Bellefonte’s Civil Rights Legacy

My town. Bellefonte. I’m proud of its legacy on civil rights. We were a significant part of the Underground Railroad in the 19th Century.

Serge Bielanko posted an article about Martin Luther King and Bellefonte’s history associated with civil rights on our local website.  There are a couple of paragraphs from this article that I’d like to share:

In the early 19th Century, Bellefonte rose up from nothing on the hardworking backs of the iron workers who sweated away in the forges that dotted the landscape. Many of those workers were African-American. And later, before the Civil War- when slavery was becoming a hotly contested issue- Bellefonte was a vital stop along the infamous Underground Railroad. The name Bellefonte was whispered in hushed tones among men, women, and children who were fleeing a life of servitude in search of true freedom.

Think about that for a moment.

Bellefonte once literally meant ‘one step closer to freedom’ to human beings in a way that none of us will ever truly understand or fathom. That’s something for each and every one of us to be proud of in this town. I’m not blowing smoke. It’s a heavy notion, but one which I suspect Dr. King would have tipped his own cap to if given half a chance.

Around the time Civil War broke out, Bellefonte’s very own, Andrew Curtin, became Governor of Pennsylvania. This native son was a fierce champion for equality and a close confidant of President Abraham Lincoln’s throughout the war. Governor Curtin was in staunch opposition to slavery and fought fiercely to wipe it off of the American map. He was an important man in United States history, and one that represented a side of Bellefonte that so many current residents still stand strong for.

Among the several stops on the Railroad were the Saint Paul AME Church, the Linn House (which now houses the Bellefonte Art Museum), the Samuel Harris House (home to Candace and Bob Dannaker; she’s a former mayor of Bellefonte), and the William Harris House (aka, “The Wren’s Nest,” home to Ted and Carla Conklin ). Here are some pictures of these stops on the Underground Railroad.

IMG_9809 St. Paul AME Church-001

St. Paul AME Church

IMG_9812 Wren's Nest-001

William Harris House: aka The Wren’s Nest

IMG_9815 Samuel Harris House

Samuel Harris House

IMG_9813 Linn House-001

Linn House

Standing up for equality on Martin Luther King Day and every day, as was done here in the 1800’s, is the legacy we need to perpetuate here and across the country.

I’ll do my part. Will you?

 

picture of Rev. Pauli Murray seated in front of a Magnolia tree.

Make Pauli Murphy’s Childhood Home a US National Landmark

Did you know that there are very few National Landmark, National Monument, National Park or other official recognitions of the accomplishments of women? According to the list gathered by Wikipedia, the National Park Service has 11 national parks and 47 national landmarks recognizing specific women. An additional 53 sites include information on one or more women’s contributions to our history.  That is out of a total of 413 sites managed by the Park Service – national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. That means that just under one-quarter of all of the parks recognize women in general and just 14% focus on the accomplishments of a specific woman.

We can do better.  And there’s a chance right now for you to make this happen.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation is lobbying the National Park Service to designate Rev. Pauli Murray’s  childhood home in Durham, North Carolina as a National Landmark.

sepia-toned photo of Pauli Murray's childhood home.

Childhood home of Pauli Murray. It was built by her grandfather Robert Fitzgerald in 1910. Photo courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliff Institute, Harvard University.

Who was she?  Born in 1910 and died in 1986, Murray was a

  • Teacher
  • Civil Rights Activist from the 1930’s to the end of her life. She worked with Philip RandolphBayard Rustin and Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement but became critical of the male domination of the leadership within the movement.  She first expressed this frustration in 1963 in a letter to Randolph, saying, “[I’ve] “been increasingly perturbed over the blatant disparity between the major role which Negro women have played and are playing in the crucial grass-roots levels of our struggle and the minor role of leadership they have been assigned in the national policy-making decisions.” Three years later, she became one of the founding members of the National Organization for Women.
  • Life-long friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. One author has called Murray Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Beloved Radical.” In 1952, for example, Murray lost a position at Cornell University’s Law School because her three references – Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, and Philip Randolph – were considered to be too radical and by inference, so was she.
  • Lawyer.
  • Writer. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall described her 1951 book States’ Laws on Race and Color as the “Bible for civil rights lawyers.”
  • Priest. In fact, she was the first African-American woman to become a priest. That was in 1977.
picture of Rev. Pauli Murray seated in front of a Magnolia tree.

Reverend Pauli Murray in 1978. Photo Courtesy of the Pauli Murray Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

If you want to join the National Trust and help get the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice designated as  National Landmark honoring Pauli Murray, please sign this petition before Tuesday, October 18, 2016. That’s the day the National Park Service meets and is likely to make this decision.

Thank you!

MLK Jr. and his “Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern” Speech

Access to Abortion Services is Part of Reproductive Justice and Civil Rights

Access to Abortion Services is Part of Reproductive Justice and Civil Rights (http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/)

This morning, the Greater Grand Rapids chapter of the National Organization posted a blog in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday.  His birthday is actually on January 15.  But we celebrate it with a federal holiday on the Monday following January 15 each year. Their blog focuses on Dr. King’s strong support for reproductive justice as part of women’s basic civil rights.  Take a moment and read what they have to say. Meanwhile, here’s something you might not know about Dr. King.  Dr. King wrote a speech honoring Margaret Sanger in 1966. Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PP).  Dr. King’s speech on reproductive justice was written in response to being awarded one of the four first Margaret Sanger Awards given by PP.  Since he was in jail at the time of the presentation, Coretta Scott King read his acceptance speech.  King entitled this speech,

Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern

Here’s what he said on family planning and its link to civil rights:

…. There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern….

[O]ne element in stabilizing his [sic] life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.

This is not to suggest that the Negro will solve all his problems through Planned Parenthood. His problems are far more complex, encompassing economic security, education, freedom from discrimination, decent housing and access to culture. Yet if family planning is sensible it can facilitate or at least not be an obstacle to the solution of the many profound problems that plague him….

Some commentators point out that with present birth rates it will not be long before Negroes are a majority in many of the major cities of the nation. As a consequence, they can be expected to take political control, and many people are apprehensive at this prospect. Negroes do not seek political control by this means. They seek only what they are entitled to and do not wish for domination purchased at the cost of human misery. Negroes were once bred by slave owners to be sold as merchandise. They do not welcome any solution which involves population breeding as a weapon. They are instinctively sympathetic to all who offer methods that will improve their lives and offer them fair opportunity to develop and advance as all other people in our society.

For these reasons we are natural allies of those who seek to inject any form of planning in our society that enriches life and guarantees the right to exist in freedom and dignity….

Where Is the ‘Dream’?

Another great commentary on the current state of civil rights in light of the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

Nel's New Day

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act passed the year after King’s speech and followed that with the Voting Rights Act. The United States, however, has failed to address the March’s goals for economic opportunity and equality, ten demands in civil rights legislation, public school desegregation, voting rights, job training, and an increased minimum wage.

  • Congressional comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation without compromise or filibuster-to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.
  • Withholding of federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
  • Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
  • Enforcement of the fourteenth Amendment, reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
  • A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
  • Authority for…

View original post 1,246 more words

March on Washington 50 in 140 Characters

Today I listened to the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington speeches at the “Let Freedom Ring” program held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  It was broadcast on C-SPAN.  Throughout the broadcast, I listened, tweeted, retweeted, and commented on what I was seeing and hearing.

Here is what I heard as well as my thoughts in a series of 140 characters.

Original Tweets:

@BarackObama Fathers, mothers, former prisoners, people of all colors, children, lgbt… They are all marching 4 Freedom & Justice #mow50

@BarackObama Medgar Evans, Cheney, #MLK didn’t die in vain. We still require vigilance. We will move forward 4 #CivilRts #jobs #Justice

@BarackObama the flame of justice never died despite the indignities placed on the disenfranchised. They marched. #letfreedomring 4 all #mow50 (Retweeted by @Penny_G during program plus one comment from Richard Punko:@tosti_vasey Amen! We must rekindle that fame and passion and March again. Tyranny of rich, powerful, bigoted conservatives must not prevail)

@BarackObama 5 decades ago today we came together to call for the full promise for all as written in our Declaration of Independence #MOW50

#LetFreedomRing bell from church in Birmingham that was burned in 60s just rung at Lincoln memorial w @BarackObama & King family #MOW50

We must keep justice & freedom alive. #LetFreedomRing for all. Gay straight, men women children, people of color. Rev Bernice King #mow50

Rev Bernice King praises inclusion of women and 3 current/former Presidents on #mow50. Didn’t happen 50 years ago.

@billclinton We need to stop complaining about Congress gridlock & (in summary) go for jobs, justice, peace, & environmental safety. #mow50@billclinton in the shadow of Lincoln’s statue, we still need to walk against the racial divide to change America to #LetFreedomRing #mow50

We know how #mlk would have reacted to recent cutting of #votingrights, #immigration, etc.

@JimmyCarter thanks #MLK 4 #civilrights. In 40′ & 50’s I saw black schools without building cause my community wouldn’t provide buses #mow50

@BarackObama, @JimmyCarter, @billclinton, & Michele Obama on #mow50 stage w #mlkfamily & Rep. Lewis Big leadership change from 50 yrs ago.

@Oprah as we reaffirm our support of #MLKDream, we too can be a “drum major” for #Justice. Bells will toll @ 3:00 to #LetFreedomRing forever

Lynda Johnson Robb: my father pushed 4 the 64 Civil Rights Act, 65 Voting Rights Act, & 67 Fair Housing Act he heart #civilrights #MOW50

@revalsharpton “we will beat the James Crow, Jr Esq” program of voter suppression, stand your ground, etc. #MOW50 #Racism

Sign seen @ #mow50 “We March for jobs, justice, & peace.” Still true 50 years after #MLKDream speech. Everyone join in!

Delores Huerta si se puede if you go back to your community and bring all to the fight for justice. #mow50 #Women #CivilRts #lgbt, etc.

Alan van Capalle “The ark of justice won’t bend for all without your work & help.” #MOW50

@repdonnaedwards we must raise our voices for voting rights, ending violence, etc. What rights & fights will u raise your voice? #mlkdream

Modified Tweets and Comments:

Right on! MT @civilrightsorg so says @BarackObama: “We were told that growing inequality is the cost of prosperity.” #mow50 #endpoverty

MT @blackvoices: “The men & women who gathered 50 years ago weren’t here seeking some abstract goal, they were seeking jobs” Obama Still are

#Jobs #Justice MT @HalfinTen Don’t Forget: Organizers of original #mow called 4 min. wage of > $13 in 2013 dollars #raisethewage #mlkdream50

We must fight back. RT @p_majority RT @repjohnlewis: To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that we cannot be patient.  (Retweeted by @p_majority during program)

As part of #jobs, #justice & #peace… RT @NationalNOW We need a living wage! thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/0… Via @thinkprogress #MOW50

Absolutely! @repdonnaedwards u go girl! RT @NCJW “We must lift our voices for just wages” Rep Donna Edwards #mow50

Retweets:

RT @thecyclemsnbc The President reminds us: the measure of progress isn’t how many blacks join the ranks of millionaires, but how many join the middle class.

RT @Jenalenglish Pleased to hear Obama addressing poverty in the context of freedom. Because there is no liberty without livelihood. #MOW50

RT @LAKane H/T to @billclinton: “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.” thkpr.gs/18liNa0 #dreamday (Retweeted by @JCWPolitics during program plus Comment after program ended by @LAKand: @JCWPolitics @tosti_vasey, thanks for the RT!)

RT @whitehouse President Obama: “Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed. Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed.” #MLKDream50

RT @EdgeofSports “Our only hope today lies in recapturing the revolutionary spirit declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” – MLK

RT @chucktodd The 3 presidents speaking, representing 3 generations/experiences on issue of race. Carter born in 20s, Clinton in the 40s, Obama in the 60s

RT @GabrielaRM “We may have come here in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now,” Rep. John Lewis #AdvancingTheDream #MOW2013

RT @SDACLU 50 years later… those signs that say white and colored are gone… but there are still invisible signs. @repjohnlewis #endracialprofiling

RT @OccupyWallSt One of the goals of the March on Washington was a $2 minimum wage. In 2013 dollars, that would be $15.34 #MLKfb.me/1tmtAW09l

RT @NAACP Congressman @repjohnlewis: We have come a long way in 50 years, but we have a long way to go before we can fulfill King’s dream. #MOW50

RT @ply_25 “Justice delayed is justice denied”— THANK YOU, Ellie Smeal, @FemMajority! #herstorymow50

RT @MSNBC President Obama will deliver remarks at 2:45pmET at #MOW50. Tune into @msnbc for special coverage: onmsnbc.co/fweR3M #AdvancingTheDream (note: It was actually just after 3 pm when President Obama spoke)

RT @NAACP Caroline Kennedy: It is our turn to live up to the dreams of the last generation and work together for a better world. #MOW50

RT @feministteacher In 1963 there were 4 African Americans in Congress; today there are 44. #dreamday #MoW50

RT @politico Today in 1963, in preparation for the March on Washington, the Pentagon readied 19,000 troops in the suburbs. More: politi.co/15jjY82

RT @WomenInTheArts “We must ensure that the story of women in the movement is told” #MarchonWashington ow.ly/olE0L #linkatlunch @msmagazine

RT @civilrightsorg We are far from justice when an #LGBTQ person can be fired just for who they are! Support #ENDA – employment nondiscrimination act! #MOW50

RT @HalfinTen .@MartinLutherK True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice #talkpoverty #action4thedream #MLKDream50

RT @jbouie If “race agitator” was the “race hustler” of the 1960s, I’m pretty sure every civil rights leader at the time would have been called one.

King’s Dream in 2013: Interlocking Destinies

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. One of his colleagues at that event was the Rev. Jessie Jackson, Sr.  Rev. Jackson has continued speaking and advocating for that dream of “uniting people on common ground across race, culture, class, gender, and belief.”  This idea of interlocking destinies was presented during his plenary speech at the National NOW Conference held in Chicago on July 5, 2013.

I was in the room during Rev. Jackson’s speech and took several video clips with my smart phone.  One of them came out clear enough to post on this blog.  So after getting back home, participating in a family reunion, and then spending a week and a half looking for a replacement car for our 253,000+ mile vehicle, I was able to upload the video and present it to you.

Video of Jessie Jackson at the 2013 National NOW Conference in Chicago, IL

The following quotes, along with the time tags are some of the best comments, IMHO, that Jessie Jackson made during this speech discussing the intersection between the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, which at 13:59 into this video, Jackson calls a “sharing of interlocking destinies.” He started off by discussing these Interlocking Destinies and shared rights.

3:10 Fifty years after the “I Have a Dream” speech, we still need the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment].

3:52 The right to vote should not be a state right. It’s a constitutional right for everyone.

4:10 Every child should have access to have access to high-quality public education.

4:20 No matter if you are in Mississippi, Maine, or in California, we live under one flag; you should have equal protection under the law.

5:52 Our goal is to learn to live together.

6:20 Civil rights cannot be another word for “black” and NOW cannot be another word for “white women.”  Black women, in big numbers, should be members of NOW now!

7:00 We must pull down the walls [of cultural resistance] that leave us in the shadow of fear…. When the walls come down, we can all grow bigger, better, stronger with greater productivity.  When the walls come down.

9:00 There’s a new South today that can have the Super Bowl, CNN, high-tech universities [showing that we are] learning to live together.  Yet…

At this point, Rev. Jackson starts talking about some of the interlocking issues of racism and sexism still present that need to be addressed in the United States:

9:56 It’s interesting to me that during the Republican Primary, in my [home] state [South Carolina] with an open primary, not one candidate went to a single school or church of the black community.  Not one! 33% black.  Not only did they not go, the media did not challenge them to go.  This instance [of the] reinforcement of apartheid was natural because it’s [still] normal.

Jackson then spends a bit of time framing these interlocking destinies and the problem of economics and access to justice.  He gave several examples of this framework.  The one that resonated with me was the one about the automobile industry, considering that my car had died the weekend before the conference and knowing that I would soon be car shopping. He said,

12:38 What does it mean that there are 21,000 automobile dealerships? 200 black-owned. Almost no women. Pepsi: one black franchise. Coke: zero. When you go get educated. You get your masters and PhD degrees. Business people, you cannot buy one of these franchises, by the way, because they were sold under the laws of perpetuity. Those that got the territories [back in the day] have the territory eternally.  So it’s not about getting on the ball field.  If you get on the ball field, there are no balls left…. Even money can’t buy them.

And finally, just as the battery in my smart phone died, he ended on a high note using history to look towards the future. He said that as in the past, we have not and can never be at loss for continuing to advocate for reform.  This is what I caught on the video as it beeped “bye-bye:”

13:59 The agenda of race and gender equality are inextricably bound.  We share interlocking destinies.  African-Americans won the right to vote in 1879 – 15th Amendment. Women in 1920 – 19th Amendment. We [finally] got the right for blacks to vote in the Deep South in 1965 [with the Voting Rights Act] while women got the right to serve on juries in 1967 – 2 years later [as a result of the US Supreme Court decision in Taylor v. Louisiana]Eighteen year olds got the right to vote in 1970; [before that] those [young people] serving in Vietnam could not vote…

President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech: Standing for Equality

This morning, on the holiday celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, President Barack Obama was publicly sworn into office for his second term as President of the United States.  His inaugural speech was 2,095 words long. It covered many different issues from the role of government to freedom, poverty, the military, education, international interactions, and climate change.

Its over-arching message to me is that as a country and as individuals, we need come together to stand up for equality for all.

President John F. Kennedy, Jr. said something similar in his 1961 inaugural speech when he asked all Americans to help each other. He said then, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Martin Luther King expressed similar sentiments in his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character….I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers….I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’

I hope that Barack Obama’s words resonate as well. In that vein, here is how I think he best spoke about equality for all. Maybe part of this will become part of the lexicon of great Presidential speeches in the future.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

Our journey is not complete until every one is equal, cared for, cherished, and safe from harm.  Thank you for your inspiring words, Mr. President. May all of usfrom you as leader of the US to each of us in our homes and communitieswork together  to create a better, more accepting country and world.