Archive for the ‘Black American History’ Category

John F. Kennedy: His Real Civil Rights Record

November 22, 2013 Leave a comment

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the Unites States, was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts.  Kennedy was born into wealth on both sides of his family.  His mother, Rose Fitzgerald, was the daughter of John Fitzgerald, a politician who served as a congressman and the mayor of the city of Boston.  His father, Joseph Kennedy Sr., was a banker who made a fortune as a banker, Wall Street speculator, real estate mogul, and bootlegger.

As senator of Massachusetts in 1957, Kennedy vetoed President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Bill.  Southerners saw Kennedy as a moderate because he wasn’t strong on civil rights issues.  He issued executive orders that created job opportunities, access to public housing and expanded voting rights for Blacks; he always stayed away from making a sweeping civil rights bill.

Kennedy narrowly won the 1960 election, and while he courted the Black vote in the election, he also knew that if he wanted to be re-elected he needed to appease white southern voters in order to win their vote.  He refused to send in federal troops into the southern states to enforce desegregation.  Kennedy, while against segregation, was hesitant to take strong federal actions on the issue of civil rights due to fear of a southern voter backlash in his quest for re-election.

During his presidential campaign, he made it clear that he was a supporter of civil rights.  While campaigning, Kennedy promised to eliminate housing discrimination through executive order, but never followed through until two years into his presidency.  Blacks certainly helped Kennedy get elected.  He won the 1960 election by the slimmest of margins in presidential history.  Kennedy dominated the Black vote 70% to 30% over Nixon.  Kennedy was able to win the large majority of Black votes because he called Coretta Scott King in a show of support when her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested in Georgia.  Then his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, called the Georgia judge who sentenced King and asked for his release.  King was released the next day.  Blacks showed their appreciation at the polls by throwing their support behind Kennedy.  Yet when he became president, he spent his first two years in office unfocused on the issue of civil rights.  To Kennedy, foreign affairs dominated his presidency and civil rights was a secondary issue.  He had a relatively weak civil rights record and he failed to deliver a civil right bill.  He never gave his full support to the Civil Rights Movement.  Much of the actions he took were due to pressure, not because of his moral belief system.  In 1961 when Freedom Riders traveled by buses into the south to lend their support to try to break segregation, they met violent resistance from white racists.  Kennedy sent U.S. Marshalls in to protect the Freedom Riders because he was afraid of the negative press that violence would generate.  In 1963, with the world watching via television coverage, violence broke out in Alabama as Bull Connor and the Birmingham police attacked non-violent protesters led by Dr. King.  The embarrassment of the situation forced Kennedy to take action.  It was at this point when Kennedy called for major civil rights legislation.

Through the Cointelpro (Counterintelligence Program) program, the FBI had Dr. King and all of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement under surveillance.  Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, were aware of the surveillance and supported it.   It was with Kennedy’s approval that Bobby Kennedy authorized the wiretapping of King by the FBI.  FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that King was a communist and wanted as much information as he could gather on King.  This led to wiretaps on King’s home, office and even hotel rooms.

Kennedy’s image has posthumously been glorified within the African-American community, but during his life he accomplished very little to help Black people.  In fairness to Kennedy, he did not have the opportunity to complete a full term in office.  Many of the civil rights issues that needed to be addressed fell through the cracks.  He had major international issues to tackle in the short time he was in office, and unfortunately, Black civil rights was put on the back burner.

All things considered, Kennedy gets too much credit in the African American community for being a symbol of Black hope.  It was common in African American households in the 60’s and 70’s to see a picture of Jesus in between pictures of Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As a community, African Americans elevated Kennedy to a status that he never actually achieved during his presidency.

Part of this article is an excerpt from the e-books Funny Money vol. I and II by Calvin R. Evans

Published by Saggigga Publishing on; August 2013; $2.99 US; Funny Money vol. I (ASIN: B00ESWAIZI), and Funny Money vol. II (ASIN: B00ESZ0008). Copyright © 2013 Calvin R. Evans


Blacks and the 1936 Olympics

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

With the aggression of the Third Reich and the wave of Nazism rising in the 1930s, the 1936 Olympics, hosted by Germany, was seen by the Nazi Party as the perfect opportunity to display their racial superiority of the world stage.  The Nazis wanted to use the 1936 Olympics help Adolf Hitler advance his theories of Aryan supremacy.  Hitler hoped that the Germans would dominate the competition on the world stage, proving to all that the Aryans were a race of super beings.  Leading up to the Games, the Nazi’s took state control over all sports facilities.  They put extreme emphasis on physical conditioning in hopes of dominating the Olympics.  

 The Nazis banned Jewish athletes from representing Germany in the Olympics.  The United States considered boycotting the Games because they feared participation would reflect support of the Nazi’s and their anti-Semitic ideologies.  Later, in response to the threats of boycott from other nations, Germany allowed one German Jew, Helene Meyer, to compete for Germany at the Games.  As a footnote of irony, the biggest supporters of the idea of a Berlin Games boycott were the United States, who had their own issues of racial segregation and discrimination.  In fact, it was easier for Blacks to get service in Hitler’s Germany than to get service in a hotel or restaurant in Washington. (Sex and Race, pg. 188)

 In light of Hitler’s racial views, many were concerned about the Black athletes safety while in Germany.  The Nazis assured the International Olympic Committee that Black athletes would be treated well while in Germany.  They also allowed foreign Jews to compete at the Games.  

 Eighteen African-Americans represented the United States at the Olympic Games, winning a total of fourteen medals, which was nearly one-fourth of all of the fifty-six medals awarded to the U.S. team during the 1936 Olympics.  The African-American athletes dominated the Track and Field events at the 1936 Games.  Ten of the United States Eighteen African-American athletes were on the Track and Field team.  They combined to win seven gold medals, three silver, and three bronze medals. 

 The standout athlete of the Games was Jesse Owens, the African-American track and field star.  Owens won four gold medals at the Games.  Owens’ performance undermined the Aryan superiority myth of the Nazis.  A long standing story from the games said that Hitler shunned Owens by refusing to shake hands with him after the medal ceremonies.  In fact, Hitler refused to shake the hands of all of the black athletes at the Games. 

 On the first day of the Games, after two German’s won Germany’s first-ever gold medals in track and field, Hitler invited both of the athletes to his box and congratulated them.  He did the same for three Finnish gold medalists in the 10,000 meters competition.  But when two of the United States African-American athletes, Cornelius Johnson and David Albritton, won gold and silver medals in the high jump later that same day, Hitler left the stadium abruptly and did not shake their hands.    Later that night the IOC president instructed Hitler that he either had to shake the hand of every winner or none at all.  Hitler chose the latter choice. (Ring of Hate: Joe Louis vs,. Max Schmeling: the fight of the century by Patrick Myler New York: Arcade Publishing, 2005, pg. 93)  While it is certainly true that Hitler did not shake Owens’ hand, Owens says that they did acknowledge each other with a wave.  When asked about the incident, Owens was always quick to say that he didn’t feel snubbed by Hitler.  In fact, Owens said that it was the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who shunned him.  Roosevelt, Owens stated, never received him at the White House after the Olympics.  Roosevelt was in the middle of a Presidential campaign and was concerned about a possible backlash from the southern states in response to inviting Owens to the White House. This is another example of Blacks regarded as heroes in public view, yet still being under appreciated in America.

Black Banks: Segregation’s Gift to the Black Community

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

There have been a multitude of stereotypes created to perpetuate the perception that African-Americans cannot band together economically in America.  This perception, is in fact, is supported among many within the African-American community.  In fact, African-Americans have done phenomenally well despite facing greater opposition than any other minority group in America.  Nowhere can this fact find greater support than in analyzing the history of African-American owned banks in the United States.

 During the Reconstruction period, African-Americans were faced with the monumental task of building themselves up economically without much help from the government, and while enduring discriminatory laws in the southern states known as the Black Codes.  These codes restricted the rights of Blacks to the point that they were almost returned to a state of servitude.  In states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, Blacks could be fined fifty dollars if they were deemed “lazy”, and if they could not make the payment, could be auctioned off for indentured servitude for six months.  In South Carolina, Blacks were forbidden employment in any other occupation other than field-labor.  At the same time, in Mississippi Blacks could not lease or rent land.  Meanwhile, White supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the White League wreaked havoc on southern Blacks and members of the Freedmen’s Bureau, in an attempt to use intimidation to curb Black economic and political growth.

 De jure, or legalized segregation, kept African-Americans excluded from public facilities such as theatres, hotels, and restaurants.  In response to segregation, Blacks found it necessary to establish their own businesses that they could patronize.  Among the institutions established in the Black community at that time were Black-owned banks. 

 Black-owned banks were important to the African-American community because White banks often refused to loan money to Blacks, or loaned money at high interest rates.  With the rise of Black banks, African-Americans could secure loans to purchase homes and start businesses.

 The first Black-owned bank to operate in the United States was the Capitol Savings Bank of Washington, D.C., which began in 1888.  The first chartered Black-owned bank in America was established in March of 1888, a mere eleven years after the end of the Reconstruction era.  A Fraternal Organization of African-Americans in Virginia founded the bank, The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the True Reformers (GFUOTR).  William Washington Browne, an ex-slave, founded the organization in 1881.  Browne ran the bank out of his own home for the first three years before moving into a building.  The GFUOTR owned a hotel, two farms, over a dozen halls, and had an insurance branch, which insured members of the African-American community.  By 1907, GFUOTR had assets of over one million dollars. 

 There was many other successful African-American owned banks in America.  One of the most successful of the early Black-owned banks was the Alabama Penny Loan and Savings.  Others included Mechanics and Farmers Bank (Durham, NC), Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust Company (Philadelphia, Pa.), and St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (Richmond, Va.), whose founder, Maggie Walker, was the first woman in America to become a local bank president. 

 From 1888 to 1934, African-Americans owned more than 130 banks in the U.S.  As a result, between 1867 and 1917, the number of black owned businesses rose from 4,000 to 50,000. 

 While the Great Depression affected the vast majority of American society, the affect was more magnified in the Black community.  African-American owned banks failed at a very high rate.  Only one Black-owned bank, Industrial Bank, was opened during the Depression.  By 1943, of the 14,621 banks operating in the United States, only 11 of them were owned and operated by African-Americans. The 1960s saw a rise in the number of Black-owned banks.  Between 1963 and 1988, 59 new Black owned banks were started.  However by the end of 1988, 33 of these new banks had failed.  The 1980s were difficult times for the banking industry at large.

Today, Black banks are suffering like the rest of the banking industry due to huges losses suffered from securities related investments.  In addition, according to a March 2010 Federal Reserve Board report, there are only thirty Black owned banks in the United States.  Economic power is the root to gaining political power, and Black banks can help facilitate income growth and stability in the Black community by creating loans for businesses which would create jobs for residents. 

Not having viable options to provide banking services in our own communities had forrced Blacks to create our own banking systems, and the current economic developments in theis country to cause the resurgence of the Black banks in America.

…I Voted for Shirley Chisholm

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Although Hip-Hop can be traced back to the early 1970’s, 1980 is the year most people recognize as the emergence of the phenomenon, the start of the Ronald Reagan administration.  Thus, many have called Reagan the first Hip-Hop President.  Reagan’s legacy in Hip-Hop music is unquestionable because the policies implemented in his two-term presidency, and the effects they had on minority communities, created an atmosphere in the inner cities that birthed some of the most controversial music in American history.

 During the Reagan presidency, social programs and policies that were created to aid the urban poor were severely cut, leaving underprivileged minorities without much needed federal assistance.  The economic program that Reagan introduced, known as Reaganomics, drastically increased the gulf between the rich and the poor and wreaked havoc on Black and Hispanic communities.


 The administration’s policies deepened the worst economic recession since World War II.  By the end of Reagan’s presidency, the United States was more than $1.5 trillion deeper in debt than when he first took office.

 Reaganomics, the economic policy of the Reagan Administration, centered around the belief that if tax breaks and incentives were given to the rich, that it would loosen up the economy by increased spending and create more jobs for the American people.  This was in essence a reapplication of the trickle down theory, or supply-side economics.  The problem with this theory is that the jobs and money never trickled down to the rest of society.  According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States for 1986, the number of people living below the poverty level rose almost every year from 1981 to 1992.  Many people were divided about Reaganomics.  Before George H.W. Bush became Reagan’s running mate, he called Reagan’s economic policies “Voodoo Economics.”

 While the national unemployment rate rose into double digits, no place in America felt the effects worse than the Black and Hispanic communities.  By 1986, over 30 percent of the Black population had an income below the official poverty level, which was more than three times the rate as Whites.  By 1990, more than one out of every four Black men between the ages of 24 and 54 were out of work.  Overall, the Black unemployment rate was two–and-a-half times higher than White unemployment.  Without prospects for employment, reduced access to federal aid, and a presidential administration that seemed ambivalent to both issues, inner city communities became primed for volatility.

 Although the tax breaks and incentives that the Reagan Administration created were for all Americans, the benefits were clearly felt by the middle-class and upper-class communities.  Meanwhile, the divide between the rich and the poor widened.

Reagan and the Drug Epidemic

 It is within the realm of the drug trade that President Reagan may have made his most significant contribution to the industry of Hip-Hop. The effects of Reaganomics on lower middle class communities led to an increase in deviant behaviors.  Sociologist Robert Merton developed the strain theory to explain what happens when society socializes individuals to strive for cultural goals, i.e. material possessions, but denies large segments of the population access to achieve these goals.  One of the ways that people respond to denied access is to seek to attain these goals through deviant behavior.  Without having legitimate access to the “socially acceptable” ways of achieving material possessions, large numbers of young minorities sought to achieve these institutional means through illegitimate methods.  With diminished prospects of becoming successful in the boardroom via the ghetto, many young Blacks and Latinos took to the streets to pursue the American dream.

 By the beginning of Reagan’s second term in office, crack and cocaine sales in urban cities became immensely profitable.  The emergence of drug trafficking in the inner cities also produced a need for gun proliferation.  Whereas many assault weapons were previously unaffordable and thus unattainable, drug dealers could now illegally purchase arms quickly on the streets.  The burgeoning crack game and rampant dispersion of firearms became a recipe for disaster in Black and Hispanic communities.

 Crime rates soared as turf wars ensued over who controlled the right to sell drugs in urban neighborhoods.  Citizens became hostages in their own homes during the hostile takeover of entire communities.  Drug addicts committed crimes of desperation in order to acquire money to attain drugs.  Amazingly, the government did not respond to the rise in crimes caused by crack until law enforcement agents became victims of violent crimes.  In an attempt to stem rising crime rates from crack sales, stiffer penalties were handed out in crack possession cases.  Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, which set a 100:1 ratio between powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

 The acts levied a mandatory minimum 10-year-sentence without parole for dealing 5,000 grams or more of cocaine and a 5-year-minimum sentence dealing 500 grams or more of cocaine.  However, the sentence for dealing crack was much stiffer, because Congress believed that crack was much more addictive, and thus more dangerous, than cocaine.  A person convicted of selling 5 grams of crack got the same 5-year-minimum sentence as a person convicted of selling 500 grams of powder, and a person convicted of selling 50 grams of crack received the same 10-year-minimum sentence as a person convicted of selling five kilos of cocaine.

 Simple possession of any quantity of powder cocaine is considered a misdemeanor, which receives a maximum punishment of one year in prison.  Simple possession of crack is considered a felony punishable by a five-year mandatory sentence.

 Since it was more likely that an African-American would be caught in possession of crack than cocaine, many people in the African-American community complained that Blacks were being unfairly targeted with harsher penalties.

 Inner-city police departments intensified their efforts to combat drug dealing within their sphere of patrol by doing drug sweeps and profiling young African-American and Hispanic men.  Meanwhile, the CIA intentionally allowed drugs to enter the United States to aid their foreign affairs.  When Los Angeles Drug King Ricky Ross was arrested and tried for drug trafficking, he testified at his trial that the CIA was supplying him with the drugs.

 Dennis Dayle, former chief of an elite DEA enforcement unit stated that in almost all of his investigations over his 30 year professional history, the major targets turned out to be working for the CIA.[i]

Reagan and the Iran-Contra Scandal

 Reagan’s biggest scandal may have also been the most costly to the African-American community.  In 1987, Congress began to investigate the Reagan Administration to determine if they had been selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to assist the Contras in Nicaragua.  The Contras were an anti-communist guerilla organization in Nicaragua.  The Reagan Administration saw helping the Contras necessary in order to keep communism out of the Americas.  The problem the Reagan Administration had was that selling arms to Iran and funding the Contras was in direct violation of the Boland Amendment passed by Congress in response to human rights abuses by the Contras.

 During the Reagan Administration, the CIA allowed drug traffic to accelerate into the United States in order to appease foreign allies in countries such as Panama, Columbia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Haiti, and Afghanistan.  Unfortunately for Reagan, cracks in the drug dealing system exposed a leak to the American public.  During the Iran-Contra Scandal, much of the funding that the Contras received came via large shipments of cocaine coming into the U.S. using U.S. government aircraft and U.S. military facilities.[2]

 Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, broke the story of the CIA involvement in drug trafficking in 1986.  His article, which alleged that CIA and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents and informants sold drugs to Crips and Bloods gang members in Los Angeles during the 1980’s, caused a furor to rise up in the African-American community.

 Senator John Kerry led congressional hearings which produced the Kerry Committee Report.  In the report, the committee found that the U.S. State Department had financed drug traffickers, and that individuals who had supported the Contras were involved in drug trafficking.[3]

Reagan and the Rise of Hip-Hop Music

 Hip-Hop music has always been a vehicle for social commentary.  Though songs during the early days of the art form were usually about partying and having fun, there was also a sense of social consciousness within the music.  Artists like Kurtis Blow (The Breaks), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (The Message, White Lines), The Fearless Four (Problems of the World Today) and Run-DMC (It’s Like That) created songs that spoke about social conditions in American society.  With the institution of Reagan’s social policies, the plight of the Black and Hispanic lower class, and the rise of the illicit crack epidemic, the social conditions of America’s urban societies began to influence the sound of Hip-Hop music.  Hip-Hop was the sound of the streets, so as violence took over the streets, it also took over the music.  The music captured the violent images that defined a violent society.  Rap artists began to focus their lyrics on discussing the elements that shaped their surroundings: drugs, sex and violence.

 Sociologically, the adverse effect of racism on African-American males has led to a negative image of self in many young black males.  White males, who control the power structure of the country, have defined the image of manhood in American society.  Being a man means to be a good provider for your family and taking care of responsibilities.  White men have served as gatekeepers to the access of economic opportunities in America.  Blacks have been subject to racism in America for over 400 years, with extreme psychological damage being charged to African-American men.

 Without access to economic resources, African-American men have reduced opportunities to provide for their families, which cause emasculation and a negative self-image.  Finding the road to success blocked through traditional means, some young Black men seek success through the road less traveled.  Masculinity thus gets measured in acts of bravado, promiscuity, and procreation.  These themes were brought to world focus through the mediums of radio and television.

 Many young inner-city males do not see education as the vehicle through which success can be attained.  Instead, many view the road to success being traveled through sports, Hip-Hop, or drugs.  Those are the only means through which many envision receiving money, power, and respect, which have traditionally been the three things Black men in America have been denied.

 With the choice of pursuing illegal methods to attain these ideals, large numbers of African-American males wind up spending time incarcerated.  Since African-Americans are targeted more aggressively for drug related crimes, they are more likely to be arrested and convicted for these types of crimes.  After incarceration, the already diminished prospects for gainful employment decrease drastically.  With conventional means to success blocked, ex-convicts saw Hip-Hop as the only way to earn a legal living doing something that they understand and, in return, embraced them for who they are.       

 The Reagan Administration gave birth to the rise of “Gangsta Rap” in that it sowed economic depression into the inner-cities by under funding significant social programs.  This created an environment in inner-city communities which led to the social conditions that set the atmosphere for “Gangsta Rap.”  “Gangsta Rap” music was rap songs which gave an account of the negative, destructive behaviors which took place on ghetto streets spoken of in first person form.

Hip-Hop music gave a voice to the socially mute.  As small independent rap record labels began to forge distribution deals with major record labels, rap music started to gain a larger audience.  Whereas drugs, violence, unemployment, poverty and other malignant social issues were once seen as inner-city minority maladies that could be ignored as long as it didn’t affect the rest of society, Hip-Hop music brought it to the attention of mainstream society.  Suddenly America became appalled by the disturbing images that were filtering into their homes through their children via the inner-city conduit of rap music.

The effects of Reagan’s Administration were felt long after his presidency ended.  The Bush Administration tried to pick up where the Reagan Administration left off.  It was the social and economic conditions that the Reagan Administration created and left in South Central Los Angeles which set the stage for the infamous destruction that took place during the 1992 Rodney King verdict riots.  During his campaign against Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Presidential election, Reagan asked Americans if they were better off then than they were before Carter took office.  Many voters made a personal assessment and decided that they weren’t and voted for Reagan.  Amazingly, if many African-Americans living under Reagan’s leadership were asked the same question, they would overwhelmingly make the same personal assessment.  From unemployment, to cut social programs, to drugs, African-American communities felt the brunt of the fall-out from Reaganomics.  It is possible that Reagan didn’t care much about how his policies affected African-Americans since he never received overwhelming voter support from the community. In retrospect, perhaps Biz Markie summed up Black voter attitudes toward Reagan in his 1986 song “Nobody Beats the Biz” by stating bluntly, “Reagan is the Prez, but I voted for Shirley Chisholm.”

[1] Scott, Peter Dale & Marshall, Johnathan. Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. Berkeley: U. of CA Press, 1991, pp x-xi.

[2] Cockburn, Alexander & St. Clair, Jeffrey. Whiteout, The CIA, Drugs and the Press. New York:Verso 1998.

[3] Ibid

The Maturation of the Hip-Hop Vote

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a reprint of an article written in 2008 after the Presidential election.

Black people in America have a long history of being marginalized and muted by the larger society.  Often screaming to be acknowledged but rarely heard, many blacks had given up on the political system, believing that it was never intended to represent people of African descent. 

 The power elite, now more than ever, rules America.  Power rests in the hands of a small group of individuals in society.  Most Americans, regardless of color, do not have access to the power network and are therefore among the powerless.  African-Americans have never been allowed access to the power structure of America.

 When it came to gaining the right to vote, Blacks did not have a friend in “The Great Emancipator.”  Even as the Civil War was ending and President Lincoln was developing his Reconstruction plan, his plan excluded Blacks from participation in voting and holding office.  Lincoln stated plainly that he was not in favor of giving Blacks citizenship.  Even in Lincoln’s final speech, given four days before his death, Lincoln said that he preferred that only the very intelligent and the Union soldiers who were Black should be given the right to vote.

 Things looked as though they were making a promising turn for African-Americans in the political arena during the Reconstruction era.  With the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed Blacks the right to vote, Blacks began the process of political mobilization to take advantage of their newly granted right to enfranchisement.  Under federal military occupation of the South over 700,000 Blacks were added to the voting rolls.  This allowed numerous African-Americans to be elected Senators and Representatives.  The “Force Bills” of 1870-71 provided for federal troops to protect Black voters at the polls.   

 Even during this unprecedented time of enfranchisement for Blacks, many obstacles were placed in their path to voting rights. Clandestine white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the White Brotherhood, the Pale Faces, and the Knights of the White Camellia used fear and intimidation to keep African-Americans from voting.  In addition, Black Codes were enacted to restrict African-American civil rights.  The Black Codes reduced Blacks to a state of pseudo-freedom.  With the Black Codes firmly entrenched in the South, Blacks were bound to a life without political rights and restricted social and legal possibilities.   

 The progressive times unfortunately did not last long.  By 1876, Black supporters in Congress, most notably Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Thaddeus Stevens, had passed away leaving a vacuum of civil rights champions within the Republican Party to support the rights of Black people.  Shortly afterwards, the Republican Party began to abandon African-Americans.  The election of 1876, between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden, provided the perfect opportunity for the party to sever its ties and they took full advantage of it.  The results of the election had Democrat Samuel J. Tilden winning the popular vote, but there were disputes over the accuracy of electoral votes several southern and western states.  In 1877, in order to settle the dispute over who would be the new American president, the two parties agreed upon the Compromise of 1877. 

 In the Compromise, Blacks were the only ones who were compromised.  Hayes would be awarded the presidency and in return, federal troops would be withdrawn from the South and Southerners would be awarded more federal jobs.  Hayes obliged to the compromise, which effectively ended military protection for Blacks in the South and returned the Southern Blacks to a state of virtual slavery.      

 The presidential election of 1932 marked the first time that African-Americans overwhelmingly decided to jump party lines and voted for Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt instead of their traditional backing of the Republican Party.  This was seen as a major shift in political ideology because since the Civil War, Blacks had seen the Republican Party as the emancipation party and they remained loyal to the memory of the years gone past.  In truth however, after the Compromise of 1877 Blacks did not have a political party that had their best interest in mind.  The Republican Party embraced a new agenda, while the Democrats would like nothing more than to keep their old agenda, which was to strip Blacks of their rights and keep them in a state of bondage.  In backing Roosevelt, African-Americans pledged a “vote for bread and butter instead of for the memory of Abraham Lincoln.” 

 Before the 2008 Election, it was easy to argue that utilizing the right to vote does not improve the status of Blacks in American society because the candidates of the major political parties do not share African-Americans needs and interests at heart.  Both parties have pimped Black votes in the past without benefiting the Black community in the end.  The trail of broken promises has left its footprints on the concrete leading out of the Black community.

 With the prospect of having an African-American president, black voters turned out in record numbers at the polls.  According to a CNN Exit Poll for 2008, Black voters comprised 13 percent of turnout on Election Day.  Obama won 96 percent of the Black vote.

 Obama’s ability to connect with young voters was a significant asset in his campaign.    Obama utilized social networking websites to attract young voters.  He attracted two million “friends” on Facebook, and he drew 90 million viewers to his video presentations on YouTube. 

 There were 6.3 million African-American citizens and 5.6 million citizens age 18-29 during the election.  According to CIRCLE, the leading monitor of youth voting trends in the United States, of the 44 million total citizens 18-29 years old in the US, around 23 million voted on November 4, an increase of around 3.4 million as compared with 2004. Of that 23 million, 16 million of them voted for Obama.  At least 52 percent of eligible voters under 30 participated in the election, up from 48 percent in 2004.  In addition, forty-five percent of 18-to-29 years-old African-American voters and 61 percent of 18-to-29 year-old Latino voters cast their ballots for the first time during the election. 

 Hip-Hop proved it had the ability to influence people to register to vote during the 2004 election.    P-Diddy (Citizen’s Change) and Russell Simmons (Hip-Hop Summit) utilized their influence to urge young Americans to vote.  The Vote or Die campaign helped to draw an increase of 4.6 million 18-30 year old voters in 2004.  More than 1.2 million young people registered to vote through the Rock the Vote campaign.  The Hip-Hop Caucus held massive voter registration drives.  All of these organizations helped to increase the youth vote in that election.

 Hip-Hop came out in mass support for Obama during the 2008 election.  Artists such as Common, Jay-Z, Nas, Kayne West, T.I., and Bow Wow, as well as record executives Russell Simmons, P-Diddy, and Kevin Liles all publicly endorsed Obama.  The election also marked the first time rap artists Young Jeezy, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Juelz Santana, Jin, Soulja Boy Tell’em, T.I. and Maino casted their vote.

 The social significance of the Hip-Hop generation’s voter turnout is enormous.  For the first time, young people have definitive proof that their vote counts and the knowledge of this fact can help to galvanize the youth vote for future elections.  Black people also have the statistics that prove that when we come out in masses to vote, we can make a difference.  Future Presidential candidates will have to learn to communicate and connect with the youth voters utilizing the numerous technological resources that young people use in their daily lives.  Meanwhile, the 2008 election has also marked the coming-of-age of the Hip-Hop vote, and if we can band together in a political coalition, we can force future candidates to address the needs of our community in their campaign agenda.

Hip-Hop is in my DNA

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently asked many of my Facebook friends that are connected with the music industry what their favorite Hip-Hop song of all time is and why that song is their favorite.  The answers will be compiled into an upcoming book I am writing, tentatively entitled  “Hip-Hop is in our DNA.”  The reason for selecting that title is because I feel that Hip-Hop is so throughly entrenched inside me, that it has become a part of my DNA.  DNA are traits that we have that get passed down to our children.  Hip-Hop is the lifestyle that I leave behind as my legacy for my children. 

Realizing that it is nearly impossible to identify one song as your ultimate choice, I allowed for multiple answers.  I was so intrigued by many of the responses that I would like to share some of them with my readers.

Stevie D Lundy, Force MDs- “my favorite is Crash Crew’s  first joint (High Powered Rap) , Fearless Four’s Rockin It, Treacherous Three’s Feel the Heartbeat….It made me feel that this is gonna be here for a long time, and look at it now….wow……”

 Ant Live, Hip-Hop artist and brother of Eric B- “Don’t have a favorite song but.. My two favorite moments are Eric B & Rakim @ the Apollo.. people bust in the doors & the balcony was shaking. Alpo (legendary Harlem drug dealer) threw a pocket full of $100 dollar bills on stage.  The second was when Jay z & Total played, Big didn’t come out with Total. He came out with Jay & the place went nuts.    One other thing… George Clinton sang the lyrics to Follow the Leader on MTV. That was crazy cause Rakim is a huge Parliament fan. It’s funny how things go in a circle.”

 Cutmaster Cool V, DJ for Bizmarkie and member of the Juice Crew- “Well for me in no specific order here’s ten: 1) The Message, 2) Sucker MC’s, 3) Love Rap, 4) The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash, 5) Roxxane’s Revenge, 6) Eric B for President, 7)The Show, 8) La Di Da Di, 9) Rebel Without a Pause, 10) Vapors!”

 Charlie Rock, producer and founder of the Fantasy Three- “”Its Your Rock” by Fantasy Three of course, its my first song I recorded and it jump started my musical career.”

Sparky D: “My favorite is grand master caz he is original he is entertainer and always will have lyrics for my favorite song is the crash crew you walking down street with you box in your hand. You hear G Man on your radio rappin. Lol”

Sandi Beidleman, Executive Administrative Assistant for The Furious 5 Entertainment: “Of course I am a Furious 5 fan as well as a Kurtis Blow fan. There are many that I could name but if you want to know my very favorite… I will have to go Mele Mel’s performance in Bear Street (Ramone tribute.)”

I had the opportunity to share in a lengthy discourse with the lovely model and actress Melyssa Ford and she had this to say:

Melyssa: “Wow. That is a very hard question to answer. Mind Sex by Dead Prez…”

CE: “Melyssa, I love your answer because it is so different from the others that I have received so far. Do you mind me asking why that song is a favorite for you? I am very interested in your response.”

Melyssa: “Your question was impossible. East coast, west coast, down south hip hop… Old school or new school hip hop… we have so many sub cultures within the culture of the music I had to assess my answer by thinking about how a song makes me feel, how often I played it when I heard it, can I still play it on repeat now; does it hold nostalgia for me and also the technicalities of the song: melody, beat, lyrical content, vocal intonation… I’m an east coast head to the fullest and I love hip hop that makes my feet feel planted up here in the north so NY and Philly rappers always get me. I also like artists who fly under the radar because there music isn’t commercially accepted like MF Doom, KMD, King Geedorah, Jay Electronica (even tho he’s now signed to RocNation)… without the fear of being accepted by the masses, it keeps them free to experiment with their talent and genius.

Long winded answer, just like me LOL. But there you have why I answered with “Mind Sex”. I was thinking T.R.O.Y but Mind Sex won.”

I encourage anyone who would like to share their thoughts on this subject to leave notes in the comments section.  Hip-Hop belongs to all of us, so lets share in it together.

The Compromise of 1877

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

In the history of the United States, Blacks have been consistently compromised whenever it was advantageous to whites for political power.   Two examples of this were the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. 

 In the Three-Fifths Compromise, white slave owners were allowed to count their black slaves three-fifths of a human being for taxation and representation in Congress. This satisfied Southern slaveholders desire to gain more seats in Congress while keeping them from becoming too powerful from gaining whole votes for their slaves.    In either scenario, Blacks were used as pawns in the political process. 

The goal of the Compromise of 1850 was to deal with the issue of slavery in  The Compromise of 1850 included the Fugitive Slave Act, which required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves.  It also meant that slaves, who fled above the Mason-Dixon line to find freedom, were no longer safe from capture and re-enslavement. The Fugitive Slave Act was also detrimental to Blacks because it also denied captured runaway slaves a right to a jury trial.  This also put free blacks in jeopardy because a person could be arrested without a warrant and turned over to a claimant without any need for further proof other than the claimant’s sworn testimony. (A Pictorial History of African Americans by Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer, New York: Crown Publishers, Ltd., 1995, pg. 44)

These two compromises were detrimental to blacks and their cause of freedom, but perhaps the greatest sting of compromise occurred in the Compromise of 1877.  Rutherford B. Hayes- Republican presidential candidate and Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Presidential candidate in 1876 election Tilden won the popular vote, and had 184 of the 185 electoral votes necessary to win. Three states, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida (all Republican controlled states) had disputed votes. These three disputed states held 20 electoral votes, which would decide the Presidency. The dispute was because Republicans argued that the Democrats used physical intimidation and bribery to discourage African Americans from voting.

Democrats wanted to put an end to Reconstruction in the South and saw this as a great opportunity to achieve that goal.  Had they won the Presidency, there was still no guarantee that they would have received enough support in the Republican controlled Congress to end Reconstruction.  Therefore, the Democrats used the situation to their advantage to put an end to Reconstruction.  The Republicans agreed to a compromise of removing the troops from the South in exchange for the presidency. The compromise also stipulated that legislation be enacted to facilitate economic development in the South.

The Republicans were willing to sacrifice Blacks.  Northern states grew tired of the Reconstruction effort and began focusing its attention on the Gilded Age and the Depression of 1873. The Hayes/Tilden turmoil had some Democrats threatening another Civil War.  The Republicans appeared ready to bring closure to the situation and move forward, at the expense of blacks.  Hayes was naïve to think that “the best whites” of the South would honor the Thirteenth, Fourteen, and Fifteenth Amendments in regards to black rights. (The Racial Attitudes of American Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt by George Sinkler New York: Anchor Books, 1972, pg. 217)

In the end, Hayes became President, federal troops were removed from the South, and blacks were subjected to harsh Jim Crow laws that would strip them of their most basic rights. The words “Liberty and justice for all” did not apply to the millions of Southern blacks that face the end of Reconstruction under Southern white rule.