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Black History

The Way West: Reparations Task Force Looks at Black Migration to California

During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 

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"Scott and Violet Arthur arrive with their family at Chicago's Polk Street Depot on Aug. 30, 1920, two months after their two sons were lynched in Paris, Texas. The picture has become an iconic symbol of the Great Migration. (Chicago History Museum)"[1]/ Wikimedia Commons

 I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown…

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom.

- Richard Wright, the author of Black Boy, 1945

    During its third meeting, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans looked at reasons formerly enslaved Black people migrated to the Golden State — and detailed setbacks they faced after arriving. 

    During the period historians dub the “Great Migration”– which lasted from the early 1900s through the 1970s – approximately 6 million Black Americans relocated from Deep South states to Northern, Midwestern, Eastern and Western states. Significant numbers ended up in California, escaping Jim Crow laws and racial violence and seeking economic opportunity. 

     Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “described the movement as “a redistribution of Black people.”  

    “It was the only time in America’s history that American citizens had to flee the land of their birth just to be recognized as the citizens that they had always been,” Wilkerson said, pointing out that no other group of Americans has been displaced under similar conditions.

     After President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction era began. It was a period of prosperity as some Blacks in different places began to establish businesses and communities; contest for (and win) political office; establish schools, and more. 

     But it was short-lived because of white backlash, Wilkerson said. 

     By the early 1900s, racist white Southerners began to terrorize freed Black people with cross burnings, and racial violence — and discriminate against them by instituting Jim Crow laws. 

     There was a spike in lynchings, and a sharecropping system that mirrored the conditions of slavery began to take form in the 11 former slaveholding states.

     Under those policies, opportunities for Blacks were almost nonexistent.

    After World War World I began in Europe in 1914, there was a shortage of labor. Factories started luring Black people North to fill vacancies. By 1919, an estimated 1 million Southern Blacks had departed for the North.

    By the 1930s, the Great Depression had slowed Black migration. But the revival of the exodus from the South, a period historians call the “Second Great Migration,” started around 1939. 

     This time around, California was a major destination. 

    As Black people left the South, Wilkerson said, they “followed three, beautifully predictable streams — pathways to freedom.” The first two led to Eastern and Midwestern states. The “West Coast stream,” Wilkerson told the task force, “carried people from Louisiana and Texas out to California and the entire West Coast.”

    World War II created an expansion of the country’s defense industry, according to the Southern California public television network,. During this time, more jobs were available to African Americans. California cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland began to see an influx of Black people.

    According to KCET, a Southern California public television network, the Black population in Los Angeles grew from 63,700 in the 1940s to 763,000 in 1970. The migration was largely fueled by job openings in industries manufacturing automobiles, rubber, and steel. The presence of Blacks became evident along Central Avenue between 8th and 20th streets in California’s largest city.

     “(Black southerners) were recruited to the North and West to fill labor shortages in the steel mills, factories and shipyards,” Wilkerson said. “It turned out that they wanted the labor but did not want the people.”

    The response to the Great Migration was “structural barriers of exclusion,” Wilkerson said. Restrictive covenants required white property owners to agree not to sell to Black people and many areas in large and mid-range cities were redlined to deny services to Blacks. 

   “By law and by policies, parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of almost every African American alive today (were denied) the greatest source of wealth in this country: homeownership, the American Dream itself,” Wilkerson said.  

    “With all the testimony I’ve heard, I don’t see how any person of conscience, character and civility could not understand that the facts have been given,” said Task Force vice-chair, the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch. 

   The purpose of the nine-member task force is to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans and recommend appropriate ways to educate the Californians about the task force’s findings.

    Sanctioned from 1619 to 1865, legalized slavery in the United States deprived more than 4 million Africans and their descendants of citizenship rights and economic opportunity. After it was abolished, government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels perpetuated, condoned, and often profited from practices that disadvantaged African Americans and excluded them from participation in society.

     “On those sugar, rice, and tobacco fields (in the deep south) were opera singers, jazz musicians, novelists, surgeons, attorneys, professors, accountants, and legislators,” Wilkerson said. “How do we know that? Because that is what they and their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have often chosen to become.”

    Wilkerson first gained national attention in 1994, when she became the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994, while employed as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times.

    Wilkerson’s parents are both from Southern states, but they stayed in Wash., D.C., where she was born, after meeting at Howard University. It was her parents’ migration northward, she says, that inspired her research on an era that helped to shape the country’s current demographics.  

     “Slavery has lasted so long that it will not be until next year, 2022, that the United States would have been a free and independent nation for as long as slavery lasted on this soil,” she said. 

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Bay Area

COMMENTARY: Abuse Is Not Love

Domestic violence is the No. 1 violent crime in Marin. Women account for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, and men for 15%. Half of the men who assault their wives also assault their children. Adults in same-sex relationships suffer abuse at the same rate as heterosexual couples.

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photo from www.itv.com.
photo from www.itv.com.

By Godfrey Lee

The Mental Health Advocacy Team of First Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC), along with the Marin City Mental Health Services, and the Center for Domestic Peace, conducted a training called “Working Together to End Domestic Violence” on October 25.

Rev. Ronald Leggett, FMBC’s pastor, hosted the Zoom program.

Cynthia Williams, a domestic violence advocate for peace, and a friend of FMBC, introduced the presenter and facilitator, Meghan Kehoe, from the Center for Domestic Peace.

photo from left: Rev. Ronald Leggett, Meghan Kehoe

photo from left: Rev. Ronald Leggett, Meghan Kehoe

Kehoe says that domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used to exert power and control over an intimate partner. The abuser may use a variety of types of abuse to make sure that they have and maintain control over their partner. These types of domestic violence include physical, emotional, economic, sexual, spiritual abuse as well as stalking and strangulation.

Domestic violence can be physical, but the greatest impact is through verbal and emotional abuse. How victims have been abused and how they feel about themselves will always be present in their mind.

Domestic violence is the No. 1 violent crime in Marin. Women account for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, and men for 15%. Half of the men who assault their wives also assault their children. Adults in same-sex relationships suffer abuse at the same rate as heterosexual couples.

Survivors need unconditional support from their friends. Many of those who stay in an abusive relationships have probably lost a lot of friends who love and support the victim but don’t understand the pattern of abuse, and do not understand why the survivor leaves, then returns to the abuser.

Children witness and experience the domestic violence and fear it just as much as the survivor does, if not more, and 60% of them are also victims of the physical violence as well.

The children, youth, and young adults are also being traumatized and affected by the violence. They may not know how to articulate what is happening to their family, or how to feel when their parents are hurting each another. So, talk to them and see if they want to talk to their parents or a safe person in their life.

Even if children know that they are not the cause of the violence, they still feel it in their hearts. Tell them that it is not their fault, and nothing they did caused the violence.

Young people who survive need good information, programs and services to help them find and maintain healthy relationships.

There is never a wrong time to reach out to someone who is being abused in a relationship. And you should also go with them to get help. Connect them to professionals, or a domestic violence agency. Offer them unconditional support a friend who will look out for them no matter what happens to them, what choices they make, whether or not they go back to their abuser, and be there for them in a non-judgmental way, Kehoe said.

For more information, go to centerfordomesticpeace.org. If you are in need of emergency assistance or wish to make an appointment with Center for Domestic Peace, please contact their 24-hour hotline: (English/ Spanish) 415-924-6616.

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Activism

OPINION: A Great Way to ‘Listen to Black Women’ Is to Elect Them

Recent reports also show that Black candidates are faring especially well in Senate fundraising in the 2022 cycle. While summary numbers might mask persistent hurdles, these data indicate that Black candidates might be better financially positioned for electoral success in the next election.

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Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.
Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.

By Kelly Dittmar and Glynda C. Carr

Listen to Black women, they say. Support Black women, they tweet. The praise of Black women in recent years is evident in words, but public statements and hashtags must translate into action. And that action should include efforts to elect Black women.

Seven years ago, our organizations joined forces to spotlight the status of Black women in American politics. Since our first report, we have seen — and hopefully contributed to — great progress.

In that time, 17 new Black women were elected to Congress, including the second Black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate and the first Black women to represent their states from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, and Washington. The number of Black women state legislators has risen by nearly 50%.

Black women have made tremendous strides in representation as big-city mayors, with 12 Black women taking office for the first time as mayors in the top 100 most populous cities from mid-2014 to present.

Today, Black women are mayors of eight major cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. Just two weeks ago, Elaine O’Neal was elected as mayor of Durham, N.C.; she will take office in early December. And, of course, with Kamala Harris’ 2020 election as vice president, a Black woman now serves in the second-highest position in U.S government.

Progress for Black women in elective office is not measured in numbers alone. The effects of Black women’s political representation are evident in both disrupting white- and male-dominated institutions and making policy change.

Research at the state legislative and congressional levels has shown how Black women’s identities shape policy contributions and behaviors in ways that give voice to underrepresented groups and perspectives.

Five years ago, Representatives Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette Clark (D-NY) created the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls to promote public policy that “eliminates significant barriers and disparities experienced by Black women.”

Just this year, representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-AL), with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), have pushed for “momnibus” legislation to address the crisis in Black maternal health. And in late summer, Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) slept on the stairs of the U.S. Capitol as part of a relentless push to extend the eviction moratorium — which disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans.

Black women have also been at the forefront of changing the actual institutions in which they serve. Bush’s efforts on the eviction moratorium included calls for institutional change, such as ending the filibuster, in hopes that it would clear the way for a policy agenda that would better serve Black communities.

And in a July 2020 floor speech, Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) made clear that patriarchy is “very much at home in the halls of this powerful institution” and called on her colleagues to build the world that all girls and women deserve, beginning with the institution of Congress.

Black women’s gains in representation should not mask the persistent hurdles they must navigate to find electoral success.

Research demonstrates that Black women are among those women more likely to be discouraged from running for office, confront disparities in campaign fundraising, navigate distinct politics of appearance, and are evaluated by voters and media alike in ways that both rely on and perpetuate damaging stereotypical biases.

Recent reporting has also revealed more than ever before the abuse that Black women face as both candidates and officeholders, abuse that is often rooted in the confluence of racism and misogyny and leads not only to personal harm but also to decisions to abandon political careers.

And while many Black women have navigated these hurdles en route to electoral success, Black women’s underrepresentation in elective office persists, especially in the Republican Party and offices elected statewide.

Today, just three Black Republican women serve as state legislators and no Black Republican women serve in statewide or congressional offices. Former Representative Mia Love (R-UT), the only Black Republican woman ever elected to Congress, was defeated in election 2018.

Her decision to stand up against then President Donald Trump in defense of Haitians specifically, and immigrants more broadly, damaged her chances for re-election and illustrated a distinct challenge she faced in giving voice to her own identity and experience while also aligning with the politics of her party. This challenge persists in today’s GOP, creating unique conditions for Black Republican women who decide to run.

Just two Black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate, and there are no Black women senators serving today amidst key debates over the economy, infrastructure, the environment, voting rights, criminal justice, and immigration.

Black women also hold just six of 310 statewide elective executive offices in the U.S., roles that are key to shaping state policy agendas and outcomes. Just 17 Black women have ever held statewide elected executive offices in 14 states, and no Black woman has ever served as governor.

The 2022 election offers some opportunities to address these gaps. With more than a year before Election Day, the number of Black women who have announced major-party candidacies for U.S. Senate has already exceeded the previous record of 13.

Recent reports also show that Black candidates are faring especially well in Senate fundraising in the 2022 cycle. While summary numbers might mask persistent hurdles, these data indicate that Black candidates might be better financially positioned for electoral success in the next election.

At least five Black women have announced major-party gubernatorial candidacies in this cycle, one short of the previous high. And there remains time for more Black women to step forward, including former Georgia House Minority Leader and organizer Stacey Abrams (D-GA), who is the only Black woman who has ever won a major-party gubernatorial nomination.

Candidacies neither ensure nomination nor election, but it’s a start. These Black women — and others who are launching political campaigns — are doing what they can to create a more representative democracy.

But their success relies on others, including those who issued public directives to support Black women over the past 18 months. You can support Black women on the campaign trail with your time and your money, and you can support Black women at the ballot box with your vote.

You can listen to Black women by ensuring they have seats at policymaking tables where their voices, expertise, and perspectives can inform substantive change. It’s time to translate words into actions.

Kelly Dittmar is an associate professor of Political Science at Rutgers-Camden and Director of Research and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. Glynda C. Carr is CEO and co-founder of Higher Heights for America.

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Black History

IN MEMORIAM: Referee Jim Burch Got the Final Whistle in The Game

Jim Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019). To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

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jim burch
Jim Burch

By Tamara Shiloh

Created in 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference, an athletic conference headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., quickly rose to prominence. Within 13 years, the university and college teams in its membership had a number of victories to its credit. North Carolina State University won the first three championships, and the conference was getting heavy exposure outside of the region. Several ACC teams went to the Final Four of the NCAA’s basketball championships. In North Carolina, Duke University took four titles, Wake Forest University took two and University of North Carolina had one victory as did the University of Maryland.

Life inside the ACC could not have been better, except for one minor but not overlooked detail: there were no Black players or officials.

But Jim Burch (1926–2019), who began his officiating career with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1959, would become the first, signing on with the ACC in 1969. His debut, however, was delayed for a season because “he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.”

A Raleigh, N.C., native raised in Larchmont, N.Y., Burch was a 1949 graduate of North Carolina’s Fayetteville State University. There he was a two-sport athlete – football and baseball – having large dreams.

Burch “talked about sitting in the ‘colored’ section of Reynolds Coliseum watching games, telling his friends that he was going to be on that court someday,” ACC referee Jamie Luckie told ESPN in 2019 referring to the sports complex in Raleigh, N.C. “They said he was crazy, and sure enough, he was on that court one day.”

Burch never made a big deal out of the historic mark, although many would benefit from his humility. He would train and mentor hundreds of officials over the years. In fact, it was Burch who gave Luckie his start in refereeing.

Throughout his 60-year career, Burch officiated in the CIAA, ACC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Southern Conference. He also worked 14 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and was an educator and administrator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Working as an educator made Burch “an unbelievable teacher of the game in terms of what he wanted us to do on the floor, how he wanted us to deal with coaches, how he wanted us to communicate, and just his delivery and style was one where he could get it across to you, but he was a teacher. That never stopped,” Luckie said.

Burch continued to make monumental achievements as well as give back.

Many of those he trained moved into CIAA, ACC, Southern Conference, and NCAA championship careers. He was twice featured in the NCAA Champions Magazine, served on numerous civic boards, and was the first African American to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority board.

Burch was also inducted into eight different halls of fame, including the CIAA John B. McLendon Jr. Hall of Fame (February 2019).

To recognize the hard work of student athletes who exemplify the qualities of academic excellence, involvement in public service, and love of athletic competition, Burch established the James T. Burch Scholarship.

Before retiring in 2018, he served as the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA.

Burch died at his home in North Carolina in 2019 at the age of 91.

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