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Lucille Times, Who Inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dies at 100

Lucille Alicia Sharpe was born on April 22, 1921, in Hope Hull, a community outside Montgomery.

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Lucille Times, Photo courtesy of Troy University

Lucille Times, whose encounter with a bus driver in Montgomery, Ala., in June 1955 led her to begin a one-woman boycott of the city’s public transportation, an act of defiance that inspired a mass boycott six months later after another Black woman, Rosa Parks, was charged with defying the same bus driver, died on Aug. 16 at the home of her nephew Daniel Nichols. She was 100.

Mr. Nichols, with whom she had been living for several years, said the cause was complications of Covid-19.

Mrs. Times was driving to the dry cleaners on June 15, 1955, when she got into an altercation with James Blake, the bus driver, who tried to push her car off the road three times. She continued on her errand, but he followed her.

Parking his bus across the street, he ran over to her and yelled, “You Black son of a bitch!” she recalled in a 2017 interview.

She immediately replied, “You white son of a bitch!” and the two started fighting. At one point she bit him on the arm.

Suddenly she felt a blow to her neck. She looked down and saw the high boots of a motorcycle police officer, who had hit her with his flashlight.

The officer took Mr. Blake aside, then turned to her.

“‘Do you know that was a white man you called a white son of a bitch?’” she recalled him saying. “I said, ‘Do you know I’m a Black woman that he called a Black son of a bitch?’”

The officer let her off with a warning, telling her that if she had been a man, he would have “beat my head to jelly,” she said.

Mrs. Times drove away, furious. “My blood was almost boiling,” she said. “I didn’t even take my clothes into the dry cleaners.”

At home her husband, Charlie, had already heard about the incident. Together they called E.D. Nixon, the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter, and asked what they could do. He came over that night.

As a child, she had taken part in a boycott of a butcher shop in Detroit, where she was visiting relatives, and she suggested to Mr. Nixon that the city’s Black community could do the same. He agreed, but said the time wasn’t right — they would need money, cars and other supplies to make it happen. He asked her to have patience.

She called the city bus company to complain, but no one responded. She sent letters to The Montgomery Advertiser and The Atlanta Journal, but they refused to print them. She decided not to wait.

Over the next six months, she operated her own boycott, driving to bus stops and offering free rides to Black passengers waiting to board. Charlie, with whom she ran a cafe across from their house, collected money for gas, and they used the cafe as a planning hub — people could call Charlie to arrange a ride, and he would assemble a schedule for his wife.

“Lucille was loaded for bear, and she wouldn’t back down from nothing,” Mr. Nichols said. “She was full steam ahead.”

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and activist in the Montgomery N.A.A.C.P., boarded Mr. Blake’s bus and sat in the front section, which was reserved for white riders. When he ordered her to move to the back, she refused, and was arrested. Four days later, the Montgomery Improvement Association, formed in coordination with the N.A.A.C.P. and led by a 26-year-old preacher, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., announced a citywide boycott.

The Timeses participated in the boycott, which lasted over a year and helped lead to the end of segregation on the city’s public transportation.

“You’ve got to fight,” Mrs. Times said in 2017.  “You don’t get nothing for free. I’ve been a fighter all of my days.”

Lucille Alicia Sharpe was born on April 22, 1921, in Hope Hull, a community outside Montgomery. Her mother, Jamie (Woodley) Sharpe, died when she was young, and Lucille and her five siblings were raised by her father, Walter Sharpe. They later moved to Montgomery, though she lived for stretches of time with relatives in Chicago and Detroit.

She married Charlie Times in 1939 and later received a bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College in Montgomery. Mr. Times served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and when he returned, they opened the Times Cafe. It became a social hub for the city’s Black community.

It was also a center for civil rights activism. The Timeses joined the N.A.A.C.P. in the 1940s, and after Alabama outlawed the organization in 1956, they let Mr. Nixon use their home for secret meetings.

The Timeses remained active in the movement, participating in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery and hosting 18 other marchers, Black and white, at their home. Mr. Times died in 1978.

Despite her signature role in the origins of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Times was for decades unrecognized for her contribution. Troy King, a former attorney general of Alabama who became friends with her in the 2010s, speculated that it was because her outspokenness ran against the image of civil rights protesters as quiet and reserved.

“She was like an iron fist in a velvet glove,” Mr. King, now in private practice, said in an interview. “She didn’t get pushed around.”

At one point he invited her to speak to his daughter’s fourth-grade class, which was studying Alabama history. Though Mrs. Times had trouble speaking because a stroke had left her vocal cords partially paralyzed, she managed to narrate her tale, peppering it with profanity and racial epithets, shocking students and teachers.

“It was exceptionally jarring, but it left an impression that they will never forget,” Mr. King said.

Mrs. Times did eventually receive some local recognition. In 2007, her house was placed on the Alabama Registry of Landmarks and Heritage, and the state placed historic markers in front of her home and the building that once housed the Times Cafe.

Her neighbors also created a community garden in her honor and named it for her and Mr. Nixon. In April they held a 100th birthday party for her, but she was unable to attend because of the pandemic.

Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

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9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

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Art

David Drake: A Potter Who Inscribed His Work With Poetry

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”

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A pot created by David Drake. Wikipedia photo.

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”
According to some collectors and scholars, this message demonstrates “Drake questioning his heritage and personal history … signifies [his] positivity despite facing the many brutalities of slavery, including the loss of personal identity.” Further, by etching what is clearly a personal expression, Drake defied a South Carolina law forbidding Blacks to read and write.
South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1740, prohibited educating enslaved Africans, punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison. Most Southern states in the early 1800s restricted Black literacy.
Drake’s date of birth is unclear. It is said that it was during the first half of 1800. The first legal record of him (June 13, 1818) describes “a boy about 17 years old country born … mortgaged to Eldrid Simkins by Harvey Drake.”
The (Harvey) Drake family owned a plantation in Edgefield, S.C. The term “country born” refers to enslaved Blacks born in the United States rather than Africa. David Drake lived and worked in Edgefield’s pottery factories for almost all his life.
David Drake was first enslaved by Harvey Drake, who alongside Abner Landrum, owned a large pottery business. Known to be a religious man, Landrum was the publisher of a local newspaper, The Edgefield Hive. Scholars speculate that he taught Drake to read the Bible, even if doing so was a punishable offense.
After Harvey Drake’s death, David Drake was enslaved by Landrum. In 1846, Landrum passed away. Drake was then purchased and enslaved by Landrum’s son Franklin, who was abusive. While owned by Franklin, Drake never inscribed his works. But Drake’s life, his works, blossomed in 1849, when he was sold to Lewis Miles.
Miles owned the pottery factory, Stony Bluff. There Drake created his best works once again inscribed with poetry. The number of pieces produced increased from one every few years to seven in 1859. Having produced alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1870s, Drake is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work. He became a free man when the Civil War closed (1865).
According to Drake scholar Jill Beute Koverman, Drake created “more than 40,000 pieces over his lifetime.”
When Drake was alive, his pots sold for around 50 cents. Today they fetch as much as $50,000 and have auctioned for as much as $369,000. A butter churn with the inscription “This is a noble churn / fill it up it will never turn,” sold for $130,000.
Various collections including his work can be viewed at museums including the Smithsonian collection of the National Museum of American History in Wash., D.C.
It is thought that Drake died in the 1870s because according to scholars, “he is not found in the 1880 census.”

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Black History

After 9/11, Some Found Healing by Helping

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.

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Merrill and Erica Belfield share in their volunteer work as Bible teachers from their home in the Bay Area. Two decades after the tragic events of 9/11, they find happiness in comforting others using the Bible's message of hope.

“They’re all dead,” Erica Belfield screamed while watching the news from her living room the day after the tragedy.
 
Just 24 hours earlier, practically in the Belfields’ backyard, the disaster at the World Trade Center happened.

At the time of 9/11, Merrill and Erica Belfield from the Bay Area were volunteers at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn.

“I went to the window in our building where we had an unobstructed view of the towers,” Merrill said. “I not only saw the plane as it hit the second tower, but I vividly recall seeing people jump out of the tower in an attempt to save their lives. The events of 9/11 shifted the trajectory of our lives and it’s something we will never forget.”

In the days ahead, what helped the Belfields cope was maintaining their spiritual routine of daily Bible reading, prayer and helping others. “When you go through a tragedy, it brings you joy when you focus on others and not solely on yourself,” Erica said. “It was a blessing to comfort our neighbors in this way.”

Helping others has long been linked to better emotional well-being in psychology research. The book “The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others” describes “powerful” effects, even for helpers who have experienced trauma themselves.

Trauma was all too common among the many volunteers at Ground Zero. Roy Klingsporn, a Brooklynite who volunteered at Ground Zero nearly every day for two months, recalled on one occasion approaching a man who sat slouched in a golf cart near the site’s makeshift morgue.

“When I asked him how he was doing, he burst into tears,” said Klingsporn, now of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He said, ‘I’m tired of picking up body parts.’”

Within days of the attacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up teams that spent hours each day in Lower Manhattan, Bibles in hand, consoling everyone from the families of victims to first responders battling physical and emotional exhaustion. It was a work that changed how the organization approaches disasters, with an organized comfort ministry now being an integral part of its response to natural disasters and even the pandemic.

Recalling the gut-wrenching days he spent as one of those volunteers near the smoldering remains of the Twin Towers still stirs deep feelings in Robert Hendriks.

“It was very emotional and extremely difficult for me, but the faces of those I passed on the street said it all,” said Hendriks, now U.S. spokesman for the Witnesses. “They needed comfort, and the best thing I could give them was a hug and a Scripture.”

For Brown “Butch” Payne, the events of September 11, 2001, tore open old wounds, bringing back vivid wartime memories the Vietnam veteran had tried to forget.

From his East Village apartment, Payne recalled the crowds of frantic people streaming north from Lower Manhattan. “That sight stirred up a lot of emotions in me,” he said. “It shook me to the core.”

Payne found relief in rendering aid the best way he knew how. “Sharing the Bible’s message of hope softened the blow for me,” he said.

Offering a shoulder to cry on brought Klingsporn comfort too. “It was satisfying to be of help to my community,” he said.

Two decades later, the Belfields are still battling the mental toll that 9/11 took on them. “Whenever Merrill hears a plane in the sky, he looks up, not knowing if another attack will happen,” Erica said.
 
“But what helped us back then is the same thing that helps us today — focusing on others. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been able to write comforting letters to those who’ve lost loved ones. Many of the feelings we felt back then are the same ones people are struggling with today.”

Payne feels the same. In 2016, after 50 years of marriage, he lost his beloved wife to cancer. On days when his grief feels overwhelming, Payne writes heartfelt letters that lift his neighbors’ spirits — and his own. He shares Scriptures and resources that have helped him, like articles on coping with trauma and loss on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Encouraging others to look to the future helps me to do the same,” he said.

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