Herb Jeffries, jazz balladeer and star of all-black cowboy movies, dies

Posted in Articles, Arts, United States on 2014-05-26 21:33Z by Steven

Herb Jeffries, jazz balladeer and star of all-black cowboy movies, dies

The Washington Post
2014-05-26

Adam Bernstein, Editor


Source: Wikipedia

Herb Jeffries, a jazz balladeer whose matinee-idol looks won him fame in the late 1930s as the “Bronze Buckaroo” — the first singing star of all-black cowboy movies for segregated audiences — died May 25 at a hospital in West Hills, Calif. He was widely believed to be 100, but for years he insisted he was much older.

The cause was stomach and heart ailments, said Raymond Strait, a friend of 70 years who had been working with Mr. Jeffries on his autobiography. Mr. Jeffries liked to exaggerate his age to shock listeners. “He wanted people to say, ‘Wow, he can still sing pretty good for 111,’ ” Strait said.

Mr. Jeffries had a seven-decade career on film, television, record and in nightclubs. His baritone voice — extraordinarily rich but delicate — was memorably captured on his greatest musical success, a 1941 hit recording of “Flamingo” with Duke Ellington’s big band.

With a towering physique and a square jaw, Mr. Jeffries was perfectly suited to capitalize on the singing-cowboy movie craze that Gene Autry and Roy Rogers popularized in the 1930s…

…Mr. Jeffries was coy about his background. He claimed, at times, to have been born Umberto Alejandro Balentino to an Irish mother and Sicilian father of mixed race. Other sources say he was born Herbert Ironton Jeffries in Detroit, probably on Sept. 24, 1913 — the date Strait said was correct. Other reported dates of birth range from 1909 to 1916.

He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008 of his heritage: “I’m all colors, like everyone else. If we all go back 10 or 15 generations, we don’t know what we have in us. I don’t think there’s one person from around the Mediterranean who doesn’t have Moorish blood. I have Sicilian blood, and I have Moorish blood. I am colored, and I love it. I have a right to identify myself the way I do and if nobody likes it, what are they going to do? Kill my career?”

Mr. Jeffries never knew his father. He was raised by his mother in a boardinghouse she ran and where many singers and actors stayed. It was this exposure to show business that led Mr. Jeffries to appear, as a young man, in Detroit nightclubs and ballrooms…

Read the entire obituary here.

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The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible impostor?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-11-08 13:58Z by Steven

The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible impostor?

The Washington Post
2013-11-06

Richard Leiby

Reading, Pa. — Here lies the celebrated Lone Star Dietz — in a donated cemetery plot, aside a back road, under a drooping evergreen. A simple marker, paid for by friends, bears only one word that hints at his legend: “Coach.”

Finally, we have found him, the Washington Redskins’ namesake. Dietz coached the inaugural Boston Redskins team 80 years ago, before it moved to Washington. He was a Sioux Indian, and the team was named in his honor, “out of respect for Native American heritage and tradition.”

That is what the team’s attorneys have said, anyway, in court filings battling an effort by Native Americans to cancel the Redskins trademark as disparaging — a campaign more than two decades old. Now the objections to the name are reaching an unprecedented volume, including Tuesday’s D.C. Council vote condemning the team name as “racist and derogatory.”

In the midst of this criticism, team owner Dan Snyder wrote a letter to season-ticket holders last month in which he mentioned the team’s former Native American head coach and called the name “a badge of honor.”

But what if Coach Lone Star Dietz wasn’t an Indian?…

…A half-century after his death, it seems that no one has decisively pinned down the heritage of William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. This makes the Redskins’ flat-out assertions that the First Coach was an Indian even more problematic for some…

…Dietz’s claims about his Sioux origins were accepted and repeated for decades by researchers and credulous reporters.

I was one of them. Ninety years after The Post first took note of Dietz and his artistry at the 1904 World’s Fair, I wrote about him. “His father was German, his mother Sioux,” I said in a story about how the Redskins got their name.

At the time, my understanding of Dietz’s heritage was based on the available scholarship and a number of interviews. Indians I talked to did not raise questions about his self-proclaimed Sioux identity…

Read the entire article here.

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Cory Booker wins New Jersey Senate race

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-10-17 03:00Z by Steven

Cory Booker wins New Jersey Senate race

The Washington Post
2013-10-16

Sean Sullivan

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising national Democratic star, was elected to the U.S. Senate Wednesday and will become New Jersey’s first ever African American senator.

Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota. With 58 percent of the vote counted, the Associated Press called the contest for Booker, who was carrying 56 percent of the vote.

When Booker is sworn in, the Democratic Caucus will once again hold a 55-45 advantage over the GOP Conference. Booker will fill the seat once held by Frank Lautenberg, a long-serving Democratic senator who died in June. Gov. Chris Christie appointed fellow Republican Jeff Chiesa to be Lautenberg’s interim replacement.

Booker, 44, will become the chamber’s second African American member along with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Albert Murray, author who drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz, dies at 97

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2013-08-22 01:12Z by Steven

Albert Murray, author who drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz, dies at 97

The Washington Post
2013-08-19

Adam Bernstein, Reporter

Albert Murray, a self-described “riff-style intellectual” whose novels, nonfiction books and essays drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz and whose works underscored how black culture and the blues in particular were braided into American life, died Aug. 18 at his home in New York City. He was 97…

…He began a full-time writing career after leaving the Air Force in 1962 at the rank of major. His debut collection, “The Omni-Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture,” had immediate cultural impact.

It was a tome of contrarian, independent thinking — a riposte to both black complacency and black militancy. It also fought attempts to interpret black life through sociological concepts, even those espoused by well-meaning liberals such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“The United States is in actuality not a nation of black people and white people,” Mr. Murray wrote. “It is a nation of multicolored people. There are white Americans so to speak and black Americans. But any fool can see that the white people are not really white and that black people are not black. They are all interrelated one way or another.

American culture, he continued, is “incontestably mulatto,” and Americans of all races are inheritors of a cultural tradition that makes them “part Yankee, part backwoodsman and Indian — and part Negro.”…

Read the entire obituary here.

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Obama rodeo clown incident illustrates nation’s continued racial divide

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-08-17 02:38Z by Steven

Obama rodeo clown incident illustrates nation’s continued racial divide

The Washington Post
2013-08-15

Philip Rucker

SEDALIA, Mo. — As some people at the Missouri State Fair see it, the rodeo incident last weekend in which a ringleader taunted a clown wearing a mask of President Obama and played with his lips as a bull charged after him was neither racist nor disrespectful.

It was a joke, they said, overblown by a news media that’s hypersensitive to any possible slight against the nation’s first black president. They said the hooting and hollering from the crowd that night was because of a fundamental dislike of the president.

“I’ve got no respect for him,” said Virgil Henke, 65, a livestock farmer who explained his distaste for Obama with several falsehoods about his background: “Why, he’s destroyed this country. How much freedom have we lost? I don’t care whether it’s a black man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he is Muslim and trying to destroy the country, catering to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”…

…There is a long history of mocking politicians at rodeos, and clowns have donned masks of other presidents as part of their acts. But James Staab, a political science professor at the University of Central Missouri, said last week’s incident “goes beyond the pale — they’re talking about physical injury and racial stereotypes.”…

…“I was raised to think the blacks were bad; I’m not gonna lie. We lived on one side of the tracks, and they lived on the other,” said Margaret Abercrombie, 68, who is white and grew up along the Mississippi River in Sikeston, Mo.

Abercrombie said she voted twice for Obama but didn’t find anything wrong with the rodeo act. As she rode her motorized wheelchair to the grandstands at the rodeo arena, which on this day hosted tractor pull races, Abercrombie said the anti-Obama sentiments she encounters are based on race.

“You hear the farmers here, they just don’t like him because he’s black,” Abercrombie said. Pointing across the fairgrounds to the cattle barns, she added, “I’m surprised they ain’t got a cow over there named Obama.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama on Trayvon Martin: The first black president speaks out first as a black American

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-07-21 20:25Z by Steven

Obama on Trayvon Martin: The first black president speaks out first as a black American

The Washington Post
2013-07-20

David Maraniss

Trayvon Martin, the president said, could have been him 35 years ago. That would have been Barack Obama at age 17, then known as Barry and living in Honolulu. He had a bushy Afro. Hoodies were not in style then, or often needed in balmy Hawaii. His customary hangout outfit was flip-flops, called “slippers” on the island, shell bracelet, OP shorts and a tee.

Imagine if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer, perhaps in some exclusive development on the far side of Diamond Head after leaving home to get shave ice. The news reports would have painted a complicated picture of the young victim, a variation on how Martin was portrayed decades later in Florida:

Lives with his grandparents; father not around, mother somewhere overseas. Pretty good student, sometimes distracted. Likes to play pickup hoops and smoke pot. Hangs out with buddies who call themselves the Choom Gang. Depending on who is providing the physical description, he could seem unprepossessing or intimidating, easygoing or brooding. And black.

On the inside, the young Obama had already begun a long search for identity — and by extension a study of the meaning and context of race. His mother and maternal grandparents were white. He was not. He lived in one culture, and the skin color passed along to him by his absent father placed him inalterably in another, in the eyes of others. How and why did race define him, limit him, grace him, frustrate him, alienate him, propel him and connect him to the world?

His effort to reconcile those questions and figure himself out was his quest. It took him off the island to Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, where he finally found a sense of belonging and comfort in the black community. It took him into writing, and then politics. He wrote a book about it. “Dreams From My Father” is not so much an autobiography as a coming-of-age memoir filtered through the lens of race. As a state senator in Illinois, where he worked on legislation to overcome racial profiling, some African American colleagues dismissed him as not being black enough. As a candidate for president, when he was linked to a fiery black preacher, some white detractors said he hated white people. He eventually reached the presidency on a theme meant to answer both extremes. His idealistic message was that people yearned to transcend the differences that kept them apart, race prime among them…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama, from Rev. Wright to Trayvon Martin

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-07-21 01:46Z by Steven

Obama, from Rev. Wright to Trayvon Martin

The Washington Post
2013-07-20

Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent

President Obama’s comments on Friday about the killing of Trayvon Martin were remarkable in many respects, but not least because of the distance he has traveled since the equally notable speech he delivered in 2008 during the controversy about his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

When Obama — then an aspirant to the presidency — spoke in 2008, he sought to translate and explain the grievances, fears and resentments of both whites and blacks concerning the volatile topic of race in America. He spoke as a bridge builder who was trying to give something close to equal weight to the views of each side.

On Friday, he again sought to calm a roiling controversy, but he spoke as an African American who happened to be president, and he spoke to explain why the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman has been so difficult for so many African Americans to accept…

…He barely mentioned George Zimmerman. He said he would let legal analysts and talking heads deal with the particulars of the case. Instead, his comments were all about Trayvon Martin and the black experience in America. “I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” he said.

This is, after all, a president who wrote a book — “Dreams From My Father,” about his search for racial identity as the child of a white mother and an absent black African father. He has thought long and hard about the complexities of race in America, and it was clear from what he said Friday that this is something he and his wife talk about privately.

He spoke not just as an African American but also as an African American male — “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago” — in a country where young African American males regularly die from gunshots or are, as he noted had happened to him, subject to being followed while shopping in a department store, no matter how innocently, or who can hear the locks on car doors click when they walk along a street…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-15 02:30Z by Steven

The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America

The Washington Post
2012-03-23

Reniqua Allen, Freelance Journalist and Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow
New America Foundation

A few weeks ago, I was standing outside a posh bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with my friends of almost two decades. I made an offhanded comment about the ratio of blonde-haired-blue-eyed chicks to brown girls like me. It seemed like a zillion to one.

My pals, who are white, didn’t get why I was bringing this up. “No one cares about race except you,” one said.

I tried to explain my frustration with having to always choose between an all-black experience or being the “only one,” whether at work, in grad school or even out for a night in New York. I waited for a nod of sympathy; instead, my best friend threw her hands up and said: “How can we all be racist? Look at who is president!”

I didn’t have a response.

Right now the nation has embarked on a massive conversation about race surrounding the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. On Friday, President Obama weighed in. “I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out: How does something like this happen?” he said.

It’s an important conversation to have — but I fear it won’t lead anywhere…

Read the entire article here.

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A complicated family history places black Md. woman in DAR’s ranks

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2013-07-05 09:57Z by Steven

A complicated family history places black Md. woman in DAR’s ranks

The Washington Post
2013-06-29

Darryl Fears

Reisha Raney’s role in Friday night’s Daughters of the American Revolution ceremony for the military was minor. She carried Virginia’s flag in a procession that walked a few steps down a carpeted aisle at Constitution Hall and then stood perfectly still.

But for Raney, an African American raised in Prince George’s County, it was one of the most pivotal moments in her life. Her place in the DAR, a predominantly white organization whose annual convention at Constitution Hall in the District ends Sunday, was proof of her extraordinary family history.

The group certified research that traced Raney’s roots to William Turpin, a patriot who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. Turpin’s mother was Mary Jefferson, the aunt of the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson.

Raney respects her ties to Jefferson, but he’s not the reason the 39-year-old Fort Washington resident went to a beauty salon, slipped on a flowing white gown and smiled like a beauty-pageant contestant as she walked the halls of a group that at one time barred black people.

She was honoring William Turpin’s son, Edwin, Jefferson’s second cousin, who purchased a slave, Mary, and married her in Canada. The two lived in neighboring houses on a plantation in Goochland County, Va. The houses were burned when word got out, and then were rebuilt, according to a family memoir. Before his death in 1868, Edwin wrote in a will that the children he had with “my woman Mary” were to be free…

Read the entire article here.

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Who is Latino?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-21 21:19Z by Steven

Who is Latino?

The Washington Post
2013-06-21

Carlos Lozada, Editor of Outlook, The Washington Post’s Sunday section for opinion, analysis

‘Shut up, you stupid Mexican!”

The words spewed from the mouth of a pale, freckle-faced boy, taunting me on our elementary school playground.

I wish I could recall what I said to inspire the insult. But more than three decades later, I remember only my reply. “Stupid Peruvian,” I pointed out, wagging my finger.

My family had emigrated from Lima to Northern California a few years earlier, so my nationality was a point of fact (whereas my stupidity remains a matter of opinion). The response so confused my classmate that my first encounter with prejudice ended as quickly as it started. Recess resumed.

Today, my grade-school preoccupation with nationality feels a bit quaint. Peruvian or Mexican — does it even matter? We’re all Latinos now…

…If all ethnic identities are created, imagined or negotiated to some degree, American Hispanics provide an especially stark example. As part of an effort in the 1970s to better measure who was using what kind of social services, the federal government established the word “Hispanic” to denote anyone with ancestry traced to Spain or Latin America, and mandated the collection of data on this group. “The term is a U.S. invention,” explains Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “If you go to El Salvador or the Dominican Republic, you won’t necessarily hear people say they are ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic.’ 

You may not hear it much in the United States, either. According to a 2012 Pew survey, only about a quarter of Hispanic adults say they identify themselves most often as Hispanic or Latino. About half say they prefer to cite their family’s country of origin, while one-fifth say they use “American.” (Among third-generation Latinos, nearly half identify as American.)

The Office of Management and Budget defines a Hispanic as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race” — about as specific as calling someone European.

“There is no coherence to the term,” says Marta Tienda, a sociologist and director of Latino studies at Princeton University. For instance, even though it’s officially supposed to connote ethnicity and nationality rather than race — after all, Hispanics can be black, white or any other race — the term “has become a racialized category in the United States,” Tienda says. “Latinos have become a race by default, just by usage of the category.”…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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