such as Norman and members of the Harvard University rowing team. After Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the black fist, they were ordered by the U.S. Organizing Committee to leave the Olympic Village. The International Olympic Committee used an excuse that politics played no part in the games. Yet, many racists sent death threats to both Smith and Carlos for a long time. The 1968 Summer Olympics was the first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America and the first to be stage in a Spanish speaking country. George Foreman won a gold medal for boxing in the heavyweight division. He defeated Soviet Ionas Chepluis in a second round TKO. He waved a small American flag and bowed to the crowd after the victory. This was the time first time when East and West Germany participated in separate nations. It was the first games at which there was a significant African presence in men's distance running. Africans won at least one medal in all running events from 800 meters to the marathon, and in so doing they set a trend for future games. Most of these runners came from high-altitude areas of countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, and they were well-prepared for the 2240m elevation of Mexico City. It was the first Olympic Games in which the closing ceremony was transmitted in color to the world, as well as the events themselves. Wyomia Tyus returned to the 1968 Olympics to defend her title in the 100m. In the finals, she set a new world record of 11.08s to become the first person, male or female, to retain the Olympic 100 meters title. Tyus also qualified for the 200m final, in which she finished sixth. Running the final leg for the relay team, Tyus helped setting a new world record, winning her third gold medal. Long jumper Bob Beamon broke the 29-foot record at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  Black Excellence was in full display during the 1968 Olympics.

The 1968 Presidential election was one of the most important elections in history. It represented the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. It outlined the divisions of the Democratic Party and the total near unity of Republicans, who promoted “law and order" and the silent majority to control society. Some candidates readily didn’t appeal to black people or to progressives in general. 1968 dealt with labor rights, international workers’ revolts, the Vietnam War, racism, rebellions, and other events. It was an election that brought down the New Deal Coalition for decades to come after 36 years. The election came during the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was one leader of the Civil Rights Movement. There was widespread unrest in university campuses. The election campaign started as early as 1967. By that time, the Vietnam War dominated much of the resources that could have been used for the Great Society domestic programs. Landmark civil rights legislation existed. The exploration of space continued. Young people and minorities wanted a more radical society. The rise of the Black Power movement, the hippie counterculture, and New Left activism was a rejection of far right politics and mainline political establishment people too. Women rights leaders grew in influence as well. One of the early candidates for President was Eugene McCarthy. He opposed the Vietnam War. He was supported by many college educated liberals. He had a progressive platform in economic issues. His problem was that he made comments calling Robert Kennedy supporters as not intelligent, which lost him much support. Robert Kennedy ran for President later. Many people glamorize RFK as a total progressive. It is true that Robert Kennedy was a progressive on civil rights, on pollution, on the death penalty, and on other issues. Yet, he wasn’t on other issues. He refused to support a boycott of companies supporting apartheid South Africa though he opposed apartheid on moral grounds. He wants tax breaks to corporations to help communities.   He questioned the current policies of the Vietnam War, but he didn’t want an immediate withdrawal of military forces. As time went on, Robert Kennedy did the wise thing by building a strong coalition among black Americans, Latino Americans, working class whites, labor, Asian Americans, and the youth in order to gain primary victories, especially in California. By California’s primary, Eugene and Robert were close in votes. When Robert Kennedy won, he could win the nomination. LBJ dropped out after the Tet Offensive. Yet, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968. It was blow to the movement for change. Hubert Humphrey won the Democratic nomination for President while Richard Nixon won the Republican nomination for President. Nixon beat Ronald Reagan and Rockefeller in the Republican primary. Nixon called himself a new Nixon, but he had right wing views on legal matters. He wanted to use the government to suppress the liberal movements in America. He was overt about it. He wanted “law and order.” George Wallace ran for President as an Independent candidate, but he appealed to racism, extreme nationalism, and militarism back then. His campaign was very similar to the Trump campaign. The Democrats bickered on platform and policies. They were weakened, because of generational and ideological divisions. Four factions of the Democrats existed. One was of labor union and big cities bosses like Richard Daley of Chicago. The second faction was behind McCarthy made up of middle class and upper middle class college students and intellectuals who wanted to be the future of the Democratic Party. The third group was mostly made up of black people, people of color, Roman Catholics, and anti-war people who allied with Robert F. Kennedy. The fourth group consisted of white Southern Democrats.  Many of them supported Humphrey for his pro-New Deal policies and others allied with Wallace. The Democratic National Convention in late August 1968 had police using terror against protesters, chaos on the floor, and divisions growing further. It was a moment of challenges. Richard Nixon promoted black capitalism or using tax incentives to help small businesses and struggling communities.  Nixon developed a "Southern strategy" that was designed to appeal to conservative white southerners, who traditionally voted Democratic, but were opposed to Johnson and Humphrey's support for the civil rights movement, as well as the rebellions that had broken out in the ghettos of most large cities. Wallace, however, won over many of the voters Nixon targeted, effectively splitting the conservative vote. Indeed, Wallace deliberately targeted many states he had little chance of carrying himself in the hope that by splitting the conservative vote with Nixon he would give those states to Humphrey and, by extension, boost his own chances of denying both opponents an Electoral College majority. Humphrey, meanwhile, promised to continue and expand the Great Society welfare programs started by President Johnson, and to continue the Johnson Administration's "War on Poverty." He also promised to continue the efforts of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and the Supreme Court, in promoting the expansion of civil rights and civil liberties for minority groups. However, Humphrey also felt constrained for most of his campaign in voicing any opposition to the Vietnam War policies of President Johnson, due to his fear that Johnson would reject any peace proposals he made and undermine his campaign. As a result, early in his campaign Humphrey often found himself the target of anti-war protestors, some of whom heckled and disrupted his campaign rallies.

Nixon asked Anna Chennault to be his "channel to Mr. Thieu" in order to advise him to refuse participation in the talks. Thieu was promised a better deal under a Nixon administration. Chennault agreed and periodically reported to John Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference. On November 2, Chennault informed the South Vietnamese ambassador: "I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque who says his boss [Nixon] is going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer." In 1997, Chennault admitted that "I was constantly in touch with Nixon and Mitchell." The effort also involved Texas Senator John Tower and Kissinger, who traveled to Paris on behalf of the Nixon campaign. William Bundy stated that Kissinger obtained "no useful inside information" from his trip to Paris, and "almost any experienced Hanoi watcher might have come to the same conclusion". While Kissinger may have "hinted that his advice was based on contacts with the Paris delegation," this sort of " at worst a minor and not uncommon practice, quite different from getting and reporting real secrets." In 2007, Conrad Black asserted that there is "no evidence" connecting Kissinger in particular, who was "playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion," with attempts to undermine the peace talks. Black further commented that "the Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable," and there is "no evidence" that Thieu "needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election." Johnson learned of the Nixon-Chennault effort because the NSA was interfering in communications in Vietnam. In 2009, new tapes were declassified revealing that Johnson was enraged and said that Nixon had "blood on his hands" and that Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen agreed with Johnson that such action was "treason." Defense Secretary Clark Clifford considered the moves an illegal violation of the Logan Act. In response, Johnson ordered NSA surveillance of Chennault and wire-tapped the South Vietnamese embassy and members of the Nixon campaign. He did not leak the information to the public because he did not want to "shock America" with the revelation, nor reveal that the NSA was interfering in communications in Vietnam. Johnson did make information available to Humphrey, but at this point Humphrey thought he was going to win the election, so he did not reveal the information to the public. Humphrey later regretted this as a mistake. The South Vietnamese government withdrew from peace negotiations, and Nixon publicly offered to go to Saigon to help the negotiations. Dallek wrote that Nixon's efforts "probably made no difference," because Thieu was unwilling to attend the talks and there was little chance of an agreement being reached before the election. However, his use of information provided by Harlow and Kissinger was morally questionable, and Humphrey's decision not to make Nixon's actions public was "an uncommon act of political decency."

Hubert Humphrey almost beat Richard Nixon, because Humphrey at the end of the campaign called for a bombing halt in Vietnam. In October, Humphrey—who was rising sharply in the polls due to the collapse of the Wallace vote—began to distance himself publicly from the Johnson administration on the Vietnam War, calling for a bombing halt. The key turning point for Humphrey's campaign came when President Johnson officially announced a bombing halt, and even a possible peace deal, the weekend before the election. The "Halloween Peace" gave Humphrey's campaign a badly needed boost. In addition, Senator Eugene McCarthy finally endorsed Humphrey in late October after previously refusing to do so, and by Election Day the polls were reporting a dead heat.  Also on the ballot in two or more states were black activist Eldridge Cleaver (who was ineligible to take office, as he would have only been 33 years of age on January 20, 1969) for the Peace and Freedom Party, Henning Blomen for the Socialist Labor Party, Fred Halstead for the Socialist Workers Party, E. Harold Munn for the Prohibition Party, and Charlene Mitchell – the first African-American woman to run for president – for the Communist Party. Comedians Dick Gregory and Pat Paulsen were notable write-in candidates. Richard Nixon won the 1968 election. From that time forward, many Democrats would be more moderate and compromise. Republicans would also be more conservative in their thinking. Nixon would be a controversial President and Black America would be changed forever.

By Timothy

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