2003 - 2004 Play Sponsors
Education Program Supporters
2003-2004 Season Educational Support Impresario ($25,000 and above) TIAA-CREF Education Sponsor
Student Matinee Program Impresario ($25,000 and above) Central New York Community Foundation Constant Star, Amadeus, Wizard of Oz, Hamlet Stage Education Sponsor ($5,000 - 7,499) Niagara Mohawk - Hamlet
Annual Children’s Tour 2003 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Stage Education Sponsor ($5,000 - 7,499) Fleet Bank Stage Educational Partner ($3,000 - 4,999) Lockheed Martin Employees Federated Fund Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Stage Educational Spotlight ($500 - 1000) Robert D. Willis, DDS, PC, Children’s Dentistry
Student Study Guide Stage Education Manager ($1,000 - 2,999) Midstate Printing
Young Playwrights Festival Staging the Future Stage Educational Producer ($7,500 - 9,999) JPMorgan Chase
Performance Policies and Procedures ..................................................................................................4 Audience Role and Responsibility ........................................................................................................6 One-Minute Etiquette Reminder ..........................................................................................................7 Dramatic Criticism: Why We Attend Theatre .......................................................................................8 Understanding/appreciating the Technical Elements ............................................................................ 10 Understanding/appreciating the Play in Performance .......................................................................... 12 Tazewell Thompson, playwright, director ............................................................................................ 13 Playwright/Director’s Note ............................................................................................................... 14 Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) ...................................................................................................... 15 Vocabulary....................................................................................................................................... 19 Quotable Quotes .............................................................................................................................. 29 The FBI list: James Weldon Johnson, William Monroe Trotter, Countee Cullen, Mary Church Terrell, Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, A. Philip Randolph, Jack Johnson, Marion Anderson, Paul Robeson ..................................................... 31 Why Title This Play Constant Star? .................................................................................................. 45 An Excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ “Lynch Law in the South,” 1892 ............................................... 47 Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s awakening to the realities of lynching ............................................................... 48 “Iola” on Discrimination .................................................................................................................... 49 Our World’s Fair Effort: Every Afro-American Should Contribute Something ....................................... 49 The Reign of Mob Law: Iola’s Opinion of Doings in the Southern Field ................................................ 50 The Persistance of Lynching ............................................................................................................. 51 Miss Ida B. Wells and Memphis Lynching .......................................................................................... 52 African Americans and the Civil War ................................................................................................ 58 Counter-Reaction to White Oppression: The Negro Exodus ................................................................. 60 A Few Economic Facts from the 1890s ............................................................................................. 61 James Weldon Johnson on African-American Spirituals ...................................................................... 63 Negro Slave Songs in the United States ............................................................................................. 64 The Gospel Hymns ........................................................................................................................... 66 Discussion Questions and Activities ................................................................................................... 76 Sources Consulted ............................................................................................................................ 76
4 PERFORMANCE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES WHEN TO ARRIVE AT THE THEATRE: We recommend you arrive at the theatre at least 30 minutes prior to the performance to allow time for seating. This is a professional theatre production and will start at the scheduled time. Student matinees begin promptly at 10:30 am. BUS DROP OFF AND PARKING: Busses not staying may load and unload at the Centro bus stop on East Genesee Street. Bus parking is available along East Genesee Street at the bagged meters. Cars must make arrangements in parking facilities as they will be ticketed if parked at the bagged meters. SEAT ASSIGNMENTS: As each seat at Syracuse Stage is reserved and performances are often standing room only, students must sit in their assigned seats. For reasons of convenience, efficiency, and courtesy, we request that students do not trade seats. Regardless of the number in your block of seats, we request that this rule is respected. We ask that chaperons and teachers do not sit together but sit evenly distributed throughout the students. LATECOMERS: Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of the Management. There is no late seating below Row F. BACKPACKS, CAMERAS, WALKMANS AND FOOD: Backpacks, cameras and tape recorders (including Walkmans) are strictly prohibited in the theatre, as is food of any kind. As we do not have storage facilities for these items at Syracuse Stage, we ask that you leave them at school or on the bus. PHOTOGRAPHY: Cameras (flash or otherwise) are strictly prohibited in the theatre. Union rules do not allow the taking of pictures during a production and flash cameras are a distraction to both the acting company and audience. Any camera used in the theatre will be removed for the duration of the performance. FOOD, DRINK AND GUM: Absolutely no food, drink, or gum is allowed in the theatre. Please leave snacks and lunches on the bus. Students will be asked to leave the theatre to remove any food items or the items will be taken and not returned. INTERMISSION REFRESHMENTS: Soda will be available during intermission for $1.00 (exact change will be appreciated). Reminder: You must dispose of all snack items before reentering the theatre . AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE: Live performance theatres require behavior different from that required in the movie theatres. Please review theatre etiquette with your students before attending the performance. If any student becomes disruptive to the point of interference with the performers or other audience members, a chaperon will be asked to remove that student. POST-SHOW FOLLOW UP: Performances at Syracuse Stage are funded by grants, corporations, and individuals. They do want to hear from you. We ask students and teachers to write the sponsors with your likes and dislikes and to let the sponsors know that the student matinees are an important program. (Do write to us too!) Please: 1] Write thank you letters to the sponsors to let them know that this is an important
5 program. (Names and addresses can be obtained from the Education office.) 2] Write to Syracuse Stage with suggestions to improve your theatre experience. 3] Call the Education office if you have any questions or if there is an issue that requires immediate action. Thank you in advance for the work you put into helping Syracuse Stage present the student matinee program. We hope that the season entertains and enlightens you and your students. Part of the art of living is living with the arts.
PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW Education Associate……………………………… Group Sales Coordinator........................................ House Manager...................................................... Corporate/Foundation Relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Producing Director................................................. Artistic Director.....................................................
Pat Pederson Tracey White Anthony Corcoran James Dungey James Clark Robert Moss
IMPORTANT NUMBERS Syracuse Stage Administration Offices: 315/443-4008 Education Department: 315/443-1150 Group Sales: 315/443-9844
6 AUDIENCE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY As audience members, your students have a distinct role and responsibility. The success of any performance depends on the actors on the stage as well as the people in the seats. For those students enjoying their first exposure to a live theatre production, we encourage some discussion of theatre manners before you attend the play, as some movie-, video- and television-watching behaviors are not always appropriate in the theatre. We have included two pages to assist you: the first lists discussion questions or topics for the classroom (with some suggested answers in italics) while the second is a ONE MINUTE ETIQUETTE REMINDER to read on the bus before you arrive. (You might also review the essay on Dramatic Criticism on page 13.) Thank you for helping us help your students get the most out of the performance. [ 1 ] What are some of the differences between a live theatre production and a movie? Movies can be filmed in any sequence and scenes can be redone as many times as needed to get a “good scene.” The scenes are then composed into the movie by editors and the director. Each scene in a live theatre performance is presented once only, in sequence, as written, the performance being created anew each time by the actors, stage manager(s) and backstage staff. The audience’s noise level, activity level, and attention level do not affect the movie actor’s performance. BUT, all of these things are heard and noticed by the actors of a live performance and have an immediate effect on the performance, which may be positive or negative—if the audience laughs at funny lines or is leaning forward in anticipation of the action, actors respond with energetic performances; if the audience does not respond to the actors, responds at inappropriate times or is restless, actors find it difficult to give their best performances because their concentration, their “trains of thought,” as it were, have been disrupted . Special effects in a movie are often be generated by computers or camera angles while special effects in the theatre often rely on the audience’s imagination to enhance or help create them. Movies provide realistic images while live theatre provides images of reality. [ 2 ] What is the best way to approach viewing a live performance of any art? Audiences attending a live performance must be willing to “suspend their disbelief”; that is, they should be prepared to use their imagination to fully enter into the ideas of the play/musical composition/dance, etc. Live performances are in ways television and movies are not: try to be open to the passion and emotion behind the actions, words, movements and/or music presented. Because each performance is affected by audience response, audience members will never see the same performance twice. Though the piece’s meaning remains the same, each performance may have its own underlying interpretations due to factors such as the performer(s) and/or audience’s state of mind, performer(s) physical readiness, and even the comfort level in the performing space. [ 3 ] What is the audience’s role during a live performance? How do you think audience behavior can affect a performance? Audiences ready to observe naturally connect with the performers and appropriately respond to the performance, by laughing, gasping, applauding, or quietly listening. Even when this is so audience members should remember that, for live performances, paper rattling, watch alarms, cell phones, beepers, and talking will distract the performers, thereby disrupting the connection between stage and auditorium and weakening the performance. Just as importantly, those around noisy audience members will miss hearing or seeing elements of a live performance that will not be repeated.
ONE-MINUTE ETIQUETTE REMINDER Please read to students on the bus prior to entering the theatre. Stay in the group to be seated. Your school or class will be called and seated as a group. Sit in the seat to which you are assigned. If you move or refuse to take a particular seat, you will delay our seating other members of your group as well as other groups. No food, drink, gum-chewing, headsets, or backpacks in the theatre. Please leave lunches, snacks and backpacks on the bus. NO TALKING OR GETTING UP DURING THE SHOW. This includes whispering. Every live performance is a unique experience, created jointly by actors and audience members present for a specific presentation. Live performances vary greatly from recorded TV programs or movies because the audience’s reactions are not only obvious to the performers but are relied upon by them as signals that they presenting the best performance possible, regardless of the type of reaction—applause, laughter, crying or even quiet but responsive attention— because the actors can see and hear you. Please do not talk, act or distract attention from the stage. Please use the restrooms before the show or at intermission only. If you have any problems or questions, please ask the ushers for help. Enjoy yourself!
8 DRAMATIC CRITICISM Why We Attend Theatre Oscar Brockett, from The Theatre: An Introduction Art is one way whereby mankind seeks to understand the world. . . .Our search for meaning . . . is always directed toward discovering those relationships that reveal order within what would otherwise seem to be chance events. Art, then, . . . shapes perceptions about human experience into . . . patterned relationships that help us order our views about mankind and the universe. . . . The artist . . . works primarily from his or her own perceptions and seeks to involve the audience’s emotions, imagination, and intellect directly. A playwright consequently presents events as though they are occurring at that moment before our eyes; we absorb them in the way we absorb life itself—through their direct operation on our senses. Thus, as art differs from life by stripping away irrelevant details and organizing events to compose a connected pattern, so a play illuminates and comments (though sometimes indirectly) on human experience even as it seemingly creates human experience. But, just as we do not mistake a statue for a real person, we do not mistake stage action for reality. Rather, we usually view a play with what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called a “willing suspension of disbelief.” By this concept he meant that, while we know the events of a play are not real, we agree for the moment not to disbelieve their reality. . . This state in which we are sufficiently detached to view an artistic event semiobjectively is sometimes called esthetic distance. [However], the distance must not be so great as to induce indifference. Therefore, while a degree of detachment is necessary, [audience] involvement is of equal importance. This feeling of kinship is sometimes called empathy. Thus, we watch a play with a double sense of concern and detachment. It is both a removed and an intensified reaction of a kind seldom possible outside esthetic experience. Another way of putting this is that art (that is, a statue, a musical composition, or a drama) lifts us above the everyday fray and gives us something like a “god’s-eye” view of human experience. . . . Art lays claim . . . to being serious (in the sense of having something important to communicate), but because its methods are so indirect (it presents experience but does not attempt to explain it fully) it is often ambiguous . . . . Special Attributes of Theatre as an Art. Even within the fine arts theatre holds a special place; it is the art that comes closest to life as it is lived from day to day. Not only is human experience and action its subject, it also uses live human beings (actors) as its primary means of communicating with an audience. Quite often the speech of the performers approximates that heard in real life; the actors may wear costumes that might be seen on the street; and they may perform in settings that recall actual places. Not all theatre attempts to be so realistic and at times it may even approximate other performing arts (such as dance and music), but nevertheless it is the art most capable of recreating mankind’s typical experiences. Such lifelikeness is also one of the reasons theatre is often insufficiently valued: a play, a setting, the acting may so resemble what is familiar to spectators that they fail to recognize how difficult it is to produce this lifelikeness skillfully. To a certain degree all people are actors; they vary the roles they play (almost moment by moment) according to the people they encounter. In doing so, they utilize the same tools as the actor: voice, speech, movement, gesture, psycho-logical motivation, and the like. Consequently, most persons do not fully recognize the problems faced by a skilled actor. Even those within the theatre often differ in their opinions about whether artistic excellence depends primarily on talent and instinct or on training and discipline. Theatre further resembles life in being ephemeral. As in life, each episode is experienced and then immediately becomes part of the past. When the performance ends, its essence can never be fully recaptured. Unlike a novel, painting, or statute, each of which remains relatively unchanged, a theatrical
9 production when it is ended lives only in the play script, program, pictures, reviews, and memories of those who were present. Theatre resembles life also in being the most objective of the arts, since characteristically it presents both outer and inner experience through speech and action. As in life, it is through listening and watching that we come to know characters both externally and internally. What we learn about their minds, personalities, and motivations comes from what they say and do and from what others tell us about them. Thus we absorb a theatrical performance the way we do a scene from real life. Additionally, theatre can be said to resemble life because of the complexity of its means for, like a scene from life itself, it is made up of intermingled sound, movement, place, dress, lighting, and so on. In other words, theatre draws on all the other arts: literature in its script; painting, architecture, and sculpture (and sometimes dance) in its spectacle; and speech and music in its audible aspects. In some ways, then, theatre encompasses all the other arts. Further-more, theatre is psychologically the most immediate of the arts. Several contemporary critics have argued that the essence of theatre—what distinguishes it from other dramatic media such as television and film—lies in the simultaneous presence of live actors and spectators in the same room, and that everything else is expendable. . . . Live performance has important attributes that television and film cannot duplicate, most significantly . . . the three-dimensionality of the theatrical experience and the special relationship between performers and spectators: in the theatre, . . . since the full acting area remains visible, the audience may choose what it will watch, even though the director may attempt to focus attention on some specific aspect of a scene. [But, and] perhaps most important, during a live performance there is continuous interaction between performer and spectator; even as the actor is eliciting responses from the audience, those responses in turn are affecting the actor’s performance. Thus, a live performance permits the audience a far more active role than television and film do. Ultimately, there is a fundamental difference in the psychological responses aroused by electronic media and theatre because the former presents pictures of events whereas the latter performs the actual events in what amounts to the same space as that occupied by the audience. This difference results in one unique characteristic of theatre: its ability to offer intense sensory experience through the simultaneous presence of live actors and audience. . . . The Audience. Until the public sees the material performed we usually do not call it theatre. For all the arts a public is imperative, but for most this public may be thought of as individuals—the reader of a novel or poem, the viewer of a painting or a piece of sculpture—each of whom may experience the work in isolation. But a theatre audience is assembled as a group at a given time and place to experience a performance. Why Does an Audience Attend the Theatre? One of the most powerful motives for going to the theatre is the desire for entertainment, which implies suspension of personal cares, relaxation of tensions, and a feeling of well-being, satisfaction, and renewal. But although everyone may believe that the theatre should provide entertainment, not all agree on what is entertaining. Many would exclude any treatment of controversial subject matter on the grounds that an audience goes to the theatre to escape from cares rather than to be confronted with problems. . . . Other persons look to theatre for stimulation. They too desire to be entertained, but argue that the theatre should also provide new insights and provocative perceptions about significant topics, advocate action about political and social issues, or increase awareness of and sensitivity to others and surroundings. . . . Both points of view are valid in part, but adherents of neither point of view should attempt to limit unduly the theatre’s offerings. The whole range of drama should be available to audiences, for the health of the theatre depends upon breadth of appeal. In America today the success of a play is frequently judged by its ability to attract large audiences over a considerable period of time. But is a play to be considered a failure if it does not achieve financial
10 success? Not necessarily. A dramatist has a right to select his or her audience just as much as an audience has to select a play. Actually, dramatists do so when they choose the subject matter, characters, and techniques to be used, for, consciously or unconsciously, they have an ideal spectator in mind. Although playwrights may hope for universal acceptance, each desires the favorable response of a particular group. Consequently, a play may be deemed successful if it achieves the desired response from the audience for which it was primarily intended. . . . The Problem of Value. It is difficult to defend art on the basis of its immediate utility. Art ultimately must be valued because of its capacity to improve the quality of life: by increasing our sensitivity to others and our surroundings, by sharpening our perceptions, by reshaping our values so that moral and societal concerns take precedence over material well-being. Of all the arts, theatre has perhaps the greatest potential as a humanizing force, for at its best it asks us to enter imaginatively into the lives of others so we may understand their aspirations and motivations. Through role-playing (either in daily life or in the theatre) we come to understand who and what we are and to see ourselves in relation to others. Perhaps most important, in a world given increasingly to violence, the value of being able to understand and feel for others as human beings cannot be overestimated, because violence flourishes most fully when we so dehumanize others that we no longer think of their hopes, aims, and sufferings but treat them as objects to be manipulated or on whom to vent our frustrations. To know (emotionally, imaginatively, and intellectually) what it means to be human in the broadest sense ought to be one of the primary goals of both education and life; for reaching that goal no approach has greater potential than theatre, since humans are its subject and living beings its primary medium. . . . Unfortunately, quality—unlike quantity—is not measurable except subjectively. And subjectivity takes us into the realm of taste, judgment, and a host of variables about which agreement is seldom possible. There are many levels of taste, many degrees of complexity, and a wide range of quality. But, if we cannot expect ever to achieve complete agreement, we all can sharpen our own perceptions of the theatre and its processes. To do this, we need first to understand the theatre and how it works. Second, we need to develop some approach through which we can judge the relative merits of what is performed and how it is performed. Then, we should work to encourage those theatrical values that seem important to us. In this way we may acquire understanding and judgment—that is, we become critics of the theatre. . . . Understanding/appreciating the Technical Elements A performance does not just happen; it is the product of a great deal of teamwork. The technical elements of a production support the characters the actors create to present the audience with the illusionary reality that is theatre. Sets, lights, sound, props, and costumes create the environment in which the play lives. These elements combine with the audience’s imagination to fashion a theatrical reality that is different from our dayto-day lives yet recognizable by all involved. The following discussion questions are intended to help students focus on each of these technical elements and analyze its part in a production. Section A: Scenery Before the performance began, what were your first impressions of the set design? How did it make you feel? Which of your senses were involved by the set design? What was the physicality of the stage? Did the set incorporate any theatrical devices such as a rake, a thrust, ramps or stairs onstage, or the voms or pit in the audience? What type of action did you expect? As the performance progressed, did the set change from scene to scene or did it remain the same for the entire play? Were the changes of location made by actual set alterations or by the actors’ use of the set? How was the stage used? Did the action take place across the whole stage or was action
11 contained in small areas? What could you tell about each environment and the time period of the used area? Was movement between areas fluid or rigid? Did the actors move around the set in purposeful motion or did action flow from one area to another? What materials and color schemes were used for walls, the deck (stage floor), set pieces? Did the materials and colors fit the time and location of the play? Did the colors suggest a mood or atmosphere to you? Were you able to concentrate on the action and characters or did the elements of the set attract your attention? After viewing the performance, do you feel the set design supported the play? Did it make sense to you? Would you have done anything differently? What and why? Section B: Costumes What could you tell about each of the characters based on his or her appearance before any action took place? Did the costumes influence your expectations or opinion of each character? Did the costumes put you in the appropriate time period and geographical setting (if any)? Did the style of the costumes match or enhance the characters’ personalities and social situations and the mood of the play? How did the colors and materials used compliment or contrast with the colors and materials of the set? Did the colors and materials group the characters in any way? Were there any parts of the costumes you found distracting or out of place? Section C: Lighting What clues did the lighting give you about the mood or emotional tone of the play? Was the lighting from an identifiable source or did it blend into the setting? Was the lighting supportive of the action or distracting? Was it ever supposed to be distracting? Could you identify the colors that were used? Why do you think these particular shades were chosen? Did any one character have a particular shade or degree of lighting? Sometimes lighting is used together with suggestive scenery or certain pieces of furniture to imply that a certain area onstage is always perceived as a specific place. Did you see this in this performance’s design? Section D: Sound What types of sounds were used? Were the sounds environmental noise or in response to specific character actions (for example: crickets chirping in the summer or a gunshot)? Was sound or music used to create or enhance the atmosphere, or to foreshadow events? Were certain sounds or musical motifs associated with certain characters or repeated situations? Did the sounds fit the situation or distract you from the performance? Were the sounds correct for time period and location, or did they comment on the time and place? Section E: Props Were the props appropriate to the time period and setting? Were they in keeping with the rest of the setting (including color choices in setting and costumes)? Did some or all of them comment on the setting as a whole? Did the characters have all the props they needed for the scenes? Did they have too many props? Did they have fewer props than you expected? What did you learn about the characters’ situation or background from their possessions? Remember that props include furniture, books, purses, wagons, plates and silverware—anything an actor touches.
12 Section F: General What non-actor aspect of the performance impacted you the most? Was this aspect more textual or physical? Did the technical elements of the performance enhance or detract from your enjoyment of the play? Would you have changed anything about this production? How would you have changed it? Why? Understanding/appreciating the Play in Performance Suggested by: Katherine Ommanney’s The Stage and the School The following questions may help you to view shows intelligently, but don’t let them spoil your enjoyment of the theatre or turn you into a commentator during the performance! Real enthusiasts of the theatre free their imaginations and emotions while seeing a play or a picture, while using their intelligence and discrimination to heighten their appreciation of this great art. Section A: Theme In your opinion, is the fundamental idea of the play true or false in its concept of life? Is the theme consistent with the setting, plot and characters presented in the play? Do you agree with the author’s philosophy? In your opinion, should the general public be encouraged to see the play? Section B: Plot Is there a clear-cut sequence of events? Do they rise to a gripping climax? Were you held in suspense until the end or did you realize what the ending would be beforehand? Were you as emotionally stirred as the author apparently wanted you to be? Are you satisfied as to the final outcome? Are you chiefly interested in the events, the people, or the place? Section C: Characterization Are the characters true to life? Are they consistent throughout the action of the entire play? Are the characters in keeping with the social and geographical background of the play? Do they arouse such feelings as sympathy, affection, disgust, admiration, or hatred on the part of the audience? Are their actions in keeping with their motives? Are the situations at the climax and conclusion the result of their inherent natures? Section D: Style Did the dialogue retain your interest throughout the play? Is it consistent with the characters and the setting? Is it an end in itself or an adequate means of plot advancement and characterization? Did it make you think about the author or the characters themselves? Did or do you remember lines after having seen the play because of their appropriateness or beauty? If a dialect or dialects are used were they correct? Did the actors use them consistently? Would people of the class represented talk in real life as they do in the play?
13 Is the power of expression worthy of the ideas expressed? Section E: Acting Were the actors’ interpretations of their roles correct from the standpoint of the play itself? Did each actor make his or her role a living individual? Were the actors artificial or natural in their technique? Were you conscious of the ways they sought to create effects? Did they grip you emotionally—did you weep, laugh, suffer, and exult with them? Were their voices pleasing and their presence magnetic? Did they remain in character every moment? Did or do you think of them as the characters they were depicting or as themselves? Did the actors use the play as a means of self-glorification, or were each of them an intrinsic part of the action at all times? Did each cooperate with the other actors, the director, and the author in interpreting the play: by knowing his or her lines, helping to focus attention on the center of interest, and by losing himself or herself in the part? Section F: Audience Reaction Was the audience attentive or restless during the performance? Was there a definite response—gasps, laughter, applause? Did the audience express any immediate appreciation of clever lines, dramatic situations, and skillful acting? Was the audience apathetic or animated, bored or buoyant, serious or scoffing? Was the applause spontaneous and whole-hearted, or politely perfunctory? Did it seem to you that some audience members enjoyed the play more than others? Do you think this was because of their own personal background, or some other reason? Tazewell Thompson, playwright, director Mr. Thompson directed Porgy and Bess at New York City Opera and on PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center, for which he received an Emmy nomination. His production of Dialogue of the Carmelites was called “the hit and heart of the 2002 Glimmerglass Opera season.” Upcoming productions include the world premiere opera Margaret Garner with a libretto by Toni Morrison and score by Richard Danielpour; Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice at Glimmerglass Opera; and Dialogues of the Carmelites at New York City Opera. For the opera world he has also directed at La Scala, Bastille Opera, Tokyo Opera, Madrid’s Teatro Real, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Orange County Performing Arts Center, Portland Opera, Michigan Opera and New Jersey Opera. He directed the world premieres of the operas Vanqui at Opera Columbus, Luyala at Duke University, Stefan and As of a Dream at Musical Theatre Works, and produced and directed his own production of Aaron Copland’s The Second Hurricane at the New Federal Theatre. As playwright, his play Constant Star has been produced at Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, City Theatre (Pittsburgh), PlayMakers Rep (Chapel Hill, NC), Dobama Theatre, and Florida Stage. In addition to appearing here at Syracuse Stage this season it will be presented at Virginia Stage. Mr. Thompson was a recipient of a 2002 NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights Grant and has been commissioned by the People’s Light and Theatre Company (PA) to write a play based on the role of the Pennsylvania Quakers in the Underground Railroad movement. He has also been commissioned to write new plays for Arena Stage and South Coast Rep. His adaptation of A Christmas Carol has been performed at the People’s Light and Theatre Company for the past three
14 seasons. Mr. Thompson has directed and/or produced 25 world and American premieres including Wilder Rediscovered, four recently discovered one-act plays by Thornton Wilder, at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Goodman Theatre production of Charles Smith’s Black Star Line, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His regional directing credits also include Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre, the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, Second Stage, Classic Stage Company, Soho Rep, the Guthrie Theatre, San Jose Rep, Marin Theatre, Huntington Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Cleveland Play House, Indiana Rep, Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, Ma Yi Theatre, Perry Street Theatre, Sundance Theatre Lab, Actors Studio, Juilliard and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Mr. Thompson is a former artistic director of Syracuse Stage and artistic associate/resident director at both Arena Stage and The Acting Company (NYC). He is a board member of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, the Society for New Music and the Thornton Wilder Society. Playwright/Director’s Note Though based on a historical figure and dealing with events that are real, this is a work of the imagination. In my own words—through my mind’s eye—I have brought to the stage Ida B. Wells as I imagined her to be; the way I discovered her when I got inside her head. Ultimately, it could not be any other way, since not even her descendents, contemporary intimates or professional associates seemed to know the “real” Ida B. Wells. Her limited diaries, like most of the genre, only somewhat revealing. Her autobiography, the way she wanted the world to remember her. My first introduction to Ida B. Wells was the PBS documentary on her life. Her story gnawed at me. A woman born in slavery she would grow to become one of the great pioneer activists of the Civil Rights movement. A precursor of Rosa Parks. She was a suffragette. Newspaper editor. Publisher. Investigative journalist. Co-founder of the NAACP. Political candidate. Mother. Wife. And the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America. A dynamic. Controversial. Temperamental. Uncompromising race woman. She broke bread and crossed swords with some of the movers and shakers of her time: Frederick Douglass. Susan B. Anthony. Marcus Garvey. Booker T. Washington. W.E.B. Dubois. President McKinley. By any fair assessment, she was a seminal figure in Post-Reconstruction America. Yet her formidable contributions to the Civil Rights movement have until most recently been under appreciated. Until now. Almost, but not quite, a historical footnote. My play with song is an answer to her insistent promptings. My attempt to let her story breathe freely on stage—to give it a symphonic expression—to give her extraordinary persona an audience, something she always craved. Some of the most evocative, informative storytellers of the black experience in America are the Negro Spirituals. There is a very strong history of a tie that binds these songs to the long struggle for physical survival and spiritual release of blacks in this country. The Negro Spirituals played a significant role in black history and continue to be a strong force in the black community. They are inseparable from the community’s ongoing journey to America’s promised land of equal access to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Originally, they were slave songs filled with secret codes and messages. They were a
15 celebratory cry in the face of enduring struggle. Spirituals are a haunting legacy of the drama of a people fighting to find a voice. An identity. They mirror the suffering of the human soul in all its forms. Loneliness. Sorrow. Distress. Poverty. Lamentation. But also happiness. Thoughts of peace. Hope. Fulfillment. Enlightenment. Accomplishment. Personal and spiritual triumph. After exhaustive research, I have chosen twenty spirituals to permeate the entire play. A chorus of conductors. Guiding us on this journey to discover Ida B. Wells. The world she encountered and engaged with an uncommon zeal. Setting: A turn-of-the-last-century office which becomes Ida’s parents’ house, railroad cars, speakers’ platforms, and any other location integral to the person who was Ida B. Wells. Synopsis: Five women portray 19th century civil rights activist Ida B. Wells throughout her life, from her Holly Springs, Mississippi, childhood in the 1860s to her final years in Chicago in the 1920s and early ’30s. Each actor presents a specific period in Wells’ life: the young teacher who sues a railroad for its Jim Crow laws, the internationally-renown speaker, the wife, newspaper editor, and so on. Transitions in her life and in the action of the play are accompanied by traditional gospel hymns and spirituals sung a capella by the actors. Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap. - Ida B. Wells Ida B. Wells has been described as a crusader for justice, and as a defender of democracy. Wells was characterized as a militant and uncompromising leader for her efforts to abolish lynching and establish racial equality. Wells challenged segregation decades before Rosa Parks, ran for Congress and attended suffrage meetings with the likes of Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams, yet most of her efforts are largely unknown due to the fact that she is African American and female. Ida B. Wells was born July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, during the second year of the Civil War. Her parents, James and Elizabeth Wells, were slaves, and thus Wells, a woman who devoted her life to promoting racial equality, was born a slave. It was from her parents that Wells developed an interest in politics and her unwavering dedication to achieving set goals. After emancipation, Jim Wells became heavily involved in politics. He was a member of the Loyal League (a local black political organization), he attended public “speakings” on the steps of the courthouse, and campaigned for local black political candidates. Jim Wells’ fervent interest in racial justice and political activism no doubt inspired his daughter’s later interest in these same issues. Elizabeth Wells was a religious woman and a strict disciplinarian who dictated a strong work ethic. Both Jim Holly Springs, ca. 1862 and Elizabeth Wells emphasized the importance of education. After the Civil War, 90% of blacks were illiterate. Emancipation brought about the legalization of Negro education, and shortly thereafter, Negro schools were established throughout the south. Shaw University was established in Holly Springs in 1866 to provide education for the large, rural black community of the area. Wells along with her siblings and her mother (who wanted to learn to read the bible) attended Shaw University. She notes in her
16 autobiography that “our job was to go to school and learn all we could.” During her years at Shaw, Wells developed an intense love of words. She reportedly read every book in the school library, from the novels of Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens to the Oliver Optic stores, a series of popular books for boys. Early on in her education, Wells discovered a bias. At Shaw she learned mainly European history, and Wells notes in her autobiography that “I had read the bible and Shakespeare through, but I had never read a Negro book or anything about Negroes.” In 1878, Wells’ life changed forever, as a yellow fever epidemic swept through the region, claiming the lives of both her parents and a younger sibling . Wells was visiting her grandmother’s farm when the epidemic hit, and she was urged to remain in the country until the epidemic subsided. However, her devotion to her family prompted her to return home despite the warnings of doctors. In her autobiography Wells recalls her feelings at the time of the tragedy, “the conviction grew within me that I ought to be with them... I am going home. I am the oldest of seven living children. There’s nobody but me to look after them now.” Determined to keep the family together, Wells refused all attempts at splitting up her remaining siblings. Instead, she insisted on caring for her five siblings, despite the fact that she was 16, unemployed and poor. At the urging of the local Masonic lodge where her father was a member, she applied for a teaching position in the country. She adjusted her appearance so as to look older than her mere 16 years. She passed the qualifying examine and was given a position six miles away. Friends and relatives stayed with the Wells children during the week when Ida was away at school. In her autobiography, Wells describes the burden of her dual role and caretaker and provider, “I came home every Friday afternoon, riding the six miles on the back of a big mule. I spent Saturday and Sunday washing and ironing and cooking for the children and went back to my country school on Sunday afternoon.” In 1883, Wells moved 40 miles north to Memphis at the urging of her aunt Fannie, who promised ample opportunity for employment and offered to care for Wells’ two younger sisters. Wells accepted the offer, and shortly after her arrival in Memphis, she found employment at a school in Woodstock, Tennessee, about 10 miles outside the city. During her summer vacations, Wells took teachers’ training courses at Fisk University and at Lemoyne Institute. By the fall of 1884 she had qualified to teach in the city schools and was assigned a first grade class where she taught for seven years. Wells’ career as a writer was sparked by an incident that occurred on May 4, 1884. On this day, while riding a train back to her job in Woodstock, Wells was asked by the conductor to move from her seat in the ladies’ car to the front of the train into the smoking car. When she refused, the conductor attempted to physically remove her from her seat. It took three men to remove Wells from her seat, and rather than move to the smoking car, she got off at the next stop to the cheers of the white passengers on the train. When Wells got back to Memphis, she immediately hired a lawyer to bring suit against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company. The court returned a verdict in favor of Wells and awarded her $500 in damages. The judge presiding over the trail stated the railroad company violated the separate but equal clause by forcing blacks to ride in smoking car that was separate but not first class, as Wells had paid for. The railroad appealed the verdict and in 1887, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court, and Wells was ordered to pay court costs. The was the first case of its kind in the south and it generated tremendous public interest. Thrilled with her victory and eager to share her story, Wells wrote an article for The Living Way, a black church weekly. Her article was so well received that Ida B. Wells in the 1880s the editor of The Living Way asked for additional contributions. As a result, Wells began a weekly column entitled “Iola.” Wells described her purpose in writing Iola as “I had an instinctive feeling that the people who have little or no school training should have something coming into their homes weekly which dealt with their problems in a simple, helpful way. . . so I wrote in a plain, common-sense way on the things that concerned our people. By 1886, Wells’ articles were appearing in prominent black newspapers across the
17 nation. As she traveled through Tennessee and witnessed the deplorable living conditions of blacks, her voice grew bolder and she began to attacking larger issues of discrimination and inequality, such as poverty and lack of educational opportunities. In 1889 Wells was offered an editorship of a small Memphis newspaper called Free Speech and Headlight and became part-owner. Wells’ flaming editorials condemned white establishments for their continual oppression of blacks. In 1891 she was fired from her teaching position because of her editorials criticizing the Memphis School Board of Education for conditions in “separate” colored schools. During the late 1800s, violence against blacks increased at alarming rates and mob rule was becoming the norm. The KKK established a “reign of terror,” murdering and lynching innocent blacks, while most southern whites looked the other way. In 1892, Ida B. Wells was again faced with tragedy in what became known as the “Lynching at the Curve.” In March 1892, three close friends of Wells, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, opened the People’s Grocery Company. The store was located directly across the street from a white-owned grocery store, which had hitherto maintained a monopoly on, what Wells described as, “the trade of this thickly populated colored suburb.” Angered over the loss of business, a white mob gathered to run the black grocers out of town. Warned about the encroaching mob, the black men armed themselves, and in the ensuing confrontation, wounded three white men who had invaded the store. The next day, white newspapers printed exaggerated accounts of the previous day’s events, claiming that “Negro desperadoes” had shot white men. These sensationalized depiction’s gave rise to another mob that stormed the jail cells of the three black men and killed them. Wells responded to this atrocious act of violence by writing an editorial in the Free Speech urging blacks to leave Memphis. She wrote: “There is therefore only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.” In two month’s time, six thousand black people left Memphis, many relocating to the Oklahoma Territory. Those who remained, including Wells, organized boycotts of white owned businesses in response to the lynchings. The Lynching at the Curve marked the beginning of Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. She continued to write scathing editorials against lynching, gave public speakings on the subject and began to organize and mobilize blacks in an effort to abolish the practice. Wells also began a comprehensive study of lynching. In 1892 Wells spoke at a conference of black women’s clubs, where she was given $500 to investigate lynching and publish her findings. Wells began investigating the fraudulent charges given as reasons to lynch black men. She found that many blacks were hung, shot and burned to death for trivial things such as not paying a debt, disrespecting whites, testifying in court, stealing hogs, and public drunkenness. Her findings were published in a pamphlet entitled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. In particular, Wells found that one third of the charges against black men were for the rape of white women. The violence was thus “justified” in that it was protecting “white womanhood.” Wells found that in many of these “rape” cases there was evidence of a consensual relationship between black men and white women. Wells’ implications caused outrage among the white community. A mob destroyed the office of her newspaper and threatened to kill her. Wells was speaking in Philadelphia at the time of the mob. Unable to return to her home, she re-settled in Chicago and continued her anti-lynching campaign. The New York Age began printing her articles after the demise of The Free Speech, and Wells launched a lecturing tour throughout the northeast to further spread her message on the horrors of lynching. In 1893, Wells took her anti-lynching campaign overseas. For two months Wells toured England, Scotland and Wales, giving speeches and meeting with leaders. Wells was impressed by the progressive activities and civic groups of British women. She wrote to her readers back home urging them to become more active in the affairs of their community, city and nation through organized civic clubs. While In England, Wells established the London Anti-Lynching Committee. Back home in the US, she continued her organizing efforts by establishing the first Negro women’s civic clubs in Chicago and Boston, and was influential in the formation of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Also during this period, Wells was also becoming more active in the suffrage movement. She became a familiar face at
18 various suffrage meetings around the country, befriending both Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams. Later that year, Wells collaborated with Frederick Douglass and others, including her future husband, in writing a pamphlet entitled “Reasons Why the Colored American is not in the World’s Colombian Exposition” which documented the progress of blacks since their arrival in America. The pamphlet was in response to the exclusion of blacks in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and was distributed to over 20,000 people. In 1894, Wells embarked on another speaking tour through England. On her return, she published A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1894. This 100 page book expanded on her earlier research and documented the history of lynching since the Emancipation Proclamation. In order not to be accused of exaggeration, Wells took her information from a white source. She tabulated the number of lynchings reported in the Chicago Tribunal and tallied the various charges given. Her findings documented the alarming high occurrence of lynchings and the rather ridiculous charges filed against black men. For example, she found that in 1894 “197 persons were put to death by mobs who gave the victims no opportunity to make a lawful defense.” Furthermore, she found that over two-thirds of lynchings were for incredibly petty crimes such as stealing hogs and quarreling with neighbors. In 1895, at the age of 33, Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett, a Chicago lawyer, activist and editor. Barnett was the owner and founder of the first black newspaper in Chicago, the Conservator. After their marriages, Wells bought the Conservator from Barnett and took over the duties of editor. Wells gave nightly addresses up until a week to the day she was married. Her marriage caused quite a stir in the Chicago area and abroad. Many were concerned she would abandon her cause and resign herself to the home and children. Wells gave birth to her first child in 1896. Throughout her son’s infancy, she continued to travel, write and encourage women to organize. The following year she gave birth to another son, and as she states in her autobiography, “all this public work was given up and I retired to the privacy of my home to give my attention to the training of my children.” Wells had two more children, both girls, born 1901 and 1904. The Wells-Barnett home On her return to public life, Wells continued her organizing efforts. In 1910 she formed the Negro Fellowship League. The NFL was housed in a three-story building on Chicago’s south side. It served as a fellowship house for new settlers from the south. The NFL also provided a space for religious services, an employment office, and served as a homeless shelter for men. The remaining years of Ida B. Wells’ career were filled with more writing, activism and organizing. In 1909 she became one of the founders of the NAACP. In 1913 Wells established the first black women’s suffrage club, called the Alpha Suffrage Club. That same year she marched in a suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. and met with president McKinley about a lynching in South Carolina. The years following World War I she covered various race riots in Arkansas, East St. Louis and Chicago and published her reports in pamphlets, in the Conservator and newspapers nationwide. In 1928 Wells began her autobiography, stating that “the history of this entire period which reflected glory on the race should be known. Yet most of it is buried I oblivion . . . and so, because our youth are entitled to the facts of race history which only the participants can give, I am thus led to set forth the facts.” In 1930, her impatience with politicians and her growing concern for Chicago’s black ghetto led Wells to Wells-Barnett, 1924 run for the Illinois state senate, which she lost to the incumbent. Ida B. Wells died March 25, 1931. She left behind a legacy of activism, dedication and hope for change. Wells’ accomplishments are truly extraordinary given the time and social context in which they occurred. Wells traveled throughout the United States and Europe with her anti-lynching message, she
19 wrote extensively throughout her life on the injustices faced by blacks, and she engaged in a never-ending effort to organize women and blacks. Toward the end of her life she became an ardent community activist, determined to change the path of poverty and crime in Chicago’s inner city. Wells work as a writer, social researcher, activist, and organizer, mark her as one of this century’s most dynamic and remarkable women. -Jennifer McBride
A poster announcing the dedication of Chicago’s Ida B. Wells Homes in the 1940s
Vocabulary Usurped – someone illegally seized another’s power, rights or possessions. Gumption – common sense, applied ambitiously or boldly, with courage. To know enough when something must be done, despite obstacles, and to do it. Enfranchisement – to endow with the rights of citizenship, especially the right to vote, says Webster’s , which adds such definitions as to free, as from bondage, and to bestow a franchise on (franchise: a right or privilege officially granted to a person or group by a government, especially the right to vote). Suffrage – a vote cast in deciding a disputed question or in electing a person to office; the right or privilege of voting: franchise; exercise of voting rights; a short intercessory prayer. Barbarism – an instance, act, trait, or custom marked by coarseness or brutality. Lynching – executing a person or persons without due process of law, especially by hanging. The term seems to come from the actions of Charles Lynch, who had Americans loyal to Britain beaten during the Revolutionary War. Linen duster - meant to cover a smart driving ensemble and protect milady from the dust of the road [including the railroad]. Fashioned with up to the minute (for her) raglan sleeves, in a heavy linen with a loose belt that buttons closed, says Fashion Dig.com. Spittoon – Aka, cuspidors, were metal receptacles meant as spit catchers, from a time when more people chewed tobacco. As Ida B. notes, it was easy to miss this small container, particularly on a moving, swaying train. Dickensian – Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) was known for so realistically chronicling the teeming,
20 sweaty life of London’s poorer quarters that his readers could virtually smell the cabbage boiling and hear the babies and children crying. Ms. Wells means to imply that the uncouth underclass that rode in the smoking car strongly resembled those who people Dickens’ books. Darky/colored – These terms were used interchangeably with the “n” word throughout the 19th century, and into the 20th . Darky has a troubled history, since it was often used in a pejorative sense. Colored is not much better, since it indicates difference from the accepted norm (that is, white) but it did gain some acceptance about mid-20th century; whether it morphed into persons of color I do not know. But as long as people are being set apart in a negative sense, as lesser people, it’s no good. Redress – Webster’s says, “To remedy or rectify, to make amends,” in its form as a verb, and “satisfaction or amends for wrong done, correction or reformation,” when used as a noun. Gall (at the back of Ida’s throat) – “liver bile,” Webster’s says. If you’ve known anyone with gallbladder trouble, you will know how horrible this feeling is. Ida is so upset her physical system itself is out of whack. Uppity – disrespectful, even “presumptuously arrogant,” according to HyperDic. Jumped the broom – A wedding ritual practiced by African Americans who were denied or otherwise could not have a traditional ceremony, particularly before the end of the Civil War. According to some, when couples joined hands and leapt over a broom handle or other stick, it signified their entering into a new life together. Some modern African American couples have begun honoring this practice by incorporating elements of it in their own ceremonies. Ku Klux Klan – also known as the White Knights of the Camellia, among other names. This organization, which still has some adherents, has its origins in the post-Reconstruction south. The African American History Museum online describes its history thusly: “Late 1800s: The Ku Klux Klan was formed as a social club by a group of Confederate Army veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, around 1865. A Confederate General, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the Klan’s first leader, whose title was the Grand Wizard. The group adopted the name Ku Klux Klan from the Greek word kuklos, meaning circle, and the English word clan. “White superiority was the philosophy of the Klan, and they would often use violence . . . as a means of exercising [their philosophy]. The Klan detested the idea of blacks gaining any rights following the Civil War . . . , and terrorized blacks to prevent them from voting in elections or practicing any other right. Blacks and white sympathizers were often threatened, beaten, or even murdered by Klan members in the South; the Klan used the now familiar white robes and hoods to mask their identity. The Ku Klux Klan became known as the Invisible Empire as it grew and spread rapidly [chiefly because its members’ identities were supposedly secret]. “In 1871, the Force Bill was passed by Congress, [giving] the President the authority to use federal troops against the Ku Klux Klan if he deemed the action necessary. Soon after this bill was passed, the Klan all but disappeared. “Early 1900s: William J. Simmons, a former Methodist preacher, organized a new Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1915 as a patriotic, Protestant fraternal society. This new Klan directed its activity against . . . blacks [and] any group it considered un-American, including any immigrants, Jews, and Roman Catholics. The Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly from here and had more than 2 million members throughout the country by the mid-1920s. Although the Klan still reverted at times to violence . . . , burning crosses, torturing and murdering those they opposed, most of the Klan acted through peaceful means. The KKK became a more powerful political force as it elected many public officials throughout the nation. However,
21 eventually the organization became weakened by disagreements among the leaders and because of public criticism of Klan violence. By 1944 the Ku Klux Klan had faded out again. “Mid-1900s: The Klan was revived again in 1946 by an Atlanta physician Samuel Green. However, shortly after Green’s death in 1949, the Klan split into many smaller groups. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement [initiated] a new wave of violence by the Ku Klux Klan: . . . In Mississippi, three civil rights leaders were killed; in Birmingham, Alabama, a church was bombed, killing four black girls. President Lyndon B. Johnson used the FBI to probe the Klan and sent some Klan members to prison. Following this, Klan member ship fell to about 5,000 by the early 1970s. . . .” KKK.com, the homepage of the Knights Party, describes the Klan’s origins thusly: “The Ku Klux Klan came into existence at the end of the War Between the States in a period called ‘Black Reconstruction.’ During that period, most White people had lost the right to vote. Illiterate Blacks, with no history of civilized government, became the bulk of the voting population, resulting in tremendous crime, violence, and corruption against White Southerners. At the darkest hour, the Klan arose and restored the government of the South back to the Southern people, and as Woodrow Wilson said, it saved civilization on this continent. “Since that time, the KKK has been the target of incessant hatred from anti-White, pro-minority forces in the mass media, who, because they oppose the Klan’s ideals and recognize its powerful appeal, have endeavored to defame its leadership, its followers, its history, and its ideals. Hundreds of books, movies, and television programs are produced each year attacking the Klan, but no arguments sympathetic to the Klan are permitted in the mass media. The only examples given are morons who are paraded around TV shows such as Jerry Springer in their multi-colored Klan robes. They certainly don’t represent the type of spokesmen our people need; committed, intelligent, and articulate spokesmen for the movement they certainly are not. The Knights is proud to have such a tremendous speaker and leader as National Director Thomas Robb who doesn’t embarrass the organization as these so-called leaders embarrass theirs. Unfortunately the talk shows pass up the real deal like Pastor Robb in favor of a freak show of illiterate ‘Klansmen’ and higher ratings.” For a more complete history from the Knights Party’s perspective I would direct you to their webpage (http://www.kkk.com/index1.htm) and the subheading In Depth History. Mason – From Freemasonry @ the Lodge: “Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternal rganization. It is believed to have originated with the craft guilds of medieval Europe and latterly, to have expanded to admit those who did not actually belong to the trade [of] stone masons . . . . “Freemasonry, while based on religious principles, is not a religion and all members are . . . admonished never to make it such. It is open to all men who profess a belief in a Supreme Being and who believe that that Supreme Being rewards virtue and punishes vice. . . . No man can be made a Freemason if he is an atheist. Whether Christian, Moslem or Jew the Freemason believes in the God who created the universe and all prayers are offered to Him. . . . In this sense men of good morals can join together in nonsectarian and non-denominational fellowship adhering to the moral tendencies common to all faiths. . . . “Freemasonry has three particular principles of importance, which the Entered Apprentice (firstdegree mason) is taught. These Masonic principles are Brotherly love, Relief and Truth. “Brotherly Love: Every true Freemason shows tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behaves with kindness, patience and understanding toward his fellow creatures. In fact, Freemasons are not permitted to discuss in open lodge topics that may cause differences of opinion, such as religion and politics. “Relief: Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care for their own families and Brethren but also for the community as a whole, [through] charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals within the community. “Truth: Freemasons strive for truth continually. This requires high moral standards and a desire to achieve them in their own lives inside and outside the confines of the lodge room.
22 “With further respect to charity Freemasonry has always been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. Additionally it has given millions of dollars in financial aid to various charities. The principle difference between Masonic charity and others is that you will seldom see Freemasons in the newspaper holding a large check. It is rather Freemasonry’s belief that charity should be given silently. . . . “In 1787, . . . African Lodge No. 459 was formed by Prince Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran . . . . This became the first Black self-help fraternal institution in the United States. His petition for the lodge was presented to the Grand Lodge of England in March 1784, but its implementation was delayed. These fraternal organizations were important to Blacks at the time; along with churches and schools, they constituted an important part of the self-help movement. . . . [Missouri’s state Grand Lodge was established in July 1865.] “ Despite all of the obstacles that [many whites] placed before [blacks], our Brethren persevered. . . .” “butterfly 16-year-old girl” – Ida is considered a young, inexperienced, frivolous, even flighty girl (not woman) by her parents’ friends when she declares that she will care for her siblings after their parents’ death, rather than split the children between homes. Lyceum club – an organization sponsoring public programs and entertainment, sez Webster’s . Iola – Ms. Wells-Barnett’s nom de plume, came from a typo: someone mistook Ida for Iola. While Ida, “a fortunate warrior,” is a name well-suited to Ms. Wells’ character, she grew fond of Iola, which means “violet-colored dawn.” President William McKinley - Born in Niles, Ohio, in 1843, McKinley briefly attended Allegheny College, and was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Enlisting as a private in the Union Army, he was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers. He studied law, opened an office in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, daughter of a local banker. At 34, McKinley won a seat in Congress. His attractive personality, exemplary character, and quick intelligence enabled him to rise rapidly. He was appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Robert M. La Follette, Sr., who served with him, recalled that . . . “on the great new questions . . . was generally on the side of the public and against private interests.” During his 14 years in the House, he became the leading Republican tariff expert, giving his name to the measure enacted in 1890. The next year he was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms. When McKinley became President, the depression of 1893 had almost run its course . . . [Still] he called Congress into special session to enact the highest tariff in history [to protect the recovering economy]. [Despite his earlier championing of “the people,” under his presidential administration] industrial combinations developed at an unprecedented pace. Newspapers caricatured McKinley as a little boy led around by “Nursie” Hanna [his political mentor, a very competitive and successful businessman], the representative of the trusts. However, McKinley was not dominated by Hanna; he condemned the trusts as “dangerous conspiracies against the public good.” . . . “Uncle Joe” Cannon, later Speaker of the House, once said that McKinley kept his ear so close to the ground that it was full of grasshoppers. . . . In 1900, McKinley again campaigned against [populist William Jennings] Bryan. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for “the full dinner pail.” His second term, which had begun auspiciously, came to a tragic end in September 1901. He was standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when a deranged anarchist shot him twice. He died eight days later.
23 Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) form a critical link in black America’s centuries-long struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. As the leader of the largest organized mass movement in black history and progenitor of the modern “black is beautiful” ideal, Garvey is now best remembered as a champion of the back-to-Africa movement. In his own time he was hailed as a redeemer, a “Black Moses.” Though he failed to realize all his objectives, his movement still represents a liberation from the psychological bondage of racial inferiority. Garvey was born on 17 August 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. He left school at 14, worked as a printer, joined Jamaican nationalist organizations, toured Central America, and spent time in London. Content at first with accommodation, on his return to Jamaica, he aspired to open a Tuskegee-type industrial training school. In 1916 he came to America at Booker T. Washington’s invitation, but arrived just after Washington died. Garvey arrived in America at the dawn of the “New Negro” era. Black discontent, punctuated by East St. Louis’s bloody race riots in 1917 and intensified by postwar disillusionment, peaked in 1919’s Red Summer. Shortly after arriving, Garvey embarked upon a period of travel and lecturing. When he settled in New York City, he organized a chapter of the UNIA. . . . Drawing on a gift for oratory, he melded Jamaican peasant aspirations for economic and cultural independence with the American gospel of success to create a new gospel of racial pride. “Garveyism” eventually evolved into a religion of success, inspiring millions of black people worldwide who sought relief from racism and colonialism. To enrich and strengthen his movement, Garvey envisioned a great shipping line to foster black trade, to transport passengers between America, the Caribbean, and Africa, and to serve as a symbol of black grandeur and enterprise. The UNIA incorporated the Black Star Line in 1919. The line’s flagship, the S.S. Yarmouth, made its maiden voyage in November and two other ships joined the line in 1920. The Black Star Line became a powerful recruiting tool for the UNIA, but it was ultimately sunk by expensive repairs, discontented crews, and top-level mismanagement and corruption. By 1920 the UNIA had hundreds of chapters worldwide; it hosted elaborate international conventions and published the Negro World, a widely disseminated weekly that was soon banned in many parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Over the next few years, however, the movement began to unravel under the strains of internal dissension, opposition from black critics, and government harassment. In 1922 the [U.S.] federal government indicted Garvey on mail fraud charges stemming from Black Star Line promotional claims and he suspended all BSL operations. (Two years later, the UNIA created another line, the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Co., but it, too, failed.) Garvey was sentenced to prison. The government later commuted his sentence, only to deport him back to Jamaica in November 1927. He never returned to America. In Jamaica Garvey reconstituted the UNIA and held conventions there and in Canada, but the heart of his movement stumbled on in America without him. While he dabbled in local politics, he remained a keen observer of world events, writing voluminously in his own papers. His final move was to London, in 1935. He settled there shortly before Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia and his public criticisms of Haile Selassie’s behavior after the invasion alienated many of his own remaining followers. In his last years he slid into such obscurity that he suffered the final indignity of reading his own obituaries a month before his 10 June 1940 death. Booker T. Washington - Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Franklin County near Roanoke, Virginia in 1856, and moved with his family just after the Civil War to Malden, West Virginia, where Washington worked in the salt mines. In . . . his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington tells the story of his journey from West Virginia to Hampton Institute in Virginia’s Tidewater region and then to the
24 Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. When Washington became president of Tuskegee in 1881, the school hardly existed, yet largely through his efforts it became one of the leading facilities for black education in the United States. By the 1890s, Washington was the most prominent African American in the country, and a number of Presidents, as well as business leaders, relied on Washington as an advisor. Other AfricanAmerican leaders and intellectuals, however, most notably W.E.B. DuBois, resented Washington’s message of political accommodation in favor of economic progress and distrusted his reliance on wealthy white Northerners for assistance. Leaders such as DuBois also resented Washington’s willingness to use his political and economic influence in controlling ways that led them to refer to the “Tuskegee Machine.” Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, published in 1901, followed the American tradition of the self-made man’s account of his success. The work was internationally popular as well as a critical success, and brought a large amounts of much-needed funds to Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington died in 1915. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was not a fan of his, calling him Judas (the Christian apostle who betrayed Jesus to his enemies), Brutus (Julius Caesar’s erstwhile friend and supporter who joined with those plotting Caesar’s overthrow, and even had a hand in assassinating him), and Benedict Arnold (the American Revolutionary War officer turned traitor). Tuskegee Institute - Mr. Washington’s school, established in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1881 to provide secondary education and vocational training (most notably the latter) for African Americans. It was Washington’s intention that blacks literally work their way to equality gradually; his critics, Ms. Ida included, contended that he was training African Americans to remain subservient to whites. American Federation – The American Citizenship Federation was founded to make people aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. According to the Chicago Defender (Jan. 1927), its motto was “good citizenship—a shield of protection for our flag and all that it represents.” Negro Freedom Commission – This Illinois committee, given the task of creating a celebration of the 50th anniversary of African-American freedom, was called for by African-American women at the behest of a white man with, Ida suggests, a hidden agenda, because no black woman was named to the committee. Ida as a Tar baby - a sticky tar doll, the central figure in black American folktales popularized in written literature by the American author Joel Chandler Harris. Harris’ “Tar-Baby” (1879), one of the animal tales told by the character Uncle Remus, is but one example of numerous African-derived tales featuring the use of a wax, gum, or rubber figure to trap a rascal. Brer Fox, who is fed up with Brer Rabbit getting the best of him, fashions a baby-like figure out of tar knowing that it will be irresistible to Brer Rabbit, and, in fact, the rabbit becomes completely stuck to the figure. However, Brer Rabbit convinces Brer Fox that the worst thing the fox could do would be to throw the rabbit into a brier patch, which actually enables Brer Rabbit to escape again. At any rate, the tar baby became a negative symbol for African Americans, as according to the Cunningham & Cunningham website: “Although the phrase ‘ Tar Baby’ originally stems from an African folk tale, at some point in the United States it gained a second meaning as a racial slur for black people. In that sense it’s about as nasty as nigger or coon. . . . Tar Baby has a history of actual usage as an epithet”: some say a tar baby is an African American you “can’t get rid of”; others that it’s a problem there’s no point in discussing, and so on. Coon - Melanie and Mike of the website Take Our Word for It note that their sources “all agree that it is
25 an aphetic form of raccoon (aphetic refers to the loss of an initial, usually unstressed, vowel or syllable),” and that “coon songs enjoyed a great vogue in vaudeville and music-hall on both sides of the Atlantic. These were performed exclusively by white men in blackface [that is, black face paint with exaggerated, raccoon-like eyes] who portrayed the African-American as an ignorant, sentimental buffoon to audiences who accepted this stereotype uncritically. The genre was typified by such songs as ‘I’s Jes’ a Alambamy Coon.’ Al Jolson represented the last survival of this genre.” The German-based Historical Racial Stereotypes in America website notes: “The coon caricature is one of the most insulting of all anti-black caricatures. The name itself, an abbreviation of raccoon, is dehumanizing. The coon was portrayed as lazy, easily frightened and chronically idle. He acted childish, but he was an adult. Although he often worked as a servant, he was not happy with his status. He was, simply, too lazy or too cynical to attempt to change his lowly position. By the 1900s, coons were increasingly identified with young, urban blacks who disrespected whites.” Mulatto: quadroon, octoroon, (macaroon, calhoun), spade – According to Zolo Agona Azania, who prefers Afrikan to African, “Mulatto is a person having one Caucasian and one Afrikan parent. Quadroon is a person having one-quarter (¼) Afrikan blood and the rest Caucasian. Octoroon is one who has one eighth (1/8) Afrikan blood, the offspring of a Caucasian person and a quadroon. Sambo is a word used by the Caucasian to define Afrikan men as humble pets, apes, beasts, stupid, dumb creatures and rapists white women. Coon is a slang derogatory term short for ‘raccoon’ used offensively against Afrikan people describing them as watermelon eating thieves. The watermelon is native to Afrika. Colored is a person having mixed Afrikan, Indian, and Caucasian blood, or a dark-skinned people of Afrikan descent. Nigger is Latin for blacken, darken, dirty, denigrate, disgraceful, belittle or defame. Negro is Spanish for . . . dark, dirty, or someone that is no good. Black is English for dirty, shameful, ugly, evil, sadness and everything negative. “The aim of the Caucasian was not only to enslave Afrikan people physically, but, also to enslave them psychologically. The Afrikan was forced by violence to denounce their heritage. Afrikan babies were brainwashed from the cradle to believe they were members of the so-called colored, nigger, or negro race.” Spade: word origins: “The racist usage of spade dates from the 1920s and is American in origin. It [seems to derive] from the card suit, as in black as the ace of spades.” Please note that “macaroon and Calhoun” are on this list only because they rhyme; nobody called African-Americans coconut cookies, although some of them undoubtedly sport the last name Calhoun, a legacy from slave days. Frederick Douglass – This is from Frederickdouglass.org. “Frederick Douglass was born in a slave cabin, in February, 1818, near the town of Easton, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Separated from his mother when only a few weeks old he was raised by his grandparents. At about the age of six, his grandmother took grandmother took him to the plantation of his master and left him there. Not being told by her that she was going to leave him, Douglass never recovered from the betrayal of the abandonment. When he was about eight he was sent to Baltimore to live as a houseboy with Hugh and Sophia Auld, relatives of his master. It was shortly after his arrival that his new mistress taught him the alphabet. When her husband forbade her to continue her instruction, because it was unlawful to teach slaves how to read, Frederick took it upon himself to learn. He made the neighborhood boys his teachers, by giving away his food in exchange for lessons in reading and writing. At about the age of twelve or thirteen Douglass purchased a copy of The Columbian Orator, a popular schoolbook of the time, which helped him to gain an understanding and appreciation of the power of the spoken and the written word, as two of the most effective means by which to bring about permanent,
26 positive change. Returning to the Eastern Shore, at approximately the age of fifteen, Douglass became a field hand, and experienced most of the horrifying conditions that plagued slaves during the 270 years of legalized slavery in America. But it was during this time that he had an encounter with the slavebreaker Edward Covey. Their fight ended in a draw, but the victory was Douglass’, as his challenge to the slavebreaker restored his sense of self-worth. After an aborted escape attempt when he was about eighteen, he was sent back to Baltimore to live with the Auld family, and in early September 1838, at the age of twenty, Douglass succeeded in escaping from slavery by impersonating a sailor. He went first to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he and his new wife Anna Murray began to raise a family. Whenever he could he attended abolitionist meetings, and, in October, 1841, after attending an anti-slavery convention on Nantucket Island, Douglass became a lecturer for the Massachusetts AntiSlavery Society and a colleague of William Lloyd Garrison. This work led him into public speaking and writing. He published his own newspaper, The North Star, participated in the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, in 1848, and wrote three autobiographies. He was internationally recognized as an uncompromising abolitionist, indefatigable worker for justice and equal opportunity, and an unyielding defender of women’s rights. He became a trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln as well as the United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, the Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C., and Minister-General to the Republic of Haiti. Frederick Douglass sought to embody three keys for success in life: • Believe in yourself. • Take advantage of every opportunity. • Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society. Douglass said, “What is possible for me is possible for you.” By taking these keys and making them his own, Frederick Douglass created a life of honor, respect and success that he could never have dreamed of when still a boy on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. “plays the spaniel” - Ida feels that Booker T. acts like “a servile or docile person,” to quote Webster’s , around white people, just as a dog would signify submission through its behavior. Topsy/Uncle Tom – The Virtual Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia describes Topsy as “the first famous picaninny, [a] poorly dressed, disreputable, neglected slave girl. Topsy appeared in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. . . . to show the evils of slavery. Here was an untamable ‘wild child’ who had been indelibly corrupted by slavery. [Picaninnies] were ‘child coons,’ [with] bulging eyes, unkempt hair, red lips, and wide mouths into which they stuffed huge slices of watermelon. They were themselves tasty morsels for alligators. They were routinely shown on postcards, posters, and other ephemera being chased or eaten. Picaninnies were portrayed as nameless, shiftless natural buffoons running from alligators and toward fried chicken. “Stowe hoped that readers would be heartbroken by the tribulations of Topsy, and would help end slavery—which, she believed, produced many similar children. Her book, while leading some Americans to question the morality of slavery, was used by others to trivialize slavery’s brutality [and] was soon a staple character in minstrel shows. The stage Topsy . . . was a happy, mirthful character who reveled in her misfortune. [She] was still dirty, with kinky hair and ragged clothes, but these traits were transformed into comic props—as was her misuse of the English language. No longer a sympathetic figure, Topsy became, simply, a harmless coon. Her imitators remained popular from the early 1850s well into the 20th century.. .” At Wikipedia, Uncle Tom is defined as “a derogatory term for a black person who cooperates with white people or protests injustice mildly instead of violently, or who is otherwise perceived to act in a servile and insincere way around white people. The term Uncle Tom comes from the title character of
27 Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “The character of Uncle Tom has dignity in the book; he is strong and capable, but forgiving. It was his servile depiction in the popular stage version that was greatly influential in the development of the epithet. White-haired, shuffling Uncle Tom is supposedly grateful to his master. Essentially, an accusation of being an Uncle Tom or Tomming questions the accused person’s integrity; the implication is that the person is demeaning him- or herself for uncertain benefit, and that African-Americans should not be grateful simply for being treated the way people should expect to be treated, but should instead be confident, independent, and self-sufficient, even if this at times provokes a confrontation. . . .” “Despite being a model slave—hard working, loyal, non-rebellious, and often contented—Tom is sold, cursed, slapped, kicked, flogged, worked like a horse, then beaten to death. He never lifts a hand to hit his masters nor to stop a blow. Tom does not complain, rebel, or run away. This partially explains why the names Uncle Tom and Tom have become terms of disgust for African Americans. Tom’s devotion to his master is superseded only by his devotion to his religious faith. . . . The versions of Uncle Tom that entertained audiences on stages were drained of these noble traits. He was an unthinking religious slave, sometimes happy, often fearful. Significantly, the stage Toms were middle-aged or elderly. He was shown stooped, often with a cane or stick. He was thin, almost emaciated. His eyesight was failing. These depictions of Uncle Tom are inconsistent with Stowe’s Tom who was a ‘broad-chested, strong armed fellow.’ . . . How could slavery be wrong, argued its proponents, if black servants, males (Toms) and females (Mammies) were contented, loyal servants? The Tom is presented as a smiling, wide-eyed, dark skinned server: fieldworker, cook, butler, porter, or waiter. Unlike the Coon, the Tom is portrayed as a dependable worker, eager to serve. Unlike the Brute, the Tom is docile and non-threatening to Whites. The Tom is often old, physically weak, [and] psychologically dependent on whites for approval. . . .” Phoenix (from the ashes) – a phoenix is a mythological bird (last seen in the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) of Egyptian origin that consumes itself in fire and rises renewed from the ashes, thus being indestructible. (There is a) balm in Gilead – As Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”) well knew, the balm of Gilead is “an Old Testament reference to divine deliverance” from pain or misfortune. In the ancient Gilead area east of the River Jordan, the “gum” of a certain evergreen was used to heal wounds; in the Bible’s Book of Jeremiah the prophet, wearied by trials and tribulations, asks if there is no spiritual equivalent to it. Many African Americans wondered the same thing. Counter clocking (his every move) – Opposing his every move. World’s Fair/Exposition of 1893 – According to the interactive website Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition, as the Fair was actually called, “As early as 1880, advocates argues that a special exposition should mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus sailing to the New World. By 1888, the movement gained enough momentum to begin being taken seriously by the public, and by government officials. . . . In an effort to woo the U. S. Congress to select their city, Chicago businesses raised $5,000,000 to pledge to the Fair, and promised to double the amount if Chicago was selected. After eight ballots, Congress finally selected Chicago as the site. . . . “The World’s Columbian Commission quickly laid the groundwork for the exposition and formally notified the President of the United States that all of the preliminary requirements of the Congressional act [establishing the Fair] had been fulfilled. He then issued a proclamation of invitation to all nations. This proclamation was accompanied by a letter from the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury detailing regulations and instructions for foreign exhibitors, as well as a prospectus for the World’s Congress
28 Auxiliary. . . . For two years before opening day, the Department [of Publicity and Promotion of the Exposition] sent out 2,000 to 3,000 mail packages per day. Circulars, pamphlets, and books were distributed in all majors languages. Nearly every rail station in Europe featured a flier showing a view of the exposition. . . . The excitement level was such that there was not sufficient space on the site [of] more than 5 million square feet . . . for the size and scope of the plans of all of the participating nations. The exhibition truly marked the first World’s Fair, as it was the first opportunity for all nations to exhibit their resources and goods on neutral ground”--but not African Americans. Weaker vessel – women, as defined in the Biblical New Testament, 1st Book of Peter, chapter 3, verses 1-7: “1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker [vessel] and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Race woman/man – The historian Runoko Rashidi has this to say about these terms: “Race Men and Race Women [were] black people whose whole mission was uplifting the race in the 19th and 20th century. . . We need to be race men . . . and race women. . . . We could liberate ourselves tomorrow if we asked ourselves before every conscious act, . . . ‘How does this advance the future of Afrikan people?’ . . . Brothas and Sistahs we could take our destiny in our own hands and do anything we want to do . . . if we believe in ourselves . . . and if we’re willing to work together and submerge our petty egos . . . for the common good . . . and say not, ‘What is good for me?’ individually . . . but ‘What is good for my people?’. . . And once we embrace that freedom is right here in our grasp. . . Somebody say amen. [Amen. . .applause]” Paul and Silas fled their captors –Acts of the Apostles, chapter 16, verses 16-26: 16:16 It happened, as we were going to prayer, that a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. 16:17 Following Paul and us, she cried out, ”These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation!” 16:18 She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour. 16:19 But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 16:20 When they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, 16:21 and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.” 16:22 The multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them, and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 16:23 When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, 16:24 who, having received such a charge, threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks.
29 16:25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 16:26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosened. Republican party and African Americans – The GOP of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, recounts the history of the Republican party and African Americans: • The roots of the Republican party lay in the opposition to slavery. • Republicans dealt the death blow to slavery with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the passage, by a Republican Congress, of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. • Republicans passed a Civil Rights Act in 1866 recognizing blacks as U.S. citizens. • Republicans proposed the 14th Amendment, which became part of the Constitution in 1868. • Republicans proposed and passed the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed voting rights regardless of race, creed or previous condition of servitude. Abolishing slavery. Free speech. Women’s suffrage. In today’s stereotypes, none of these sounds like a typical Republican issue, yet they are stances the Republican Party, in opposition to the Democratic Party, adopted early on. “Reducing the government. Streamlining the bureaucracy. Returning power to the states. These issues don’t sound like they would be the promises of the party of Lincoln, the party that fought to preserve the national union, but they are, and logically so. With a core belief in the idea of the primacy of individuals, the Republican Party, since its inception, has been at the forefront of the fight for individuals’ rights in opposition to a large, bloated government. . . .” Quotable Quotes Caesar: I could be well moved if I were as you; If I could pray to move, prayers would move me: But I am constant as the Northern Star, Of whose true-fixed and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament. Julius Caesar, Act III, sc. 1. This flattering Shakespeare quote—“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”—is applied to Malvolio in a letter purportedly from the object of his affection, Olivia (it’s really from her maid Maria, part of a scheme to discount Malvolio in Olivia’s eyes). Ida Wells uses it to emphasize her lack of respect for Booker T. Washington. “He dwells but in the suburbs of my good pleasure,” Ida says of Booker T. Washington, paraphrasing Brutus’ wife Portia: “Dwell I but in the suburbs/Of your good pleasure?” (Julius Caesar, Act II, sc. 1). While Portia is wondering why Brutus is keeping a secret from her, Ida applies the meaning of Portia’s statement—that there is distance between herself and her husband—to tell us that she feels no closeness with Washington. “Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’” Macbeth, in his eponymous play, challenges Macduff with this phrase in act V, scene 8, despite the fact that Macduff has just revealed that,
30 according to the prophesies Macbeth has been following, Macduff is the person to end Macbeth’s reign. The phrase signals their “fight to the finish,” which Ida vows to emulate in her fight to end prejudice. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep,/Let your laughter be turned to mourning/And your joy to heaviness. The Apostle James advises Christians to do this to draw closer to God (James 4:1); Ida may be thinking more literally, rather in the spirit of Ecclesiastes: “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; . . .” “Could Heaven look on and not take their part?” Ida is stunned when she learns about the lynching of 3 of her friends who had the nerve to open a dry goods store for African Americans, in open competition with the white-owned store. She is thinking of Macduff’s agony, in act IV, scene 3, when he learns that Macbeth has had Lady Macduff and their children murdered in an attempt to stop Macduff from opposing him. “The world is out of joint. O cursed spite!/That ever I was born to set it right.” With Ida’s 3 shopkeeper friends lynched, and herself under threat of lynching for denouncing the mob that did it if she does not leave town, Barnett nonetheless resolves to continue her fight to end lynching. She is thinking of Hamlet, who, having learned from his father’s ghost that he had been murdered by his own brother, accepts the Ghost’s charge to punish his murderer: “The time is out of joint;—O cursed spite,/That ever I was born to set it right!” (Act I, scene 5). Ida quotes Rabbi Hillel: “Hither, if I am not for myself, who will be for me; if I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?” Eliezer C. Abrahamson says, “The great Talmudic sage Hillel made this statement. It can be found in the Talmud in tractate Avos (also know as Pirkei Avos) 1:14.” “Which of my bad parts did you fall in love with?” Ida wonders aloud to Ferdinand Barnett, much as Benedick questions Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, act V, scene 2: “I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?” Ferdinand Barnett tells Ida B. Wells, “The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service. That I should love a bright particular star that to wed it . . . she who is so above . . .” He is quoting his literary “namesake,” Ferdinand, beloved of Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Hear my soul speak:/The very instant that I saw you, did/My heart fly to your service, there resides/To make me slave to it,” in the first scene of act I. Ferdinand vows, “I do love you dearer than eyesight, space and liberty. I will live in thy heart, and die in thy lap, and be buried in thine eyes; and yes, moreover, I will go with thee.” Again from Much Ado (Act V, sc. 2), Benedick assures Beatrice that “I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle’s,” thus equating Beatrice’s uncle with something dire and even dangerous, fool that Benedick is! “I feel now the future in the instant,” Ida tells her Ferdinand, expressing what she sees as her joyful destiny to work and live with him. It has a rather dark though still triumphant meaning in its original source, as Lady Macbeth greets her lord (act I, scene 5) with murderous intent behind this sentence since she knows that the witches he met foretold his becoming king, and what with the king alive and even healthy, well, what’s an ambitious couple to do? “‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished,” Ida says as she approaches the Heavenly banquet. She quotes Hamlet, act III, scene 1, from Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, in which he
31 contemplates suicide, or death, at any rate, rather than continue to pursue his uncle for Hamlet’s father’s murder. Momma, if you don’t go and help these men in Arkansas, no one else will. This is not from Shakespeare, but from one of Wells’ sons, who understood that his mother was the only person who could help a group of black men who were being held in jail on trumped up charges. Ida had announced to her husband and children that it was time for someone else to take care of them, not her, but her son’s simple, earnest question changed her opinion completely. The FBI list The Federal Bureau of Investigation is keeping track of Miss Ida B. and a number of her “radical” contemporaries. Here’s some information about these “dangerous” people. James Weldon Johnson – The Academy of American Poets notes that “James Weldon Johnson was born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida. He was encouraged to study English literature and the European musical tradition. He attended Atlanta University with the intention that the education he received there would be used to further the interests of the black people. After graduation, he took a job as a high school principal in Jacksonville. “In 1900, he wrote the song ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ on the occasion of Lincoln’s birthday, the song which became immensely popular in the black community . . . as the ‘Negro National Anthem.’ Johnson moved to New York in 1901 to collaborate with his brother Rosamond, a composer, and attained some success as a songwriter for Broadway, but decided to take a job as U.S. Consul to Venezuela in 1906. While employed by the diplomatic corps, Johnson had poems published in Century Magazine and The Independent. “In 1912, Johnson published The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man under a pseudonym, the story of a musician who rejects his black roots for a life of material comfort in the white world. The novel explores the issue of racial identity in the 20th century, a common theme in the writing of the Harlem Renaissance. “He had a talent for persuading people of differing ideological agendas to work together for a common goal, and in 1920 he became the national organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He edited The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922), a major contribution to the history of African-American literature. [He also is the author, with his brother, of The Book of American Negro Spirituals which I have quoted in the section about gospel songs performed in Constant Star.] His book of poetry God’s Trombones (1927) was influenced by his impressions of the rural South, drawn from a trip he took to Georgia while a freshman in college. It was this trip that ignited his interest in the African-American folk tradition. “James Weldon Johnson died in 1938.” William Monroe Trotter – The Hall of Black Achievement says, “William Monroe Trotter, a reform journalist and militant civil rights leader, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from the Hyde Park High School in 1890 as an honor student and entered Harvard University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude. He had been elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor fraternity during his junior year. “Trotter’s career was launched in Boston as a real estate broker, but his ultimate goal was achieved in 1901, when he established the militant newspaper, The Guardian. The main purpose of the
32 newspaper was ‘propaganda against discrimination based on color and denial of citizenship rights because of color.’ “The Guardian became a national institution. . . . [Trotter] opposed all compromises on civil rights, whether they were proposed by Booker T. Washington or President William Howard Taft. [One evening in 1903], at the Columbus Avenue African Zion Church in Boston, Booker T. Washington was the featured speaker. Trotter and his followers hissed and interjected remarks to such an extent during the course of Washington’s address that the police had to be called; some sources say that Trotter threw a stench bomb into the audience. Trotter and his cohorts were arrested, fined and sentenced to the Charles Street Jail for 30 days. He detested Washington’s leadership and compromising position, collaborating instead with WEB DuBois, in 1905, in the organization of the Niagara movement, forerunner of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. . . . “In 1906, he challenged [President] Theodore Roosevelt over the discharge of three companies of the 25th United States Infantry Regiment [comprised of black men] in an incident in Brownsville, Texas: [local residents accused the soldiers of running wild in their town when in fact no misdeeds had occurred.]. In 1910, he organized a successful demonstration against the Negro-baiting play, The Clansman in Boston; and again, in 1915, he picketed the theatre where [the film] Birth of a Nation, [which included scenes championing acts of the Ku Klux Klan] was being shown. He was arrested, tried, and eventually acquitted for this demonstration. “Trotter also led a delegation to protest the discriminatory policy against Negro employees in government offices. His greatest feat occurred in 1919, when the Paris Peace Conference was convened. Trotter applied for a passport and was denied. In order to get around the denial, Trotter learned to cook and to reach Europe, he obtained a job on a trans-Atlantic steamer as a second cook. In Paris, he appeared at the conference as a delegate of the National Equal Rights League and as Secretary of the Race petitioners to the Peach Conference. Returning home, Trotter continued all of his efforts in the fight for civil rights. William Monroe Trotter was a dedicated man to the cause of civil rights for black people worldwide.” Countee Cullen - Born in 1903 in New York City, Countee Cullen was raised in a Methodist parsonage. He attended De Witt Clinton High School in New York and began writing poetry at the age of fourteen. In 1922, Cullen entered New York University. His poems were published in The Crisis, under the leadership of W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity, a magazine of the National Urban League. He was soon after published in Harper’s , the Century Magazine, and Poetry. He won several awards for his poem, “Ballad of the Brown Girl,” and graduated from New York University in 1923. That same year, Harper published his first volume of verse, Color, and he was admitted to Harvard University where he completed a master’s degree. His second volume of poetry, Copper Sun (1927), met with controversy in the black community because Cullen did not give the subject of race the same attention he had given it in Color. He was raised and educated in a primarily white community, and he differed from other poets of the Harlem Renaissance like Langston Hughes in that he lacked the background to comment from personal experience on the lives of other blacks or use popular black themes in his writing. An imaginative lyric poet, he wrote in the tradition of Keats and Shelley and was resistant to the new poetic techniques of the Modernists. He died in 1946. Mary Church Terrell – Voices from the Gaps has this to say about Ms. Ida B.’s contemporary: “Mary
33 Eliza Church [like Ida] was born in Memphis, Tennessee on September 23, 1863, to Louisa (Ayres) Church and Robert Church, both former slaves. The Church family, however, soon settled into the black middle-class. Her father, Robert, son of Charles Church, his master, and Emmeline, a housemaid, worked on one of his father’s ships as a dishwasher, gaining increasing responsibilities until he was promoted to procurement steward. After the Civil War, Robert opened a prosperous saloon and during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878-79 he, unlike many of Memphis residents, did not abandon his property. Rather, he bought as much land and property as he could and became the first black Memphis millionaire. Louisa Church owned a successful hair salon, the monies from which provided the family with its first home and carriage. “When Church Terrell was about three years old her parents divorced. Her mother was granted custody of the two children, Mary and Thomas. Her father continued to see and support his family and ensured that Mary obtained the best education available to a black woman in the 19th century. In 1891 Church married Robert Terrell, a young lawyer she had met while working at the Colored High School in Washington, DC. Robert Terrell worked for many years in education and law and became the first black judge for the District of Columbia, a post he held for over twenty years (1902-25), through Republican and Democratic presidents. Terrell and Church had one child, Phillis, named after the 18th -century poet Phillis Wheatley. In addition to Phillis, the couple adopted the daughter, Mary, of Church Terrell’s brother Thomas. After both Robert Terrell’s and Thomas Church’s death, Church Terrell also raised her brother’s son, Robert. “Church Terrell . . . , like many other young black women of this era, obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1884 from Oberlin College, which was run by abolitionists and had admitted blacks in 1835. Instead of taking the Literary or ‘ladies’ course,’ a two-year degree, Mary chose the more intensive Classical or ‘gentlemen’s course,’ a four-year degree. While teaching at the Colored High School, Church Terrell also completed the Masters of Arts degree requirements for Oberlin College, and was granted the degree in 1888. [Thereafter] Mary went on a two-year (1888-90) European tour, a common course for well-to-do women and men of the 18th century. . . . It was in Europe that Church Terrell became fluent in French and German, skills that helped her immensely when speaking at suffrage meetings in Europe. “Church Terrell was an indefatigable activist and prolific writer. In 1940 her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, was published. However, this work was a culmination of years of journals and writing about social ills in America. She, [like Ida] had been galvanized into activism by the lynching in 1892 of her childhood friend, Thomas Moss, and dedicated the rest of her life to uncovering and eradicating injustices. She was involved for many years in the women’s suffrage movement and was a founder of the Colored Women’s league and, later, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “During the 19th century, professional lecturers covered the country and Church Terrell became one of their number when, in 1892, she accepted a job as lecturer for the Slayton Lyceum Bureau. During this period and up to her death, Church Terrell published extensively in magazines and newspapers of the day. In the latter years of her life, Church Terrell fought tirelessly to uphold the equality laws of Washington, D.C., to put an end to Jim Crow [legislation]. “Church Terrell and her fluent, conversational, measured writings and lectures helped define the era between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of desegregation. Her strong and fair personality permeates all of her writing. Church Terrell, the consummate meddler, was given honorary doctorates from Howard University, and Wilberforce and Oberlin Colleges. A school in Washington, D.C., was named for her and several black women’s clubs are named in her memory. Church Terrell died on July 24, 1954, just two months after Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision which ended segregation in America’s schools.”
34 Jane Addams – The Nobel Prize Society remembers their 1931 Peace Prize honoree: “(Laura) Jane Addams (September 6, 1860-May 21, 1935) won worldwide recognition in the first third of the 20th century as a pioneer social worker in America, as a feminist, and as an internationalist. “She was born in Cedarville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children. Her father was a prosperous miller and local political leader who served for sixteen years as a state senator and fought as an officer in the Civil War; he was a friend of Abraham Lincoln whose letters to him began ‘My Dear Double D-’ed Addams.’ Because of a congenital spinal defect, Jane was not physically vigorous when young nor truly robust even later in life, but she became a graceful attractive woman after her spinal difficulty was remedied by surgery. “In 1881 Jane Addams was graduated from the Rockford Female Seminary, the valedictorian of a class of seventeen, but was granted the bachelor’s degree only after the school became accredited the next year as Rockford College for Women. In the course of the next six years she began the study of medicine but left it because of poor health, was hospitalized intermittently, traveled and studied in Europe for twenty-one months, and then spent almost two years in reading and writing and in considering what her future objectives should be. At the age of 27, during a second tour to Europe with her friend Ellen G. Starr, she visited a settlement house, Toynbee Hall, in London’s East End. This visit helped to finalize the idea then current in her mind, that of opening a similar house in an underprivileged area of Chicago. In 1889 she and Miss Starr leased a large home built by Charles Hull at the corner of Halsted and Polk Streets. The two friends moved in, their purpose, as expressed later, being ‘to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.’ “Miss Addams and Miss Starr made speeches about the needs of the neighborhood, raised money, convinced young women of well-to-do families to help, took care of children, nursed the sick, listened to outpourings from troubled people. By its second year of existence, Hull-House was host to two thousand people every week. There were kindergarten classes in the morning, club meetings for older children in the afternoon, and for adults in the evening more clubs or courses in what became virtually a night school. The first facility added to Hull-House was an art gallery, the second a public kitchen; then came a coffee house, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a cooperative boarding club for girls, a book bindery, an art studio, a music school, a drama group, a circulating library, an employment bureau, a labor museum. “As her reputation grew, Miss Addams was drawn into larger fields of civic responsibility. In 1905 she was appointed to Chicago’s Board of Education and subsequently made chairman of the School Management Committee; in 1908 she participated in the founding of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy and in the next year became the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. In her own area of Chicago she led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions, even going so far as to accept the official post of garbage inspector of the Nineteenth Ward, at an annual salary of a thousand dollars. In 1910 she received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University. “Charmingly feminine by nature, Jane Addams was an ardent feminist by philosophy. In those days before women’s suffrage she believed that women should make their voices heard in legislation and therefore should have the right to vote, but more comprehensively, she thought that women should generate aspirations and search out opportunities to realize them. “For her own aspiration to rid the world of war, Jane Addams created opportunities or seized those offered to her to advance the cause. In 1906 she gave a course of lectures at the University of Wisconsin summer session which she published the next year as a book, Newer Ideals of Peace. She spoke for peace in 1913 at a ceremony commemorating the building of the Peace Palace at The Hague and in the next two years, as a lecturer sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, spoke against America’s entry into the First World War. In January 1915, she accepted the chairmanship of the Women’s Peace
35 Party, an American organization, and four months later the presidency of the International Congress of Women convened at The Hague [Holland]. . . . When this congress later founded the organization called the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Jane Addams served as president until 1929, as presiding officer of its six international conferences in those years, and as honorary president for the remainder of her life. “Publicly opposed to America’s entry into the war, Miss Addams was attacked in the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution, but she found an outlet for her humanitarian impulses as an assistant to Herbert Hoover in providing relief supplies of food to the women and children of the enemy nations, the story of which she told in her book Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922). “After sustaining a heart attack in 1926, Miss Addams never fully regained her health. Indeed, she was being admitted to a Baltimore hospital on the very day, December 10, 1931, that the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to her in Oslo. She died in 1935 three days after an operation revealed unsuspected cancer. The funeral service was held in the courtyard of Hull-House.” Susan B. Anthony - According to The History Net, “Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 - March 13, 1906) was raised in Battensville, New York, as a Quaker [she was born in Adams, Massachusetts]. She taught for a few years at a Quaker seminary and from there became a headmistress at a women’s division of a school. At 29 years old [newly settled in Rochester, New York,] Anthony became involved in abolitionism and then temperance. A friendship with Amelia Bloomer led to a meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was to become her lifelong partner in political organizing, especially for women’s rights and woman suffrage. “Stanton, married and mother to a number of children, served as the writer and idea-person of the two, and Susan B. Anthony, never married, was more often the organizer and the one who traveled, spoke widely, and bore the brunt of antagonistic public opinion. “After the Civil War, discouraged that those working for ‘Negro’ suffrage were willing to continue to exclude women from voting rights, Anthony became more focused on woman suffrage. She helped to found the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, and in 1868 with Stanton as editor, became publisher of Revolution. Stanton and Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, larger than its rival American Woman Suffrage Association with which it finally merged in 1890. “In 1872, in an attempt to claim that the constitution already permitted women to vote, Susan B. Anthony cast a test vote in Rochester, . . . in the presidential election. She was found guilty, though she refused to pay the resulting fine (and no attempt was made to force her to do so). “In her later years, Anthony worked closely with Carrie Chapman Catt, retiring from active leadership of the suffrage movement in 1900 and turning over presidency of the NAWSA to Catt. She worked with Stanton and Mathilda Gage [of Fayetteville; see The Wizard of Oz for her biography] on a History of Woman Suffrage. “In her writings, Anthony occasionally mentioned abortion. Anthony opposed abortion which at the time was an unsafe medical procedure for women, endangering their health and life. She blamed men, laws and the ‘double standard’ [that men were free to have sex as they wished, while women were cast out of family, home and society for doing likewise] for driving women to abortion because they had no other options. (‘When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged.’ 1869) She believed, as did many of the feminists of her era, that only the achievement of women’s equality and freedom would end the need for abortion. Anthony used her anti-abortion writings as yet another argument for women’s rights. “Some of Anthony’s writings were also quite racist by today’s standards, particularly those from the period when she was angry that the Fifteenth Amendment wrote the word ‘male’ into the constitution
36 for the first time in permitting suffrage for freedmen. She sometimes argued that educated white women would be better voters than ‘ignorant’ black men or immigrant men. In the late 1860s she even portrayed the vote of freedmen as threatening the safety of white women. George Francis Train, whose capital helped launch Anthony and Stanton’s Revolution newspaper, was a noted racist. “In 1979, Anthony’s image was chosen for the new dollar coin, making her the first woman to be depicted on US currency. The size of the dollar was, however, close to that of the quarter, and the Anthony dollar never became very popular. In 1999 the US government announced the replacement of the Anthony dollar with one featuring the image of Sacagawea.” W.E.B. Du Bois - The Hall of Black Achievement has this to say: “William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, outstanding among Negro intellectuals and a militant civil rights leader, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His childhood in New England was a happy one until he experienced his first rejection because he was a Negro, when he was sharply snubbed by a newcomer at a school party. This incident helped set the course of a gifted youth’s life. He became determined to establish a record of excellence in all of his school activities. At the age of sixteen, he graduated from college preparatory school with honors. Because of the influence of his mother and one of his teachers, he went to Fisk University instead of Harvard, where he had planned to study. “In 1888, Du Bois entered Harvard, where he won the Boylston oratorical contest and was one of the six commencement speakers. After two years of study in Germany, he returned to America, receiving his Ph.D. in 1895. He accepted appointments to teach at Wilberforce University and the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Atlanta University to head the department of history and economics for 13 years. Here he wrote, for the Atlantic Monthly, World’s Work and other magazines, articles that later were collected in The Souls of Black Folk , a sociological study of the Negro people. “Infuriated by the compromising leadership of Booker T. Washington at the turn of the century and by the denial of protection of Negro citizens as race riots spread throughout the North, Du Bois backed the Niagara movement, advocating civil rights for Negroes. When the Springfield, Illinois, race riot shocked a group of liberal whites into forming a civil rights group, which later became the NAACP, they invited the participants of the Niagara movement to join them. With the establishment of the NAACP, DuBois became the editor of its Crisis magazine. “In 1919, he launched the Pan-African Congresses in Paris, to focus world opinion on the conditions and status of black men. In his fight against discrimination and economic exploitation of the Negro, Du Bois published books, articles, and poems to set forth his views. Some of his works are: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, 1896; John Brown, 1909; Darkwater, 1920; Black Reconstruction, 1935; Black Folk Then and Now; Color and Democracy, 1945; and The World and Africa. At the time of his death, he was living in Ghana and serving as editor in chief of the Encyclopedia Africana. “Du Bois was generally recognized as one of the most incisive thinkers and effective platform orators in the United States, as well as one of the most profound scholars of his time and generation.” Richard Wright - Richard Nathan Wright was born September 4, 1908, in Roxie, Mississippi, the son of Nathan Wright, an illiterate sharecropper, and Ella Wilson Wright, a schoolteacher; he was the grandson of slaves. In 1911 Ella took Richard and [his brother] Leon Alan to Natchez to live with her family; their father later joined them, finding work in a sawmill. In 1913, the four Wrights moved to Memphis, Tennessee. But within a year, Nathan deserted them for another woman and Ella worked as a cook to support the family. In September 1915, Richard entered school at Howe Institute. However, Ella fell ill early in 1916
37 and Nathan’s mother came for a while to care for the family. When she left, Richard and Alan had to live for a brief time in an orphanage until Ella [arranged to] have them live with her parents in Jackson, Mississippi. [Soon thereafter] Richard, Alan, and Ella moved with Ella’s sister Maggie and her husband Silas Hoskins to Elaine, Arkansas. But whites murdered Hoskins, and the family ran, [first] to West Helena, Arkansas, and then to Jackson, Mississippi. After a few months, they returned to West Helena, where Ella and Maggie cooked and cleaned for whites. Soon, Aunt Maggie moved north to Detroit with her new lover. Richard again entered school in the fall of 1918, but was forced to leave after a few months because his mother’s poor health [required] him . . . to support the family, [including gathering] coal next to the railroad tracks in order to heat the home. When his mother suffered a paralyzing stroke, [Richard and his mother returned] to Jackson, and Aunt Maggie took Leon Alan to Detroit with her. At the age of 13, Richard entered the fifth grade [but] was soon placed in sixth grade. He delivered newspapers and worked briefly with a traveling insurance salesman. The next year, when he entered the seventh grade, his grandfather died. [Richard] managed to earn enough to buy textbooks, food, and clothes by running errands for whites. In the meantime he read pulp novels, magazines, and anything he could get his hands on. During the winter, he wrote his first short story, “The Voodoo of Hell’s HalfAcre,” published in 1924 in the Jackson Southern Register. In May 1925, Wright graduated valedictorian of his ninth grade. He began high school, but as Leon Alan had returned from Detroit, quit after only a few weeks to earn money. At times he worked two or even three jobs. In [time], Richard read H. L. Mencken, and from Mencken, Wright learned about and read Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Frank Harris, and others. [After he] and Aunt Maggie moved to Chicago . . . he worked as a dishwasher and delivery boy until finding temporary employment with the postal service. Soon his mother, brother and Aunt Cleopatra joined Richard and Aunt Maggie in Chicago. He made friends, both black and white, in the post office, wrote regularly, and attended meetings of black literary groups. Following the stock market crash Wright lost his postal job, but began work, in 1930, on a novel, Cesspool, published posthumously as Lawd Today!, that reflects his experience in the post office. In 1931 Wright published a short story, “Superstition,” in Abbott’s Monthly Magazine, a black journal that failed before Wright collected any money from them. [About that time he began] to write through the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). He also became a member of the Communist Party and published poetry and short stories in such magazines as Left Front, Anvil, and New Masses. In New York for the American Writers’ Congress, he spoke on “The Isolation of the Negro Writer.” He published a poem about lynching in The Partisan Review and wrote an article for New Masses entitled “Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite.” After his return [to Chicago], he was hired by the FWP to research the history of Illinois and of the Negro in Chicago. His short story “Big Boy Leaves Home” (1936) appeared in The New Caravan anthology, where it attracted mainstream critical attention. In 1937 Richard Wright . . . became the Harlem editor of the Communist paper, Daily Worker. He helped to launch the magazine New Challenge [“Blueprint for Negro Writing” appeared in the first and only issue . . .], and published “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” in American Stuff: WPA Writers’ Anthology. A second novel manuscript, Tarbaby’s Dawn, made the rounds with publishers and . . . was never published, but “Fire and Cloud” won first prize in a Story Magazine contest. The next year, Uncle Tom’s Children was published in March to wide acclaim. “Bright and Morning Star” appeared in New Masses, [whose] editorial board [he joined]. [Working] on a new novel he asked Margaret Walker to send him newspaper clippings from the Robert Nixon case in Chicago [and] in October, he finished the first draft of . . . Native Son. “Fire and Cloud” won the O. Henry Memorial Award. By February 1939 he completed a second draft of Native Son. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship, Wright resigned from the FWP. In June, he finished Native Son and married Dhima Rose
38 Meadman, a white modern dance teacher. Ralph Ellison was his best man. He began a new novel, Little Sister, which was never published. Native Son was published in 1940, a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection. Though the book was banned in Birmingham, Alabama, libraries, Wright became internationally famous. Unhappy with the stage adaptation of Native Son, Wright and John Houseman revised it for Orson Welles, [who] staged it successfully on Broadway in 1941. Wright expressed his opposition to [WWII] first by signing onto an anti-war appeal by the League of American Writers, and second by publishing “Not My People’s War.” Both items appeared in New Masses in 1941. He criticized Roosevelt’s racial policies in a speech to the NAACP, although Communist Party pressure forced him to soften his critique. Wright’s “Note on Jim Crow Blues” prefaced blues singer Josh White’s Southern Exposure album, and Paul Robeson, accompanied by the Count Basie orchestra, recorded Wright’s blues song, “King Joe.” Twelve Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States was published [about this time]. . . . Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Wright signed a petition, which appeared in New Masses, supporting America’s entry into the war [but] was not drafted because he was his family’s sole support. He unsuccessfully tried to secure a special commission in the psychological warfare or propaganda services of the army. [Soon after] “The Man Who Lived Underground” appeared in Accent and “What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You” in Harper’s , he broke quietly with the Communist Party. Wright began American Hunger. In 1943 the FBI began interviewing Wright’s associates and neighbors, presumably to determine if Twelve Million Black Voices constituted sedition, but while that [specific] inquiry concluded during 1943, the FBI’s investigations continued until Wright’s death. The Book-of-the-Month Club told Harper that it only wanted the first section of American Hunger, which describes Wright’s southern experience. Wright agreed to this demand and titled the new volume Black Boy. The second section was not published until 1977 (as American Hunger). “I Tried to Be a Communist” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, causing New Masses and Daily Worker to denounce and disown Wright. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth was published in March 1945, [and was] on the bestseller list from 29 April until 6 June. . . In 1947, a Hollywood producer offered to film Native Son, but wanted to change Bigger Thomas to a white man; Wright refused. He decided to move the family to Europe permanently, in reaction to the continued racism he encountered in America. While in France, Wright took a growing interest in anticolonial movements and also traveled extensively, [taking time to] play Bigger in a motion picture of Native Son made in Argentina in 1951. Late in 1952, Wright began working on a novel about a white psychopathic murderer. The Outsider (1953) was acclaimed as the first American existential novel. Three later novels were not well received. Among his polemical writings of that period was White Man, Listen! (1957), which was originally a series of lectures given in Europe. [Also that year] Pagan Spain appeared. It failed to sell well, despite favorable reviews. In 1958 Wright finished The Long Dream, his novel about Mississippi, and began to work on its sequel, Island of Hallucinations, set in France. The Long Dream . . . received poor and even hostile reviews, and did not sell well. On 14 January, 1959, Wright’s mother died. In February, Wright met with Martin Luther King, Jr., on his way to India. . . . Asked for substantial revisions on Island of Hallucinations, Wright shelved it and never completed it. In the spring, his play Daddy Goodness opened in Paris. The Best American Stories of 1958 included Wright’s “Big Black Good Man.” A stage adaptation of The Long Dream opened on Broadway February 17, 1960, to poor reviews and closed within a week. Of his completed haiku, Wright prepared 811 for publication. He began a new novel, A Father’s Law, but on returning to Paris in September, fell ill. He prepared Eight Men, a collection of short stories, which was published in 1961. On November 28, 1960, Wright died of a heart attack. He
39 was cremated along with a copy of Black Boy [and] his ashes placed at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The autobiographical American Hunger, which narrates Wright’s experiences after moving to the North, was published posthumously in 1977. A. Philip Randolph - [Since I downloaded this information PBS.org has “retired” the webpage; I’m sorry that it’s no longer available online, but I can’t resist running it just the same. I have listed another website you might try instead in Sources Consulted.]] Asa Philip Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida, one of two sons of Reverend James William and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, both descendants of slaves. His father was an African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) minister, whose parishioners were poor domestic servants and unskilled laborers. The AME church had historically been a center of black radical politics since the 18th century. The Reverend was well-read and his views reflected the daily mandatory reading of books and religious magazines he imposed on himself and his sons. The Randolphs moved to Jacksonville in 1891, where both Asa and his older brother, James, excelled in school. Both graduated at the top of their classes at the Cookman Institute, the first high school for African Americans in Florida. With no funds for college, Randolph was reduced to menial work. In the spring of 1911, he traveled to New York with a friend, secretly hoping to become an actor. He arrived in Harlem at a time of great fervor, part of two great migrations, one by Southern blacks and the other by European immigrants. The result was an urban landscape of remarkable contrasts—tremendous ethnic diversity, congested streets, and crowded technological innovations alongside terrible poverty and overcrowded housing. Intellectually, culturally and politically, Harlem was thriving with ideas; the Harlem Renaissance was in full bloom. The European communities contributed to the spread of cultural and political ideologies of socialism and communism, and a wave of progressive reform challenged the rise of big business and industrialization. Randolph took classes at City College, and, bowing to his parents objections to an acting career, switched from drama to politics and economics, soon joining the Socialist party. During this time, Randolph met his future wife, Lucille Green, a 31-year-old widow from Christianburg, Virginia. Trained as a teacher, she quit teaching when her husband died, and became a beautician with her own salon where she maintained a lucrative business. Randolph and his wife were devoted to each other and sustained a lifelong partnership, though Randolph’s radical activities often cost Lucille clientele. Randolph soon made another long-term acquaintance, Chandler Owen, a student from North Carolina, studying sociology and political science at Columbia University. The two shared political ideas and would soon become soap box orators and establish The Messenger, a radical Harlem magazine, in 1917. The formation of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was considered the first serious effort to organize [a union at] the Pullman Company. The Pullman Company was among the most powerful business organizations in the country, and it viciously resisted efforts to unionize. After federal control of the railroads ended in 1920, Pullman created a company union to stifle outside organization efforts. The porters sought out Randolph because they considered him a good orator, a tireless fighter for the rights of African Americans and, most importantly, because he was not a porter, he was immune from Pullman vengeance. In August of 1925, the BSCP was officially launched. With recruits increasing, Pullman struck back with a spy system, threats and firings, [and] subsidized efforts by the African-American press to wage an all-out offensive against the union. Ministers and politicians joined in the attack, decrying the Brotherhood as “reds” and “Communists” who dared attack the Pullman Company, the “benefactor of the Negro race.” Randolph and the Brotherhood struggled with Pullman for 12 years. In time, the Brotherhood’s courageous battles won the admiration of many labor and liberal leaders, including the American
40 Federation of Labor (AF of L). The AF of L leadership saw the bitterly anti-Communist Brotherhood as a bastion against the influence of communism among the black working class. The churches and AfricanAmerican newspapers eventually joined the NAACP and local members of the National Urban League in supporting the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood had come to be viewed as a symbol of the African American’s claim to dignity, respect and a decent livelihood. Despite many setbacks, the Brotherhood eventually prevailed. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation guaranteed workers the right to organize and required corporations to negotiate with unions. In 1935, the Pullman Company was forced to sit down with the Brotherhood. Randolph moved to secure formal affiliation with the AF of L and was finally granted an international charter. . . . In 1937, the Brotherhood . . . finally obtained a contract with the Pullman Company, the first contract ever between a company and a black union. Randolph emerged as one of the first major black labor leaders in the country. Randolph . . . became a very visible national spokesperson for African-American rights in the 1940s and 1950s. He focused his attention on the rising number of blacks on relief and the number of defense industry jobs that were increasing with the war effort heating up. These jobs traditionally excluded blacks. Randolph proposed the March on Washington—a mass action protest to demand change. The African-American community embraced the plan enthusiastically, and a band of young militants threw themselves into the project with fervor. Under pressure, President Roosevelt finally signed an executive order banning discrimination within the government and among the defense industries that won government contracts. A Fair Employment Practices Committee was set up to implement the order. Randolph called off the march. The young militants felt betrayed, even though Randolph reminded them that the executive order was what they had sought. In 1947, Randolph again clashed with a president over civil rights for African Americans. President Truman called for a peacetime draft, but failed to include a provision against segregation. Randolph founded the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training. Within a year, the group became the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation and called for blacks to refuse to register for the draft or to serve if called. Truman met with Randolph and other African-American leaders, but refused to be persuaded. Amid dissension in the black community, Randolph testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and continued to pressure Truman. At last the president relented: On July 26, 1948, Truman issued an executive order barring discrimination in the military. Believing they had achieved their purpose, Randolph called off the non-violent civil disobedience campaign, again angering the young militants who were hungry for action. By the early 1950s, the civil rights movement was coalescing. Brown v. the Board of Education was before the Supreme Court. The Montgomery bus boycott was heating up in Alabama and with its subsequent success, Martin Luther King, Jr., suddenly came to the nation’s attention. Randolph had successes with progress in government practices, but there continued to be troubles for blacks in organized labor. . . . George Meany—a friendly, but old protagonist of Randolph’s—became head of the new [AFLCIO]. When Randolph stood to make his annual address against racism at the 1959 convention, Meany, pressured by the civil rights movement, rebuffed Randolph angrily. Randolph’s fights inside the AFL-CIO were taking place in the late 1950s during a time of harsh economic recession that was disproportionately affecting blacks. Randolph called for a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Bayard Rustin—one of the young militants who had denounced Randolph in the 1940s as a reactionary sell-out—made peace with Randolph by the ’50s and became the chief organizer. Trade unions provided organizational and financial support, although Meany refused to endorse the march. Randolph was a bridge between the many different groups participating in the march and kept the coalition from splintering. The march took place on August 28, 1963. It was an emotional event for Randolph, whose wife Lucille had died a few months before. A crowd of 250,000 participated in a peaceful demonstration. Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders met with President Kennedy afterward. Within a
41 year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. Over the next decade, Randolph became entrenched as the elder statesman of the civil rights movement. When he died in 1979, Randolph’s funeral was attended by a host of luminaries led by President Jimmy Carter. Jack Johnson - Ron Flatter, writing for ESPN.com, poses this “easy question: Who was the man named Jack who broke a color barrier in sports?” [Jackie Robinson, right?] “Harder question: Name another. “ . . . In 1908, 39 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, there was Jack Johnson—the first black man to hold the world heavyweight championship. “Johnson is still considered one of the best, most powerful counter-punchers who ever stepped in a ring. Once he won the title, he would not relinquish it for more than six years. But Johnson is often remembered more for a flamboyant lifestyle that, coupled with his skin color in ‘White America,’ inspired unprecedented controversy and even rioting. “He transformed himself from the docks of Galveston, Texas, [born March 31, 1878, John Arthur Johnson would spend much of his childhood working on the boats and sculleries of his native Galveston] to early 20th-century glitterati. He had his own jazz band, owned a Chicago nightclub, acted on stage, drove flashy yellow sports cars, reputedly walked his pet leopard while sipping champagne, flaunted gold teeth that went with his gold-handled walking stick and boasted of his conquests of whites— both in and out of the ring. “Johnson kept the company of some of his era’s most desired women, most of them white: Moulin Rouge star Mistinguette. German spy Mata Hari. Sex symbols Lupe Velez and Mae West. Johnson was romantically linked to all. “Johnson was also a fugitive for seven years, having been accused of violating a white slavery act with a woman who would become his third wife. “All these things would have been lost in obscurity were it not for the fact Johnson was the most dominant boxer of his time. The Ring Record Book lists his record as 79-8 with 46 knockouts, 12 draws and 14 no-decisions. “If there was one fight that forged Johnson’s celebrity, it was against Jim Jeffries, the former heavyweight champ who had been in retirement five years. Famed promoter Tex Rickard lured more than 22,000 fans to Reno, Nev., on July 4, 1910, for the first ‘Fight of the Century,’ the bout matching the outspoken African American against ‘The Great White Hope.’ Johnson became the first to floor Jeffries, whose corner gave up in the 15th round. ‘I could never have whipped Johnson at my best,’ Jeffries said. ‘I couldn’t have hit him. No, I couldn’t have reached him in 1,000 years.’. . . “After whipping Jeffries, Johnson didn’t fight for two years, but he made waves out of the ring. In January 1911, he married . . . Etta Duryea, a white divorced woman from high society. The marriage ended tragically only eight months later, when Duryea committed suicide. “A week after successfully defending his championship against Jim Flynn on July 4, 1912, Johnson opened Cafe de Champion, his Chicago nightclub. That year, he was frequently in the company of Lucille Cameron, a white secretary. . . . [Soon] Johnson was charged with taking Cameron across state lines for ‘immoral purposes,’ a violation of the Mann white slavery act. With the charge hanging over him, Johnson married Cameron on Dec. 4, 1912. [Still,] the following spring, Johnson was convicted, sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $1,000. Johnson was free pending an appeal when he and Cameron fled the country. “Johnson spent the next seven years on the lam. In Paris, he took on a series of farcical matches against wrestlers. He fought exhibitions in Buenos Aires for measly purses. . . . Johnson went to Spain, then Mexico, fighting off and on until he returned to America and surrendered to federal authorities in
42 1920. He was sent to prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he boxed five times before being released on July 9, 1921. “In his 40s, Johnson fought in Cuba, Canada and Mexico before returning to the United States for the last two sanctioned fights of his career—knockout losses in Kansas to Ed ‘Bearcat’ Wright and Big Bill Hartwell in the spring of 1928. Johnson was 50. “By then, Johnson had divorced Cameron and married Irene Pineau, another white woman. If that wedding was not perceived as trouble enough for Johnson, his non-sanctioned fights in 1931 against Brad Simmons led to his being banned from boxing in Kansas. “If Johnson lived in the fast lane, he died there literally—in an automobile accident in Raleigh, N.C., on June 10, 1946. He was 68. Eight years later, he became a charter member of the Boxing Hall of Fame [in Canastota, NY].” Marian Anderson - Our source for this bio is once again the Hall of Black Achievement: “Marian Anderson, who has often been called ‘the world’s greatest contralto,’ perhaps had a greater influence in opening doors for other black singers than anyone else. She was the first black artist to become famous on the concert stage and the first black soloist to sing with the Metropolitan Opera of New York City. “Ms. Anderson, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in February 1902, was the oldest daughter of John and Anna Anderson. From an early age, she had an interest in music; she learned to play the piano and was singing in Union Baptist Church at the age of 6. At the age of 8, she gave her first concert. Although untrained, her talent and versatility were immediately obvious, because she was able to sing soprano, alto, tenor, and even bass parts. With the help of her high school principal and black actor John T. Butler, Ms. Anderson met the famous voice teacher Guiseppe Boghetti. At first, Boghetti was not impressed with what he heard. However, after she sang her rendition of the Negro spiritual, ‘Deep River,’ he changed his mind. “Aided by a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, Ms. Anderson studied abroad in Germany. She understood that to be successful in America’s opera houses, a European reputation had to be established. She made her European debut in Berlin and was invited to tour the Scandinavian countries, where she sang in both Swedish and Finnish, and before King Gustav of Sweden and King Christian of Denmark. Ms. Anderson became a star attraction in Europe. In 1935, during her debut in France, she met the American impresario Sol Hurok. Hurok was so impressed with her singing that he offered her a management contract that would feature her in 15 concert halls throughout America. “Upon her return to the United States, Marian Anderson performed at New York’s Town Hall as a renowned artist. With Hurok’s backing, she walked through doors that had been previously closed to blacks. It was not long before Ms. Anderson became a prima donna. In 1936, she was asked to give a performance at the White House. She confessed that this occasion was the first time that she had really been frightened on stage. She and Eleanor Roosevelt became close friends, and that friendship became evident with the Daughters of the American Revolution affair. Despite Ms. Anderson’s tremendous success, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform in Constitution Hall in 1939. The public outcry was so great over this issue that Mrs. Roosevelt withdrew her membership from the organization. The White House made arrangements for Ms. Anderson to give her concert on Easter Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before an audience of 75,000. She sang from Handel, Hayden and Schubert, but her repertoire also included spirituals. Ms. Anderson said the spirituals gave an aura of faith, simplicity, humility and hope. Later, she did sing at Constitution Hall. “For more than 30 years, Marian Anderson toured widely throughout the world and broke many racial barriers. She received many honorary degrees and awards for her achievements in the field of music. Some of them were: a request for a command performance by the British Crown; a decoration from the government of Finland, the Spingarn Medal; the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963; the first
43 black to receive a Congressional Gold Medal; and she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.” Paul Robeson - [Some of this information comes from the website of the Swiss Peace Movement.] Paul Robeson—singer, actor, civil rights activist, law school graduate, athlete, scholar, author—was perhaps the best known and most widely respected black American of the 1930s and 1940s. Robeson was also a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union, and a man, later in his life, widely vilified and censored for his frankness and unyielding views on issues to which public opinion ran contrary. As a young man, Robeson was virile, charismatic, eloquent, and powerful. He learned to speak more than 20 languages in order to break down the barriers of race and ignorance throughout the world, and yet, as Sterling Stuckey pointed out in the New York Times Book Review, for the last 25 years of his life his was “a great whisper and a greater silence in black America.” Born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898, Robeson was spared most of the daily brutalities suffered Robeson in Rutgers honor by African Americans around the turn of the century. But . . . Robeson’s society garb mother died from a stove-fire accident when he was six [and] his father, a runaway slave who became a pastor, was removed from an early ministerial position. Nonetheless, from his father Robeson learned diligence and an “unshakable dignity and courage in spite of the press of racism and poverty.” These characteristics, Stuckey noted, defined Robeson’s approach in his beliefs and actions throughout his life. . . . Robeson received a scholarship to Rutgers College (now University), where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and chosen valedictorian in his senior. He earned varsity letters in four sports and was named Rutgers’ first AllAmerican in football. Fueled by his class prophecy to be “the leader of the colored race in America,” Robeson went on to earn a law degree from Columbia University, supporting himself by playing professional football on the weekends. After graduation he obtained a position with a New York law firm only to have his career halted, as was recalled in Martin Baulm Duberman’s Paul Robeson, when a stenographer refused to take down a memo, saying, “I never take dictation from a nigger.” Sensing this episode as indicative of the climate of the law, Robeson left the bar. While in law school, Robeson had married fellow Columbia student Eslanda Cardozo Goode, who encouraged him to act in amateur theatrical productions. Convinced by his wife and friends to return to the theatre . . . , Robeson joined the Provincetown Players, a group associated with playwright Eugene O’Neill. Two productions in which he starred, The Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings, brought Robeson critical acclaim. Contemporary drama critic George Jean Nathan, quoted by Newsweek’s Hubert Saal, called Robeson “thoroughly eloquent, impressive, and convincing.” Thus Robeson continued on the stage, winning applause from critics and audiences, gaining an international reputation for his performances on the London stage, and eventually extending his acting repertoire to include films. His stage presence was undeniable, and with the musical Show Boat and Shakespeare’s Othello, Robeson’s reputation grew even larger. In Show Boat he sang the immensely popular “Ol’ Man River,” displaying a powerful, warm, soothing voice. Robeson, realizing his acting range was limited both by the choice of roles available to him as a black performer and by his own acting abilities, turned to singing full time as an outlet for his creative energies and growing social convictions. Robeson had been giving solo vocal performances since 1925, but it wasn’t until he traveled to Britain that his singing became for him a moral cause. Robeson related years later in his autobiography, Here I Stand, that in England he “learned that the essential character of a nation is determined not by the upper classes, but by the common people, and that the common people of all nations are truly brothers in the great family of mankind.” Consequently, he began singing spirituals and work songs to audiences of common citizens and learning the languages and folk songs of other cultures, for “they, too, were close to my heart and expressed the same soulful quality that I knew in Negro music.” Nathan Irvin Huggins,
44 writing in the Nation, defined this pivotal moment: “[Robeson] found the finest expression of his talent. His genuine awe of and love for the common people and their music flourished throughout his life and became his emotional and spiritual center.” Continued travels throughout Europe in the 1930s brought Robeson in contact with members of politically left-leaning organizations, including socialists and African nationalists. Singing to, and moving among, the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the working classes, Robeson began viewing “himself and his art as serving the struggle for racial justice for nonwhites and economic justice for workers of the world,” Huggins noted. A critical journey at that time, one that changed the course of his life, was to the Soviet Union. Paul Robeson author Duberman depicted Robeson’s time there: “Nights at the theatre and opera, long walks with [film director Sergei] Eisenstein, gala banquets, private screenings, trips to hospitals, children’s centers, factories . . . all in the context of a warm embrace.” Robeson was ecstatic with this new-found society, concluding, according to New York Times Book Review contributor John Patrick Diggins, “that the country was entirely free of racial prejudice and that Afro-American spiritual music resonated to Russian folk traditions. ‘Here, for the first time in my life . . . I walk in full human dignity.’” Diggins went on to assert that Robeson’s “attraction to Communism seemed at first more anthropological than ideological . [and that] Robeson convinced himself that American blacks as descendants of slaves had a common culture with Russian workers as descendants of serfs.” . . . Robeson soon became a vocal advocate of communism and other left-wing causes. He returned to the United States in the late 1930s, Newsweek’ s Saal observed, becoming “a vigorous opponent of racism, picketing the White House, refusing to sing before segregated audiences, starting a crusade against lynching, and urging Congress to outlaw racial bars in baseball.” After World War II, when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union froze into the Cold War, many former advocates of communism backed away from it. When the crimes of Soviet leader Josef Stalin became public— forced famine, genocide, political purges—still more advocates left the ranks of communism. Robeson, however, was not among them. . . . Robeson could not publicly decry the Soviet Union . . . because “the cause, to his mind,” Nation contributor Huggins theorized, “was much larger than the Soviet Union, and he would do nothing to sustain the feeding frenzy of the American right.” In his The political orator autobiography Robeson recounted how, during the infamous McCarthy hearings, when questioned by a Congressional committee about why he didn’t stay in the Soviet Union, he replied, “Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay right here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Robeson’s popularity soon plummeted in response to his increasing rhetoric. After he urged black youths not to fight if the United States went to war against the Soviet Union, a riot prevented his appearing at a concert in Peekskill, New York. In 1950 the U.S. Department of State revoked Robeson’s passport, ensuring that he would remain in the United States. “He was black-listed by concert managers,” [effectively ending what remained of his singing career]. Robeson’s passport was restored in 1958 after a Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, but it was of little consequence. By then he had become a nonentity. When Robeson’s autobiography was published that year, leading literary journals . . . . Robeson traveled again to the Soviet Union, but his health began to fail. He tried twice to commit suicide. “Pariah status was utterly alien to the gregarious Robeson. He became depressed at the loss of contact with audiences and friends, and suffered a series of breakdowns that left him withdrawn and dependent on psychotropic drugs,” Dennis Drabble explained in Smithsonian. Slowly deteriorating and virtually unheard from in the 1960s and 1970s, Robeson died after suffering a stroke in 1976. During his life Paul Robeson inspired thousands with his voice—raised in speech and song. [His
45 awards included the Badge of Veterans of Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the Spanish Civil War, 1939; a Donaldson Award for outstanding lead performance, 1944, for Othello; an American Academy of Arts and Letters medal, 1944; the NAACP Spingarn Medal, 1945; Champion of African Freedom Award, National Church of Nigeria, 1950; the Afro-American Newspapers Award, 1950; the Stalin Peace Prize; and the Whitney M. Young, Jr., National Memorial Award, Urban League of Greater New York, 1972. He was given honorary degrees from Rutgers University, Hamilton College, Morehouse College, Howard University, Moscow State Conservatory, and Humboldt University.] . . . His life, full of desire and achievement, passion and conviction, “the story of a man who did so much to break down the barriers of a racist society, only to be brought down by the controversies sparked by his own radical politics,” . . . Diggins pronounced, “is at once an American triumph and an American tragedy.” Why Title This Play Constant Star? Ida B. Wells’ favorite source for quotations is Shakespeare, and Constant Star may be traced to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act III, sc. 1): Caesar: I could be well moved if I were as you; But I am constant as the Northern Star, Of whose true-fixed and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament. The Northern Star or North Star was the only guide many slaves had as they attempted to escape slavery in the south for freedom in the north or Canada. While Wells’ parents never fled their owners they undoubtedly would have known about following the North Star, or, as the popular song had it, “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” Indeed, Ida’s repeated description of her father’s hand as a 5-pointed star may also be references to this well-known escape route. The Star’s importance to African Americans seeking freedom. While the webpage is written for elementary students I include it here because it is so complete. During the era of slavery in the United States, many slaves fled to freedom in the North. In order to reduce the numbers of escaping slaves, owners kept slaves illiterate and totally ignorant of geography. Owners even went so far as to try to keep slaves from learning how to tell directions. Their attitude is demonstrated by a statement from one of the overseers in the movie Roots: “I don’t take to nigga’s off the plantation. This way they don’t know which way is east, which way it is to the west. Once they have figured where someplace else is—next thing you know, they’ll know which way is the north.” Nonetheless, slaves knew perfectly well freedom lay to the north, and they knew how to locate north. They used the North Star, or as it is more correctly named, Polaris. Polaris lies almost directly north in the sky. Slaves fled using the simple direction “walk towards the North Star.” However, unable to plan a route, they risked walking into impassable or dangerous terrain. Members of the Underground Railroad were fully aware of the predicament of fleeing slaves. About 1831 the Railroad began to send travelers into the South to secretly teach slaves specific routes they could navigate using Polaris. By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, about 500 people a year were traveling in the South teaching routes to slaves, and well established escape routes had been established. Scholars estimate that 60,000 to 100,000
46 slaves successfully fled to freedom. Polaris became a symbol of freedom to slaves as well as a guide star. As soon as they were old enough to understand, slave children were taught to locate Polaris by using the stars of the Big Dipper. (The two stars at the end of the bowl of the Big Dipper point over to Polaris, the North Star, which is the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.) Instead of a fancy metal dipper, slaves used a hollowed-out gourd to scoop water out of a bucket to get a drink. So they referred to the Big Dipper as the Drinking Gourd. Slaves passed the travel instructions from plantation to plantation by song. Slaves brought from the tribal cultures of Africa the custom of creating songs to transmit factual information. In America slaves turned song into codes that secretly transmitted information they wished to keep from whites. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is a coded song that gives the route for an escape from Alabama and Mississippi. Of all the routes out of the Deep South, this is the only one for which the details survive. The route instructions were given to slaves by an old man named Peg Leg Joe. Working as an itinerant carpenter, he spent winters in the South, moving from plantation to plantation, teaching slaves this escape route. Unfortunately, we know nothing more about Peg Leg Joe. The song and its translation are as follows: When the sun comes back and the first quail calls, Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is waiting for to carry you to freedom, If you follow the Drinking Gourd. “When the sun comes back” means winter and spring when the angle of the sun above the horizon at noon is getting higher each day. Quail are migratory birds which winter in the South. The Drinking Gourd is the Big Dipper. The old man is Peg Leg Joe. The verse tells slaves to leave in the winter and walk towards the Drinking Gourd. Eventually they will meet a guide who will escort them for the remainder of the trip. Most escapees had to cross the Ohio River which is too wide and too swift to swim. The Railroad struggled with the problem of how to get escapees across, and with experience, came to believe the best crossing time was winter. Then the river was frozen, and escapees could walk across on the ice. Since it took most escapees a year to travel from the South to the Ohio, the Railroad urged slaves to start their trip in winter in order to be at the Ohio River the next winter. The river bank makes a very good road, The dead trees show you the way, Left foot, peg foot, traveling on Follow the Drinking Gourd. This verse taught slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north looking for dead trees that were marked with drawings of a left foot and a peg foot. The markings distinguished the Tombigbee from other north-south rivers that flow into it. The river ends between two hills, Follow the Drinking Gourd. There’s another river on the other side, Follow the Drinking Gourd. These words told the slaves that when they reached the headwaters of the Tombigbee, they were to continue north over the hills until they met another river. Then they were to travel north along the new river which is the Tennessee River. A number of the southern escape routes converged on the Tennessee.
47 Where the great big river meets the little river, Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is awaiting to carry you to freedom if you Follow the Drinking Gourd. This verse told the slaves the Tennessee joined another river. They were to cross that river (which is the Ohio River), and on the north bank, meet a guide from the Underground Railroad.
An Excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ “Lynch Law in the South,” 1892 Whatever may be said of their weakness when required to hold a white man or a rich man, the meshes of the law are certainly always strong enough to hold or punish a poor man or a Negro. In this case there is neither color to blind, money to corrupt, nor powerful friends to influence court or jury against the claims of justice. All the presumptions of law and society are against the Negro. In the days of slavery he was presumed to be a slave, even if free, and his word was never taken against that of a white man. To be accused was to be condemned, and the same spirit prevails today. This state of opinion in the South not only assures by law the punishment of black men, but enables white men to escape punishment by assuming the color of the Negro in order to commit crime. It is often asserted that all Negroes look alike, and it is only necessary to bring one of the class into the presence of an accuser to have him at once identified as the criminal. . . . I, however, freely confess that the present prospect has for me a gloomy side. When men sow the wind it is rational to expect that they will reap the whirlwind. It is evident to my mind that the Negro will not always rest a passive subject to the violence and bloodshed by which he is now pursued. If neither law nor public sentiment shall come to his relief, he will devise methods of his own. It should be remembered that the Negro is a man, and that in point of intelligence he is not what he was a hundred years ago. Whatever may be said of his failure to acquire wealth, it cannot be denied that he has made decided progress in the acquisition of knowledge; and he is a poor student of the natural history of civilization who does not see that the mental energies of this race, newly awakened and set in motion, must continue to advance. Character, with its moral influence; knowledge, with its power; and wealth, with its respectability, are possible to it as well as to other races of men. In arguing upon what will be the action of the Negro in case he continues to be the victim of lynch law I accept the statement often made in his disparagement, that he is an imitative being; that he will do what he sees other men do. He has already shown this facility, and he illustrates it all the way from the prize ring to the pulpit; from the plow to the professor’s chair. The voice of nature, not less than the Book of books [the Bible], teaches us that oppression can make even a wise man mad, and in such case the responsibility for madness will not rest upon the man but upon the oppression to which he is subjected. How can the South hope to teach the Negro the sacredness of human life while it cheapens it and profanes it by the atrocities of mob law? The stream cannot rise higher than its source. The morality of the Negro will reach no higher point than the morality and religion that surround him. He reads of what is being done in the world in resentment of oppression and needs no teacher to make him understand what he reads. In warning the South that it may place too much reliance upon the cowardice of the Negro, I am not advocating violence by the Negro, but pointing out the dangerous tendency of his constant persecution. The Negro was not a coward at Bunker Hill; he was not a coward in Haiti; he was not a coward in the late war for the Union; he was not a coward at Harper’s Ferry, with John Brown; and care should be taken against goading him to acts of desperation by continuing to punish him for heinous crimes of which he is not legally convicted. . . Now, where rests the responsibility for the lynch law prevalent in the South? It is evident that it is
48 not entirely with the ignorant mob. The men who break open jails and with bloody hands destroy human life are not alone responsible. These are not the men who make public sentiment. They are simply the hangmen, not the court, judge, or jury. They simply obey the public sentiment of the South, the sentiment created by wealth and respectability, by the press and the pulpit. A change in public sentiment can be easily effected by these forces whenever they shall elect to make the effort. Let the press and the pulpit of the South unite their power against the cruelty, disgrace, and shame that is settling like a mantle of fire upon these lynch-law states, and lynch law itself will soon cease to exist. Nor is the South alone responsible for this burning shame and menace to our free institutions. Wherever contempt of race prevails, whether against African, Indian, or Mongolian, countenance and support are given to the present peculiar treatment of the Negro in the South. The finger of scorn in the North is correlated to the dagger of the assassin in the South. The sin against the Negro is both sectional and national, and until the voice of the North shall be heard in emphatic condemnation and withering reproach against these continued ruthless mob-law murders, it will remain equally involved with the South in this common crime. . . . Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s awakening to the realities of lynching From: her Crusade for Justice Like many another person who had read of lynching in the South, I had accepted the idea meant to be conveyed--that although lynching was irregular and contrary to law and order, unreasoning anger over the terrible crime of rape led to the lynching; that perhaps the brute deserved death anyhow and the mob was justified in taking his life. But Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Lee Stewart [co-owners of the People’s Grocery ], had been lynched in Memphis, one of the leading citites of the South, in which no lynching had taken place before, with just as much brutality as other victims of the mob; and they had committed no crime against white women. This is what opened my eyes to what lynching really was. An excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized and “keep the nigger down.” I then began an investigation of every lynching I read about. I stumbled on the amazing record that every case of rape reported in that three months [between the People’s Grocery attack and the destruction of the offices of the Free Speech, my newspaper] became such only when it became public. Many cases were like that of the lynching which happened in Tunica County, Mississippi. The Associated Press reporter said, “The big burly brute was lynched because he had raped the seven-yearold daughter of the shriff.” I visited the place afterward and saw the girl, who was a grown woman more than seventeen years old. She had been found in the lynched Negro’s cabin by her father, who had led the mob against him inorder to save his daughter’s reputation. That Negro was a helper on the farm. [Ed. note: rather like the situation in To Kill a Mockingbird.] In Natchez, Mississippi, one of the most beautiful homes of one of the leaders of society was pointed out to me. I was told the story of how the mistress of that home had given birth to a child unmistakably dark, and how her colored coachman left town on hearing the news. The Memphis Scimitar published the sotry of how a young girl who had made the mistake of awaiting [the birth of her child] in the home kind-hearted women provided for such cases; how she, too, had given birth to a colored child, and because she would not tell the name of the “rapist” that she was bundled out of the home to the public ward of the county hospital . . . I also found that what the white man of the South practiced as all right for himself [that is, intimate relations with black women], he assumed to be unthinkable in white women. The could and did fall in love with the pretty mulatto and quadroon girls as well as black one, but they professed an inability to imagine white women doing the same thing with Negro and mulatto men. Whenever [white women] did so and were found out, the cry of rapre was raised, and the lowest element of the white South was turned loose to wreak its fiendish cruelty on those too weak to help themselves.
49 No torture of helpless victims . . . exceeded the cold-blooded savagery of white devils under lynch law. None of the hideous murders by butchers of Nero to make a Roman holiday exceeded these burnings alive of black human beings. This was done by white men who controlled all the forces of law and order in their communities and who could have legally punished rapists and murderers, especially black men who had neither political power nor financial strength with which to evade any justly deserved fate. The more I studied the situation, the more I was convinced that the Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income. The federal laws for Negro protection passed during Reconstruction times had been made a mockery by the white South where it had not secured their repeal. This same white South had secured political control of its several states, and as soon as white southerners came into power they began to make playthings of Negro lives and property. This still seemed not enough to “keep the nigger down.” Hence came lynch law to stifle Negro manhood which defended itself, and the burning alive of Negroes who were weak enough to accept favors from white women. The many unspeakable and unprintable tortures to which Negro rapists (?) of white women were subjected were for the purpose of striking terror into the hearts of other Negroes who might be thinking of consorting with willing white women. I found that in order to justify these horrible atrocities to the world, the Negro was being branded as a race of rapists, who were especially mad after white women. I found that white men who had created a race of mulattoes by raping and consorting with Negro women were still doing so wherever they could, these same white men lynched, burned, and tortured Negro men for doing the same thing with white women; even when the white women were willing “victims.” . . “Iola” on Discrimination From: Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement We howl about the discrimination exercised by other races, unmindful that we are guilty of the same thing. The spirit that keeps Negroes out of the colleges and places him by himself, is the same that drives him in the smoking car; the spirit that makes colored men run excursions with “a separate car for our white friends,” etc., provides separate seats for them when they visit our concerts, exhibitions, etc., is the same that sends the Negro to theatres and church galleries and second class waiting rooms; the feeling that prompts colored barbers, hotel keepers and the like to refuse accommodation to their own color is the momentum that sends a Negro right about when he presents himself at any similar first-class establishment run by white men; the shortsightedness that insists on separate Knights of Labor Assemblies for colored men, is the same power that forces them into separate Masonic and Odd Fellow lodges. Consciously and unconsciously we do as much to widen the breach already existing and to keep prejudice alive as the other race. There was not a separate school in the State of California until the colored people asked for it. To say we wish to be to ourselves is a tacit acknowledgement of the inferiority that they take for granted anyway. The ignorant man who is so shortsighted has some excuse, but he man or men who deliberately yield or barter the birthright of the race for money, position, self-aggrandizement in any form, deserve and will receive the contumely of a race made wise by experience. Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 28, 1886 Our World’s Fair Effort: Every Afro-American Should Contribute Something— Amount Already Subscribed. To the Friends of Equal Rights: Whereas, the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus is soon to be celebrated at Chicago by the World’s Columbian exposition; and Whereas, the absence of colored citizens from participation therein will be construed to their disadvantage by the representatives of the civilized world there assembled;
50 Therefore, the undersigned, in obedience to a request that we take under consideration the matter of setting ourselves right before the world, recommend: First. That a carefully prepared pamphlet setting forth the past and present condition of our people and their relation to American civilization be printed in English, French, German and Spanish. Second. That this pamphlet be distributed free during all the months of the World’s Columbian exposition. For this purpose liberal contributions are solicited from all who approve the objects herein set forth. As no one has been authorized to hold this money, or committee appointed to print this pamphlet, we ask the race newspapers that approve the plan to name both. We also ask these mouthpieces of the people to keep this address standing in their columns and open a subscription list for the same. This money, until the people otherwise decree, will be forwarded to Frederick Douglass at Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D.C., until May 1. F.J. Loudin Frederick Douglass Ida B. Wells
$50.00 50.00 10.00 Respectfully submitted,Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells
An Excerpt from The Fellowship Herald, ca. 1911 Wanted – Men! God give us men! A time like this demands. Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands; Men whom the lust of office does not kill; Men whom the soils of office cannot buy; Men who can stand before a demagogue, And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking! Tall men, sun crowned who live above the fog; In public duty, and in private thinking; For while the rabble with their thumb-worn creeds Their large professions and their little deeds Mingle in selfish strife, lo freedom weeps, Wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps.
The Reign of Mob Law: Iola’s Opinion of Doings in the Southern Field New York Age, Feb. 18, 1893 The lynching epidemic still rages in Texas. Gov. Hogg denounced the lynchers who burned Henry Smith as murderers, telegraphed the district attorney and sheriff of Lamar County, where the burning occurred, “to discharge their duty and make complaint and report those known to have been engaged in the lynching.” . . . The mob has so little fear and so great contempt of the governor, the sheriff and the district attorney that it went a few days later [on] February 7 and lynched Will Butler. Will Butler was a stepson of Henry Smith, the man who was burned alive, and made himself notorious during the search for Smith by “claiming to know his whereabouts which he would not divulge”—so said the dispatches. Hence, because Will Butler did not tell where his stepfather was, he too
51 was lynched. . . . New Orleans, Jan. 21—A mob of masked men broke into the jail last night at Convent, St. Joseph Parish, and forced the jailer to open the cells of Robert Landy and Pick George, who were incarcerated there, one for garroting and robbing a telegraph operator At Dehon Station and the other for murdering a man named Denhorst. Both were taken to a shed and lynched. Our race still sits and does nothing about it and say little except to doubt the expediency of or find fault with the remedy proposed. No plan of raising money by which the things can be investigated, the country aroused and the temple of justice, the pulpit and the press besieged until public opinion shall demand a cessation of the reign of barbarism, lynch law and stake burning. No money and little support to give to this work, but some of our prominent men and women have put their names on a circular asking the race to give entertainments on March 9, to raise money to defray the expenses of a most comfortable “day of praise” at the World Fair August 17, to be known as “Afro American Jubilee Day.” . . . The Persistance of Lynching These excerpted newspaper articles were collected in 100 Years of Lynching. They date from the mid1950s, about the time the modern civil rights movement began, twenty years after Ida B. Wells-Barnett had died. End of Lynching (Washington Post editorial, January 2, 1954) One of the best year-end news items has come out of Tuskegee Institute. For two successive years the nation has had no lynching. At least for the present the blot that had so long stained the American record and poisoned the relations between the white and colored races has been lifted. While Tuskegee will continue to compile lynching statistics, its president, Dr. L.H. Foster, reports realistically that its annual report on this subject has had its significance as a yardstick of race relations. The current report will be especially gratifying to those who have believed that the states, themselves, under the impact of an aroused public opinion, could wipe out this especially heinous type of crime. To be sure, there are still would-be lynchers in the South and in other parts of the country. Lynchings were prevented last year in Alabama, New York and Arizona. But law enforcement is always a matter of eternal vigilance. There is good reason to believe that, having wiped out this offense to American civilization, the states will continue to maintain their new record. 15-Year-Old is Lynched; Wolf-Whistled at White (Washington Post-Times-Herald, 9/1/1955) Greenwood, MS, August 31—The body of a 15-year-old Chicago Negro who had disappeared after he allegedly made “fresh” remarks to a white woman was found floating in the Tallahatchie River today. He had been shot through the head. Two white men, one of them the husband of the woman allegedly insulted by the boy, earlier had been charged with kidnapping the victim, Emmett Till, from the home of his relatives here. In New York, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, branded the slaying a “lynching.” A 125-pound cotton-gin blower had been tied to the boy’s neck to make his body sink but his feet floated to the surface, leading to the discovery. A coroner’s jury ruled that death was due to the gunshot in the temple. In addition to the bullet wound, the top of Till’s head was smashed, the medical examination disclosed. Leflore County authorities had charged Roy Bryant, a white storekeeper in the nearby Money community, and his half-brother, W.J. Milan, with kidnapping Till. Sheriff George Smith said the boy was abducted because of the allegedly insulting remarks made to Mrs. Bryant in the Bryants’ country store the night before.
52 Bryant and Milan, however, told police they released the boy unharmed after Mrs. Bryant told them he was “not the one” who had made offensive remarks to her. The Bryants were said to have become offended when Till, who had visited the store with other teenagers, spoke to Mrs. Bryant and waved “good-bye.” Some bystanders said that Till had sounded the two notes of the wolf whistle at Mrs. Bryant. While the NAACP called on the government and Gov. Hugh White to take quick action in the case, the governor said at Jackson he had not heard from anyone about the Till boy’s death. Referring to the NAACP, he said: “They’re in the press all the time, that gang.” 4,733 Mob Action Victims since ’82, Tuskegee Reports (Montgomery Advertiser, 4/26/1959) Tuskegee, AL, April 25—While lynchings have about reached the vanishing point in recent years, Tuskegee Institute records show 4,733 persons have died from mob action since 1882. Except for 1955, when three lynchings were reported in Mississippi, none has been recorded at Tuskegee since 1951. In 1945, 1947, and 1951 only one case per year was reported. There must be legal evidence that a person was killed. That person must have met death illegally. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition. . Miss Ida B. Wells and Memphis Lynching David M. Tucker istory, as it has been written, is largely the story of men: the ladies have been confined to the home and to the local society page. Certainly nothing but this venerable tradition could have kept American historians, who have rarely published articles about any individual woman, from recognizing the significance of a Negro lady, Miss Ida B. Wells. For in the long struggle against lynching in the South, Miss Wells deserves more credit than any other individual, having brought this practice before the eyes of the world and, in so doing, having accelerated the establishment of law and decency in the American South. Born in 1862, the daughter of house servants in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Miss Wells became a school teacher in her early teens in order to finance her own education. She first attended the local Rust College, and later enrolled for summer sessions at Fisk University. Then, like thousands of other Mississippi Negroes, this little brown woman moved north to Memphis, the striving commercial center of the mid-South. There she taught at Kortecht Public School, became the star of local literary circles, and won admittance to Memphis black society, an aristocracy based on complexion, education, and talent. Black society bitterly resented racial discrimination in Memphis and applauded Miss Wells for her record of vigorous protest against the system. As a young teacher she had paid first-class fare in order to assert her right to ride in the railroad’s ladies’ car; and at being forced to leave, she had fought to the point of taking the Chesapeake, Ohio, & Southwestern to court in 1884. She had even won the local decision, though it was later reversed by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. After publishing an account of her struggles in the local Negro press, Miss Wells won such applause that she began to write regularly, using the pen name “Iola,” for the Negro press throughout the country. At the 1887 National AfroAmerican Press Convention she was named assistant secretary for the group and was acclaimed the most prominent correspondent for the American black press. . . . As a serious journalist, Miss Wells purchased a third interest in the most militant Memphis journal, Free Speech and Headlight. The editorial offices of Free Speech were in the Beale Street Baptist Church under the nominal editorship of the Reverend Taylor Nightingale. Since the duties of ministering to the congregation and presiding over the University of Western Tennessee, which was housed at the time within the Beale Street Church, prevented Nightingale from doing more for the weekly paper than sell it
53 from his pulpit on Sundays, the real editorial work fell to Miss Wells and to J. L. Fleming. A native of Arkansas, Fleming had received a grammar school education in Memphis before launching his own weekly, The Marion Headlight, in Crittenden County, Arkansas. The paper ran successfully until 1888, when more than a hundred Winchester-carrying whites rode into town and liberated their county from Negro rule by informing their county judge and eight other black politicians, two preachers, and one newspaper editor that the town was no longer large enough for black leaders and white Crittenden Countians. Fleming had retreated east to join forces with Taylor Nightingale and Miss Ida B. Wells The new Free Speech and Headlight soon found itself facing a racial crisis in Memphis. While for almost a quarter of a century Memphis Negroes had been able to vote, hold public office, and serve on the city police force, a new generation of young Memphians were now launching a campaign to end participation by Negroes in politics and to reestablish white supremacy. “The older men have been contemplating the situation for, Io, these many years,” the young white editor of the Memphis Weekly Avalanche declared. “They’ve been saying, ‘If the North win let us alone, we’ll work this out in time.’ The time for that sort of talk has gone by. The young men of today say, ‘We are going to work this out, and do it right now. . . and the North can do all the howling it wants to.’” The determination of young white racists to overthrow Reconstruction was met by militant opposition from the Negro community, and Free Speech and Headlight was the voice of this black protest against white backlash in the late eighteen-eighties: The dailies of our city say that the whites must rule this country. But that is an expression without a thought. It must be borne in mind that the Lord is going to have something to say about this and all other government. It may be expected that the black man will press his claim ‘till Shiloh comes! The old Southern voice that was once heard and made the Negroes jump and run like rats to their holes is ‘shut up,’ or might well be, for the Negro of today is not the same as Negroes were thirty years ago, and it can’t be expected that the Negro of today will take what was forced upon him thirty years back. So it is no use to be talking now about Negroes ought to be kept at the bottom where God intended for them to stay; the Negro is not expected to stay at the bottom. The Free Speech editorials were entirely defensive, and yet they were taken as evidence of the folly of educating black men and held up as proof of the perfidy of black ministers. Since the newspaper was edited and sold in the oldest and most elegant black church in Memphis, white Memphians assumed the Reverend Nightingale was instilling the doctrine of hate rather than the gospel of love in the minds of the rising generation of blacks. The whites were particularly outraged by a Free Speech editorial supporting retaliatory violence: Those Georgetown, Ky., Negroes who set fire to the town last week because a Negro named Dudley had been lynched, show some of the true spark of manhood by their resentment. We had begun to think the Negroes of Jackson and Tullahoma, Tenn., of Forest City, Ark., and nearly the whole state of Mississippi, where lynching of Negroes has become the sport and pastime of unknown (?) white citizens, hadn’t manhood enough in them to wriggle and crawl out of the way, much less protect and defend themselves. Of one thing we may be assured, so long as we permit ourselves to be trampled upon, so long we will have to endure it. Not until the Negro rises in his might and takes a hand in resenting such cold-blooded murders, if he has to burn up whole towns, will a halt be called in wholesale lynching.
54 In reply, the outraged white Memphis press penned a justification of lynching. Though lynching was in violation of the written law, the Appeal-Avalanche pointed out, “Rev. Nightingale should reflect that there is a higher law” which provided that “the rapist must pay the penalty with his life.” This higher legislation superseded all other because the people willed it and “at such times they, the law-makers, rise above all law.” After the white press had set the Reverend Nightingale straight on the legitimacy of lynching and rigorously condemned him for publishing such a “vile, incendiary and murder-applauding article,” the civil authorities stepped in to force the minister out of the community. By exploiting a feud within Nightingale’s church in which thirteen ousted members of the Beale Street Church had brought assault and battery charges against the Reverend, the Memphis authorities were able to convict the preacher in criminal court. Nightingale was sentenced to eighty days in the county workhouse, and rather than serve the sentence he fled at once to Oklahoma. But expelling the Reverend hardly affected the city’s militant black journalism, since it had been Fleming and Miss Wells who had written and would continue to write the paper’s protest columns. It was Miss Wells’ editorials against the Memphis lynchings of 1892 which first brought her to the national attention of white America. It all began in South Memphis, on the curve of Walker Avenue and Mississippi Boulevard, where a joint stock grocery store had been organized by some of the city’s most prominent black capitalists and socialites. The Peoples’ Grocery Store, as it was called, entered competition with a white merchant, W. H. Barret, who operated a grocery just across the street. Relations between the two businesses were never friendly, and friction was eventually followed by physical violence. After several incidents, which Barret seems to have instigated himself, the white man persuaded a Shelby County grand jury to indict the officials of Peoples’ Grocery for maintaining a nuisance. Enraged, the black community held a meeting where certain speakers reportedly called for cleaning out the “damned white trash” with dynamite. At this point Barret appealed to Shelby County’s criminal court Judge DuBose, charging his competitors with conspiring against whites, and securing warrants for the arrest of two of them who had spoken out at the meeting. Barret then, it seems, had the Peoples’ Grocery informed that a white mob was planning to assault their store, so that when nine deputy sheriffs dressed in civilian clothing converged on the grocery after dark in order to deliver their arrest war- rants, they were taken for a mob and fired upon. After brief firing, in which three deputies were shot down with head and face wounds, most of the Negroes ran while the deputies rushed in and arrested Calvin McDowell, the grocery clerk, and Will Stewart, a stockholder. The cry of race riot was given and the whole of Memphis became a walking arsenal. Armed white men and boys helped the deputies round up and arrest thirty more accused rioters, among them Tom Moss, the mail carrier and Methodist Sunday school teacher who served as president of the store. Not content with arresting all accused rioters, Judge DuBose took illegal action to disarm the black community, and ordered that the arms of the Tennessee Rifles, a Negro state militia company, be confiscated. The Negro armory was forcibly entered and the rifles carried to the sheriff’s office. When neither local authorities nor the state militia commander protested the breach of law, Negro officers chose to announce the disbandment of their company in a bitter press release: “To wear the livery of a commonwealth that regards us with distrust and suspicion, a commonwealth that extracts an oath from us to defend its laws and then fails to protect us in the rights it guarantees, is an insult to our intelligence and manhood.” At three o’clock on Wednesday morning, four days after the shoot-out on the Curve, nine white men, apparently deputy sheriffs, entered the county jail, seized Tom Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Will Stewart, who were regarded as the leaders of the Peoples’ Grocery, took the prisoners a mile north of the jail, and shot them in cold blood on a vacant lot next to the Chesapeake and Ohio tracks. Thus three men were lynched in a city of over 85,000 and without the remotest chance that the murderers would ever be brought to trial. Appalled by this, the worst atrocity against blacks since the Memphis police riot of 1866, the black community turned out by the thousands for the largest funeral procession ever to have taken place
55 in Memphis. Resolutions condemning the lynchings and recommending emigration were adopted at a black town meeting; and the cries of “On to Oklahoma,” which had already been heard for several years, sent entire church congregations west, across the Mississippi, and over the Old Military Road. As many as two thousand black Memphians may have fled the city not only in search of freedom for their children, but with the vague hope that depopulating the area would cause the whites to regret their violent oppression of black people. In the weeks following the lynching, Miss Wells’ angry editorials demanded the trial and conviction of the murderers in the name of God and justice. The good colored citizens of Memphis who have been interested in and worked for the prosperity and success of the city; who stood by the white people when the plague of ’78 and ’79 threatened to sweep the town from the face of the earth, demand that the murderers of Calvin McDowell, Will Stewart and Tom Moss be brought to justice. We ask this in the name of God and in the name of the law we have always obeyed and upheld and intend to uphold and obey in the future. The journalist took the train out to Oklahoma herself to assess the territorial advantages for future Negro immigration; and at home she participated in the black community’s boycott of the Memphis city street cars. The first threats on Miss Wells’ life, however, came only after a Free Speech editorial of May 21, in which she disputed the old rationalization of the whites for lynching by intimating that Southern white women were sexually attracted to black men. In the article, which responded to the lynching of eight more Negroes that week, Miss Wells dared to comment that “nobody in this section of the country believes the old thread- bare lies that Negro men rape white women. If Southern white men are not careful they will over-reach themselves and public sentiment will have a reaction, or a conclusion will be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.” At this, the Memphis Scimitar, assuming that the article was Fleming’s, threatened that, “unless the Negroes promptly applied the remedy it would be the duty of the whites to tie the author to a stake, brand him on the forehead and perform a surgical operation on him with a pair of shears.” The Memphis Commercial agreed: “There are some things the Southern white man will not tolerate, and the obscene intimations of the foregoing have brought the writer to the outermost limit of public patience.” The white city leaders called an urgent meeting at the Merchants Exchange and voted to attempt to head off yet another lynching by sending a delegation to warn the Free Speech never to repeat such ideas or “suffer the consequences.” Not surprisingly, editors Fleming and Wells were not there to receive the committee, having chosen already to leave the Bluff City for the relative safety of the North; and the Memphis sheriff put a final end to Free Speech, selling the newspaper office and paying off the creditors. The former co-editors went their separate ways in the North: Fleming launched a Chicago Free Speech while Miss Wells joined the staffs of the New York Age and the Chicago Conservator. Relations were less than cordial between the two as Ida referred to Fleming as her former “business manager” and took credit herself for all of Free Speech’s past militancy. Whether Miss Wells had, in fact, wielded the more forceful pen is less than clear, but certainly after 1892 she alone launched the crusade against lynching in the South which gained the nation’s attention. Lynch law had reached its highest level in history and Miss Wells determined to bring the matter before the public eye. Not content with merely telling her story in the Afro-American press, she sought to present her case before an international audience. By securing the support of none less than the eminent Frederick Douglass, she wrote and financed an anti-lynching pamphlet for distribution at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. And when the British editor of Anti-Caste asked her to speak in England, Miss Wells departed for Europe immediately. In speeches and in a pamphlet, United States Atrocities (London, 1893), Miss Wells indicted lynching as the latest attempt to preserve white supremacy at any cost. The American press and pulpit
56 were afraid to resist lynching, she contended, because they had swallowed the Southern myths about black men raping white women. The chastity of white women was perfectly safe among black men, Miss Wells stressed: “White men lynch the offending Afro-American not because he is a despoiler of virtue, but because he succumbs to the smiles of white women.” She supported her claim by presenting recent items from the press about white women in Memphis who had seduced or voluntarily submitted to black men. Further to silence the Southern fiction that lynch law was only used to check the “bestial propensities of black men,” she cited statistics from the Chicago Tribune which showed that during the past nine months only one third of the men who were lynched had even been charged with rape. The newspaper woman made Memphis her prime target. Not only had she an account to settle with the white community there, but the city was an excellent example of the white South’s barbarity in general. On July 22, 1893, three thousand Memphians watched as a Saturday night crowd broke into the Shelby County jail and seized Lee Walker, an accused rapist. The mob stripped the man of his clothing, cut his throat, hanged him on a telegraph pole outside the jail, and then burned his body, without a shot ever being fired in defense of the prisoner by Sheriff McLendon. Nor would the lynchers ever be tried, for as the Appeal-Avalanche argued, “Walker was guilty—not of murder, or arson or forgery, but of rape, a crime which, whenever and wherever committed, calls for reprisal at the hands of the citizenship of the particular community.” But even Memphis had her Achilles heel: her fear for her reputation and commercial prosperity; and to the horror of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Miss Wells went to work on this weak spot, holding up the Bluff City’s sins for the world to view during two lecture trips to England in 1893 and 1894. The black American journalist had been invited to the British isles by Catherine Impey, editor of AntiCaste in Aberdeen, Scotland, who explained in a letter of March, 1893: “We want you to come over and help us begin the organization of an anti-slavery movement.” Miss Impey, a reformer who hoped that lectures on lynching would arouse moral sentiment for racial equality in the American South and throughout the British empire, guaranteed that all of Miss Wells’ expenses would be paid. The American journalist accepted the offer, began with a lecture in the Music Hall at Aberdeen, and told her story in more than a dozen cities in Scotland and England. Through lectures that were praised as lucid, cultured, and effective, Englishmen were given their first opportunity to hear and applaud the Afro-American opposition to lynch law. “Her quiet, refined manner,” the Manchester Guardian observed, “her intelligence and earnestness, her avoidance of an oratorical tricks, and her dependence upon the simple eloquence of facts makes her a powerful and convincing advocate.” British audiences were so sympathetic that Miss Wells returned again the next spring for a longer trip, which she confined in the main to London; and there she visited all the journals which influenced English opinion and spoke to more than a hundred nonconformist churches, clubs, drawing room gatherings, and dinner parties. Among her successes was a large breakfast reception for members of Parliament and their wives at the Westminster Palace Hotel, where she informed her audience of the increased frequency and barbarity of lynchings in the Southern states and the failure of either local officials or Northern opinion to insist that legal due process replace mob violence. Miss Wells then asked for and received the promise that English public opinion would endorse the basic right of a fair trial for every Southern Negro accused of a crime. Lectures produced more than applause and petitions to the American Ambassador; they won for Miss Wells special interviews with the Daily Chronicle, Christian World, Westminster Gazette, London Sun, and the Labor Leader. News clippings of these interviews soon flooded in through the mails to the white Memphis press, along with letters which asked, for example, if the city were really so brutal and heartless as they had been told in the article, “The Bitter Cry of Black America—A New Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The Memphis editors must have winced on discovering what sort of articles were published in the London Sun:
57 Miss Ida B. Wells is a negress, a young lady of little more than twenty years of age, a graceful, sweet-faced, intelligent, courageous girl. She hails from Memphis, Tenn. She is not going back there just now, because the white people are anxious to hang her up by the neck in the market place, and burn the soles of her feet, and gouge her beautiful dark eyes out with red-hot irons. This is what the Southern American white man does with a Negro or negress for preference, when he wants a holiday sensation; and when he finds a charming victim, such as this sweet girl would make, the mayor of the town orders the schools to be closed, and the little scholars turn out in holiday ribbons, and their parents don the Sunday go-to-meeting best, and lead the youngsters out by the hand. They all go out to see the fun, and have their photographs taken at the scene of martyrdom, and there is much rejoicing over the black sinner that repenteth. The “red record” of Southern whites had been so terrible, the English press reported, that Miss Wells took more pride in her black blood than in her white. “If Christianity is to be the test,” she said, “then I may well be prouder to belong to the dark race that is the most practically Christian known to history. . . .” While Southern whites had shown themselves savage and unchristian, Negroes had shown themselves meek in spirit; for centuries they had turned the left cheek when smitten on the right; they had blessed them that persecuted them; and they had prayed for those that despitefully used them. The alleged propensity of black men for raping white women, Miss Wells said, was a myth created to protect the sexual pride of white men. She said: You see, the white man has never allowed his women to hold the sentiment “black but comely,” on which he has so freely acted himself. Libertinism apart, white men constantly express an open preference for the society of black women. But it is a sacred convention that white women can never feel passion of any sort, high or low, for a black man. Unfortunately facts don’t always square with the convention; and then, if the guilty pair are found out, the thing is christened an outrage at once and the woman is practically forced to join in hounding down the partner of her shame. By quietly relating her own Memphis experiences and presenting her statistics from the Chicago Tribune, Miss Wells easily convinced her audiences of the shameful operation of Southern lynch law and of the moral obligation of English sentiment, which had once aided in the destruction of chattel slavery, to help complete the work of emancipation for American blacks. The London Daily Chronicle instructed England’s religious leaders to arouse the moral indignation of Christians in America. The Westminster Gazette said, “If a tithe [one-tenth] of the ghastly tales she tells are true, it is well-nigh incredible that this sympathy should be denied by any civilized human soul upon God’s earth, in America or out of it.��� The London Sun had little doubt that Miss Wells’ charges were true. “If her pleasant face is not an absolute guarantee of absolute truthfulness, there is no truth in existence.” Ida B. Wells thus returned from her second European tour with America and especially a certain New South city smarting under British criticism. Miss Wells’ lectures were a smashing success. For one thing, they inspired the English to form an anti-lynching league with a treasury of five thousand pounds for the purpose of investigating and publicizing the persecution of Southern Negroes in America. Naturally the merchants back in Memphis were alarmed at the impact of Ida Wells’ lectures; for being among the largest cotton exporters in the world, they depended upon the English textile industry for much of their business. It was no surprise, then, that those Chamber of Commerce capitalists who owned the local white press felt compelled to reprint certain British reports of Miss Wells’ lectures abroad in order to refute their charges against the Bluff City. The Memphis Commercial Appeal accused her of gross exaggeration and insisted that Memphis was really a decent place for blacks to live. But significantly, in this effort to repair the city’s damaged
58 reputation, newspaper editors at last condemned lynching unequivocally and even tried to make their position retroactive by insisting they had never approved mob law. When the leading authority on nineteenth century lynch law, James E. Cutler, suggested that Miss Wells’ English efforts were largely futile he failed to assess the impact of English opinion on Memphis civic leaders. Influence is difficult to measure, to be sure; but when the Memphis lynching of 1894 occurred shortly after Miss Wells’ return from England (six accused barn burners were shot while being brought to the Shelby County jail), white business leaders immediately took conspicuous steps to condemn the crime publicly. Businessmen called a public meeting in the Merchants’ Exchange where they adopted resolutions censuring the “wicked, fiendish and inexcusable massacre,” demanded the “arrest and conviction of the murderers,” and raised one fund for apprehending “the criminals” and another for the benefit of the widows and orphans of the “murdered men.” Never before had the white citizens made such a forthright condemnation of racial lynching. It was time indeed, the Commercial Appeal explained, to rise up in opposition to barbarism and murder because “if this crime goes unpunished,” the paper warned, “every friend of Memphis must be dumb before the accusations of its enemies, for silence will be our only refuge from the pitiless fire of denunciation that will be heaped upon us.” A Shelby County grand jury promptly indicted thirteen white men for murder, went on record as being appalled by the outrage, and announced their hope for conviction and the death penalty. “We cannot close this report,” the grand jury said, “without expressing our horror of the cold-blooded, brutal butchery of these six defenseless men, the cruelty of which would cause even a savage to hang his head in shame.” And although the city never succeeded in convicting the band of lynchers, the practical need to end lynching, and the new philosophy which it forced on the city’s leadership, seem to have put an end to the crime in the Bluff City for more than two decades. For this, Miss Ida B. Wells deserves the lion’s share of the credit; for it was she who had held the sins of the city up for the whole world to see and had thus shamed white Memphians into doing at last what decency and equality of law had always demanded. African Americans and the Civil War From: A Social History of the American Negro At last—after a great many men had been killed and the Emancipation Proclamation had changed the status of the Negro—enlistment was decided on. The policy was that Negroes might be non-commissioned men while white men who had seen service would be field and line officers. In general it was expected that only those who had kindly feeling toward the Negro would be used as officers, but in the pressure of military routine this distinction was not always observed. Opinion for the race gained force after the Draft Riot in New York (July 1863), when Negroes in the city were persecuted by the opponents of conscription. Soon a distinct bureau was established in Washington for the recording of all matters pertaining to Negro troops, a board was organized for the examination of candidates, and recruiting stations were set up in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee. The Confederates were indignant at the thought of having to meet black men on equal footing, and refused to exchange Negro soldiers for white men. How such action was met by Stanton, Secretary of War, may be seen from the fact that when he learned that three Negro prisoners had been placed in close confinement, he ordered three South Carolina men to be treated likewise, and the Confederate leaders to be informed of his policy. The economic advantage of enlistment was apparent. It gave work to 187,000 men who had been cast adrift by the war and who had found no place of independent labor. It gave them food, clothing, wages and protection, but most of all the feeling of self-respect that comes from profitable employment. To the men themselves the year of jubilee had come. At one great step they had crossed the gulf that separates chattels from men and they now had chance to vindicate their manhood. A common poster of the day represented a Negro soldier bearing the flag, the shackles of a slave being broken, a young Negro boy reading a newspaper, and several children going into a public school. Over all were the words: “All Slaves were made Freemen by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, January 1st , 1863. Come,
59 then, able-bodied Colored Men, to the nearest United States Camp, and fight for the Stars and Stripes.” To the credit of the men be it said that in their new position they acted with dignity and sobriety. When they picketed lines through which Southern citizens passed, they acted with courtesy at the same time that they did their duty. They captured Southern men without insulting them, and by their own selfrespect won the respect of others. Meanwhile their brothers in the South went about the day’s work, caring for the widow and the orphan; and a nation that still lynches the Negro has to remember that in all these troublous years deeds of violence against white women and girls were absolutely unknown. Throughout the country the behavior of the black men under fire was watched with the most intense interest. More and more in the baptism of blood they justified the faith forwhich their friends had fought for years. At Port Hudson, Fort Wagner, Fort Pillow, and Petersburg their courage was most distinguished. Said the New York Times of the battle at Port Hudson (1863): “General Dwight, at least, must have had the idea not only that they (the Negro troops) were men, but something more than men, from the terrific test to which he put their valor. . . . Their colors are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains.” This was the occasion on which Color-Sergeant Anselmas Planciancois said before a shell blew off his head, “Colonel, I will bring back these colors to you on honor, or report to God the reason why.” On June 6 the Negroes again distinguished themselves and won friends by their bravery at Milliken’s Bend. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, was conspicuous in the attempt to take Fort Wagner, on Morris Island near Charleston, July 18, 1863. The regiment had marched two days and two nights through swamps and drenching rains in order to be in time for the assault. In the engagement nearly all the officers of the regiment were killed, among them Colonel Shaw. The picturesque deed was that of Sergeant William H. Carney, who seized the regiment’s colors from the hands of a falling comrade, planted the flag on the Works, and said when borne bleeding and mangled from the field, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.” Fort Pillow, a position on the Mississippi, about fifty miles above Memphis, was garrisoned by 557 men, 262 of whom were Negroes, when it was attacked April 13, 1864. The fort was finally taken by the Confederates, but the feature of the engagement was the stubborn resistance offered by the Union troops in the face of great odds. In the Mississippi Valley, and in the Department of the South, the Negro had now done excellent work as a soldier. In the spring of 1864 he made his appearance in the Army of the Potomac. In July there was around Richmond and Petersburg considerable skirmishing between the Federal and the Confederate forces. Burnside, commanding a corps composed partly of Negroes, dug under a Confederate fort a trench a hundred and fifty yards long. This was filled with explosives, and on July 30 the match was applied and the famous crater formed. Just before the explosion the Negroes had figured in a gallant charge on the Confederates. The plan was to follow the eruption by a still more formidable assault, in which Burnside wanted to give his Negro troops the lead. A dispute about this and a settlement by lot resulted in the awarding of precedence to a New Hampshire regiment. Said General Grant later of the whole unfortunate episode: “General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front; I believe if he had done so it would have been a success.” After the men of a Negro regiment had charged and taken a battery at Decatur, Ala., in October, 1864, and shown exceptional gallantry under fire, they received an ovation from their white comrades “who by thousands sprang upon the parapets and cheered the regiment as it reentered the lines.” When all was over there was in the North a spontaneous recognition of the right of such men to honorable and generous treatment at the hands of the nation, and in Congress there was the feeling that if the South could come back to the Union with its autonomy unimpaired, certainly the Negro soldier should have the rights of citizenship. Before the war closed, however, there was held in Syracuse, N. Y., a convention of Negro men that threw interesting light on the problems and the feeling of the period. At this gathering John Mercer Langston was temporary chairman, Frederick Douglass, president, and Henry Highland Garnett, of Washington; James W. C. Pennington, of New York; George L. Ruffin, of Boston, and Ebenezer D. Bassett, of Philadelphia, were among the more prominent delegates. There was at the meeting a fear that some of the things that seemed to have been gained by the war might not actually be
60 realized; and as Congress had not yet altered the Constitution so as to abolish slavery, grave question was raised by a recent speech in which no less a man than Seward, Secretary of State, had said: “When the insurgents shall have abandoned their armies and laid down their arms, the war will instantly cease; and all the war measures then existing, including those which affect slavery, will cease also.” The convention thanked the President and the Thirty-Seventh Congress for revoking a prohibitory law in regard to the carrying of mails by Negroes, for abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, for recognizing Haiti and Liberia, and for the military order retaliating for the unmilitary treatment accorded Negro soldiers by the Confederate officers; and especially it thanked Senator Sumner “for his noble efforts to cleanse the statute-books of the nation from every stain of inequality against colored men,” and General Butler for the stand he had taken early in the war. At the same time it resolved to send a petition to Congress to ask that the rights of the country’s Negro patriots to be respected, and that the Government cease to set an example to those in arms against it by making invidious distinctions, based upon color, as to pay, labor and promotion. It begged especially to be saved from supposed friends: “When the Anti-Slavery Standard, representing the American Anti-Slavery Society, denies that the society asks for the enfranchisement of colored men, and the Liberator apologizes for excluding the colored men of Louisiana from the ballot-box, they injure us more vitally than all the ribald jests of the whole pro-slavery press.” Finally the convention insisted that any such things as the right to own real estate, testify in courts of law, and to sue and be sued, were mere privileges so long as general political liberty was withheld, and asked frankly not only for the formal and complete abolition of slavery in the United States, but also for the elective franchise in all the states then in the Union and in all that might come into the Union thereafter. On the whole this representative gathering showed a very clear conception of the problems facing the Negro and the country in 1864. Its reference to well-known anti-slavery publications shows not only the increasing race consciousness that came through this as through all other wars in which the country has engaged, but also the great drift toward conservatism that had taken place in the North within thirty years. Whatever might be the questions of the moment, however, about the supreme blessing of freedom there could at last be no doubt. It had been long delayed and had finally come merely as an incident to the war; nevertheless a whole race of people had passed from death unto life. Then, as before and since, they found a parallel for their experiences in the story of Jews in the Old Testament. They, too, had sojourned in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. What they could not then see, or only dimly realize, was that they needed faith—faith in God and faith in themselves—for the forty years in the wilderness. They did not yet fully know that He who guided the children of Israel and drove out before them the Amorite and the Hittite, would bring them also to the Promised Land. Counter-Reaction to White Oppression: The Negro Exodus After the withdrawal of Federal troops [following the Civil War], conditions in the South were changed so much that, especially in South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, the state of affairs was no longer tolerable. Between 1866 and 1879, more than three thousand Negroes were summarily killed. The race began to feel that a new slavery in the horrible form of peonage was approaching, and that the disposition of the men in power was to reduce the laborer to the minimum of advantages as a free man and to none at all as a citizen. The fear, which soon developed into a panic, rose especially in consequence of the work of political mobs in 1874 and 1875, and it soon developed organization. About this the outstanding fact was that the political leaders of the last few years were regularly distrusted and ignored, the movement being secret in its origin and committed either to the plantation laborers themselves or their direct representatives. In North Carolina circulars about Nebraska were distributed. In Tennessee Benjamin (“Pap”) Singleton began about 1869 to induce Negroes to go to Kansas, and he really founded two colonies with a total of 7432 Negroes from his state, paying of his own money over $600 for circulars. In Louisiana alone 70,000 names were taken of those who wished to better their condition by removal; and
61 by 1878 98,000 persons in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas were ready to go elsewhere. A convention to consider the whole matter of migration was held in Nashville in 1879. . . . At the same time much of the difference of opinion was honest; the meeting was on the whole constructive; and it expressed itself as favorable to “reasonable migration.” Already, however, thousands of Negroes were leaving their homes in the South and going in greatest numbers to Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana. Within twenty months Kansas alone received in this way an addition to her population of 40,000 persons. Many of these people arrived practically penniless and without prospect of immediate employment; but help was afforded by relief agencies in the North and they themselves showed remarkable sturdiness in adapting themselves to the new conditions. Many of the stories that the Negroes told were pathetic. Sometimes boats would not take them on, and they suffered from long exposure on the river banks. Sometimes, while they were thus waiting, agents of their own people employed by the planters tried to induce them to remain. Frequently they were clubbed or whipped. Said one: “I saw nine put in one pile, that had been killed, and the colored people had to bury them; eight others were found killed in the woods. . . . It is done this way: they arrest them for breach of contract and carry them to jail. Their money is taken from them by the jailer and it is not returned when they are let go.” Said another: “If a colored man stays away from the polls and does not vote, they spot him and make him vote. If he votes their way, they treat him no better in business. They hire the colored people to vote, and then take their pay away. I know a man to whom they gave a cow and a calf for voting their ticket. After election they came and told him that if he kept the cow he must pay for it; and they took the cow and calf away.” Another: “One man shook his fist in my face and said, ‘D- you, sir, you are my property.’ He said that I owed him. He could not show it and then said, ‘You sha’n’t go anyhow.’ All we want is a living chance.” Another: “There is a general talk among the whites and colored people that Jeff Davis will run for resident of the Southern states, and the colored people are afraid they will be made slaves again. They are already trying to prevent them from going from one plantation to another without a pass.” Another: “The deputy sheriff came and took away from me a pair of mules. He had a constable and twenty-five men with guns to back him.” Another: “Last year, after settling with my landlord, my share was four bales of cotton. I shipped it to . . . New Orleans, through W. E. Ringo & Co., merchants, at Mound Landing, Miss. I lived four miles back of this landing. I received from Ringo a ticket showing that my cotton was sold at nine and three-eighths cents, but I could never get a settlement. He kept putting me off by saying that the bill of lading had not come. Those bales averaged over four hundred pounds. I did not owe him over twenty-five dollars. A man may work there from Monday morning to Saturday night, and be as economical as he pleases, and he will come out in debt. I am a close man, and I work hard. I want to be honest in getting through the world. I came away and left a crop of corn and cotton growing up. I left it because I did not want to work twelve months for nothing. I have been trying it for fifteen years, thinking every year that it would get better, and it gets worse.” Said still another: “I learned about Kansas from the newspapers that I got hold of. They were Southern papers. I got a map, and found out where Kansas was; and I got a History of the United States, and read about it.”. . . A Few Economic Facts from the 1890s This information is from Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877 – 1919. The wealthiest 1% of families in 1890 owned 51% of the real and personal property; the 44% of families at the bottom owned only 12% of all the property. Together, the wealthy and well-to-do (12% of families) owned 86% of the wealth. The poorer and middle classes, who represented 88% of families, owned 14% of the wealth. Family income from wages and salaries was distributed less inequitably than wealth. The poorest one-half of families received one-fifth of wages and salaries. Adding in income from rent, however,
62 produced more marked contrasts. The wealthiest 2% of families received more than half the aggregate income (whereas the wealthiest 1% owned more than half the property). This tiny class of rentlers received as large a total income from its property as the poor half of the families received from both property and wages. Living off their investments, wealthy rentiers did not need to work. Over the long term, wages changed little in the late 19th century, when most workers earned less than about $800 a year. After 1901 inflation came into the picture, and wages increased along with the cost of living. According to one recent estimate, the poverty line moved from $506 per year in 1877 to $540 in 1886, $544 in 1893, $553 in 1900, and $660 in 1909. Throughout the period many heads of household—servants, and agricultural and industrial laborers—made less than the $506 to $660 needed to keep a family out of poverty. Large numbers of working people were needy because of regularly experienced unemployment in the form of layoffs. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries between 23% and 30% of the work force was out of work for some period every year. Unemployment made working class life uncertain, for the loss of a job might mean leaving home to search for work as well as a lack of income. Men searching for work were called tramps, and they became symbols of the “dangerous classes,” as though they were evil men who had chosen not to work. Differences in income depended on more than occupation. For the same work, northern workers made more than southerners, whites made more than blacks, men made more than women. Industrial work paid better than agricultural work, so that unskilled industrial workers made about $360 per year and unskilled agricultural workers about $260 per year in the North at the turn of the century. In the South incomes were about one-fourth lower. For many farmers, even those who owned their farms, the period was a disaster. A crisis in farm indebtedness meant that more and more farmers lost their farms. In 1880, 25% of those who farmed did not own their land. Large numbers of white farmers in the Midwest were tenants and sharecroppers; even greater proportions of Southerners farmed land that was not their own. In 1910 half the tenant farmers in the country lived in the cotton South, and more than half the farms in eight southern states were farmed by tenants. Many of these landless farmers were black. At the turn of the 20th century nine out of ten blacks lived in the South, and three-quarters of black farmers were tenants or sharecroppers. In the generation since emancipation, blacks, who constituted about 40% of the southern population, had bought one-eighth of the region’s farms. Even so, nearly all Afro-Americans, even the landowning minority, were poor. The most oppressed lived as peons, tied to planters by long-term contracts that deprived them of the right to change employers for as much as ten years, or as convicts, whom the states leased to planters and industrialists. In either situation, employers, who cared only about extracting a maximum of work from actual or virtual prisoners, provided wretched living and working conditions. These southern blacks, who earned bare subsistence and often died before earning their freedom, represented the worst-paid workers in this country. More numerous among the black poor were agricultural workers, who labored on cotton plantations for annual incomes of less than $100. Other Americans were not so badly off, but their situations varied widely. Within one family and with’ one lifetime, fortunes could rise and fall. Some actual examples will show how particular families in various economic classes lived. Miners were at the low end of the income scale. They made as much as $60 per month when they were working, but they seldom worked year-round. Regular layoffs ordinarily reduced their annual pay to less than $500 per year. A thirty-five-year-old native-born American anthracite coal miner in Pennsylvania explained his income and expenditures in 1902: . . .my wages were $29.47 for the two weeks, or at the rate of $58.94 per month. My rent is $10.50 per month. My coal costs me almost $4 per month. Light does not cost so much, we use coal oil altogether. When it comes down to groceries is where you get hit the hardest. Everybody
63 knows the cost of living has been extremely high all winter. Butter has been 32, 36, and 38 cents a pound; eggs as high as 32 cents a dozen; ham, 12 and 16 cents a pound. . . . Flour and sugar did not advance, but they were about the only staples that didn’t. Anyhow, my store bill for those two weeks was $11. That makes $22 per month. The butcher gets $5 per month. Add them all, and it costs me, just to live, $42.40. As in many other families whose principal earner made $500 a year or less, this miner’s children worked after about the age of ten. In 1900 nearly one-fifth of the children under fifteen earned wages in nonagricultural work, and uncounted millions of others worked on farms. Spouses also contributed to family income by taking in washing and ironing, keeping boarders, working in the fields, or, less frequently, working for wages. James Weldon Johnson on African-American Spirituals From: The Book of American Negro Spirituals As you read through Mr. Johnson’s introduction to African-American spirituals keep in mind that it was illegal to teach slaves to read until after the Civil War, making the songs all the more remarkable since African Americans could not have consulted a Bible or any other written source. . . . . It would have been a notable achievement if the white people who settled this country, having a common language and heritage, seeking liberty in a new land, faced with the task of conquering untamed nature, and stirred with the hope of building an empire, had created a body of folk music comparable to the Negro spirituals. But from whom did these songs spring—these songs unsurpassed among the folk songs of the world and, in the poignancy of their beauty, unequalled? In 1619 a Dutch vessel landed twenty African natives at Jamestown, Virginia. They were quickly bought up by the colonial settlers. This was the beginning of the African slave trade in the American colonies. To supply this trade Africa was raped of millions of men, women and children. As many as survived the passage were immediately thrown into slavery. These people came from various localities in Africa. They did not all speak the same language. Here they were, suddenly cut off from the moorings of their native culture, scattered without regard to their old tribal relations, having to adjust themselves to a completely alien civilization, having to learn a strange language, and, moreover, held under an increasingly harsh system of slavery; yet it was from these people this mass of noble music sprang; this music which is America’s only folk music and, up to this time, the finest distinctive artistic contribution she has to offer the world. It is strange! I have termed this music noble, and I do so without any qualifications. Take, for example, “Go Down, Moses”; there is not a nobler theme in the whole musical literature of the world. If the Negro had voiced himself in only that one song, it would have been evidence of his nobility of soul. Add to this “Deep River,” “Stand Still Jordan,” “Walk Together Children,” “Roll Jordan Roll,” “Ride On King Jesus,” and you catch a spirit that is a little more than mere nobility; it is something akin to majestic grandeur. The music of these songs is always noble and their sentiment is always exalted. Never does their philosophy fall below the highest and purest motives of the heart. And this might seem stranger still. Perhaps there will be no better point than this at which to say that all the true spirituals possess dignity. It is, of course, pardonable to smile at the naiveté often exhibited in the words, but it should be remembered that in scarcely no instance was anything humorous intended. When it came to the use of words, the maker of the song was struggling as best he could under his limitations in language and, perhaps, also under a misconstruction or misapprehension of the facts in his source of material, generally the Bible. And often, like his more literary poetic brothers, he had to do a good many things to get his rhyme in. But almost always he was in dead earnest. There are doubtless many persons who have heard these
64 songs sung only on the vaudeville or theatrical stage [in the 1910s and ’20s] and have laughed uproariously at them because they were presented in humorous vein. Such people have no conception of the spirituals. They probably thought of them as a new sort of ragtime or minstrel song. These spirituals cannot be properly appreciated or understood unless they are clothed in their primitive dignity. . . . In his Negro Slave Songs in the United States, Miles Mark Fisher presents some scholarly background to spirituals: In the 1920s at least two authorities asserted that Negro songs tell racial history. By the next decade another expert had reached the same conclusions. Even racial chauvinists had not arrived at the opinion of a writer of that decade who went so far as to say that, if Negro music is the American folksong, “then the history of America” is “the history of the slave.” A member of the younger generation of Negroes indicated in 1939 that he was discussing the historical material of spirituals when he wrote that the slave “took a good look at this world and told what he saw.” His “true interpretation” of spirituals held that they were evidences of the Negroes’ obsession with freedom and justice and that they included plans of strategy by which these could be achieved. After such a suggestive beginning the writer proceeded to interpret the allegory by dubbing anyone who mistreated a slave as “Satan.” King Jesus was the slave’s benefactor, Babylon and winter were slavery, hell was being sold farther south, and Jordan was the first step toward freedom. Thus the familiar concepts of Negroes were concrete things which fitted into the scheme at one time or another. Such allegorizing ran back at least fifty years to one who asserted that the slaves believed themselves to be oppressed Israelites, that slaveholders were cruel Egyptians, and that Canaan was the land of freedom. Bondage, of course, was slavery. The historical burden of Negro spirituals was settled upon by another who wrote that “there is more, far more than the ordinary Christian zeal embedded in Negro spirituals. They are not mere religious hymns written to sweeten the service or improve the ritual. They are the aching, poignant cry of an entire people.” . . . Thousands of Negroes easily became fugitive slaves as they gained ideas from their numerous songs about heaven and Canaan. Frederick Douglass gave the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University a song, called “Run to Jesus, Shun the Danger,” with the statement that it first suggested to him the thought of escaping from slavery. Said he in 1836: We were at times remarkably buoyant, singing hymns, and making joyous exclamations, almost as triumphant in their tone as if we had reached a land of freedom and safety. A keen observer might have detected in our repeated singing of “O Canaan, sweet Canaan, I am bound for the land of Canaan,” something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach the North, and the North was our Canaan. After [Douglass] became a Christian minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, he was . . . indebted to [the church’s] secret meetings for . . . in such meetings, with four male companions he planned his successful escape from slavery. A southern historian estimated that two thousand slaves were lost annually after 1831. These people were among the most valuable Negroes and exhibited courage, daring, endurance, and skill in their escapes. The escapes of Negroes were possible because owners were definitely unacquainted with individual slaves or were absentee proprietors, and because after working hours slaves were ordinarily left to themselves. Slaves simply walked away from many places in the South. An added incentive to escape was the fact that runaway Negroes could receive needed help from their fellows, although an extreme “Uncle Tom” sometimes betrayed his companions. . . .
65 Here is James Weldon Johnson discussing the elements of the music itself. By the way, J. Rosemond Johnson was James Weldon’s brother, and together they collaborated on music of their own “back in the day.” Generally speaking, the European concept of music is melody and the African concept is rhythm. Melody has, relatively, small place in African music, and harmony still less; but in rhythms African music is beyond comparison with any other music in the world. [Music critic Henry E.] Krehbiel, after visiting the Dahomey Village at the World’s Fair in Chicago, and witnessing the natives dance to the accompaniment of choral singing and the beating of their drums, wrote of them: The players showed the most remarkable rhythmical sense and skill that ever came under my notice. [Composer Hector] Berlioz, in his supremest effort with his army of drummers, produced nothing to compare in artistic interest with the harmonious drumming of these [players]. The fundamental effect was a combination of double and triple time, the former kept by the singers, the latter by the drummers, but it is impossible to convey the idea of the wealth of detail achieved by the drummers by means of exchange of the rhythms, syncopation of both simultaneously, and dynamic devices. Only by making a score of the music could this be done. I attempted to make a score by enlisting the help [of a man] experienced in Indian music, but we were thwarted by the players who, evidently divining our purpose when we took out our notebooks, mischievously changed their manner of playing as soon as we touched pencil to paper. . . . The musical genius of the African has not become so generally recognized as his genius in sculpture and design, and yet it has had a wide influence on the music of the world. . . . Now, the Negro in America had his native musical endowment to begin with; and the spirituals possess the fundamental characteristics of African music. They have a striking rhythmic quality, and show a marked similarity to African songs in form and intervallic structure. But the spirituals, upon the base of the primitive rhythms, go a step in advance of African music through a higher melodic and an added harmonic development. For the spirituals are not merely melodies. The melodies of many of them, so sweet or strong or even weird, are wonderful, but hardly more wonderful than the harmonies. One has never experienced the full effect of these songs until he has heard their harmonies in the part singing of a large number of Negro voices. . . In all authentic American Negro music the rhythms may be divided roughly into two classes— rhythms based on the swinging of the head and body and rhythms based on the patting of hands and feet. Again, speaking roughly, the rhythms of the spirituals fall in the first class and the rhythms of secular music in the second class. The “swing” of the spirituals is an altogether subtle and elusive thing. It is subtle and elusive because it is in perfect union with the religious ecstasy that manifests itself in the swaying bodies of a whole congregation, swaying as if responding to the baton of some extremely sensitive conductor. So it is very difficult, if not impossible, to sing these songs sitting or standing coldly still, and at the same time capture the spontaneous “swing” which is of their very essence. . . . I think white singers, concert singers, can sing spirituals—if they feel them. But to feel them it is necessary to know the truth about their origin and history, to get in touch with the association of ideas that surround them, and to realize something of what they have meant in the experiences of the people who created them. In a word, the capacity to feel these songs while singing them is more important than any amount of mere artistic technique. Singers who take the spirituals as mere “art” songs and singers who make of them an exhibition of what is merely amusing or exotic are equally doomed to failure, so far as true interpretation is concerned. . . . The truth is, these songs, primarily created and constructed, as they were, for group singing, will always remain a high test for the individual artist. . . . We were discussing the “swing” [beat] of the spirituals, and were saying how subtle and elusive a
66 thing it was. It is the more subtle and elusive because there is a still further intricacy in the rhythms. The swaying of the body marks the regular beat or, better, surge, for it is something stronger than a beat, and is more or less, not precisely, strict in time; but the Negro loves nothing better in his music than to play with the fundamental time beat. He will, as it were, take the fundamental beat and pound it out with his left hand [on a piano], almost monotonously; while with his right hand he juggles it. It should be noted that even in the swaying of head and body the head marks the surge off in shorter waves than does the body. In listening to Negroes sing their own music it is often tantalizing and even exciting to watch a minute fraction of a beat balancing for a slight instant on the bar, between two measures, and, when it seems almost too late, drop back into its own proper compartment. There is a close similarity between this singing and the beating of the big drum and the little drums by the African natives. In addition, there are the curious turns and twists and quavers and the intentional striking of certain notes just a shade off the key, with which the Negro loves to embellish his songs. These tendencies constitute a handicap that has baffled many of the recorders of this music. I doubt that it is possible with our present system of notation to make a fixed transcription of these peculiarities that would be absolutely true; for in their very nature they are not susceptible to fixation. Many of the transcriptions that have been made are far from the true manner and spirit of singing the spirituals. I have gone thus far into the difficulties connected with singing the spirituals in order that those who are interested in these songs may have a fuller understanding of just what they are. It is not necessary to say that the lack of complete mastery of all these difficulties is not at all fatal to deriving pleasure from singing spirituals. A group does not have to be able to sing with the fervor and abandon of a Negro congregation to enjoy them. Nor does one have to be . . . a [Paul] Robeson to give others an idea of their beauty and power. Going back again, the rhythms of Negro secular music, roughly speaking, fall in the class based on the patting of hands and feet. It can easily be seen that this distinction between the spirituals and Negro secular music is, in a large way, that of different physical responses to differing sets of emotions. Religious ecstasy fittingly manifests itself in swaying beads and bodies; the emotions that call for hand and foot patting are pleasure, humor, hilarity, love, just the joy of being alive. In this class of his music, as in the spirituals, the Negro is true to the characteristic of playing with the fundamental beat; if anything, more so. What is largely psychological manifestation in the spirituals becomes physical response in the secular music. In this music the fundamental beat is chiefly maintained by the patting of one foot, while the hands clap out intricate and varying rhythmic patterns. It should be understood that the foot is not marking straight time, but what Negroes call “stop time,” or what the books have no better definition for than “syncopation.” The strong accent or downbeat is never lost, but is playfully bandied from hand to foot and from foot to hand. I wish to point out here that the rhapsodical hand clapping connected with singing the spirituals . . . is not to be confused with the hand clapping to dance-time music. Recently another Negro dance has swept the country. It was introduced to New York by Messrs. Miller and Lyles in their musical comedy, Runnin’ Wild. And at present white people everywhere, in the cabarets, on the ball floor and at home, count it an accomplishment to be able to” do the Charleston.” When Miller and Lyles introduced the dance in their play they did not depend wholly on the orchestra—an extraordinary jazz band—for the accompaniment, but had the major part of the chorus supplement it with hand and foot patting. The effect was electrical and contagious. It was the best demonstration of beating out complex rhythms I have ever witnessed; and, I do not believe New York ever before witnessed anything of just its sort. . . . The Gospel Hymns This overview comes to us from an Italian webpage devoted to gospel music. White America’s most important contribution to world culture has been the western, but turn to black
67 America and we have the blues, jazz, soul, funk, R&B and rap, all of which can be traced back to the granddaddy of musical genres—gospel. Gospel has its origin in the spirituals sung by rural blacks, and is today experiencing a resurgence in the inner-city black churches. In both instances the music performs the same function—a way of describing and dealing with everyday adversity. The story of gospel is also the story of black America, right from the start when the slaves were forced into a foreign religion, they made it their own and it helped them in troubled times—so spirituals like “Steal Away” are as much about running away from slavery as they are about religion. Much of the structure of modern gospel is dictated by the restrictions placed on slaves. After the church had conveniently decided that Christians could be enslaved (until then the unspoken justification for slavery was that Christians were fair game), there was an evangelistic rush. The newly converted slaves adapted Methodist hymns—ironically “Amazing Grace,” written by a slave captain, was very popular—to the call-and-response song structure of their native land and introduced West African rhythms. However the slaves weren’t allowed drums because the plantation owners feared that they might be used for longdistance communication and so clapping hands became the primary form of percussion. Politicization of gospel is evident right up to the civil rights movement when gospel songs provided anthems and marching songs, from “We Shall Overcome” to the lesser known “There’ll Be No Segregation In Heaven.” On the day Martin Luther King made his “I Have A Dream” speech, Mahalia Jackson also sang gospel from the same platform.
There is Balm in Gilead Pat Center writes, “Rev. Curry noted that the original source of the song is Jeremiah’s despairing cry in Jeremiah 8:22: ‘Is there no balm in Gilead?’ [see Vocabulary, above]. But, Curry continued, the slave(s) who made up the words to ‘Gilead’ turned Jeremiah’s question into a statement, ‘There is a balm in Gilead.’ “The balm is love—the self-sacrificing love of Jesus. And the second verse tells me to take the focus off me and share His great love with others, praying that He will become their balm as well.” Sometimes I feel discouraged And I think my work’s in vain But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul. I cannot preach like Peter I cannot pray like Paul But I can tell the love of Jesus He died to save us all. There is a balm in Gilead
68 To make the wounded whole There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul. Deep River According to Dave Watermulder, J. Amber Hudlin, and Ellie Kaufman, “The Biblical allusion here is to the classic theme . . . of deliverance. Many of the old Negro spirituals are based on the theme of deliverance and salvation. Life is symbolized in the spiritual as the deep river and heaven is the campground. Burleigh makes a parallel between the Israelites and African-Americans [while he] continues the tradition of Biblical allusion that began . . . with the slave narrative. This spiritual follows the literary tradition of using Biblical allusion to describe the struggles we all face on earth. . . . The river implies a long hard journey followed by a place of supreme respite. Heaven is the counterbalance to the injustice of this world. “‘I want to cross over’ implies that one is presently in Babylon yearning to cross into the promised land: ‘I want to cross over into camp-ground.’ . . . ‘That promised land where all is peace’ refers to the solace one can find in prayer and Jesus in one reading and to heaven in another. The spiritual describes each person’s rightful place in the promised land, ‘my home is over Jordan.’ The soul craves to be with God: ‘Oh don’t you want to go to that gospel feast.’ “Freedom is probably the most prominent theme in early African-American writing such as the slave narrative and in spirituals. In [this case], freedom lies over the Jordan, or in the next life, in the hands of God. ‘Deep River’ is a plea for deliverance out of oppression and sorrow.“ Deep river, my home is over Jordan. Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into campground. Oh, don’t you want to go to that gospel feast That promised land where all is peace. Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into campground. Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel In Somebody’s Calling My Name, Wyatt Walker presents the views of researchers Harold Courlander and Hildred Roach on the use of double entendre in slave songs. . . . Both researchers agree that the double meaning did not always signal a desire to escape from slavery, although that was often the case. Roach asserts that these songs showed an obsession with “freedom land” but the meaning of Jesus is a bit ambiguous. Jesus in the slave song could mean the Christ of Christianity; Ntoa, the supernatural spirits of the ancestors; or Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad. Depending upon the circumstances and the singer, Canaan could mean Heaven, a better life in the north or freedom. There were many religious songs that had political meanings. Most specialists in the study of spirituals agree that these songs were as adaptable as the people who created them. They allowed Black people to commune with their God, to communicate messages about rebellions and escape, or to bring comfort to those who had decided to stay in servitude. A few of these politically infused spirituals are “Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho,” “Steal Away” [see below], “Deep River” [above], “O Mary, Don’t You Weep, Don’t You
69 Mourn” [adapted by Soul Brother #1 James Brown into a pop song] and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?”. Deliver me, Lord Deliver me, Lord Deliver me, Lord Deliver me, Lord You delivered Daniel from the lion’s den And saved the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace An’ why not a every man’? Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel An’ a why not a every man? Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel Didn’t my Lord Deliver Daniel An’ why not a every man? Don’t Let This Harvest Pass Of this gospel James H. Cone has said, “Some will argue, with [Karl] Marx, that the very insistence upon divine activity is always evidence that people are helpless and passive. ‘Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world . . . the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.’ There were doubtless some black slaves who literally waited on God, expecting him to effect their liberation in response to their faithful passivity; but there is another side of the black experience to be weighed. When it is considered that Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and Harriet Tubman may have been creators of some of the spirituals, that ‘Sinner, please don’t let this harvest pass’ probably referred to a slave resistance meaning, that after 1831 over 2,000 slaves escaped yearly, and that black churches interpreted civil disobedience as consistent with religion, then it is most likely that many slaves recognized the need for their own participation in God’s liberation.” Sinner please don’t let this harvest pass Sinner please don’t let this harvest pass Sinner please don’t let this harvest pass And die and lose your soul at last Sinner don’t let this harvest pass Sinner don’t let this harvest pass. Sinner don’t let this harvest pass. Sinner don’t let it! Sinner don’t let this harvest pass.
70 Sinner, please don’t let this harvest pass Sinner please don’t let this harvest pass, And die and lose your soul at last You can tell the world about this You can tell the nation about that. Tell ‘em what people have done. Tell them a new day must come and you’ll bring joy, great joy to my soul. You can tell the world about this, You can tell the nation about that Tell ‘em what people have done. Tell ‘em that a new day must come and you’ll bring joy, great joy to my soul Well, it’s time to take mah feet out the miry clay! Oh! I wanna place them on the rock to stay. Sinner! Oh, see that cruel tree... Sinner can’t you see that cruel tree’? Sinner, oh see that cruel tree. See where sisters have died like you and me. Sinner please! Don’t let this harvest pass And die and lose your soul at last. Sinner don’t let this harvest pass. Sinner don’t let this harvest pass! Get on Board Little Children The African American Experience in Monmouth County [NJ] webpage notes that “the spiritual ‘Get On Board, Little Children,’ sometimes also called ‘The Gospel Train,’ referred directly to the Underground Railroad.” The train is a comin’, The train is a comin’ The train is a comin’, The train is a comin’ The train is a comin’, The train is a comin’ I hear the train a comin’ She’s comin’ round the curve She loosen’d all of her steam and brakes And strainin’ every nerve. Then get on board little children Get on board little children Get on board little children There’s room for many a more.
71 The fare is cheap and all can go The rich and. poor are there No second-class aboard this train – No diff’rence in the fare Then get on board little children Get on board little children Get on board little children There’s room for many a more. Then get on board little children Get on board little children Get on board little children There’s room for many a more. Down By the Riverside Mrs. Phannie Corneal, born in 1864, explained her love for this gospel in the “Slave Narrative” she gave an interviewer in 1938: “I don’t remember nothin’ much about slavery cause I was too young. My mother used to tell me different things about it though. . . . My mother was the house-girl; in a way she was the mistress of her master because he was the father of all my brothers and sisters. “He freed her before the Civil War and her and us children was treated better than the other slaves on his place. She continued to stay on there after her freedom. I . . . did missionary work for the A.M.E. Church here in Lincoln [NE] and helped organize the colored people into the W.C.T.U. I’ve lectured and traveled all over the country for the W.C.T. U. Now I am too old and afflicted; I can’t go no more. “Now days the people need missionary work more than ever; they are too apt to put ‘I’ in front and ‘God’ behind. I believe in the holy spirit and life ever’ lastin’, to those that worship Jesus. My motto is: God is my help in every need,/God does my every hunger feed,/God walks beside me all the way,/Through every moment of the day. My favorite Gospel hymn: . . .” I’m gonna lay down my burden Lay my burden down Lay me down, Lawd Lay my burden down Lay me down I’m gonna lay down my burden Down by the riverside Down by the riverside Lay me down. I’m gonna lay down my burden, Down by the riverside Ain’t gonna study war no more.
72 His Name So Sweet Larry Marietta reminds us that “the African-American spiritual ‘I’ve Just Come from the Fountain’ has its basis in the story of the woman who met Christ at the well. Slaves put themselves in the position of this woman being told all the things concerning her life by the Master, imagining how she felt and then her running about everywhere telling of this marvelous experience.” Oh Lord. I jus’ come from the fountain I’m jus’ come from the fountain Lord, I jus’ come from the fountain His name so sweet. Oh Lord, I jus’ come from the fountain I’m jus’ come from the fountain Lord, I jus’ come from the fountain His name so sweet. Now Lordy, do you love him? Yes, yes I do love the man. Lordy, do you love him? His name so sweet. Tell me why do you love him? Don’t know I jus’ love the man. Oh tell me why you love him? His name so sweet. Oh Lord, I jus’ come from the fountain I’m jus’ come from the fountain Lord, I jus’ come from the fountain His name so sweet. My Lord What a Morning Assistant Professor Hank Langknecht expressed the following regarding this classic spiritual: When it comes to this spiritual, there are two schools of thought. There are those who believe that the spiritual is a song anticipating celebration. A song sung by God’s faithful people NOW, looking forward to how they will feel THEN . . . when Jesus comes . . . “My Lord, what a morning! when the stars begin to fall.” For that is the morning when Zion will be established as the highest mountain; That is the morning when swords will become plowshares and spears pruning hooks; That is the morning when all nations will stream into the holy city of God; That is the morning when all of God’s elect will be gathered from the four winds and united with God and the Son of Man. “My Lord, what a morning!” In this school of thought . . . morning is spelled the way it is spelled in our
73 hymnal. That’s one school of thought. But there’s another school of thought. There are those who believe that the spiritual anticipates lament. A song sung by God’s faithful people NOW, looking forward to how they will feel THEN . . . when Jesus comes . . . “My Lord, what a mourning! when the stars begin to fall.” That is the day when all the tribes of earth shall mourn; That is the day when the vultures will gather around the corpses; That is the day when one man out of every two in the field will be plucked up and thrown into the fire; When one woman out of every two grinding meal will be plucked up and thrown into the fire; If there is wrath to be poured down upon the earth . . . that is the day when the pouring will be done. If there is punishment to be handed out . . . that is the day . . . In this school of thought . . . My Lord what a Morning is spelled differently: Mourning. What will it be when the stars being to fall? A lament? My Lord what a M .. O ... U ... R ... N ... I ... N ... G ... ? or A celebration? My Lord what a M ... O ... R ... N ... I ... N ... G ... ? Morning or Mourning? You’ll have to tell me what you think . . . because I can’t decide. Maybe it should be both. Actually . . . there’s no maybe about it. It should be both. Actually . . . there’s no should about it. It is both. MORNING and MOURNING . . . It is both. Now the question is, “Can we do that when we sing it?” When we actually hold the hymnals in our hands, and May is actually playing, and we are actually singing . . . can we read the word M ... O ... R ... N ... I ... N ... G . . . on the page and at the same time also be thinking and singing the word M ... O ... U ... R ... N ... I ... N ... G ... ? Of course we can, just sing it from the heart . . . If we sing it from the heart . . . from the depths of our experience . . . it will come out both ways at once. Because in our hearts we know that both ways at once is how we live every single day. That’s the mystery of our existence as Christians. To sing it both ways at once. My Lord what a morning My Lord what a morning Oh, my Lord what a morning When the stars begin to fall. You’ll hear the trumpet sound To wake the nations underground Lookin’ to my God’s right hand When the stars begin to fall. My Lord what a morning My Lord what a morning Oh, my Lord what a morning When the stars begin to fall. No Ways Tired
74 I don’t feel No ways tired I come too far From where I started from. Nobody told me That the road Would be easy I don’t believe He brought me this far To leave me. I’m Rollin’ Through an Unfriendly World I’m a rollin’ I’m a rollin’ I’m a rollin’ Through an unfriendly world. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’ Through an unfriendly world. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, Through an unfriendly world I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’ Through an unfriendly world. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’ Through an unfriendly world Oh brothers won’t you help me Oh brothers won’t you help me to pray Oh brothers won’t you help me Won’t you help me in the service of the Lord. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’ Through an unfriendly world. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, Through an unfriendly world.
75 Oh sisters won’t you help me Oh sisters won’t you help me to pray Oh sisters won’t you help me Won’t you help me in the service of the Lord. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, Through an unfriendly world. I’m a rollin’, I’m a rollin’, Through an unfriendly world. So Busy Workin’ for the Kingdom Lord I keep so busy workin’ for the kingdom, Keep so busy workin’ for the kingdom, Keep so busy working for the kingdom, ain’t got time to die. I keep so busy workin’ for the kingdom, Keep so busy workin’ for the kingdom, Keep so busy workin’ for the kingdom, ain’t got time to die. ‘Cause when I’m feeding the poor, when I’m feeding the poor, when I’m feeding the poor, ain’t got time to die. ‘Cause it takes all of my time, all of my time, to praise my lord, if I don’t praise him, the rocks gonna cry out: Glory and honor, glory and honor, ain’t got time to die. ‘Cause it takes all of my time, all of my time, to praise my lord, if I don’t praise him, the rocks gonna cry out: Glory and honor, glory and honor, ain’t got time to die. Steal Away Steal away Steal away. Steal away to Jesus Steal away Steal away home.
76 Steal away Steal away Steal away to Jesus Steal away Steal away home I ain’t got long To stay here. Trouble All Over the World There is trouble all over this world There is trouble all over this world, children There is trouble all over this world There is trouble all over this world Discussion Questions and Activities 1. It is Mr. Thompson’s contention that Ida B. Wells-Barnett is a forgotten civil rights agitator who should be made known. Do you agree? Why or why not? 2. While Ms. Wells-Barnett did write an autobiography (unfinished at the time of her death), it is largely a reporting of what she did as an adult, with little of her private self revealed. Do you feel you “know” her now, having seen her depicted? If not, what might you have done differently, included or excluded? Why do you think the playwright tells her story through 5 women? If you were writing the play would you include other characters? Why? 3. There were other 19th century women who regularly contributed to newspapers and journals but few who were reporters or editors. Who else can you find in this field? What was their reputation? 4. Imagine you are a newspaper reporter assigned to write Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s obituary (she died on March 25, 1931). What events from her life would you include? Who would you contact for a quote about her? How would you describe Ms. Wells-Barnett? What would the headline be? If you worked on a New York City paper, how would your obituary differ from that in a Chicago paper? And if you were in Charleston, South Carolina? 5. There are many traditional spirituals in Constant Star. If you had to select 5 to convey the basic shape of Wells-Barnett’s life, what would they be and why? We have noted in this study guide that enslaved African Americans like Frederick Douglass used spirituals not only to express their wish to be free but to communicate when they might try to escape and how. Could the songs used in Constant Star be seen as sending such a message? Before the end of the Civil War, before slaves were freed, their only means of mass communication was the songs they shared with and learned from others, and rumors spread by slaves who could travel. Ida B. Wells, who was able to educate herself and travel freely, reached a large audience through her journalism, speaking tours and books. Was she more successful in spreading her massage, do you think? Which method was more effective for black audience? For whites? 6. Wells-Barnett is very clear in her assessment of President William McKinley; she also met with Pres. Woodrow Wilson. What does your research tell you about her interview with Wilson? What impression
77 did others meeting with Wilson come away with? 7. Wells-Barnett first supported herself as a teacher. How was her job as a 19th century southern teacher different from teaching today? What was her mother’s job? Would Mrs. Wells have the same job today? How would it be different? 8. “Sons of Ham” is one description Ms. Wells-Barnett used to describe African American men. Who was Ham and why would Africans be his descendants? 9. Ida B. Wells’ primary subject was the injustice and horrors of lynching. In Lynch Law in Georgia she wrote that “the purpose of these savage demonstrations is to teach the Negro that in the South he ahs no rights that the law will enforce.” Do the lynchings she describes in the play, and those mentioned in this guide, support that claim? The NAACP often used the following 4-point criteria to determine if a specific incident should be categorized a lynching: 1. There must be evidence that someone was killed; 2. The killing must have been illegal; 3. Three or more people must have taken part in the killing; and 4. The killers must claim to be serving justice or tradition. Do you agree with these stipulations? Why do you think the NAACP chose these criteria? 10. Bring in recordings of some of the spirituals used in Constant Star, and play them for your students. What emotions can they identify being expressed by the music alone? Give them the lyrics: do the lyrics correspond emotionally to the music? Which songs express joy, despair, hope? Ask the students to choose spirituals from the show that could be used to underscore their own lives. Or, ask them to select 5 or so songs to underscore an episode from a short story or novel they are currently reading. Marion Anderson and Paul Robeson, members of the FBI list with Ida B. Wells, both recorded spirituals in the course of their careers. Since they were very different people it may be interesting to listen to a song or two or three that they both recorded and discuss their interpretations. Or, you might compare/contrast recordings by Anderson, Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Sweet Honey in the Rock with recordings by white folks artists. 11. The playwright uses 5 actresses to tell Ida B. Wells’ story. Ask your students to write the story of their lives, or a story about a significant, character-shaping event in their lives, that they can “divide” into 5 personas or voices as Mr. Thompson has done. Or maybe the students’ past, present and future selves are represented by “versions” of themselves. 12. Ida B. Wells’ parents were slaves, though she and her siblings were not. Wells’ own children probably lived comfortably as the children of an attorney and an internationally-known journalist, a childhood very different from Wells’ own, though they still certainly faced racism . Have students interview grandparents, great-aunts and -uncles, or others two generations removed from them about what civil rights prevailed in their day for African Americans, women, young people, immigrants. What has changed between then and now? Do their elders feel things are better now or then? How do the students feel? What might the students’ lives be like back in their elders’ day? 13. While Wells’ speaking career slowed while she raised her children she did continue her public life, unlike most 19th century women; in the play Wells recounts how Susan B. Anthony considered Wells’ marriage the end of Wells’ public life. Even today women with public careers or careers in the spotlight
78 have to juggle their careers and their families. Talk to some women with careers and families and compare them to what you can discover about Wells and career women contemporaries. 14. Ida Wells supported her brothers and sisters after their parents died by teaching at age 16, when she was just a few years older than some of her pupils, as many other young women did in the 19th century. There are a number of well-known novels whose main characters also do that: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, the Anne of Green Gables series, the novel Christy and the like. What other real people taught at a tender age? Ask your students to prepare and teach a 15 minute lesson to their class. Discuss the experience. How similar or different was their experience to Wells’? 15. Do the students know anyone who has moved to flee oppression as so many African Americans did? Invite someone to speak to the class about why they moved and what their life is like now, what adjustments they have had to make, or have students interview the person or persons they know. 16. The women’s sufferage movement had its origins in a convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Some 300 women and men attended, 100 of whom signed Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, which presented women’s rights in the style of our Declaration of Independence. Did local civil rights advocates Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage or Frederick Douglass attend? Why or why not? Frederick Douglass, then living in Rochester, New York, was sympathetic to the women’s rights movement because of his own struggle for freedom. In December 1847 he founded his newspaper The North Star (which in 1851 merged with Syracuse’s Liberty Party Paper to become Frederick Douglass’ Paper). What can students discover about The North Star? Who represented the paper at the Women’s Rights Convention? How was the convention covered? 17. U.S. Senator and 19th century orator Daniel Webster once made a speech of opposition to Frederick Douglass in what is downtown Syracuse. What can you find out about the speech? Where did Webster deliver it? Did Douglass respond to it, and how? 18. Another local civil rights advocate was Harriet Tubman, who settled her parents in Auburn in 1857, in a house sold to her by NY Senator William H. Seward ( later Secretary of State for Abraham Lincoln). Older than Ida B. Wells, she had escaped slavery and led many others out of the South also, but her civil rights work did not end there. What similarities can you find between Tubman’s life and Wells’? 19. There is a statute in downtown Syracuse that commemorates the “Jerry Rescue.” What can you find out about the local people who participated in it? If possible, visit the FREE permanent Underground Railroad/Jerry Rescue exhibit at the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse. While the Underground Railroad was by necessity a secret organization many of its routes are well known now. What local routes can you What other local connections can you find to slavery, the Underground Railroad or other African American civil rights events? Sources Consulted A. Philip Randolph. No ed. ©2002. PBS.org.10 June 2003. http://www.pbs.org/weta/apr/aprbio.html Balm in Gilead. Princeton University. © 2001. Ansme.com. 9 June 2003. http://define.ansme.com/words/ b/balm_of_gilead.html
79 —. No ed. July 2002. Earthlight.co. 9 June 2003. http://lists.earthlight.co.nz/pipermail/nz-folk/2002-July/ 003210.html Balm in Gilead in “The Raven.” The Joyshticks, eds. 1 December 1997. Florida State University.edu. 9 June 2003. http://slis-two.lis.fsu.edu/~5340j/Definitions.html Book of James, King James Bible. No ed. © 2003. Bartleby.com. 1 April 2003. http://www.bartleby.com/ 108/59/4.html Booker T. Washington. Edward L. Ayers, ed. Fall 1997. University of Virginia.edu. 5 June 2003. http:// www.virginia.edu/history/courses/fall.97/hius323/btw.html Benjamin Brawley. A History of the American Negro, Being a History of the Negro Problem in the United States Including a History and Study of the Republic of Liberia. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1921. Coon. Melanie and Mike, eds. 25 September 2002. Take Our Word.com. 6 June 2003. http:// www.takeourword.com/search.html —. Lino Wirag, ed. No date. Keplerweb.de. 6 June 2003. http://www.keplerweb.de/fachber/englisch/ppt/ afroamerican.ppt+%22coon%22+epithet&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 Countee Cullen. No ed. © 1997-2003. American Academy of Poets. 9 June 2003. http://www.poets.org/ poets/poets.cfm?45442B7C000C0303 Deep River. Dave Watermulder, J. Amber Hudlin, and Ellie Kaufman, eds. 1998. George Washington University.edu. 3 April 2003. http://www.gwu.edu/~e73afram/dw-ah-ek.html Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel. Marcella Monk Flake. © 2002 by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Yale.edu. 3 April 2003. http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1997/5/97.05.07.x.html (I’m Gonna Lay My Burden Down) Down by the Riverside. Albert Burks, ed. 16 December 1938. University Missouri-St. Louis. 10 June 2003. http://www.umsl.edu/services/library/blackstudies/ corneal.htm Duster. Barry Bryant, ed. © 1999, 2000. Fashion Dig.com. 22 April 2003. http://www.fashiondig.com/ victorian/two.htm Educator’s Guide to “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” 5 Sept. 2003. Geoff Holt, ed. Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District. 8 October 2003. http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/planetarium/ftdg1.htm First Black Masonic Lodge. No ed. ©2002, 2003. African American Registry. 4 June 2003. http:// www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/549/First_Black_masonic_Lodge_organized Fisher, Miles Mark. Negro Slave Songs in the United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1953. Follow the drinking gourd. No ed. No date. Montgomery County (MD) College.edu. 8 October 2003. http://www.mc.cc.md.us/Departments/hpolscrv/gourd.html
80 Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Judith Bloom. Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Clarion Books, 2000. Frederick Douglass. Fred Morsell, ed. ©1997. Frederick Douglas.org. 6 June 2003. http:// www.frederickdouglass.org/douglass_bio.html Freemasonry. Stephen Dafoe, ed. ©2001-2003. The Lodge Room.com. 4 June 2003. http:// www.thelodgeroom.com/what.html The Fugitive’s Song cover (with Frederick Douglass). No ed. No date. Library of Congress. 10 June 2003. http://www.americasstory.com/aa/douglass/aa_douglass_escape_4_e.html Get on Board Little Children. History 103 class, eds. ©1999. Monmouth University. 10 June 2003. http:// zorak.monmouth.edu/~afam/Songsheet.htm Gospel overview. Nicoletta Aresca, ed. 11 February 1997. Associazione Musictus. 3 April 2003. http:// www.gospel.it/musictusnews/archives/1997/digest1997-01.txt His Name So Sweet. Larry Marietta, ed. 8 February 1998. First Congregation Church of Berkeley (Ca.). 10 June 2003. http://www.fccb.org/music/m980208.html Ida B. Wells Barnett. No ed. November 26 2002. Lakewood Public Library.org. 10 March 2003. http:// www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/barn-ida.htm Ida B. Wells Barnett. No ed. 19 Oct.1998. Library of Congress.gov. 10 March 2003. http:// memory.loc.gov/ammem/aap/idawells.html Ida B. Wells House. No ed. Wed, Oct 9 2002. National Park Service.gov. 10 March 2003. http:// www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/il2.htm Iola. No ed. ©1999-2003. The New Parents Guide. 5 June 2003. http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/ baby-names-i.htm Jack Johnson. Ron Flatter, ed. ©2003. ESPN.com. 10 June 2003. http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/ johnson_jack.html Jack Johnson/Jim Jeffries fight. No ed. September 1997. Renoworld.com. 10 June 2003. http:// www.renoworld.com/fight.htm Jack Johnson picture. No ed. No date. A.R.T.S. GmbH. 10 June 2003. http://www.klitschko.com/eng/ ist2_e.html James Weldon Johnson. No ed. ©1997-2003. American Academy of Poets. 9 June 2003. http:// www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?45442B7C000C0106 Jane Addams. No ed. 27 June 2003. Nobel.se. 9 June 2003. http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1931/ addams-bio.html
81 Ku Klux Klan. Josh Stephens et al., eds. 3 April 2003. Geocities.com. 4 June 2003. http:// www.geocities.com/__izzy__/Dengue/kkk/ —. No ed. ©1995-2000. The Knight’s Party. 4 June 2003. http://www.kkk.com/index1.htm Grand [Masonic] Lodge History:1849-1899. Antonio O. Caffey, ed. No date. M.W. Prince Hall Grand [Masonic] Lodge of Ohio. 5 June 2003. http://www.phaohio.org/mwphgloh/hist50.html Marcus Garvey. No ed. ©1995. UCLA. 9 June 2003. http://www.isop.ucla.edu/mgpp/intro.htm Marcus Garvey photo. No ed. No date. Africa Within.com. 9 June 2003. http://www.africawithin.com/ garvey/garvey_bio.htm Marion Anderson. No ed. 10 January 2003. Hall of Black Achievement, Bridgewater State College (Ma.). 9 June 2003. http://www.bridgew.edu/HOBA/Inductees/Anderson.htm Mary Church Terrell. Dena Mildred Gilby, ed. 26 July 1997. University of Minnesota. 9 June 2003. http:/ /voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/TERRELLmarychurch.html Mulatto, quadroon, octoroon. Zolo Agona Azania, ed. May 1988. Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. 6 June 2003. http://www.prairie-fire.org/Zolo/Who_is_the_New_Afrikan.htm My Lord What a Morning sermon. Hank Langknecht, ed. 5 December 2001. Trinity Lutheran Seminary. 10 June 2003. http://www.trinity.capital.edu/sermon.asp?cycle=indiv&ID=110 Nieman, Donald G., ed. Black Freedom/White Violence, 1865-1900. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1994. Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877 - 1919. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1987. Paul and Silas. Steve Amato, ed. 1 March 2002. Boston Christian Bible Study Resources. 9 June 2003. http://www.bcbsr.com/books/acts16a.html Paul Robeson. Rob Nagel, ed. September 1992. N2k.com. 10 June 2003. http://homepage.sunrise.ch/ homepage/comtex/rob3.htm Pres. William McKinley. Frank Freidel and Hugh S. Sidey, eds. No date. 5 June 2003. White House.gov. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/wm25.html Rabbi Hillel. Eliezer C. Abrahamson, ed. November 1998. Aol.com. 1 April 2003. http:// members.aol.com/lazera/archive/misc.html Race woman/man. Runoko Rashidi, ed. April 1999. Yahoo.com. 9 June 2003. http://groups.yahoo.com/ group/historynotes/message/299 Republican Party and African Americans. No ed. ©2002. Mecklenberg County (N.C.) Republican Committee. 9 June 2003. http://www.meckgop.com/history.html
82 Shakespeare quotations. No ed. ©2003. Bartleby.com. 1 April 2003. http://www.bartleby.com/70/ 4021.html Sinner don’t let this harvest pass. James H. Cone, ed. Princeton Theology Seminary. 10 June 2003. http:// theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1972/v29-1-article5.htm Spade. David Wilton, ed. ©1997-2003. Word Origins.org. 6 June 2003. http://www.wordorigins.org/ wordorc.htm —. Mark Israel, ed. 1997. Alt Usage English. 6 June 2003. http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/ fxtocall.html Susan B. Anthony. Jone Johnson Lewis, ed. ©2003. About.com. 9 June 2003. http:// womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blanthony.htm Tar-Baby. Encyclopædia Britannica. ©2003. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 5 June 2003. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=73105. —. No ed. ©2003. Cunningham & Cunningham, Inc. 5 June 2003. http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?TarBaby There is a balm in Gilead. Pat Center, ed. © 2001 Sunday Evening Praise.net. 3 April 2003. http:// www.sundayeveningpraise.net/praise/clawson.htm Thompson, Mildred I. Ida B. Wells-Barnett: An Exploratory Study of an American Black Woman, 1893-1930. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1990. Uncle Tom. No ed. 29 April 2003. Wikipedia.org. 9 June 2003. http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Tom Uppity. No ed. ©2001-2003. Hyperdic.net. 4 June 2003. http://www.hyperdic.net/dic/u/uppity.shtml Weaker Vessel. No ed. © 1973, 1978, 1984. International Bible Society. 9 June 2003. http:// bible.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/bible?language=english&passage=1+Peter+3%3A+1-7&version=NIV W.E.B. Du Bois. No ed. 10 January 2003. Hall of Black Achievement, Bridgewater State College. 9 June 2003. http://www.bridgew.edu/HOBA/Inductees/DuBois.htm Webster’s II: New Riverside University Dictionary. No ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983. Wells-Barnett, Ida B. Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. Alfreda M. Duster, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970. William Monroe Trotter. No ed. 10 January 2003. Hall of Black Achievement, Bridgewater State College. 9 June 2003. http://www.bridgew.edu/HOBA/Inductees/Trotter.htm World’s Fair/Columbian Exposition of 1893. Bruce R. Schulman, ed. ©1996-2002. CT Communications. 9