i don’t really understand what people think the civil rights movement was.

it wasn’t all singing and swaying.

people were getting beat up, incarcerated, or murdered okay. 

it was an electric time. it was a time of people coming together. but it was also dangerous and scary. stop romanticizing it. 


Slavery shouldn’t distort the story of black people in Britain


When I tell people I study Africans in Renaissance Britain, they often reply: “Oh, you mean slaves?” Despite the fact that Black History Month – currently being celebrated – is now in its 25th year, and that it’s more than 60 years since the Windrush brought the first postwar Caribbean migrants, it’s clear that many wrong assumptions about the black presence in Britain are still made.

It seems the emphasis on the horrors of slavery, including the commemoration of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act’s bicentenary in 2007, can leave many, especially the young, with a very bleak image of black history. The assumption that Africans in 16th- and 17th-century England must have been slaves is not only wrong, but dangerous.

Of course, slavery dominates the history of Africans in the Caribbean, from where the Windrush generation arrived. John Hawkins, now infamous as the first English slave trader, made four slaving voyages to the Spanish Caribbean between 1562 and 1569. But the English had one rule at home and another abroad. They had few qualms in trading in slaves in the Atlantic world when it suited them, but maintained that all men in England were free. In the same year as Hawkins’ final voyage, an English court resolved that England had “too pure an air for slaves to breathe in”.

And it really was true that Africans in England were free. Diogo, an African who had been taken to England by an English pirate in 1614, later reported to the Portuguese Inquisition that when he laid foot on English soil, “he immediately became free, because in that reign nobody is a slave.” It was not legally possible to be a slave in Tudor and Stuart Britain and the hundreds of black people present in these isles during those centuries were not treated as slaves either. Africans such as Jacques Francis and Edward Swarthye were allowed to testify in court – a privilege denied to slaves in ancient Rome and the American south, as well as to English villeins.

Some were financially independent and owned goods, such as Reasonable Blackman, a silkweaver in 1590s Southwark, and Cattelena, who owned a cow – a valuable asset in 1625. “James the Blackamoor” earned wages of £4 a year – on top of board, clothes and lodging – as cook to the Earl of Bath in Tawstock, Devon, in the 1640s.

Africans were far more integrated into the English community than we might expect. Black people were baptised, married and buried in English churches. They developed long-standing, intimate relationships with English people. In October 1616, George, a “blackamoor”, married Marie Smith in Kent. Gylman Ivye, described as a “negro” or “Ethiop”, had two children named Elizabeth and Richard with Anna Spencer of Dyrham, Gloucestershire in 1578 and 1581. They were the first of over 30 children of mixed parentage to be found in parish registers before the outbreak of the English civil war in 1642.

The lives of the free black men and women living in this country 500 years ago tell a far more positive story than is usually told. Their contribution to British history was not merely as victims of white slave-traders. If we are to counter modern-day prejudice and inequality it’s important that this contribution is understood and respected by all British people, both black and white. We must not allow the specter of the transatlantic slave trade to warp our view of black British history.






African American flappers and Jazz Age women


There were many fabulous African American flappers. No wonder - it was African American musicians who put the Jazz in “The Jazz Age”! The Charleston dance iteself, which so epitomizes the era, made its debut in the all-Black musical “Runnin’ Wild”, and no one danced that flapper number better than Josephine Baker…save possibly for fellow Black artist Florence Mills, who claimed credit for inventing it (she said she debuted it in her “Plantation Revue” in the early 20s, developing it from a dance popular among slaves). The Charleston song was written by Black composer James P Johnson. Without women and girls like those above, the 1920s would never have roared.

I love the Jazz Age. And so much fiction erases us, but we were there leading the way.

(Source: ciptochat, via scarsntats)



People act like dancing is a new thing…

(Source: youhoesack)



Charlotta Bass (1874-1969) was the first Black female newspaper owner-editor in the U.S. She published the California Eagle, the largest and oldest Black newspaper on the west coast from 1912-1951. Bass dedicated herself to combating racist images such as the 1915 film Birth of A Nation, police brutality and supporting the Scottsboro Boys in 1931. During the 1920s she was the co-president of the Los Angeles chapter of Garvey’s UNIA and founded the Industrial Business Council to counter racial employment discrimination. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, she encouraged Black businesses with the campaign known as “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work”.  

Bass’ uncompromising stance against racial injustice resulted in her life being threatened on numerous occasions. She was branded a communist, and the FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that her paper was seditious.

In the 1940s, the Republican Party chose Bass as western regional director for Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign. Three years later, she became the first African-American grand jury member for the Los Angeles County Court. In the late 1940s, Bass left the Republican Party and joined the Progressive Party because she believed neither of the major parties was committed to civil rights.

Bass served in 1952 as the National Chairman of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice, an organization of Black women set up to protest racial violence in the South. That year, she was nominated for Vice-President of the United States by the Progressive Party. Bass became the first Black woman to run for Vice-President of the United States. Her platform called for civil rights, women’s rights, an end to the Korean War, and peace with the Soviet Union. Bass’s slogan during the vice presidential campaign was, “Win or lose, we win by raising the issues.”


"I became one of the human guinea pigs who rode high-speed rocket sleds," Alton Yates


"I became one of the human guinea pigs who rode high-speed rocket sleds," Alton Yates



I highly recommend watching this, if you haven’t already:

"Windrush is a four-part series of one-hour television documentaries originally broadcast on BBC2 in 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival in Britain of the MV Empire Windrush, the ship that brought the first significant wave of post-war West Indian migrants.”

"I had decided I would not go anywhere with a piece of paper in my hand asking white folks for any favors."

— Rosa Parks

I don’t want anybody to give me love, just give me my constitutional rights. - Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson

We do not beg for civil rights as crumbs from the table of democracy. We insist on our right to sit at the table. - Juanita Jackson Mitchell

I don’t want anybody to give me love, just give me my constitutional rights. - Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson

We do not beg for civil rights as crumbs from the table of democracy. We insist on our right to sit at the table. - Juanita Jackson Mitchell


"The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports"

The 140th Kentucky Derby takes place today. 

Some fans of the Kentucky Derby know that African American jockeys were quite successful in the early days of the race. But very few know that the trainer of the first winner Aristides in 1875 was former slave Ansel Williamson.

Aristides was ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis, also an African-American. In fact, African-Americans dominated horse racing, America’s longest, continuous sporting event. 

Once upon a time the Kentucky Derby was a Black thang. African-Americans once dominated the horse racing game so thoroughly between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century that when the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 thirteen of the fifteen jockeys at the starting line were African-American. The dominance of the sport also extended to and included African-American horse owners, trainers, exercise riders and stable hands.

The next two Derby winning trainers — James Williams and Ed Brown — were also black. Black athletes dominated horse racing for the next three decades, winning 15 of the first 28 Derbies.

Sooooooooo, what happened? Whites resented the jockeys, who were bringing in big salaries, and also couldn’t deal with the fact that Blacks were dominating what was, in the nineteenth century, America’s national pastime. 

Klan intimidation, collusion to deny Black jockeys and trainers work and access to US tracks were factors as well. In addition the mass migration of African-Americans from the farms of the South to northern cities combined to ethnically cleanse horse racing of its African-American presence by the turn of the early 20th century. 

Black jockeys also faced intimidation from white jockeys. The racing establishment never banned African-American jockeys but they turned a decided blind-eye to racism. What are the results? An African-American hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby in over a century. 

Today, jockeys and trainers from Latin America dominate the sport. 

The top 10 jockeys, based on earnings by the horses they rode (mounts) in the United States in 2010, include the following Latinos: Ramón A. Domínguez (1,474 starts, $16,911,880); John R. Velázquez (1,192 starts, $16,743,328 horses’ earnings); Joel Rosario (1,335 starts, $15,897,538); Rafael Bejarano (1,292 starts, $14,225,120); Javier Castellano (1,243 starts, $13,037,706); Martín García (933 starts, $10,151,584); José Lezcano (1,054 starts, $9,277,682).

Of course, owners take 60% of the earnings from winnings. And most owners are still rich white men. 

The owners of the horses are more often otherwise anonymous extraordinarily rich Southerners than they are urbane self-made millionaires. They have money because their fathers had money and he had money because his father had money and so on until you think there might be a father who owned somebody else’s father. They are the unknown rich, without whom, there is no horse racing. Yet, they are almost never the featured player in the media’s coverage of the event.

(The Montreal Review, Fox News Latino, Trans Griot, ESPN)

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