Posts Tagged ‘NAACP’

Another Side of Rosa Parks Part 1

I heard a group of Black teenagers talking about Rosa Parks one day.  Most of the teens said they wouldn’t have put up with sitting in the back of the bus. They didn’t understand the racist climate of the times and that Mrs. Parks’ act of defiance could have resulted in her being brutally beat or even killed.  The teens weren’t aware that bus drivers had police powers and that they carried guns and/or black jacks and that drivers were known to brutally assault and even murder Blacks who violated Jim Crow laws or were seen as “troublemakers.” The teens didn’t fully appreciate just how brave Mrs. Parks had been because on its face she performed a very simple act.

Rosa Parks’ name brings to mind an image of a quiet, be-speckled seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in 1955.  What many people don’t know about Mrs. Parks, however, is that she had been involved in civil rights for decades before the bus incident.  She was a longtime member of the NAACP at a time when signing up with that organization could get a person fired from their jobs, harassed, brutalized or even killed by whites.

White men had raped Black women regularly and with impunity for hundreds of years in America, particularly in the South, and some of the rapists were policemen.  These crimes were still being committed in the 1940s when Mrs. Parks was working for the NAACP.  She traveled through the South interviewing Black rape victims in the hopes these women might one day receive justice.  It took a lot of courage for her to drive alone to the victims homes, especially because local authorities knew she was retrieving information that could potentially imprison white men.  If Rosa stayed in town too long, authorities would run her out.  She could have been brutalized, raped or killed on any visit.

In 1944, Recy Taylor, a Black wife and mother from Abbeville, Alabama, was kidnapped and brutally gang raped by six white men.  At the time of her abduction, she was walking home from church with her friend Fannie Daniel and Fannie’s teenage son, West. Daniels is the one who initially reported this horrific crime to the police and then Recy came forward.  Both women displayed great courage in an era when whites terrorized and even killed Blacks who reported them to police.  In addition to that, many white police were racist towards Blacks. Ms. Daniels could identify the car and she knew the driver’s name, yet the police refused to arrest the rapists. The Black community was outraged and the Montgomery branch of the NAACP got involved. They told Recy they would send their best investigator, Rosa Parks.

Rosa worked with chapter president E.D. Nixon and others to build a case against the rapists.  Nixon was criticized for a more aggressive approach to securing justice but Rosa was on board.  After all, she grew up watching her grandfather sit in his home with a rifle on his lap to ward off the Klan, and she was the wife of Raymond Parks, a gun-toting activist who helped raise money for the Scottsborro Boys in the 1930s.

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AP Spells Black With Small “b”

The Associated Press is one of the largest news gathering and news disseminating agencies in the world.  It serves approximately 120 countries and over 1,700 newspapers publish AP news.  This well-respected cooperative provides members with a stream of news stories and updates throughout the day.  Each year it publishes the “AP Style Book,” a grammar and punctuation guide that is widely used within the news industry.  Despite the fact it suggests reporters capitalize the first letter of proper nouns, AP spells the word “Black” with a lower case “b,” when it refers to people.  Like in “blacks and Hispanics.” AP also spells “white” with a small “w,” but the word “Black” is used a lot more.  Besides, if AP capitalized the “w” in “white” that would be glaringly discriminatory.

Blacks have been subjected to sundry forms of discrimination.  Even the smallest of polite considerations took a hit.  Whites denied Blacks the courtesy of addressing them as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and instead referred to Blacks as “uncle” and “aunt” like in Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima.  In the early 1960s when the draft-board learned that Preston King was a Black man, their letters stopped referring to him as “Mr.”  After many unsuccessful attempts to get the Board to properly address him, King left the country in protest and was in exile for 39 years.

During the era when Blacks were referred to as “Negroes,” white publishers insisted on spelling the word with a lower case “n.”  Many Negro leaders spoke out against this and in the 1930s the NAACP mounted a campaign to try and get the white media to spell “Negro” with a capital “N.”

In 1898 W.E.B. DuBois publicly announced, “I believe that eight million Americans are entitled to a capital letter.”   Similar to many Negroes, he felt it was an insult to his race to spell it with a small “n,” but that didn’t deter white publishers and editors from continuing this practice for decades.

Ida B Wells Barnett published “The Lynch Law in America” in 1900.  When she submitted the manuscript to her white publisher, Ida capitalized the “N” in “Negro” although the publisher later changed it.  It was unheard of at that time for whites to confer a capital letter on the Negro race.   Wells and her husband, owners of a newspaper, actively attempted to get the white press to stop diminishing the Negro race with a small letter.  Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey also spoke out about this as well.

Many publications, even some that are Black, follow the AP Style Book recommendations.  Some journalists are unfamiliar with the history of the capital letter in relationship to Blacks, so there might not be any ill intent, but there are those who are aware and still choose to withhold it.

Given this history, here’s my message to the AP:  “Let go of the old ways.  Blacks make up 13 percent of the population.  We are a group.  You spell every group, except Blacks, with a capital letter.  We’re a proper noun and long overdue an upper case “B.”