Tag Archives: civil rights

Resist those who would rewrite the history of civil rights

Resist those who would rewrite the history of civil rights: “I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten… ” — lyric from “Dixie”

Actually, old times there are forgotten quite a bit.

For 145 years, ever since a grim-faced Robert E. Lee rode away from Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox, Va., where he had surrendered his army, apologists for the South have been trying to induce the rest of us to forget the causes of the Civil War, to imbue an act of treachery and treason with a nobility of purpose it did not, in fact, possess.

“States’ rights,” they say. “States’ rights to maintain a system of human slavery,” they do not say…. (via Seattle Times Newspaper.)

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Black History Month (cont’d)

I’d like to clarify and expand on a couple of things I said in my previous post on Black History Month, in light of some comments I’ve received.

On Obama’s Narrative of African American History

[I have appended the full text of Obama’s proclamation below for easy reference; a link to the source is given in my previous post.]

As I said earlier, President Obama’s Proclamation on “National African American History Month” makes for interesting close reading – particularly in relation to the narrative of black history it presents.

The opening sentence constructs a very clear story of black history, a narrative, with a beginning, middle and end: beginning in “slavery and oppression”; continuing through “the hope of progress” (emphasis added); and ending in triumph – specifically, “the triumph of the American Dream.” Continue reading

Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. (In the UK it’s October.) As the month draws to a close, I wanted to reflect a bit on its meanings, with particularly reference to it as the second Black History Month of Obama’s presidency, and to the nature of Black History Month as seen from my current home, in Canberra, Australia. Continue reading

Right On!

40 years ago today, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos made news, and one of the most powerful political statements by any Olympic athlete, with their famous, silent black power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

“For insight, NPR’s Tony Cox speaks with David Steele, a sports writer for the Baltimore Sun and co-author of Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith.”

The original New York Times article on this event makes interesting and provocative reading with the changes in perspective since, while Wikipedia offers a useful overview of the event and its aftermath.

It may just be me, but I still find this image incredibly powerful and moving – but also a bit depressing as it seems so very distant – a gesture of solidarity and resistance, a moment of defiance from a movement that is now lost, a historical curiosity, even as American edges closer to the real possibility of electing a black president.