civil activism

“This is not about one man. This is about structural racism in a country built on Black slavery.”

Amelia Boynton Robinson (1911-2015) was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. She was a key figure in the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery.

She was involved in the movement from the start, turning her home into an office for meetings and strategy planning. In 1964, she ran for Congress in Alabama, becoming the first African-American woman to do so in the state. She was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal in recognition of her activism.

Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

Born in Kovno, Russian Empire (present-day Kaunas, Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885. Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Frick survived the attempt on his life in 1892 and Berkman was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for “inciting to riot” and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to “induce persons not to register” for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to her native Russia. Initially supportive of that country’s Bolshevik revolution, Goldman reversed her opinion in the wake of the Kronstadt rebellion and denounced the Soviet Union for its violent repression of independent voices. In 1923, she published a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there. She died in Toronto on May 14, 1940, aged 70.

During her life, Goldman was lionized as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women’s suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After decades of obscurity, Goldman’s iconic status was revived in the 1970s, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest in her life.

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Bree Newsome takes down the Confederate Battle Flag at the South Carolina State Capitol

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

- Brittany/Bree Newsome

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Elaine Brown, Former Leader, Black Panther Party (The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World)

“ I wanted to be white. Like so many black people do, but they’re not prepared to make that confession.”  

Regarding the above quote, I wasn’t sure if she meant just African Americans or if she had travelled all over the world and met many black people, and had projected her views onto them.  I can only speak for myself and say I have never wanted to be white.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a significant figure in American feminism, as well as civil and LGBT rights. Her poems are often an expression of anger at social injustice, and an exploration of black female identity.

Her poetry was published extensively during the 1960s, particularly in black literary magazines and anthologies. Her 1976 volume Coal was the one that established her as an important voice in the Black Arts Movement. In 1994, after her death, an organisation called the Audre Lorde Project was established in New York in support of queer people of colour.

Unita Blackwell (b. 1933) is the first African-American woman to be elected as mayor in the state of Mississippi. She is a civil rights activist who helped organize voters in the state.

She worked as a project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as a community development specialist with the National Council of Negro Women, working on projects for low-income housing. As mayor of Mayersville, she secured funds for infrastructure and accommodation across the city.

The reality — which is underdiscussed but essential to an understanding of our current situation — is that the civil rights work of Dr. King and other leaders was loudly opposed by overt racists and quietly sabotaged by cautious moderates. We believe that current moderates sincerely want to condemn racism and to see an end to its effects. The problem is that this desire is outweighed by the comfort of their current circumstances and a perception of themselves as above some of the messy implications of fighting for liberation. This is nothing new. 

[…] National polling from the 1960s shows that even during that celebrated “golden age” of nonviolent protest, most Americans were against marches and demonstrations. A 1961 Gallup poll revealed that 57 percent of the public thought that lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations would hurt integration efforts. A 1963 poll showed that 60 percent had an unfavorable feeling toward the planned March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. A year later, 74 percent said that since black people had made some progress, they should stop their demonstrations; and by 1969, 74 percent said that marching, picketing and demonstrations were hurting the civil rights cause. As for Dr. King personally, the figure who current moderates most readily point to as a model, 50 percent of people polled in 1966 thought that he was hurting the civil rights movement; only 36 percent believed he was helping.

The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait. They, we suspect, will be this generation’s version of the millions who claim that they were one of the thousands who marched with Dr. King. Each of us should realize that what we do now is most likely what we would have done during those celebrated protests 50 years ago. Rather than critique from afar, come out of your homes, follow those who are closest to the pain, and help us to redeem this country, and yourselves, in the process.

So I wanted to outline some of the new topics outlined in the new California history-social sciences curriculum to include and celebrate LGBTQ+ history. Because it’s something I’ve been doing a lot of research into and I just think it’s absolutely fantastic. The following is copied from the “Making the Framework Fair” document - a report from the Committee on LGBT History. It’s a comprehensive list of the topics proposed.

> Grade 2: 

• LGBT families in the context of understanding family diversity as a contemporary and historical reality 

>Grade 4: 

• Central roles played by gender and sexuality in California’s history as a site of rich, contested, and changing diversity 

- How settlers and missionaries sought to impose European American concepts of gender and sexuality on Native American societies 

- Possibilities and motivations for same-sex intimacies and gender diversity in frontier conditions and the Gold Rush era 

- The role of gender and sexuality in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century migrant belonging and policing 

- The crucial place of California and Californians in the development of the modern LGBT rights movement 

>Grade 5: 

• Variation over time, region, and culture in colonial American practices and laws with regard to gender and sexuality 

- Native American gender and sexual diversity and European responses in the context of North American colonialism 

- Regional diversity in family and community arrangements, gender roles and possibilities, and approaches to sexuality in law and practice, with attention to Puritans, Quakers, Southern settlers, and enslaved Africans 

>Grade 8: 

• Fundamental transformations in gender and sexuality in conjunction with nineteenth-century urbanization and industrialization 

- Same-sex romantic friendship as an accepted cultural practice resulting from the separate spheres ideology and shifting gender expectations for women and men 

- Roles of gender and sexuality in the practice and struggles over slavery and emancipation 

- Interlocking ways that gender, sexuality, and race shaped Western expansionism and the diverse possibilities it presented 

- Evolving social and cultural expressions of intimacy between men and women (including same-sex relations) through urbanization and immigration

>Grade 11: 

• The evolution of modern LGBT communities and identities 

- Relationships formed in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female worlds of settlement houses, women’s colleges, and social movements

- Sexual and gender diversity in early twentieth-century cities and cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance 

- The impact on approaches to same-sex sexuality, gender diversity, and cultural expression of 1920s changes in sexual and gender norms, including Prohibition, the rise of dating, and the emphasis on companionate marriage

- New possibilities in World War II for same-sex intimacy, community, and identity on the homefront and abroad 

- The postwar creation of vibrant if persecuted LGBT subcultures 

- The formation of open and expressive LGBT cultures and communities since the 1970s 

- Contemporary diversity of LGBT people, families, and relationships 

• Twentieth-century persecution of sexual and gender minorities and the related growth of the LGBT civil rights movement 

- The medicalization of homosexuality and gender diversity as pathological and the subsequent struggle against this perspective

 - Systematic World War II attempts to eliminate gay men and lesbians from the military and the establishment of a regime of dishonorable discharge that denied many veterans their rights to benefits 

- The Lavender Scare targeting gay men and lesbians, which developed in conjunction with the postwar Red Scare and exceeded its impact in both time and scope 

- Homophile, gay liberation, and contemporary LGBT movements as part of the story of civil rights activism in the United States 

- Anti-gay activism as part of the rise of the New Right 

- AIDS as a medical, political, and social issue in U.S. history 

- Court cases about same-sex sexuality and gender diversity demonstrating changes in policies and public opinion over time


This is super exciting news for parents and teachers in California. Hopefully the rest of the U.S. follows suit quickly. It’s also important to note that teachers aren’t really being forced to teach these subjects, nor are they yet included in textbooks, worksheets, or other teaching tools very widely. Teachers are receiving trainings, but it will take years to disseminate this throughout the state.