Posts Tagged ‘JUSTICE’


December 30, 2014

from the nation newspaper,nigeria

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Brown - Anti-NYPD protesters march through the Upper East Side of Manhattan with their hands up in solidarity with Michael Brown on New York City. Despite calls from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasi

A Nation that betrays its own

Law is the house that justice built but no longer occupies.

BULLED into deep complacency by the election of Barak Obama, the political conscience of Black America has finally begun to stir to life. Sadly, it took the daytime killings of Black men by White police officers to revive the community back to political life.

Protests have occurred in major cities throughout the nation. Black people have been jolted by the realization that their lives remain less valuable than they should be, than what they had been told to believe. They hoped racial discrimination had become a residual breach of the national contract on social equality. The painful lesson relearned is that Black Americans are disposable byproducts of a political economy with little need for most of them and one that affords diminishing living space for that beleaguered majority of Black America.

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson was one thing. The strangulation of Eric Garner in New York was quite another. In the Brown case, conflicting interpretations of that day’s events abounded. The shooter said one thing, Brown’s friend said another. Witness accounts varied on important points. Although the aggressor police officer’s testimony remains highly implausible, it cannot be ruled impossible. The possibility that he was being truthful is slight but the possibility nonetheless exists.

(In a telling postscript in the Brown case, a witness whose testimony was cited by the prosecutor has been discovered to be a mentally unbalanced racist. Moreover, this witness may not even have been at the scene when the shooting occurred. She has previously inserted herself in other cases, giving unreliable testimony. The prosecutor in Brown should have been aware of her flagrant history; yet, he still presented her to the grand jury without informing them of her habit of bearing false witness. For this alone, the prosecutor should be investigated for professional misconduct.)

The cloud of factual discrepancy and differing versions of the fatal encounter do not haunt the Garner case.  What haunts that case is the episode was videoed for the world to see. Yet, the picture made no difference to the New York prosecutor and the grand jury he selected. Normally, a picture is worth a thousand words. This video encapsulated more than a thousand words. It showed all that is wrong in the racial history of the nation claiming to be the world’s finest democracy. As long as the legal system affirms killings like Garner’s, the claimed greatness of the American political economy is as true as it is false.

Mr. Garner was a large, burly Black man living in New York City. Estranged from the world of prosperity and steady employment, the man did what millions of city dwellers across the nation do. He street-hustled. Among his money-making ventures, the man would at times buy packs of cigarettes then resell individual cigarettes to people. The area was a poor neighborhood where many people could not afford an entire pack; they would muster coins for one or two cigarettes at a time. Garner was doing no harm; that same day, he even helped resolve an altercation. However, his street hustle was illegal because all cigarette sales are to be taxed.

The day of the encounter, Garner may not even have been selling the loose cigarettes. Had he been guilty of such sales that day, his transgression was de minimis. A loose cigarette probably sold for no more than a dollar each.  The city tax on the tobacco sales is 10 percent. Had he sold five cigarettes, he owed the city 50 cents (90 kobo) in taxes. For this small indiscretion, a swarm of police officers descended on him like a small army corralling a thief who had pinched the national treasury and the crown jewels.

Gardner had no chance. While a number of officers pinned him to the ground, one officer administered a choke hold unauthorized by the police department that hired him. Adding indignity to impending death, another officer placed his hands on Garner’s head, using his full weight to press the man’s face into the hard, cruel New York City pavement. The man pleaded roughly a dozen times that he could not breathe. A dozen times, his uniformed assailants ignored the desperate alarm. His last moments on earth were with his face pressed to the ground that he might take in the foulness and grime of the urban sidewalk as his life’s breath was slowly stolen from him by those hired to protect him.

As he lay dying, no officer sought to revive him. They walked around his body nonchalantly as if walking around an animal struck by a passing car. There was no urgency in their actions, no remorse on their faces. They felt they had done their job. What they had done to Garner was so disproportionate to his alleged wrong; no logical excuse can be assayed for this ending. At most, they should have given Garner a citation as they do any traffic offender or errant merchant. The reason for lethally attacking him for less than a dollar remains cloaked in racism.

The coroner properly ruled the outrageous death a homicide. Yet, the grand jury and prosecutor thought otherwise. Upon seeing video, they did not see Garner as a human being. All they saw was black and his blackness obscured any sight and sense of justice they might have otherwise known.

Had Garner lived during slavery, he would still be alive.  The law enforcement officers would have been more careful with him because he would have been the property of a White man. They would have acted with due care in returning the valued property to his owner. He would have been tussled a bit but not executed. Strange how the worth of a Black man’s life is not established by the mere fact of being a human being. It is established by how closely associated he is to White society. To exist outside the social mainstream, makes a Black man a dreaded superfluity, a victim transmuted into the villain in his own execution. Police men who kill him will be excused because they serve a function in society. While you, the Black man, do not.

Garner and Brown have not been the only casualties of this dynamic.  The average White racist feels the nation is slipping from their control due to Obama’s presidency and to demographic changes that see Blacks and Latinos becoming larger percentages of the overall population. Perceived change prompts a backlash. The average racist joins the Tea Party or sends anonymous cant to rightwing blogs. Those racists in blue police uniforms are more apt to pull the trigger when the face on the wrong end of the barrel is Black or Brown.

In Ohio, a Black man, walking in a store while holding a non-lethal pellet rifle, was gun downed by police with no reasonable warning. Ohio law allows people to openly carry lethal weapons.  Thus, the man committed no crime. Yet, he was killed and the offending police officers were given no reprimand. It boggles the mind and makes a farce of justice when an innocent man can be executed and those who committed the misdeed are exonerated. He did no wrong yet he is gone. They wronged him yet they suffer not even minor sanction. When such partiality occurs in a foreign nation, America criticizes and writes annual reports condemning it. When it happens in America, the power establishment protects if not celebrates the transgression as a necessary function of law and order. In the process, justice is disinherited.

Protests against these attacked were organized in major cities throughout the nation.  Had this been the summer and not the advent of winter, more people would have been taken to the streets in a greater number of cities.  The best aspect of this wave of protests is that they were organized by grassroots activists and not the normal servitors who inhabit the Black establishment.  The youthful organizers’ first plank is to halt the street executions by the police.  But they will not stop there. They will see that defending the right to life is insufficient in itself.  That is where the Civil Rights Movement left off.

Today’s protesters hopefully will assume the mantle of true leadership the current Black Establishment now deploys for their narrow elitist interests. These new leaders will discover the incompleteness in securing the right to life if unaccompanied by demanding the right to live not merely survive on the social periphery. They will demand jobs, education, economic reform and justice. This will attract a backlash much as the Civil Rights Movement did. The most vocal segment of the backlash will be the right-wing conservatives. The most dangerous element of that backlash will be the falsely liberal establishment.

That establishment has given their Black surrogates marching orders to stop the genuine young leaders from organizing more people’s marches. The Black establishment did not need to be given the directive.  They already felt the heat. They realized their positions were placed in jeopardy. No one was bounded by quandary more than President Obama. If Black people started to display independent action, his job would be on the line.  No, not the White House job. Whether for good or bad, his mark there has mostly been made.

The position jeopardized by the young Black leaders is the post-White House sinecure the establishment has designed for him – that of the unofficial leader of Black America. For the past six years, he had proven his worth by keeping Black activism in deep freeze despite the  hardtack policies he has initialed resulting in the deterioration of community institutions, particularly Black universities, and a growing disparity between average Black and White per capita wealth and income. During the Obama years, the Black community has been weakened willfully by establishment policy and practice. The establishment hired Obama to smile and pontificate his people all the way to the poor house. He was doing an excellent job of it until the unruly police began to exhibit a deadly overt racism that would cause the somnambulant Black community to awaken. Obama’s slickness was undone by the gratuitous violence of the new praetorians.

A delicious twist of irony is in the making. Black political consciousness may reawaken under the very watch of a man endorsed by the establishment to keep the Black community politically dormant. Sensing things were going awry, Obama went into gear. He sent fellow Black elitist, Attorney General Eric Holder, to Ferguson to express concern in hope that a tactful display of implied solidarity would keep the natives from turning restless.  Holder announced his feckless Justice Department would investigate the Ferguson Police Department as a way to soothe community anger. The people realized this Justice Department has a nose for privilege and not a resilient sternum when it comes to protecting the weak and under from the rich and powerful above. Holder’s Justice Department refused to prosecute Wall Street for the visible criminality resulting in the 2008 financial crisis and will not take account of those who tortured and terrorized detainees in the alleged war against terror. That same department will not reform the police.

It is part of the same federal government that militarized the police by providing the surplus military equipment that has transformed local law enforcement into a paramilitary agency unsuitable for democratic society.

The protests continued. Then the First Couple took to the media to demonstrate their blackness by citing they had been victims of racism because they had been ignored by taxi drivers or mistaken as store clerks by White shoppers. If these trite remarks were supposed to evoke a sense of solidarity with the average Black, they missed the mark. If this is all the Obamas have experienced, no wonder they are out of touch. They should consider themselves fortunate, then open a listening ear that they may learn the realities of the everyday lives of everyday people. (In part, they cited these inanities so as not to offend their White sponsors. If the President testifies that racism is limited to such innocuous inconveniences, it means that racism did not cause dire condition of the Black community.)

Raising these trivial incidents insults the millions of Black men and women who have felt the heavy intimidation and have been scarred by the instruments of this unjust system. The bones of thousands of Black men lie in the woods, swamps and along the back roads of the south. So many of us have been stopped along isolate stretches of road by policemen with their hands twitching at their holsters or brandishing their billy clubs, waiting and wanting to draw their pistol or swing that club. As rivulets of sweat swim down your back, you tell yourself to be still and don’t move, no matter the provocation or meanness of the man. They await merely one odd movement or angry word and they will pounce. You will be found guilty of causing the assault against you.

When their trite examples did not work, Obama summoned a white House meeting of the young activists. His advice was to take it slowly as change comes gradually. This advice was not commended by any true interpretation of history. Change may come slowly but those who succeed in bringing reform rarely seek it piecemeal. They ask for the whole thing then take as much as they can get. The young activists should have retorted that, since the bullets did not kill Brown gradually and the stranglehold did not gradually asphyxiate Garner, they see no reason why their pursuit of justice should march gradually.

Next, Obama deployed mercenary cleric Al Sharpton to confuse and sidetrack the grassroots movement by holding a march on Washington of his own. During the Obama presidency, Sharpton has visited the White House an extraordinary 60 times. He has become Obama’s man Friday just as Obama is Wall Street’s man Friday. Sharpton is the servant of the servant. However, this tack did not work well either. The people are on to Sharpton. They know he has been an FBI informant, ratting on other Black leaders. He may still be. He refused to allow activists from Ferguson a place in his orchestrated rally. He feared they might say something incendiary or anti-Obama. The crowd began to shout him down.  Eventually, some activists managed to seize the microphone and speak their piece.

Establishment backlash against the protests went into full gear when a mentally unstable Black man killed two police officers in New York, afterward killing himself. The New York Mayor called for protests to be suspended until the burial of the fallen officers. Former Mayor Giuliani criticized Black leaders for inciting hate. Police officials declared that their department had gone on “war footing.” To that declaration, most Black men would respond, “That is nothing new. You have always been on war footing against us.”

The murder of the two police officers is a tragedy but no greater than the killing of Brown, Gardner and others.  The protests did not lead to the officer’s death. The proximate cause of the officers’ demise was that police nationwide had been too lethal. When a White supremacist executed two police officers earlier this year and draped the corpses in racist flags, the establishment did not rail that White supremacists should disband their racist campaign and organizations. Police officials did not assert they needed to be on war footing against White hate groups. White establishment politicians said little or nothing about this episode. Now that a Black assailant is involved, they shout to the rafters and quake with self-righteous indignation. It is all part of the ploy to keep Blacks in a lowly place.

The protesters smartly refused to stop demonstrating. To do so would have been a wrongful, coerced admission that their actions prompted the killings of the officers. What they should do is expand the scope of the protests. While protesting police brutality, they should also advocate tighter gun control so that unstable people cannot get easy access to weapons. The spirit of the expanded protests would be that neither the police nor the populace needs to be on war footing. Both should take intelligent steps toward peace.

Finally, perhaps the Black community is awakening. Theirs must be a dual arising. First, they must come to grips with the fact that the current ways of the political economy work against them. Second, they must realize that the established Black leadership is wedded to the current ways of the political economy. The people must seek reform as well as reject those who claim to be their leaders. Perhaps, just perhaps, the son of the Civil Rights Movement is being born out of the deaths of Brown and Garner.

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December 15, 2014



On Ferguson: Farrakhan warns Black leaders, speaks to Obama!


Published on Nov 24, 2014

Minister Louis Farrakhan commented on the situation in Ferguson, Mo. His comments were part of his keynote address at the Black United Summit International Conf. at Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD., on Nov. 22, 2014 – Full Video @



December 14, 2014


Tens Of Thousands March On NYPD Headquarters To Protest Police Killings

Posted: 12/13/2014 3:23 pm EST Updated: 11 minutes ago

Tens of thousands of protesters streamed out of New York City’s Washington Square Park on Saturday to protest the killings of unarmed black people by police officers, as part of the “Millions March NYC.

The crowd began to wind its way through Manhattan. A large labor union contingent was present, including members of the Communications Workers of America wearing red shirts and AFL-CIO supporters waving blue signs.

In contrast to other marches over the past weeks, this large, orderly demonstration took place during the day. A number of families with children took part, and demonstrators followed a pre-planned route. The march made its way uptown to Herald Square, then looped back downtown, with thunderous chants of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Justice! Now!” echoing down Broadway. The demonstration culminated at One Police Plaza, the New York City Police Department’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

Organizers estimated that 30,000 demonstrators participated in the march. The NYPD told The Huffington Post that, as of the official end of the march, no arrests had been made.

Protesters held up 8 panels depicting Eric Garner’s eyes, created by an artist known as JR. “The eyes were chosen as the most important part of the face,” said Tony Herbas of Bushwick, an assistant to the artist.

garner eyes

Ron Davis, whose son Jordan was shot dead by a man in Florida after an argument over loud music, was at the head of the march.

“We have to make everybody accountable,” Davis told HuffPost. “You can’t continue to see videos of chokeholds, videos of kids getting shot in the back, and say it’s all right. We have to make sure we have an independent investigator investigate these crimes that police carry out.”

Michael Dunn, the man who killed Jordan, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole in October. Davis said Saturday that Dunn’s conviction proves it’s possible that justice can be served in racially charged cases.

“We ended up getting a historic movement in Jacksonville,” Davis said. “We had an almost all-white jury, with seven white men, convict a white man for shooting down an unarmed boy of color.”

black lives matter

Also at the front of the march were New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and New York state Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron.

Matthew Brown, a 19-year-old who is African-American and Hispanic, marched down Broadway with his mother, aunt and other family members.

“I’m trying to support a movement that really needs young people like myself,” said Brown. “I’m here to speak for Mike Brown.”

The teenager said part of his motivation for making the trek from West Orange, New Jersey, with his family was his own personal experience. He’s encountered racist verbal abuse from police in Jersey City, he said, who have called him “spic” and monkey.”

Citing the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, Brown said part of the reason he wanted to speak out was because of the way police represent encounters with African-Americans. “I just see so many lies after lies.”

He also attended the People’s Climate March in September. But this march felt more intense to him. “This is one that’s really affecting people on a deep, emotional level,” Brown said.

Krystal Martinez, a 23-year-old schoolteacher, said she attended the march to send a simple message: “I don’t want my students’ names chanted at any of these events.”

krystal martinez

Because she teaches at a charter school that serves students from Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, Martinez said, she was painfully aware of the challenges black youth face in interactions with police.

Martinez, a Harlem resident, pointed to a sign held by a colleague with a quote from a 13-year-old girl who had been stopped by police: “The first time I was stopped and frisked I was so scared I didn’t leave my house for a week.”

“Eighty-five percent of my students are black and this is their lives,” Martinez said, emphasizing that she spoke for herself and not her school. “I’m out here because of my kids.”

Some protesters arrived with concrete policy proposals. Marcia Dupree, a homecare supervisor, came bearing a sign that read, “We must change the law … no grand jury!!!”

“The root of the problem,” Dupree said, was the closeness between grand juries and police. In the wake of two grand juries’ decisions not to indict officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths, the idea of abolishing the institution has gotten a lot of attention from both the media and policymakers, including the chairman of Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus.

Dupree added that she’d never really considered herself much of an activist before. Serving on the board of her local library in Mount Vernon, New York, was “as political as I got.” But she said she has been moved to protest out of concern for her 13-year-old daughter — who was marching in crutches by her side — and her 21-year-old son.

“I feel like I need to stand up,” said Dupree. “It could be my son.”

marcia dupree

At times, the march blurred surreally with Santacon — the sloshy daytime celebration of Christmas (and drinking) that New Yorkers hate on every year.

A number of Santacon participants joined the march. Others were less enthusiastic. “I love cops, seriously,” one man in a Santa cap told an impassive officer. “I hate these people.” Then he walked off with his fellow revelers.


Saturday’s day of action came in response to two separate grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men. On Nov. 24, a St. Louis County grand jury voted not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Less than two weeks later, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who killed Eric Garner by putting him in a chokehold.

Brown’s death on Aug. 9 triggered months of protests in Ferguson against police killings — protests that have since spread nationwide.

One group of marchers turned into a street protest choir, singing, “We’re not gonna stop, until people are free.”

Beneva Davies, a 23-year-old Harlem resident who lent her voice to the group, said the most singing she usually does is in the shower.

“It’s not really about your voice,” Davies said. “It’s about your voice, right?”

Davies’s family hails from Sierra Leone and Ghana, and she grew up in Massachusetts. Sometimes, she says, she sees a “disconnect” between recent African immigrants and the African-American descendants of slaves.

But she tries to push back against that disconnect, she said, because “at end of the day it’s what you’re seen as.”

Davies saw the march as her chance to answer the question of what she would have done if she had been alive during the civil rights protests led by Martin Luther King Jr.

After hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow and more, Davies said, “People continue to get killed. … It’s frustrating. We have to be here so people can see it.”

Sebastian Murdock contributed reporting.

This story has been updated.

  • John Minchillo/AP
    Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • John Minchillo/AP
    Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • wilfish99/Instagram
    Thousands march in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • John Minchillo/AP
    Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • raphaelangenscheidt/Instagram
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • msjoannaj / Instagram
    Thousands march along 5th Ave. in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • christesc/Instagram
    Thousands march in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • John Minchillo/AP
    Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
  • Carly Schwartz/Huffington Post
    Thousands march on Broadway in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • brentaxthelm/Instagram
    Protesters make their way up fifth avenue in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • andysimpzon/Instagram
    Thousands march along 5th Ave. in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • jesslynyovita / Instagram
    Thousands march along 5th Ave. in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Jnobianch / Twitter
    Thousands march along 5th Ave. in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • TRMacM/Twitter
    Thousands march on Broadway in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • mollyhein / instagram
    A man dressed up as Santa for SantaCon walk by protesters on 5th Ave. on Dec. 13, 2014 in New York City.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • mothertuckermurray / Instagram
    Thousands march along 5th Ave. in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Emily Kassie/Huffington Post
    Thousands gather in Washington Square park in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014.


September 21, 2013

TRAYVON ! -EBONY MAGAZINE interview WITH Trayvon’s Parents!

September 21, 2013

News & Views

News & Views / Social Justice & Activism

Amazing Grace

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton

Fate has a way of forcing razor-sharp turns in our lives, and Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin, are dealing with the ultimate challenge. Within a week of the acquittal of the man who pulled the trigger on that rainy Florida evening, and though many would crumble under the weight of despair, they continued to turn their pain into a pointed argument for justice. Vaulted into a national debate over the issues of racial profiling, gun violence and “Stand Your Ground” laws, Martin and Fulton are buoyed by the wave of public empathy and rallies taking place around the country; they gain strength and conviction with each heavy step they take.

The pair agreed to meet with EBONY, along with their attorney and advocate Benjamin L. Crump, on a sweltering morning in New York City, just days after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Ironically, our interview and cover shoot took place in the same hotel suite where a newly elected president Barack Obama stayed at the dawn of his first term in office, and on the same day of his very personal address on race in America. In those remarks, the president poignantly identified with the plight of young African-American men when he stated, “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago. There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”

But on this day, the room held a different energy. Obama’s post-electoral elation yielded to a family’s desires to make sense of a senseless tragedy. Holding firm to their convictions, they still seek to properly honor the memory of their son and to ensure the survival of all our children.

Read more in the September issue of EBONY

© 2013 EB


July 28, 2013

Trayvon Martin’s mother: Verdict will ‘not define’ who my son was

Aliyah Frumin // 4:50 PM on 07/26/2013

Speaking at the National Urban League’s conference in Philadelphia, Sybrina Fulton says, “Please use my story. Please use my tragedy to say to yourself we cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.”

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, hopes her tragedy will prevent others from having to endure the pain she has gone through.

Fulton made the remarks at the National Urban League’s annual conference on Friday in Philadelphia.

“Please use my story. Please use my tragedy. Please use my broken heart to say to yourself: We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child,” she told the crowd.

She also said she supports a federal investigation into the case of George Zimmerman, a former volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Martin in February 2012. He was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter and said he acted in self-defense.

Fulton also spoke about the Trayvon Martin foundation and how she will continue to be an advocate for her son.

“At times I feel like I’m a broken vessel. At times, I don’t’ know if I’m going or coming. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is using me and God is using my family to make a change, to make a difference,” she said, adding “The verdict is not going to define who Trayvon Martin was. We will define his legacy.”

Watch Fulton’s remarks above.


December 24, 2011

Journey of Hope

The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas in the Late 1800s

by Kenneth C. Barnes Copyright (c) 2004 by the University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, penned these famous lines in 1883 for the Statue of Liberty, then being constructed by the French Republic as a gift to the United States of America. Nearly a decade later, Lady Liberty would witness an ironic scene unfolding in New York Harbor. On the rainy afternoon of 10 March 1892, the Dutch steamer Werkendam arrived after a two-week voyage from Rotterdam on the North Sea. The 569 passengers speaking Dutch, German, Russian, Polish, Italian, and a host of other European languages must have chattered excitedly about their hope for a better life in America. One can imagine that many eyes became misty as they beheld Lady Liberty, torch held high, next to Ellis Island, which had opened just two months before. As the Werkendam made its way into the bay, it passed a much smaller, old-fashioned sailing ship, the Liberia, which had left Pier 6 on the East River earlier in the day. The Liberia was packed to the brim with black families from Morrilton, Arkansas, who were leaving the United States to return to their ancestral homeland of Africa.[1] Perhaps the passengers of the Werkendam and the Liberia waved to each other as they passed in the bay. This image sums up the paradox of American society in the 1890s. While millions of Europeans were coming to the United States to follow their dream of political freedom and economic opportunity, thousands of black Americans, especially in Arkansas, were equally anxious to get out of this county. The hope for many African Americans centered on the Republic of Liberia in West Africa.
As Africa’s only independent black republic, Liberia encouraged and symbolized race pride for African Americans in the late 1800s. With an elected black government that offered American settlers free land, Liberia represented a chance for a better life for the South’s black farmers. Interest in African emigration peaked among black southerners in the 1890s, a time when cotton prices hit rock bottom and white racism reached its zenith. The 1890s saw the greatest number of lynchings in American history. As it became increasingly clear that black Americans would not get a seat at the table, Liberia posed an alternative to integration, an escape to an all-black world. One black man from central Arkansas asked in 1890: “Ar tha any White People over in liBery? if there is—none [of us] ar going there.”[2]
Of all areas of the South, Liberia emigration fever was most intense during the late 1800s in Arkansas. More Liberia-bound emigrants left from Arkansas than from any other state—more than a third of all known black American emigrants to Africa in the years from 1879 to 1899—despite the fact that Arkansas’s black population was smaller than that of any of its southern neighbors.[3] And for each one of the approximately 600 who left Arkansas for Africa, hundreds more applied unsuccessfully to go. To understand the back-to-Africa movement in the post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow years, one must examine Arkansas. Ironically, before the 1890s, Arkansas had served as a destination for black migrants leaving other southern states. A high percentage of African American men voted in Arkansas elections, and many held public offices on the county level. But Jim Crow measures, disfranchisement, and a wave of brutal racial violence dramatically changed the situation for black Arkansans. I will argue that the rapidity of this shift from relative well-being to subjugation, rather than the magnitude of the oppression, convinced many African Americans to leave not just Arkansas or the South but the entire United States. The Arkansas counties with the most competitive political environments, where white elites most targeted black voters, saw the most intense interest in African emigrations. Among sharecroppers and country preachers there swelled a remarkable wave of fascination with Africa—as a place of refuge from white oppression and as an ancestral land that helped define a black national identity. While middle-class blacks were more resolved to live as black Americans, many rural poor folk gave up on the United States and looked to Liberia to construct a better life. This study will compare the Liberian dreams to the reality Arkansas emigrants found in their African fatherland. For those who left, and for those who stayed behind, the meaning of Liberian emigration was simple: it was a journey of hope.
Earlier in the nineteenth century, Liberia evoked mixed images in the minds of black Americans. People of color must have pondered a return to Africa as soon as they arrived in the New World, but an organized back-to-Africa movement began in the late 1700s. British abolitionists worked together with free black immigrants to found Sierra Leone on the continent’s west coast as a place for the return of black people from British territory. The first black settlers arrived from England in 1787, and others came afterward from Nova Scotia and Jamaica. Sierra Leone became a British crown colony in 1808.[4] In the United States, black Americans’ discussion of African colonization originated among New England religious circles that opposed slavery and the slave trade. Paul Cuffe, a prosperous half-black, half-Indian Quaker of Massachusetts who owned a small fleet of whaling ships, transported thirty-eight free blacks to Sierra Leone, largely at his own expense, late in 1815. Cuffe died two years later, but he had inspired a movement.[5]
Humanitarian concerns, like those of Cuffe, joined with very different motives to found the American Colonization Society, just before Cuffe’s death. Slave owners in the South had become increasingly worried about the presence of a free black population clustering in southern towns. Some whites thought the very existence of a free black community undermined the slavery system and inspired slaves to revolt. In 1816, the Virginia legislature, dominated by slave owners, asked the U.S. Congress to find a territory on the African coast to become a place of asylum for free blacks and emancipated American slaves. Slave owners and antislavery forces gathered at the Davis Hotel in December 1816 in Washington, D.C., and founded the American Society for Colonizing Free People of Color in the United States, a name later shortened to the American Colonization Society (ACS). At this first meeting, antislavery leaders, such as Daniel Webster, promoted the idea of an African colony as a place of protection for a persecuted people while slave owners, such as Henry Clay, who chaired the first assembly, saw an African colony as a dumping ground for free blacks who had no place in America. Through its early years, the ACS struggled with this tension between humanitarian and racist motivations. Black Americans stood divided on the issue of emigration. A few black church leaders gave signals of support for the ACS, and free blacks in Richmond, Virginia, made the first public pronouncement in January 1817 favoring emigration. But most free blacks in northern communities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston united against emigration, seeing it as a ploy to expel free blacks from the United States.[6]
On 21 January 1820, the ship Elizabeth sailed from New York carrying a party of eighty-six free blacks from the Illinois Territory who had volunteered to resettle in Africa. The ACS had received financial and moral support for this expedition from President James Monroe. Nearly a decade after Congress had outlawed the slave trade, American ships were still capturing and confiscating cargoes of illegal slaves bound for the New World, and by 1819 a new slave trade act had authorized the president to establish a place in coastal West Africa where recaptured slaves could be returned. Thus, the ACS began its resettlement work as a private agency carrying out a public policy. The Elizabeth arrived in Sierra Leone, where the settlers waited for more than a year while white agents acting on behalf of the U.S. government and the ACS located a site for a colony. They found one at Cape Mesurrado, more than 200 miles south of Freetown, Sierra Leone, where a rocky promontory juts out into the sea near the mouth of the mighty St. Paul River. After much discussion with the local African ruler—the agents ultimately put a gun to his head to encourage cooperation—the ACS received the cape in exchange for an assorted package of rum, muskets, beads, tobacco, and other items worth in total less than $300. The settlers in Sierra Leone, augmented by another group recently arrived from the United States, first set foot in the colony on 25 April 1822. The ACS named the colony Liberia, after the Latin liber, meaning free man. The colonists choose the name Monrovia for their first permanent settlement, in honor of the president’s support for the colonization effort.[7]
The first settlers, and virtually all the emigrants from America, struggled to survive in their new environment. The ACS agents had chosen one of the most inhospitable locations in West Africa for their colony. Beyond the rocky hill overlooking the coast, mosquito-infested swamps surrounded the new town of Monrovia. Settlers invariably came down with malaria in the first months after arrival. Nearly a quarter of the early settlers to Liberia died within the first year of settlement. Those who survived the “seasoning” found it difficult to make a living. The thin, leached soil did not easily yield American food crops, and settlers found local foods unpalatable. The early settlers eschewed agriculture and largely subsisted on imported foods. They searched in vain for some commodity in demand on the world market, first looking for gold or ivory, then finding camwood, used in the dye industry. But the venture never became economically profitable.[8] Nevertheless, yearly reinforcements brought settlers to Liberia, which remained a colony of the ACS for the next twenty-five years. The society’s resident agent in Monrovia presided over the colony, assisted by an elected council of settlers.
The emigration of free blacks to Liberia particularly increased after the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831. During the next year in Maryland, for example, the state legislature passed laws restricting the liberties of free people of color and even appropriated money to pay for their resettlement outside the state’s boundaries. In 1832, the American Colonization Society resettled 796 emigrants to Liberia, more than in any year of its history, and the Maryland auxiliary of the ACS itself sent another 146. As the movement became increasingly dominated in the 1830s by slave owners who wanted Liberia to absorb the free blacks of the South, antislavery forces largely turned against the society. William Lloyd Garrison led the charge, decrying African colonization as a plot to continue the slave system in America. Prominent free black leaders, such as David Walker, loudly and consistently denounced the colonization enterprise through the emerging black press, from pulpits, and at every national Negro convention of the 1830s. In a time of conflict within the ACS, state auxiliaries, such as the one in Maryland, began to go their own ways and even establish their own resettlement colonies along the coast southeast of Monrovia. Despite this internal dissension in the society, some free blacks, mostly from slaveholding states, continued to apply for emigration. A few slave owners emancipated slaves with the expressed goal of sending them to Liberia. In addition, more than 5,000 African slaves, confiscated by the U.S. Navy on the high seas, were returned to Africa and left in the colony of Liberia.[9]
Liberia’s status changed when the colony gave way to an independent republic on 26 July 1847, a day still celebrated as Liberia’s national holiday. It had become evident that a colony owned by a private philanthropic society had little legal and diplomatic standing. Under ACS direction, the settlers drew up a constitution based on that of the United States and designed a flag, again emulating the American model. Thus, beginning in 1847, an elected president and congress of black American settlers governed Liberia, and the ACS’s role became virtually that of an emigration agency, transporting settlers and assisting them once they arrived in country.
Emigration picked up in the 1850s when the new Fugitive Slave Act encouraged runaway slaves to seek a destination outside the United States. And then the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857 demonstrated that people of color possessed no rights that white people of America were obligated to respect. Many free blacks became even more pessimistic about any future in the United States. Free black leaders, still viewing the ACS as a racist organization in league with white slave owners, sought other locations for black emigration. Martin R. Delany, a prominent black physician, tried to establish a colony in the Yoruba region of today’s Nigeria as an area for American settlement. Others looked to Haiti or Central America as destinations. But these movements had leaders but few followers. No settlers actually emigrated to Delany’s Nigeria colony, and only a few North Americans moved to Haiti.[10] However, by the beginning of the Civil War, nearly 13,000 black American settlers had come to Liberia, and the black republic controlled a strip of English-speaking settlements scattered along 250 miles of coastline, a few miles deep. Indigenous Africans, who always formed the majority of Liberia’s residents, were considered neither “Liberians” nor citizens, and they had no voice in the republic’s affairs.
By 1861, the Republic of Liberia had emerged as a symbol that could unite or divide black public opinion. Some black Americans, as well as white abolitionists, believed Liberia’s very existence suggested that persons of African descent had no place in America outside of slavery. Prominent black leaders saw the American Colonization Society as a white man’s movement that was part of America’s racial problem, not its solution. Others saw in the Liberian Republic a symbol of black nationalism, a place where “civilized” black people ruled themselves. At the end of her famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe sent George and Eliza off to Liberia with their family but kept some of her black characters home in the United States. George, the strong and angry black man, cannot live in America but expresses his black nationalist feelings by building up the black Republic of Liberia. Likewise, in real life, some emigrants applied to the ACS every year willing to trade in their residence in the United States to follow their African dreams.
Black interest in Liberia emigration plummeted when the Civil War promised the end of slavery and meaningful change to the status of black Americans. Ironically, President Abraham Lincoln’s administration suddenly became interested in colonizing freed slaves, especially those who trailed behind occupying Union armies throughout the South. Looking past Liberia, Lincoln’s officials searched for locations closer at hand, in the Caribbean or Central America, for the resettlement of freed persons. Despite a congressional appropriation for colonization, the Lincoln administration mustered only one small unsuccessful colonization expedition to Haiti. Likewise, the ACS during the war had difficulty finding emigrants for Liberia and ultimately had to recruit settlers from Barbados instead of the United States.[11]
The end of the Civil War saw significant change in the fortunes of the American Colonization Society and the idea of African colonization. By the time the society celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 1867, its revenues had sharply declined, its loyal following of wealthy white men had largely grown old and died, and the state auxiliaries for the most part had ceased their operations. The ACS had really become the work of one man, William Coppinger, the society’s corresponding secretary, who after 1872 worked out of an office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Coppinger, a white Quaker, had begun work with the colonization movement in 1838 as a ten-year-old office boy in the Pennsylvania auxiliary. By 1864, he became corresponding secretary of the ACS and devoted the rest of his life, until his death in 1892, to the work of Liberia emigration. He single-handedly administered the ACS’s dwindling resources, edited the society’s quarterly journal, the African Repository, corresponded with the people who desired to resettle in Liberia, and made the arrangements for those accepted for emigration. A dedicated, humble, self-effacing man, Coppinger appeared to believe sincerely that freed people of the American South could better their lives through emigration to Liberia, and he worked tirelessly to that end. No longer a big-budget institution, the American Colonization Society had become virtually a one-man show.[12]
But at the same time, the momentum in the back-to-Africa movement was shifting from white northerners to poor black farmers in the South. Freedom’s rewards were slow in coming and fewer than expected. The Liberian government promised twenty-five acres of free land for each emigrant family, ten acres for a single adult, who came to the black republic. After the war’s end, Secretary Coppinger made yearly trips to Georgia and the Carolinas recruiting emigrants. Between 1865 and 1869, the ACS expended much of its remaining funds and transported a record number of 2,394 emigrants to Liberia, more than the society would send over the next thirty years. Through the 1870s, with even less money in its treasury, the ACS sent a yearly average of only ninety-eight emigrants, and that average dropped to seventy-four in the 1880s. Finally, in 1892, the society decided to stop sending groups of emigrants entirely.[13] However, the decline in the number of emigrants in the post-Reconstruction years reflects the dwindling financial resources of the society, not motivation among African Americans. In fact, the most intense black interest in emigration, as measured by the volume of the ACS’s incoming correspondence, came in the late 1870s and early 1890s. Both of these periods were moments of sharp racial conflict, and nowhere was the desire for African emigration greater than Arkansas.
African Americans’ desire to move out of the South swelled as Reconstruction came to a halt in 1877. Reconstruction had been winding down gradually before its final closure. White Democrats had reclaimed state governments in Tennessee by 1869; in North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia by 1870; in Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas by 1874; and in Mississippi by 1875. By 1877, the party of Lincoln controlled only the statehouses of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Public opinion in the North had begun to sour on military occupation of the South, and business interests in the Republican Party pushed for the reintegration of southern states into the national economy. The election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president in 1876 signaled the end of federal oversight of local affairs in the South. Ironically, Hayes’s campaign platform called for strong protection of black citizens in the South. But when the election mired down in controversy because of disputed returns in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, Republicans worked out a compromise that gave them the presidency in exchange for measures formally ending Reconstruction. In an extremely complex turn of events, the necessary electoral votes went to Hayes while the statehouses in the disputed states went to the Democrats. Hayes withdrew the federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana and included some southern Democrats, even ex-Confederates, in his federal patronage and cabinet appointments. Historians have debated whether Hayes’s policy reflected a genuine attempt to heal sectional strife or a mere ploy to win a disputed election and consolidate power. In any case, Reconstruction, with its use of force to protect the rights of black citizens, had come to an end.[14]
The symbolic meaning of Hayes’s policy seemed clear to white southern Democrats. The federal government, while it would use troops to fight Indians in the West and to break a railroad strike in northern cities in the summer of 1877, would not intervene in southern affairs. In black-majority areas, white Democrats had already begun using terror tactics against black Republican voters in the elections of 1875 and 1876. Before the state elections in Mississippi in 1875, white military companies in Yazoo and Coahoma Counties, deep in the delta, attacked black Republican meetings and murdered several black leaders.[15] In South Carolina’s piedmont area, gangs of white men rode through the countryside before the 1876 election terrorizing black neighborhoods and keeping Republican voters home on election day. Obviously, Hayes’s actions of 1877 further emboldened white Democrats. The violence and fraud in the next election, the state and congressional races of 1878, shocked many northern Republicans into admitting the failure of the president’s southern policy. Again the atrocities were greatest in black-majority states where white Democrats needed to suppress black Republican votes to get or maintain power. Reports from Louisiana suggested that animals preyed upon the unburied bodies of African Americans slain on election day. The number of Republican ballots cast in South Carolina dropped from 90,000 in the fraudulent 1876 election to a mere 4,000 in 1878. The Republican Party thus crumbled in the Black Belt southern states that had the largest number of potential Republican voters.[16]
The pattern would continue in the 1880 elections. Only two Republican votes were recorded in Yazoo County, Mississippi, a county that was 75 percent black. The Republican presidential candidate of 1880, James A. Garfield, received his lowest percentage of votes in states that had the highest proportion of black residents, while he polled the greatest percentage of southern votes in border states with the lowest black populations.[17] Thus, African Americans virtually lost voting rights in the areas where their numbers threatened white control.
African Americans understood the meaning of the president’s retreat from Reconstruction. In the same areas where Reconstruction’s end brought sudden change to their political status, a black migration movement took root quickly and sprouted in the last three years of the 1870s. The day after President Hayes withdrew federal troops from South Carolina, John Mardenborough, a black lawyer in Edgefield County, wrote to the American Colonization Society’s office in Washington begging the society to send a group of seventy-five local black residents to Liberia. Edgefield County, in fact, was known throughout South Carolina for the most extreme political violence against black citizens. Mardenborough explained why his group wished to leave Edgefield County: “While I write a colored woman comes and tells me her husband was killed last night in her presence by white men and her children burned to death in the house; she says her person was outraged by these men and then she was whipped—such things as these are common occurrences. In the name of God can not the Society send us to Africa or some where else where we can live without ill treatment?”[18]
By the summer of 1877, interest in Liberia emigration had spread throughout South Carolina. One of the black leaders from Edgefield County, Harrison N. Bouey, traveled to Charleston to serve on a federal jury, and there he linked up with others interested in emigration. When Bouey arrived in Charleston, “Professor” J. C. Hazeley, a native African, was in town to deliver lectures promoting African emigration at the Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Apparently displeased with the ACS’s response to prospective emigrants, leaders at these meetings proposed the formation of a joint stock company to purchase their own ship and to transport emigrants to Africa. Thus was born the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company, which sold stock at ten dollars a share. By early 1878, the company had raised $6,000 and purchased a ship in Boston, the Azor, which arrived in the port of Charleston in March. Five thousand people turned out for the worship service that consecrated the vessel into service. The elderly Martin R. Delany, eminent Charlestonian and longtime promoter of African emigration, spoke, as did the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, future bishop of the AME Church and the coming generation’s spokesman for the emigration cause. A month later, the Azor finally set sail with 206 passengers, and 175 more remained behind awaiting a second voyage. But the Azor would never sail again. Upon its return, bills from the first voyage came due, and the ship was sold at auction the next year to pay the company’s debts.[19]
At the same time that black South Carolinians were organizing for African emigration, a similar movement broke out in Louisiana. As early as December 1875, a group of black clergymen from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia had held a conference in New Orleans to assess the situation for southern blacks. The group discussed migration to the western territories or to Liberia. One of the delegates to the meeting, Henry Adams, a tireless political organizer from Caddo Parish, in northwest Louisiana, returned home and founded the Colonization Council to plan a way to go somewhere, anywhere, outside of the South. In July 1877, Adams’s council drew up a petition to President Hayes asking for the government either to protect rights of black citizens or to give them a territory of their own. If Hayes could do neither, the petition asked for a federal appropriation of funds to send them back to their own land, Africa. The next month, Adams wrote to the American Colonization Society claiming to speak for 69,000 African Americans in Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and eastern Texas who wished to move to Liberia. The aspiring emigrants even proposed to send a delegation to Liberia to investigate the conditions there and report back to the group. Coppinger made it clear that the ACS could not fund a mass migration to Liberia and that any investigative delegation must travel at its own expense. He encouraged the group to keep organized, collect dues, and send a few settlers each year. Given the impoverished conditions under which they lived, this advice could hardly satisfy. Only seven known emigrants left Louisiana for Liberia, a group from New Orleans settled by the ACS in 1876.[20]
As possibilities for emigration to Liberia were waning, interest shifted to a destination closer at hand: Kansas. Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave from Tennessee, had arrived in Kansas in the mid-1870s and immediately begun work to promote the state as a haven for black settlers. Singleton and other land developers circulated handbills throughout the South encouraging black people to consider Kansas. Political actions further inspired black southerners to move west. In January of 1879, Senator William Windom of Minnesota introduced a resolution calling for a U.S. Senate committee to study the feasibility of federal aid for migration of black citizens from areas where their rights were denied to western territories where they would be respected. After much debate in the Senate, the Windom resolution eventually died from inaction, but rumors about the resolution swept through the South and further inspired black interest in migration and the possibility of governmental assistance. By spring 1879, Liberia fever in the lower South had become Kansas fever, and hundreds of migrants camped along the Mississippi River waiting for steamboats to take them north. Reports of a mass migration from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas in particular aroused much interest among politicians and newspaper editors. The U.S. Senate even established a select committee to investigate the situation. However, informed estimates suggest that only around 8,000 black migrants actually moved to Kansas in 1879 and 1880. Poverty rather than lack of interest probably best explains the modest numbers, for few rural blacks could afford the steamboat and railroad passage needed to get to Kansas.[21] The Kansas exodus of 1879, like the Liberia emigration movement, illustrates the keen interest among African Americans in escaping political oppression in the South. While in antebellum years, free black Americans had criticized the American Colonization Society as a racist organization hell-bent on removing the country’s free black population, one can only wonder what slaves may have thought or said about Liberia in the years before freedom. After Reconstruction’s end in 1877, most prominent black leaders continued to oppose African migration, but for ordinary black Americans, many whose lives had begun as slaves, Liberia became a symbol of a new life, free from white oppression. These men and women were more than willing to work with the ACS to get to Africa. During the late 1800s, as the back-to-Africa movement shifted from being a white man’s institution to a black grassroots movement, interest would be no greater anywhere than in Arkansas. The story of Arkansas’s African emigration movement will illustrate not just the severe realities for black southerners in the late 1800s but also their hopes and dreams for a better life.

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