Witnesses to History: African American Voting Rights

November 15, 2018 – April 28, 2019

African American Voting Rights explores the struggle of African Americans to gain access to the franchise in the century after the Civil War ended. The abolition of slavery was just the beginning of a long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous fight for civil rights, including voting rights, for African Americans. Although the 15th Amendment forbade discrimination based on race, state and local governments established laws that effectively prevented African Americans from voting. Violence and intimidation on the part of white citizens further obstructed black voting rights. This installation features materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection that document the fight for voting rights through the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Among the highlights are letters written by Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., two leaders in the fight for civil rights; reports on voter suppression in the South and one by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on the federal actions taken to combat such discrimination; images of the black U.S. senators and representatives elected during Reconstruction; an evocative photograph from the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965; and a broadside encouraging African Americans to register to vote in 1965.

Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

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New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West at 77th Street
New York NY 10024 US


Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Exhibition – until May 20, 2018

On the surface, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were born worlds apart―culturally, geographically, racially, financially, and politically. But by the time they were killed within two months of each other in 1968, their worlds had come together. Images taken by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the era―alongside original correspondence, publications, and ephemera―illustrate the overlapping trajectory of their lives, exploring their deepening tie as well as how their interests expanded beyond civil rights and organized crime to encompass shared concerns for the poor and opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. is based in part on the book The Promise and the Dream by David Margolick, to be published on April 4, 2018, by RosettaBooks and available at the NYHistory Store. Exhibition opened Feb 2018 and ends May 20, 2018.

Cost: Adults – $21; Seniors/Educators/Active Military – $16; Students – $13; Kids (5–13 years old) – $6; Kids 4 and under – FREE. Admission is pay-as-you-wish from 6-8 pm on Fridays. Please check museum hours & schedule as closing hours vary.

Contact: New York Historical Society
Phone: 212-873-3400

NewYork Historical Society
170 Central Park West at 77th Street
New York NY 10024 US

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Surgeon who once saved Martin Luther King Jr’s life dies in NYC

A New York City surgeon who was part of the medical team that saved Martin Luther King Jr. from a nearly fatal stab wound in 1958 has died at the age of 95.    

doctor01012014The death of Dr. John W.V. Cordice was announced on Tuesday by the city agency that oversees Harlem Hospital Centre, where Cordice was formerly an attending surgeon and chief of thoracic surgery. Cordice, a native of Durham, North Carolina, was off duty when King was taken to the hospital after being stabbed by a woman as he signed books in Harlem. The blade, a letter opener, was still stuck in the civil rights leader’s chest, millimetres from his aorta, when Cordice arrived from Brooklyn.

The operation to remove the 7-inch (17.7-centimeter) piece of steel was overseen by Dr. Aubre Maynard, the hospital’s chief surgeon, and performed by Cordice and Dr. Emil Naclerio.

King, then 29 and already a name in national politics, was discharged 14 days later. He was assassinated in 1968.

“I think if we had lost King that day, the whole civil rights era would have been different,” Cordice said in a Harlem Hospital promotional video in 2012.

In his final public speech, King talked about that close brush with mortality, noting that the blade had been so close to his vital organs that if he had sneezed before surgeons had a chance to remove it, he would have died.

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters,” he said. “If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel … If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.”

A native of Durham, North Carolina, Cordice earned his medical degree at New York University in 1942. He practiced medicine in the city for 40 years. He lived in both Harlem and then Queens, where he was also a surgical chief at the Queens Hospital Centre.

(AP) / 1 January 2014

After 200 years, 125th still Harlem’s ‘main street’

When 125th Street was signed into existence 200 years ago, Harlem was a nondescript country village, a day’s trip north of New York City. The story of the street is the story of Harlem: its shifting economic fortunes, demographics, and popular image.

This article is the first in a two-part series exploring the past, present, and future of 125th Street, Harlem’s main street. Read part two here.

When 125th Street was signed into existence 200 years ago by surveyor John Randel Jr., Harlem was a nondescript village in the countryside, a day’s trip north of New York City. The street was intended to be the village’s major thoroughfare. Continue reading

The boy Harry from Harlem did good

To most younger people who remember him, Harry Belafonte is mainly known for singing infectious but vaguely annoying 1950s Afro-Caribbean pop songs like Day-O.

Indeed, anyone under 30 may not know who he is at all.

If so, this expansive and entertaining, if sometimes hagiographic, documentary from Susanne Rostock will definitely set them straight.

And if Rostock’s film is a little fawning now and then, it’s hard to blame her, because Belafonte’s has been a truly extraordinary life.

Born in extreme poverty in a Harlem tenement in 1927, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr was the child of a Caribbean housekeeper, and was partly raised in Jamaica by his grandfather.

After finishing high school in Harlem, he served in the US Navy during World War II and returned to New York. He was working as a janitor’s assistant when a tenant gave him tickets to a show at Harlem’s American Negro Theater.

The theatre’s resident company used plays to give a voice to the black American experience, and the young Belafonte was entranced.

He met Sidney Poitier and began acting, but also experimented with singing and developed a keen interest in folk songs, both American and Jamaican. In 1956 Belafonte had a big hit with Caribbean folk song Matilda, and his debut album Calypso became the first LP to sell over a million copies.

He became an overnight sensation, and audiences went wild for his sensual live performances, but Harry was no mere pop star.

Inspired by the fearless campaigning of black singer Paul Robeson, Belafonte became increasingly exercised by the fate of black Americans, and would be a key player in the Civil Rights movement.

It’s this period of Belafonte’s life that Rostock’s film spends most time exploring, and understandably so, because the singer’s contribution to that cause cannot be overstated.

He bailed Martin Luther King out of Birmingham City Jail; supported the preacher’s family; financed the Freedom Riders; courted the Kennedys; and helped organise the iconic March on Washington in 1963.

Belafonte also rallied Hollywood chums like Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Charlton Heston to put their names to the Civil Rights movement, and the singer also put his own career, and even his life, at risk.

His energy and commitment is remarkable, and his engagement against injustice has continued; he’s campaigned against apartheid, famine in Africa, and the American engagement in Iraq.

Admirable stuff, and at 85 he’s still going strong.

But Rostock’s film is too respectful to provide genuine insight; the recollections of Belafonte, Poitier and others about the ’60s are fascinating, but Belafonte’s personal life is only nodded to respectfully, and no hard questions are asked.

Why, for instance, has he been so consistently ambivalent about the presidency of Barack Obama?

– Paul Whitington

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy Kept Alive by Harlem Youth

HARLEM — Hundreds of Harlem kids will participate in events Monday designed to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Students from the Manhattan Country School march in 2011's Martin Luther King Jr. day event. (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays)

Manhattan Country School students are marching through the streets of Harlem highlighting contemporary civil rights issues, and 900 volunteers from City Year New York will complete service projects at local schools and in the Wagner Houses in East Harlem.

Across town, another group of kids will perform poetry and discuss ways they can continue Dr. King’s mission.

“Some kids don’t understand the legacy,” said Iesha Sekou of Street Corner Resources.

Sekou’s group, along with Circle of Brothers and Harlem 4, will host an event called “I am the Dream” from noon until 4 p.m. at the Harriet Tubman Learning Center on West 127th Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

In addition to poetry, spoken word and other performances, community organizations will be on-hand to tell kids how they can volunteer to serve their community.

Young participants will also discuss ways to solve the problems they face.

“This has to be more than a a day off from school or work. People died, were hosed down and jailed, including Dr. King who dedicated his life to making sure they have equal education, jobs and opportunities,” said Sekou.

That’s why the eighth graders leading Manhattan Country School’s march of 200 to 300 people decided to title their event “Equality in Every Language.”

Today’s heavily researched speeches focus on everything from voting and immigration rights to education and the 99 percent.

“It’s one of the ways we can do one small thing to keep Dr. King’s dream alive,”

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (Getty Images)

school administrator Corriss Little said about the annual tradition. “This is about the kids being able to feel confident they can go out into the world and enact change.”

At the Youth for Change Conference, part of the Youth Violence Task Force started by East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, the lesson will be about how King’s non-violent methods can be used today to make change.

“We want middle and high school youth to empower themselves to spread messages of peace and acceptance and look to decrease bullying and violence,” said Scott Edwards, zone director for City Year New York.

The kids from the conference will also work with City Year on volunteer projects to beautify the neighborhood. At P.S. 96, P.S. 7 and the Wagner Houses, volunteers will paint school walls, build benches and bookcases for classrooms and paint inspirational murals.

“We try to answer President Obama and President Clinton and try to provide the opportunity for volunteers and community members to make it a day on and not a day off, ” said Edwards.

In order to do that, young people need to be educated about King’s legacy and then be empowered to act, said Sekou.

“We are using the theme of “I Am the Dream” and kids are excited and asking questions because they want to know,” said Sekou.

“They are interested, but we have to push the message of Dr. King and make it popular to live in that legacy.”

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20120116/harlem/martin-luther-king-jrs-legacy-kept-alive-by-harlem-youth#ixzz1jd9xfNxq

Remembering Ten Black Christian Leaders

Potential shut down of the government as a result of the fight between Congress and the White House over proposed spending cuts and deficit reduction. Mexico’s narco-terrorists still killing Americans with impunity. Libya in civil war; demonstrations continuing in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and now, Iraq; gasoline prices rising; and, 9%+ unemployment persists.

Labor unrest in Wisconsin on a scale not seen in decades. Bush, Clinton to Chair New “National Institute for Civil Discourse” at the University of Arizona following the tragic shootings of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s and others in Tucson.

In a previous blog, “Reflections On the Revolution in Egypt“, some readers were critical about my citing the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. in connection with the successful non-violent protests and subsequent removal of Hosni Mubarak from power. These readers criticized me for associating, what they called “race”, to the demonstrations in Cairo; when in their opinion, “race” was not an or the issue.

Such comments, presumably, were in response to several quotations cited by me from speeches of Dr. King, America’s most prominent African-American, relevant to the success of non-violent disobedience in Tahrir Square.

I probably run the risk of provoking such criticism again. In commemoration of “Black History Month”, I want to share my thoughts about the historical influence of major black religious figures on the movement for freedom and participatory democracy, without regard to race or color, in our own country.

What’s the relevance or connection? The movement for transformative change of those institutions and policies in our country supporting racial segregation was fueled by young people with core values and ideals of freedom and democracy. The same core values for participatory democracy and equal access to opportunity motivating the youth in the Middle East.

Black and white young people, principally college students, in the late 50s and 1960s in our country did not have the benefit of instant communication with one another by use of the internet and companion social network technologies of Facebook, Twitter, and smart phones. The tools of communication they had were only television, radio, and next-day newspaper reports by journalists on the scene reporting their stories.

The determination and persistence of their non-violent peaceful protests opposing racial segregation or the War in Vietnam were influenced by the religious teachings of their “elders”: persons who formed the basis or backbone of the protest religious theology. A theology that constituted the philosophical foundation of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in our country.

As our nation commemorates Black History Month, it is fitting that we pay tribute to contributions of such “elders” to our own nation’s struggle for participatory democracy and the influence such philosophy and political doctrines had not only on the youth in our country, but also on those university students, especially English speaking and reading young people, in the Arab world.

Bishop Richard Allen

Widely considered to be the “Father of the Black Church”, Richard Allen (1760-1831) founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).

Born into slavery in Philadelphia, Allen was allowed to buy his freedom at the age of 20. Ordained a Methodist minister in 1784, he became increasingly put off by the racist segregation of the white Methodist community. He responded by founding the AME, first as a local congregation and then uniting with a group of churches from surrounding cities to form the first black denomination in the United States. Elected as the institution’s first Bishop, Allen was a major influence in the development of black cultural identity and an inspiration for future generations of leaders who would use the church as major force for organization and unification in the black community.

Bishop William J. Seymour

From 1906 to 1909, William J. Seymour preached his radical form of Christianity from a run-down building in Los Angeles. His church was the host to thousands of visiting ministers, many of whom incorporated Seymour’s teachings about experiencing the Holy Spirit when they returned to their own congregations. The event became known as the Azusa Street Revival and is largely credited as the origin point for the modern Pentecostal or charismatic movement.

James Cone

Called to the clergy at age 16, James Cone (born 1938) has dedicated his life to confronting racism in the United States through his experiences in ministry, education, and authorship. His work largely focused on analyzing the compatibility of Christianity with the multiple philosophies of the black civil rights movement.

“For me, the burning theological question was, how I can reconcile Christianity and Black Power, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea of nonviolence, and Malcolm X’s ‘by any means necessary’ philosophy?” — Black Theology and Black Power by James H. Cone

In 1970, Cone published his landmark work, A Black Theology of Liberation, taking a radical new look at Christianity through the pained lens of the oppressed black community in America.

Howard Thurman

The long-time Dean of Chapels and Theology at Morehouse College and Boston University, Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was a major proponent of nonviolent protest as a primary tactic in the movement for black civil rights. While leading a delegation to South Asia in 1936, Thurman spoke at length with Mahatma Gandhi about his experiences with nonviolence. This conversation would have a strong influence on Thurman’s work for the entirety of his career. His seminal work, the 1949 book Jesus and the Disinherited, would be a major influence Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black religious leaders.

Benjamin Elijah Mays

An ordained Baptist minister, Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894-1984) was a career educator, serving at various times as a Professor at South Carolina State College, Dean of the Howard University School of Religion, and President of Morehouse College. He also served as the first black president of the Atlanta school board.

Mays was a frequent and vocal critic of segregation and racism in America. He was an important early mentor to many of the civil rights leaders who were products of the black colleges including Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, his written work and widespread respect in the academic community helped to coalesce support for the civil rights movement among the nation’s intellectual elite.

Thomas A. Dorsey

Thomas Dorsey (1901-1960) was an American pianist, arranger and composer who is considered to be one of the most important figures in the development and popularization of Gospel Music.

A prolific composer, Dorsey spent his early career playing and singing the blues. However, after undergoing a spiritual conversion and experiencing the tragic death of his wife and child, Dorsey forsook popular music and focused his work on religious music like the song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” He toured for many years with Mahalia Jackson and penned hits that would usher in the popularity of many of the era’s biggest stars including Sister Rosetta Thorpe and Elvis Presley.

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

In Black Power Between Heaven and Hell, Tony Chapelle wrote, “Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was the equivalent of the rap group Public Enemy, the protest politician Jesse Jackson, and the Congressional Black Caucus all in one.”

Powell (1908-1972) was born in New Haven, Conn. to a minister, who headed the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, N.Y., a church he would lead himself beginning in 1937.

In 1945, Powell was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives, representing the 22nd congressional district, which included Harlem. He was the first black Congressman from New York, and, as one of only two black Congressmen at the time, Powell challenged the informal ban on black representatives using Capitol facilities by taking black constituents to dine with him in the “whites only” House restaurant.

Mordecai Johnson

Mordecai Johnson (1890-1976) was the first black president of Howard University where he served for 34 years. Prior to his career in education, Johnson studied at Harvard and Rochester Theological Seminary where he was the first black graduate.

During his time at the head of Howard, Johnson was renowned for amassing an esteemed faculty of African-American scholars. The NAACP also awarded Johnson its highest honor for his ability to secure federal and private funding for the construction of new buildings and to secure the long-term financial security of the school. He also was known for frequently using his leadership position as a platform to speak out against racism, segregation and discrimination.

Alexander Crummell

Alexander Crummell (1819-1898) was an American scholar, an Episcopalian minister, and founder of the American Negro Academy, the first major learned society for black Americans. He was also an early advocate of African-American self-help.

Education — progressive education — was an important part of Crummell’s youth. Born to the son of an African prince and a free mother, he attended an interracial school, an institute run by abolitionists and had private tutors. In 1839, Crummell was denied admission to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church because of his race, so he studied theology privately and became an ordained Episcopalian minister in the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1844 at the age of 25.

In 1873, after spending some 20 years in Liberia as a missionary, Crummell came to Washington, D.C., where he was appointed “missionary at large of the colored people.” Seven years later, he founded and served as the first pastor of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church. Crummell, whose vision was that the black church should be a place not only of worship but also of social service, encouraged black ministers in Washington to establish charitable institutions for their race.

Late in life, he taught at Howard University and founded the American Negro Academy, which promoted the publication of scholarly work dealing with African-American culture and history. Crummell emphasized African-American self-help and the need for practical education — and he did this independent of Booker T. Washington.

Vernon Johns

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney and Henry W. Powell, in The Life and Times of the Prophet Vernon Johns: The Father of the Civil Rights Movement, wrote that the three greatest pushes for civil rights in the U.S. — Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s campaign against Jim Crow in the North, the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education and MLK’s fight against segregation in the South — were all influenced by one person: Vernon Johns.

Johns (1892-1965) was Dr. King’s predecessor as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. and was a mentor of Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker and others in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. His whole demeanor reflected his fight against class inequality in both the black and white communities.

Johns thought that whoever controlled the money controlled the overall society. From this insight, based this on teachings from the bible, the pastor stressed that blacks needed to own more businesses. He’s quoted as saying, “I noticed that some of you noted that I had neglected to wear shoe strings. Well, I’ll start wearing them when Negroes start producing them.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

What more can be said about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Person of the year in 1963, Time Magazine also included MLK (1929-1968) in the top 10 people of the century.

Ordained as a Baptist minister in 1948, King soon attended a lecture on the life of Mahatma Gandhi and was inspired to delve deeper in the Indian social philosopher’s teachings. In February of 1959, Dr. King and his wife visited India, where they studied Mahatma Gandhi’s methods of nonviolent protest.

Gunnar Jahn, Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, presenting the Nobel Prize to Dr. King in 1964, said:

“[Martin Luther King] is the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.Today we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.”

In the course of about 12 years, from 1956 to April 4, 1968, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, MLK may have done more to achieve racial, social, political justice and equality in America, than any other event or person in American history.




photo credit to photos8.com

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X Arm Wrestle Their Philososphies

This is the only known photo of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who generally kept their distance from one another. Pin Points Theatre's one-act play "

Although Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X posed for one photo together before a press conference in 1964, they kept their distance from each other. Pin Points Theatre’s one-act play, The Meeting, examines an imaginary meeting between the two black leaders and explores what may have taken place if Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X had engaged in a lengthy conversation. The Meeting will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 17 in the Building J Theatre, Room J143, at Harper College, 1200 W. Algonquin Road, Palatine.

In The Meeting, Malcolm X invites Martin Luther King to a Harlem hotel room where he and his family have moved to after their home was firebombed. Malcolm X has a feeling his life will be shortened by the circling violence surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X was assassinated a week after the pair had their imaginary meeting. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated three years later; both men were 39 years old when they were killed.

The conversation quickly turns into a sort of confrontation as they debate their opposing views on securing civil rights justice with Malcolm X’s view “by any means necessary”, versus King’s philosophy of nonviolent opposition with sit-ins and marches.

During a lighter moment, the two men take their debate from the theoretical to the physical, engaging in an arm-wrestling match. Through that scene, The Meeting strives to demonstrate the human and more personal side of the two historical figures, according to Ersky Freeman, the actor/director who plays Malcolm X. “My goal is to bring out this and other human traits that are described by their families, but are not normally associated with the two men,” says Freeman.

The performance is free and everyone is welcome. For more information, call the College’s Student Activities Office at 847.925.6100 or visit harpercollege.edu