Chapter 13 of Nell Painter’s book Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present spoke about protest and the Civil Rights Revolution from 1960-1967. I found this chapter to be very informing and also very sad. It was sad, for instance, when in mid-September of 1963 a racist group of white supremacist bombed a Baptist Church. It was even more sad, however, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation found out the identity of the four bombers and did nothing.
While episodes like the aforementioned one is depressing, what’s even more disheartening is that this was not the only episode of something like this happening. It was actually very common. The head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, hardly investigated any crimes directed towards those advocating Civil Rights and disapproved of the whole movement all together. Although the book does not say so, I suspect that his overall disapproval of the movement had to do with his anti-communist stance and the common criticism that the Civil Rights Movement was primarily made up of communist people.
Communism was one thing that was often attributed to the Civil Rights Movements. One prominent artist and singer, Nina Simone, sang in her song “Four Women” that while they were boycotting schools and picketing lines people “try to say it’s a communist plot” but then says “All I want is equality; for my sister my brother my people and me.” When a group doesn’t understand another group, one group or both tend to weave together conspiracy theories, attempting to identify what they are really trying to do.
When things are tough, people have to do tougher things before things can get better. And many Africans protested in an extremely peaceful and mature manner. An example of protests is found during “sit-ins” and the Montgomery bus boycott. Black folk and even people of different colors would avoid riding the bus or providing a revenue for people who provided segregation towards people based on skin color. The “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns also attributed to these peaceful protests. All of these attributed to the silent and peaceful protests of the Civil Rights Movement.
One form of protest, from the other side of equality, came from the famous Malcolm X who is often identified as being a part of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam did not want to be integrated into the larger white society. Instead, they thought that whites and blacks ought to remain separate from white folk. Malcolm X, however, countered the Nation of Islam and started to become more integrated into the Civil Rights Movement. Eventually Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, suspended Malcolm X’s activity with them. There were multiple reasons why Malcolm X and Muhammad did not get along. One of these reasons was Malcolm’s disapproval of Muhammad’s fathering of children out of wedlock with his secretaries. This type of behavior was not approved by the Nation of Islam’s doctrine.
After much protest and fighting for equal rights in Cleveland, African-American’s saw that this did little to support their cause. They needed to enter into politics. Drafting state representatives Carl B. Stokes in 1965 to run for mayor, he won his second time campaigning for mayor in 1967 after losing his first campaign, and was the first black mayor of a major city. After that, Painter provides a list of the “Election of First Black Mayors in Major U.S. Cities” (311).
1967: Cleveland, Gary Indiana, Washington, D.C.
1973: Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles
1977: New Orleans
1983: Chicago and Philadelphia
1989: New York
Three Interesting Quotes from the Chapter
“Events convinced Kennedy to urge Congress to pass the pending civil rights bill. According to the president, the United States preached freedom around the world and now must be as god as its word” (295).
I was happy to hear that at least the president of the United States was convinced of the things that the United States has been preaching for many years. People often cry for liberty and are willing to take it away from others freely without giving a thought to it. This can be found today. I often find on social media evangelical Christians complaining that their rights are somehow being blocked from the government and that the whole world is against Christians. This attitude is demonstrated in the film “God’s Not Dead.” In this film it demonizes those who are not Christians. In fact, there is not one non-Christian who is depicted as friendly or good. Apparently every non-Christian is hell bent on making Christian lose their faith. A Muslim father, for example, is represented as a father who believes that everyone is some sort of evil “infidel” (which is odd, because the word “infidel” was actually created by the Catholic Church many years after the Qur’an was written. A better word would be caphider).
The Qur’an, despite popular belief, actually says some very positive things about Christians and Jews as written in green below:
Those who believe, and those who follow Judaism and those who follow Christianity and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and in the Last Day and does works of righteousness-they have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, neither shall they mourn. . . .
And they say “None shall enter Paradise exept he be a Jew or a Christian.” . . . . But no, whoever submits his face to God and does good, he has his reward with his Lord. No fear shall come upon them, neither shall they mourn.
They Jews say “The Christians base their faith on nothing,” and the Christians say “the Jews base their faith on nothing,” while they’re both studying the scriptures. They speak as people who don’t know. But God will judge them between them on the Day of Ressurection concern that on which they used to differ.
To each [community] there is a direction that it follows, so vie with one another in good deeds. (Qur’an 2:62, 111-13, 148)
If God had willed, he would have made you one people. But, in order to test you in what he gave you [he did not]. So compete with on another in doing good. You will al return to God, and he will inform you concerning the things in which you differ. (Qur’an 5:48).
While these same people plead for religious liberty for themselves, they are not as willing to grant religious freedom to other religious groups. For example, Evangelical Christians want to support their own rights, but are equally zealous in defending Donald Trump’s stance on religious immigration, that is, to bar Muslims from entering into the United States.
In an interesting article written by John Jenkins, he attempts to explain why Mormon Utah denied Trump any delegates. “Mormons,” writes Jenkins, “like modern-day Muslims—have a long history of being rejected by their fellow Americans because of their beliefs. Throughout the 19th century, followers of Joseph Smith were repeatedly expelled from lands by people who saw them as strange, foreign invaders, with some opponents even declaring them non-white.”
We must be willing to defend the religious rights of all religions. Not just the one’s we like or the one’s we adhere to. In a poem written by a promenade Mormon leader, Parley P. Pratt, he calls for religious freedom fro everybody: “God or Dragon worshiper, Jew, Moslom or Christian.”
I too, stand for religious freedom for everyone in the nation. Not just Christians. But Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Dragon Worshiper, and so on.
“The Civil Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 dismantled the legal basis of segregation” (304).
“By 1965 the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew he identity of the four bombers but did nothing” (299).