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

— Rosa Parks

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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

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"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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"It seems hardly a gracious thing to say, but it strikes me as true, while our men seem thoroughly abreast of the times on almost every other subject, when they strike the woman question they drop back into sixteenth century logic."

Anna Julia Cooper  in The Higher Education of Women (1890-1891)

When you identify with your ancestors sooo strongly that it’s a damn shame.

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"African American romance and marriage within the context of the institution of slavery could be the most challenging and devastating of slave experiences. From the initiation of a romance, black men and women had to confront and compromise with their masters about control of their intimate lives, aware that their owner typically had the final say about if and when they could marry, and even who. Even after a slave’s marriage, his or her master still commonly decided when slave husbands and wives could see each other, if and when they could live or work together, the fate of their children, and sometimes even the number of children they had.

Slaves nonetheless had their own way of doing things, refusing to concede too much, sometimes refusing to concede at all. If the slave master’s interference in the slave’s personal life was interminable, so too was the slave’s resistance to this kind of intervention. Like their owners, slave attitudes and decisions about courtship and marriage were shaped by gender convention and community concerns, but not necessarily the same conventions or concerns. The matrifocality of many slave families, for example, meant that the realities of slave manhood and womanhood differed substantially within the context of family life from those whose familial experiences were nuclear and patriarchal. Likewise, extended families and slave communities were important, not just because they monitored slave behavior and maintained slave values, thereby protecting the integrity of the community. Members of slave communities also actually played substantial physical, material, and emotional roles in the lives of slaves. To a large extent, they were the slave’s family. The presence of meaningful kinship ties embodied in the extended family or community, therefore, allowed slaves to take on a variety of marital arrangements and familial structures. One’s master might have had the final authority, but there also were other slaves and slave institutions that exerted influence, perhaps more influence than masters realized. Within the broad contours of slave life that masters insisted on designing, slaves found spaces of their own, choosing what lines to and not to cross as they constructed their own domestic terrain."

"Slave Marriage and Family Relations" in Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (pdf)

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Margaret “Mag” Palm, Conductor on the Underground Railroad
(In the photo, Palm is demonstrating how slave catchers who attempted to kidnap her tied her hands.)
Mag Palm lived on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in a shack. To earn a living, she scrubbed floors and beat rugs for wealthy white families. Despite her poverty, she helped fugitives slaves find freedom on the Underground Railroad.

In the black community she was better know as “Maggie Bluecoat” for the sky-blue uniform coat of an officer of the War of 1812 that she wore when she served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Mag was so notorious for helping slaves escape that on several occasions slave-owners from Maryland attempted to kidnap her and sell her into slavery to put an end to her practices. David Schick, whose father was Palm’s employer, recounted one of these episodes:

She lived up Long Lane, back of the old fair grounds. On this occasion she was attacked by a group of men who made the attempt to kidnap her and take her south where they expected to sell her and derive quite a profit. She was a powerful woman, and they would have, from the sale, derived quite a profit. These men succeeded in tying Mag’s hands; She was fighting them as best as she could with her hands tied. She would attempt to slow them and succeeded in one instance in catching [an attackers] thumb in her mouth and bit the thumb off. John Karseen, who was crippled and ran a novelty shop on Baltimore Street, happened along at just the right time and by using his crutch was able to assist Mag in her fight with these kidnappers and drove them off and freed her from her bonds.


Palm carried a gun to protect herself and her passengers. When an abductor appeared one day, SHE WENT AFTER HIM saying “if she could have found him she would have shot him.”
(via The Effect Of The Confederate Invasion of Pennsylvania on Gettysburg’s African-American Community & The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle)

Margaret “Mag” Palm, Conductor on the Underground Railroad

(In the photo, Palm is demonstrating how slave catchers who attempted to kidnap her tied her hands.)

Mag Palm lived on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in a shack. To earn a living, she scrubbed floors and beat rugs for wealthy white families. Despite her poverty, she helped fugitives slaves find freedom on the Underground Railroad.

In the black community she was better know as “Maggie Bluecoat” for the sky-blue uniform coat of an officer of the War of 1812 that she wore when she served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Mag was so notorious for helping slaves escape that on several occasions slave-owners from Maryland attempted to kidnap her and sell her into slavery to put an end to her practices. David Schick, whose father was Palm’s employer, recounted one of these episodes:

She lived up Long Lane, back of the old fair grounds. On this occasion she was attacked by a group of men who made the attempt to kidnap her and take her south where they expected to sell her and derive quite a profit. She was a powerful woman, and they would have, from the sale, derived quite a profit. These men succeeded in tying Mag’s hands; She was fighting them as best as she could with her hands tied. She would attempt to slow them and succeeded in one instance in catching [an attackers] thumb in her mouth and bit the thumb off. John Karseen, who was crippled and ran a novelty shop on Baltimore Street, happened along at just the right time and by using his crutch was able to assist Mag in her fight with these kidnappers and drove them off and freed her from her bonds.

Palm carried a gun to protect herself and her passengers. When an abductor appeared one day, SHE WENT AFTER HIM saying “if she could have found him she would have shot him.”

(via The Effect Of The Confederate Invasion of Pennsylvania on Gettysburg’s African-American Community & The Colors of CourageGettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle)

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The films are:

Daisy Bates was a complex, unconventional, and largely forgotten heroine of the civil rights movement who led the charge to desegregate the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

Baffled by his dad’s reluctance to change his traditional soul food diet in the face of a health crisis, filmmaker Byron Hurt sets out to learn more about this rich culinary tradition and it’s relevance to black cultural identity. He discovers that the love affair that his dad and his community have with soul food is deep-rooted, complex, and in some tragic cases, deadly.

Take an in-depth look at masculinity in rap music and hip-hop culture — where creative genius, poetic beauty, and mad beats collide with misogyny, violence, and homophobia. The film includes interviews with famous rappers like Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Jadakiss, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, as well as commentary from Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kevin Powell, and Sarah Jones.

Filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman sets off on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. His thoughtful, humorous journey explores the complexity and contradictions of relegating an entire group’s history to one month in a so-called ‘post-racial’ America.

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Fathers of Technology and Innovation

  • Clarence “Skip” Ellis was the first African-American to earn a PhD in Computer Science. He helped develop the concept of clicking icons which lead to the development of user friendly operating systems such as Windows or Mac. 
  • David Hedgley created a mathmatical algorithim that would tell computers which lines to display and which lines to make invisible, thus creating 3-D graphics. 
  • James E. West holds 47 U.S. and more than 200 foreign patents. He is best known for co-inventing the electroacoustic transducer, an electret microphone that revolutionized microphones and is used in 90% of microphones today (including in telephones, tape recorders, and other devices). 
  • Mark Dean developed a number of landmark technologies for IBM, including the color PC monitor and the first gigahertz chip. He holds three of the company’s original nine patents with more than 20 patents associated with his name. He also co-invented the Industry Standard Architecture system bus allowing for computer plug-ins such as disk drives, modems, and printers.
  • Marc Hannah co-founded SGI (Silicon Graphics, Inc.) and was named its principal scientist for inventing computer graphic programs like Personal IRIS, Indigo, Indigo2, and Indy graphics, which were used to create effects for commercials, television shows, films (like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2). engineering, research, and for military applications. Hannah is also the chief technology officer for SongPro, a technology company specializing in making multimedia plug-ins used for listening to music on hand-held video game players and MP3 players.
  • Gerald Lawson invented the modern game console, the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges. 
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Brief History on Black Coal Miners

The historical record shows that the earliest coal mining in America of any commercial significance involved slaves working in the coal pits in the vicinity of Richmond, Virginia in the mid 1700s. The Black Heath Company, Chesterfield Coal and Iron Mining Company, Midlothian Mining Company and others employed hundred of slaves and free blacks. These men were employed in a variety of different occupations in and out of the mines, from basic laborers to blacksmiths. The work force at many mines was oftentimes supplemented by slaves hired by contract from slave owners in the vicinity. In other states, particularly Pennsylvania and Alabama, there were substantial efforts to mine and create a demand for coal, using varied levels of black labor. These endeavors met with mixed success. As early as 1860, at least a dozen free black miners can be found working in Allegheny county, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This constitutes some of the earliest documentation of black coal miners working in the northern coal fields, known as the Central Competitive Field.

The growth of the industry was rapid in the 19th century spurred by the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the railroads. On the eve of the Civil War, coal mining operations were present in over twenty states and U.S. production stood at more than 20 million tons. The demand for coal continued to increase throughout the decade as railroad trackage soared and the “black diamonds” became the fuel of choice for individuals heating their homes. During Reconstruction, the coal and railroad industries became two of the primary employment opportunities for the newly emancipated black laborer as many of the more adventurous former slaves left the South. Many found work with a large rising number of newly formed mining companies, financed by Eastern capital, which had moved in to establish their dominance in the rich coal beds of the Midwest and West. The owners ran headlong into the initial attempts of their predominately white miners to unionize. One of the strategies employed to combat unionization was the use of black strikebreakers. Mine owners utilized labor agents in the urban areas across the country, and sent labor recruiters into the South to entice disenfranchised blacks. These southern recruits consisted not only of experienced miners, but many agricultural laborers who were suffering under the sharecropping system. During this time period a new form of subjugation was emerging in the Deep South in the form of convict labor. Throughout Alabama and parts of Tennessee and Georgia, a concerted effort was made to arrest blacks, issue excessive sentences, and then lease them to coal mining companies.

(African-American Coal Miner Information Center, U.S. National Archives, Working in the Seams, Revisiting Appalachia, BlackPast).

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