african american political history

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Malcolm and Martin, closer than we ever thought

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was leaving a news conference one afternoon when a tall man with a coppery complexion stepped out of the crowd and blocked his path. Malcolm X, the African-American Muslim leader who once called King “Rev. Dr. Chicken-wing,” extended his hand and smiled.

“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King said after taking Malcolm X’s hand.

“Good to see you,” Malcolm X replied as both men broke into huge grins while a gaggle of photographers snapped pictures of their only meeting.

That encounter on March 26, 1964, lasted only a minute. But a photo of that meeting has tantalized scholars and supporters of both men for more than 45 years.

As the 85th birthday of Malcolm X is marked on Wednesday, history has freeze-framed him as the angry black separatist who saw whites as blue-eyed devils. Yet near the end of his life, Malcolm X was becoming more like King – and King was becoming more like him. “In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” says David Howard-Pitney, who recounted the Capitol Hill meeting in his book “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. "While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant,” Pitney says.

Malcolm X was reaching out to King even before he broke away from the Nation of Islam and embraced Sunni Islam after a pilgrimage to Mecca, says Andrew Young, a member of King’s inner circle at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group King headed.“Even before his trip to Mecca, Malcolm used to come by the SCLC’s office,” Young says. “Unfortunately, Dr. King was never there when he came." 

He reached out to King and other civil rights leaders. In 1965, Malcolm X traveled to Selma, Alabama, where King was leading a campaign, to offer support. "Brother Malcolm was definitely making an outreach to some civil rights leaders,” says A. Peter Bailey, an original member of the group Malcolm X founded, The Organization of Afro-American Unity, and a friend of Malcolm X. “He believed that the one who would be most responsive would be Dr. King.”

The Muslim leader had developed an appreciation for King, Bailey says.“He had come to believe that King believed in what he was doing,” Bailey says. “He believed in nonviolence; it just wasn’t a show. He developed respect for him. I heard him say you have to give respect to men who put their lives on the line.”

King’s movement toward Malcolm began as he shifted the civil rights movement to the North, friends and scholars say. During the last three years of his life, King became more radical. He talked about eliminating poverty and providing a guaranteed annual income for all U.S. citizens. He came out against the Vietnam War, and said American society would have to be restructured.He also veered into Malcolm X’s rhetorical territory when he started preaching black self-pride, says Pitney.

“King is photographed a number of times in 1967 and ‘68 wearing a 'Black is Beautiful’ button,’ ” Pitney says.

A year before King died, the journalist David Halberstam even told him he “sounded like a nonviolent Malcolm X,” Pitney says.

In the epic PBS civil rights series, Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader’s widow, said King never took Malcolm X’s biting criticisms of his nonviolence stance personally. “I know Martin had the greatest respect for Malcolm …,” she said. “I think that if Malcolm had lived, at some point the two would have come closer together and would have been a very strong force.”

(via CNN)

Thursday, July 27, 12:30-1:30 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Radical and Rare: Building a Collection of the Left with Brad Duncan

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was an important civil rights leader and activist. She was the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, fighting for better rights and especially voting privileges for the black community in the South.

She started life as a cotton picker on a plantation, and later became its record keeper when the owner discovered she was literate. She became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, travelling all across the South to promote voting registration and literacy. She was arrested and even brutally beaten for her convictions, but she did not give up, and instead campaigned extensively for the cause. She was elected as a national Democrat party delegate in 1972.

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Notre Dame quarterback, Terry Hanratty, and USC running back, O.J. Simpson, give President-elect Richard Nixon an autographed ball with other College Football All-American stars on December 2, 1968.

A few days later O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy. Leroy Keyes came in second voting and Terry Hanratty in third. Simpson also won the 1968 United Press International College Football Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive year.

African American soldiers returned from fighting in WWI…they attempted to exercise their social, political and economic rights here at home. They were met by riots and lynchings led by white mobs throughout black communities in 15 states and 27 cities across America from April to November, 1919. According to Cameron McWhirter’s…Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America, the NAACP’s James Weldon Johnson called it the “Red Summer” because it was so bloody. In total, millions of Americans had their lives disrupted. Hundreds of people—most of them black—were killed.

more.

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The First National Black History Museum Is Here

There were plenty of powerful moments during Saturday’s dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

But one stood out: The first black president and the first black first lady helping Ruth Bonner, the 99-year-old daughter of a man born a slave in Mississippi, ring a bell to open the first national museum of black history. Read more on that here.

You can also read President Barack Obama’s dedication to the museum here.

(All photos by Getty Images)

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.