This Week in Civil Rights History

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-26 04:01Z by Steven

This Week in Civil Rights History

New York State United Teachers

September 20th – Maryland Passes First Miscegenation Law

On this day in 1664, Maryland passed the first Miscegenation Law, banning inter-racial marriage in the United States. As African slavery became more widespread, both laws and customs became more restrictive. The impetus for the ban was their offspring. What legal status should a person of mixed race be afforded? Maryland also barred slaves from owning property. In the West, miscegenation laws applied to Mexicans and to American Indians. A sexual caste system was in place. During Reconstruction, Radical Republicans overturned some miscegenation laws. The Black Codes then emerged to limit all interaction between black and white. White supremacy held that non-whites where genetically inferior. In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, were married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to Virginia they were arrested. A nine-year legal battle ensued. In 1967, the Supreme Court declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

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The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 03:19Z by Steven

The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space

Mental Floss

A. K. Whitney

Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1971. (Source NASA)

Today, November 24, President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom, considered the nation’s highest civilian honor, to 17 men and women. Among them is 97-year-old retired African-American NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, selected for her contributions to the space program, starting with the Mercury missions in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, through the Apollo moon missions in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, and ending with the space shuttle missions in the mid ’80s. Among other things, she calculated the trajectories of America’s first manned mission into orbit and the first Moon landing.

Awarding Johnson this well-deserved honor doesn’t just shine a spotlight on a single black female STEM pioneer. It also illuminates an obscure but important piece of history. Johnson was just one of dozens of mathematically talented black women recruited to work as “human computers” at the Langley Memorial Research Laboratory in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

They were so named because before machines came along, they crunched the numbers necessary for figuring out everything from wind tunnel resistance to rocket trajectories to safe reentry angles.

In fact, all of Langley’s hundreds of “human computers,” whether black or white, were women. It was an era when, as Johnson put it, “the computer wore a skirt.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Academia hasn’t “radicalized” me, it’s woken me up.

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-26 03:03Z by Steven

Academia hasn’t “radicalized” me, it’s woken me up.

Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.

Andrew Joseph Pegoda

Society regularly miss-labels academics “radicals in the ivory tower,” especially those who work in the Liberal Arts, as they tend to be very aware of everyday culture and life. This wrath from society targets people, regardless of degrees or jobs, who voice unpopular opinions or who ask hard questions. And the more a person falls outside of the White Cis-Male Heterosexual Able-bodied Fundamentalist-Protestant paradigm the more likely he/she will be criticized and placed in the “radical” box…

Read the entire article here.

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President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-26 01:52Z by Steven

President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama named seventeen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House on November 24th.

President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor. From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:…

Katherine G. Johnson

Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson’s computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. In her later NASA career, Johnson worked on the Space Shuttle program and the Earth Resources Satellite and encouraged students to pursue careers in science and technology fields…

Image of Katherine Johnson at NASA Langley Research Center in 1980. (Source: NASA)

Read the entire press release here.

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You may not know it — but if you speak Spanish, you speak some Arabic too

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Audio, Europe, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-25 23:22Z by Steven

You may not know it — but if you speak Spanish, you speak some Arabic too

PRI’s The World
Public Radio International

Joy Diaz, Reporter

Rihab Massif, originally from Lebanon, was my daughter’s preschool teacher in Austin. As a little girl, Camila, my daughter, spoke mostly in Spanish. And Massif remembers a day when Camila was frustrated because she couldn’t remember a word in English.

“She was telling me about her camis,” Massif says.

Camisa is the word in Spanish for “shirt,” and Massif understood it perfectly because camis means the same thing in Arabic.

“And I was like ‘Oh! There are some words related to Arabic,’” she says.

To see just how many, Massif and I did an exercise. I’d say a word in Spanish, and she’d say it back in Arabic.


“We say ceit,” Massif says.


“We say guitar.”

Now that I am aware, it seems like I hear Arabic words everywhere…

…Linguist Victor Solis Parejo from the University of Barcelona in Spain says part of the language Spanish speakers use comes from a legacy of the Moorish influence. “Moors” was the name used to refer to the Arabic-speaking group from North Africa that invaded what would become Spain back in the eighth century. Their influence lasted about 700 years and is still visible today.

“Especially if you travel [in the] south of Spain­. For example in Merida, in the city where I was born, we have the Alcazaba Arabe, an Arabic fortification,” Parejo says. “So, you can see that in the cities nowadays, but you can also see that Islamic presence, that Arabic presence in the language.”…

Read the story here. Listen to the story here. Download the story here.

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What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-11-25 18:04Z by Steven

What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

The New York Times

Gordon J. Davis, Partner
Venable, LLP,  New York, New York

John Abraham Davis, center, and his family at their farm in the early 1900s. Credit Courtesy of the Davis Family

OVER the last week, a growing number of students at Princeton have demanded that the university confront the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson, who served as its president before becoming New Jersey’s governor and the 28th president of the United States. Among other things, the students are demanding that Wilson’s name be removed from university facilities.

Wilson, a Virginia-born Democrat, is mostly remembered as a progressive, internationalist statesman, a benign and wise leader, a father of modern American political science and one of our nation’s great presidents.

But he was also an avowed racist. And unlike many of his predecessors and successors in the White House, he put that racism into action through public policy. Most notably, his administration oversaw the segregation of the federal government, destroying the careers of thousands of talented and accomplished black civil servants — including John Abraham Davis, my paternal grandfather.

An African-American born in 1862 to a prominent white Washington lawyer and his black “housekeeper,” my grandfather was a smart, ambitious and handsome young black man. He emulated his idol, Theodore Roosevelt, in style and dress. He walked away from whatever assistance his father might have offered to his unacknowledged black offspring and graduated at the top of his class from Washington’s M Street High School (later the renowned all-black Dunbar High School)…

Read the entire article here.

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When society sees my mixed race children as merely “a lighter shade of black”, it does them a disservice

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-25 17:51Z by Steven

When society sees my mixed race children as merely “a lighter shade of black”, it does them a disservice

The Independent

Dawn Jarvis

My daughter says to me, “Nobody has ever said to me ‘Do you feel white?”

I am a divorced black woman with two mixed race children. Do I want my mixed race children to identify with me as a black woman, or their white father – or both?

The actor Taye Diggs caused a media storm in an interview last week on the website Grio by saying that he teaching his mixed race son to identify with the races of both his parents and he would like him to be identified as mixed and not black. He has been accused of self-hate and being ashamed of being black, which he has refuted in a recent Instagram post.

I shared an article about this on my Twitter feed and got a mixed response which surprised me. Most were positive but, one gave me cause to pause it: “I reckon he should identify with the human race given that’s what he is part of.”

While agreeing that race is a social construct and we are all indeed part of the human race, I didn’t think that response showed any understanding of where Taye was coming from…

Read the entire article here.

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Translation Tuesday: from The Atlantic Grows by Julie Sten-Knudsen

Posted in Articles, Media Archive on 2015-11-25 02:57Z by Steven

Translation Tuesday: from The Atlantic Grows by Julie Sten-Knudsen

The Guardian

Julie Sten-Knudsen

‘Welcome to the skin-coloured land…’ Photograph: Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

The fourth in a series on translated work features a poetic investigation of the relationship between two sisters who share the same mother and yet are divided – by their different fathers, their skin colour, and the Atlantic Ocean. Translated from Danish by Martin Aitken

By Julie Sten-Knudsen and Martin Aitken for Translation Tuesdays by Asymptote, part of the Guardian Books Network

In the light of the desk lamp

that is yellower than the daylight

the skin of my hand looks almost green,

almost red, with a golden wash.

It is not white.

The wall is white.

The used tissues

and the unpaid bills are white.

My hand has a different colour. The colour has a name.

I learned it when I was small. I used it

in the kindergarten, in the recreation club after school

when I needed a felt tip

in that indeterminable shade of pink

to draw a fleshy arm or a face:

I need the skin-coloured one.

There was no other use for that felt tip…

Read the entire poem here.

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On Taye Diggs and Reckoning with the Changing Realities of Race in America

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-25 02:24Z by Steven

On Taye Diggs and Reckoning with the Changing Realities of Race in America

For Harriet

Shannon Luders-Manuel

My father was a proud paralegal for the NAACP back in the 80s and 90s. He marched in rallies for race equality and was actively involved in uplifting the Black community. When I was growing up, he often had me watch the PBS series “Eyes on the Prize,” which documented the events of the Civil Rights Movement. Nestled inside my baby book is an autograph from Black Panther leader Huey Newton.

When I was a little girl, my dad said, “People will want to label you as only black, but you’re biracial.” My dad wasn’t ashamed of his blackness. Just like many fathers, he loved that I resembled both of my parents. My dad knew the world would see me as more black than white, but he wanted me to identify in a way that honored both sides of my genealogy. This was true even after my parents split up when I was three-years-old…

Read the entire article here.


The History of Race in America Is Not Black and White

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-25 02:10Z by Steven

The History of Race in America Is Not Black and White

History News Network

Dianne Guenin-Lelle

Dr. Dianne Guenin-Lelle teaches French at Albion College. A specialist in Seventeenth Century French Narrative, Francophone Louisiana and Multicultural Pedagogies, she has published numerous articles and two books, Jeanne Guyon, Selected Writings in the Classics in Western Spirituality Series (2012, co-authored with Ronney Mourad) and The Prison Narratives of Jeanne Guyon (2012, co-authored by Ronney Mourad). Her latest book The Story of French New Orleans: History of a Creole City (University Press of Mississippi) will appear in January.

Despite the racial divide in this country, exemplified by the #blacklivesmatter movement, history shows it does not have to be this way. If we are going to fill this chasm, we should look to the past. A past that we have forgotten too often. Our accepted version of US history is basically that African Americans came to this land to become enslaved by whites and were liberated by the Emancipation Proclamation. While there existed Free People of Color before the Civil War, in this version of history, they managed to escape slavery and move north. This narrative sets up race relations along a “black-white” color line of racial separation, and accompanying opposition around questions of privilege, power and dignity. In the US today many feel a sense of despair that the situation has changed so little over so long, and a kind of hopeless fear that things might never be different…

Read the entire article here.

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