mordecai johnson

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President Herbert Hoover at the Howard University Commencement, June 10, 1932

  1. President Hoover is shown above as he made the principal address today, June 10, at the commencement exercises at Howard University, in Washington, D. C. 
  2. President Hoover is shown above as he arrived at Howard University in Washington, D. C., accompanied by Mordecai W. Johnson, President of the university, where he made the principal address at the commencement exercises June 10. 
  3. President Hoover and Dr. Mordecai Johnson, head of Howard University, walk together across the campus… 

Series: Photographs of People, Places and Events, 1962 - 2004Collection: Hoover Presidential Library Audiovisual Collection, 1962 - 2004

More related to Howard University at Educating African Americans: A Brief Look into Historically Black Colleges in America | Rediscovering Black History

anonymous asked:

How do you explain the new kind of Civil Rights Movement that's happening right now with #blacklivesmatter?

It isn’t a new kind of anything. It fits into the template of nonviolent resistance. But this time around there is a sickening twist. 

I’ll tell you a story:

Gandhi was probably the first person to realize that a war for independence could be won in newspapers instead of on battlefields. That is, Gandhi realized that if you could show the body of imperialism what the hands had to do in order to feed it then that body would recoil in a spasm of self-consciousness. 

To this end, Gandhi led peaceful protestors into the brutality and murder by which British colonialism sustained itself in India. He did this on such a scale and with so singleminded a purpose that it was covered by Western journalism. The reporting that carried this violence from the extremity of the British Empire into its heartland held a mirror up to the ogre’s face. And India, which had not been conquered on the order of some English popular referendum but instead by the rapacity and avarice of the British aristocracy, came to be seen for what it was: a victim of one of the greatest feats of greed ever carried out. 

On April 9th, 1950 Martin Luther King heard a black preacher named Mordecai Johnson (then the president of Howard University) speak in Philadelphia. Johnson had spent some time in India and spoke at length about the philosophical underpinnings of Gandhi’s method. 

To Gandhi, nonviolence was a matchless weapon. This is because it is founded on a concept called satyagraha. This word means something like ‘truth-force’ or ‘the persuasive power of love’ in Sanskrit. Nonviolent resistance could never be defeated because it was founded on love for one’s enemies. This love is the source of a protester’s refusal to physically attack his or her adversary. In Gandhi’s hands, and with the help of the international press, it had just been used to win the independence of 390 million people. 

King later said that this talk was so “electrifying that I left the meeting and went out and purchased half a dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.” King was then still a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, just south of Philadelphia. That Sunday in 1950 was the beginning of nonviolent resistance in the American Civil Rights movement.

In reading about Gandhi’s philosophy and the strategy for Indian independence that it generated, Martin Luther King came to several realizations:

Nonviolent resistance refuses to participate in evil, but not in the same way that pacifism refuses. If pacifism simply refuses to participate in evil, nonviolent resistance is a passionate and relentless intervention in the lives of those who do participate in evil. In this way, King saw that the basic tension in any racial struggle was not between the races but instead within in the hearts of those who oppress. A tension between the basic desire of all human beings to be good and the racist conditioning by which life in America blunts this desire and bends their actions, instead, towards evil. King, like Gandhi before him, realized that nonviolent resistance was a way of untwisting the hearts of those who did this evil. Both saw nonviolent resistance as a kind of therapy that the oppressed performed on the oppressor: 

  • Imagine the unarmed crowd approaching the colonial police. 
  • The police draw their clubs and by their violent intent reveal the evil in their hearts. 
  • The unarmed crowd is beaten bloody. 
  • And in the pools of spilled blood the oppressors see themselves reflected, not as they are told they are, but as they really are. 
  • And this realization is carried to the four corners of the Earth by the journalists whom Gandhi invited to observe. 

Nonviolent resistance works by forcing the oppressor–whether he is a single colonial policeman or the most distant beneficiary of the British Empire–to see themselves as they really are.

King realized that American society was similarly twisted and ignorant of itself. American society thought itself good but night after night found itself throwing ropes over the branches of pecan trees, found itself refusing to see the oppression and savagery by which it had come to be, found itself in a three hundred and fifty year moral sleepwalk, and King realized that American society could be brought to self-consciousness, could finally find itself, by forcing the evil at its heart into broad daylight while television cameras watched. 

In this sense King’s project of national therapy was the opposite of Black Power. King sought to absolve every white heart with black blood. Malcolm X would happily have left America to stew in its richly deserved national guilt so long as black bodies were immune from attack. It’s not hard to feel Malcolm’s rage and it was not easy for King to explain himself to the militant wing of black liberation. It is difficult to claim that the Black answer to three hundred and fifty years of exploitation, rape, and murder should be a willingness–and even the desire–to have your jaw broken by a riot police. 

In the end, both leaders were assassinated. The Civil Rights Movement hit its high water mark and ran its course, without Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. And America settled into forty years of self-satisfied eulogy for one of them, backsliding all the while. 

I say:

We are in the middle of a new campaign of nonviolent resistance. This campaign has no leader, no organizing committee, no controls, no satyagraha and no participants except the police and their victims. 

I say that Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Ezell Ford, Marlene Pinnock, Eric Garner, Sam DuBose, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and every other person whose death and brutalization was captured by a camera for all to see are these participants. I say that each has been unwillingly drafted into a national demonstration of the contempt with which black bodies can be treated in America. 

I say that the ubiquitous presence of cameras has done this. 

These cameras record the nonviolence of black people and the lethal force with which this is met by police. 

Black life in America is lived so wholly on the edge of a knife that the most trivial interaction between a black person and the police has mortal consequences. 

I say that videos of these mortal consequences are drilling into the twisted American heart just as the televised brutality of Birmingham did in 1963. The manifest innocence and nonviolence of those brutalized and killed by police on camera are forcing the American heart to face itself, again. 

And though this new campaign drills into the same old heart and sparks the same self-consciousness that Martin Luther King sought to kindle there, it bears a critical difference from hierarchical campaigns for civil rights. The new campaign is emergent: It is generated by the friction of circumstance and not by the labor of an organization. 

This means that the present campaign of nonviolent resistance cannot be stopped. 

Martin Luther King could be shot and America could fall asleep when he ceased to breathe. But these police murders will continue to occur as a matter of circumstance and as matters of circumstance they will continue to be recorded by cameras. 

Whatever activism is bred on the outrage, or handwringing, or excuses that these recordings produce, this activism is secondary to the campaign. The campaign and its draft of circumstance will continue to select innocent and unresisting black people to join in death those whose murders have been recorded. This is quite unlike the extraordinary situations that Gandhi and Martin Luther King created, the situations by which the oppressor was forced to see his own face and forced to feel the evil in his own heart when his police beat defenceless crowds. 

The new campaign is not created because the new campaign, like racism itself, is happening everywhere and at all times. 

I say America is now a society that–from this angle–can no longer avoid the mirror. 

tonight on Regular Show
  • mordecai: rigby. if you were gonna date a dude, who would it be?
  • rigby: hmmm.
  • rigby: dwayne johnson.
  • mordecai: RIGBY!
  • rigby: what?
  • mordecai: you're supposed to say 'someone like you'!
  • rigby: well, i'd date someone like you, but - y'know. dwayne johnson.
  • rigby: who would you date?
  • mordecai: tom hardy.
  • rigby: you insensitive asshole.