Black History Reading (10)

Today we will discuss chapter 12 in Nell Painter’s 2007 book Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (Oxford). “Cold War Civil Rights,” is the title of this particular chapter.

The section discussing the “anti-communist witch hunt” (perhaps a reference to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, 262show the degrading of two highly respected African American men who fell victim to the Red Scare. But not only did this attack highly respected Africans, this also attacked many other African Americans who were identified as people of the “Third World.” I found this point particularly interesting.

Apparently African Americans weren’t considered to be true Americans by anti-communist. The degrading and dehumanization of people whom the majority of people don’t agree with, however, has been standard American practice and is well known to people of African descent. There are also other examples not found in purely African American history, however, where the majority can make others seem less than American.

For instance, when Catholics and Mormons of America were trying to run for political office in the United States, there were a number of political adds that sought to take away from Catholic and Mormon “whiteness.” For instance, historian W. Paul Reeve in an essay found in The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism titled “The Mormon Church in Utah,” Reeve argues: “Like other marginal groups in the nineteenth century, the Protestant white majority racialized Mormons as somehow less than white. The racialization that Mormons endured never reached the same level that employed against African Americans, but fell somewhere in between hard racism and full acceptance” (48). “Mormons racialized others, to be sure,” reads Richard Bushman’s review of Paul Reeves’ book, “but were in turn racialized themselves.”

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Text Reads: At the very feet of Liberty. Religious liberty is guaranteed-But can we allow foreign reptiles to crawl all over us?” (emphasis added; Wikipedia Commons)

There was also another political cartoon that I cannot include for copy right reasons where stands an older man identified as “Mormon-Elder-Berry” who is out walking with his six year old children (to see the photo, click here). If you look at the photo, you will see “elder Berry” out with eight different children of different ethnicity. Not only was this a shot at Mormon polygamy (which was abandoned in 1890), but it was also a shot at the racial diversity of Mormonism. Racial diversity was frowned upon by the American people. In reaction to this, Mormons had a “struggle for witness” in the public eye. Unfortunately, they took it too far and today, as some might say, Mormons are “too white.”

Hitting another interesting thing found in this chapter is on page 270 discussing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I’ve always been fascinated with this history ever since I first heard about it in my elementary class. Rosa Parks had been a name I’ve always held in high regards. When I was in middle school, I read through parts of her autobiographical book, Rosa Parks: My Story. I really liked the book but to be honest, I was not very impressed by her writing skills. When I read Martin Luther King Jr.’s autobiographical book The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr, however, I was extremely impressed by his rhetoric skills. There was, of course, a difference of education.

Anyways, before I start writing too much more and because I feel like I’ve already made a contention with the text, I want to move onto the next part of the blog, “3 quotations from the text.”

Three Interesting Quotations 

“He [Malcolm X] advocated self-education, black pride, and black power, in the form of separate schools and all-male self [defense. . . . Muslims were to defend themselves when attacked, but they were not to initiate violence” (277).

“The Montgomery bus boycott expressed one form that paid heed to the promise of American democracy. It took aim at segregation through nonviolence” (285).

I chose both these quotes to contrast two different attitudes, among many different others, that took place during the Civil Rights era. I try to imagine how I would react towards constant hostility to my race. Would I take up a pacifist attitude like King Jr.? Or would I take up self defense like X? Both questions are interesting to look at.

“In the 1950’s black voices succeeded in breaking through the racial barrier as never before, as eloquent African American intellectuals and artists began to be heard as critics of segregation and as cultural innovators” (278).

I thought the above quote was extremely beautiful in so many ways. Black folk then had a venue to speak through and be heard by bench sitters and the white supremacy. This reminds me of an event when my teacher, Professor Tinkle-Williams sang us a song and showed up poetry discussing many thing pertaining to this. It’s truly inspirational, and I really feel like terms such as “black is beautiful” and “black beauty” are true. When I was young, my grandmother always talked about racism in her day and how awful it was (she was white [disclaimer]). Although she used the word “negro,” she always spoke very highly of African American men and women and how we need to be kind to everyone regardless of race.

I am here to echo the words of my grandmother, we need to unify as a community. We need to treat others with dignity and respect regardless of race or creed. Black is beautiful, a term that I am willing to shout from the roof tops and the chimneys of every town in the USA. Black is beautiful!

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