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  • Known as the Mother of the Civil Rights MovementMLK Jr. started a boycott of Montgomery buses due to her resistance coupled with the arrest. The 17,000 black residents of Montgomery pulled together and kept the boycott going for more than a year. Born: 1913 Died: 2005It was not pre-arranged. It just happened that the driver made a demand and I just didn't feel like obeying his demand. I was quite tired after spending a full day working. At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.

    On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, left work and boarded a bus for home. As the bus became crowded, the bus driver ordered Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger. Montgomery's buses were segregated, with the seats in the front reserved for "whites only." Blacks had to sit at the back of the bus. But if the bus was crowded and all the "whites only" seats were filled, black people were expected to give up their seatsa black person sitting while a white person stood would never be tolerated in the racist South. Rosa had had enough of such humiliation, and refused to give up her seat. "I felt I had a right to stay where I was," she said. "I wanted this particular driver to know that we were being treated unfairly as individuals and as a people." The bus driver had her arrested.

  • King's philosophy of "tough-mindedness and tenderheartedness" was not only highly effective, but it gave the civil rights movement an inspiring moral authority and grace. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    Born: 1899 Died: 1968

    It wasn't just that Martin Luther King became the leader of the civil rights movement that made him so extraordinaryit was the way in which he led the movement. King advocated civil disobedience, the non-violent resistance against unjust laws: "Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it." Civil rights activists organized demonstrations, marches, boycotts, strikes, and voter-registration drives, and refused to obey laws that they knew were wrong and unjust.These peaceful forms of protest were often met with vicious threats, arrests, beatings, and worse. King emphasized how important it was that the civil rights movement did not sink to the level of the racists and hate mongers they fought against: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred," he urged. "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."

  • First African-American Supreme Court JusticeMarshall realized that one of the best ways to bring about change was through the legal system. Between 1938 and 1961, he presented more than 30 civil rights cases before the Supreme Court. He won 29 of them. I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.

    Born: 1908 Died: 1993What is the quality of your intent?

    Thurgood Marshall was a courageous civil rights lawyer during a period when racial segregation was the law of the land. His most important case was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), which ended segregation in public schools. By law, black and white students had to attend separate public schools. As long as schools were "separate but equal"providing equal education for all racessegregation was considered fair. In reality, segregated schools were shamefully unequal: white schools were far more privileged than black schools, which were largely poor and overcrowded. Marshall challenged the doctrine, pointing out that "separate but equal" was just a myth disguising racism. He argued that if all students were indeed equal, then why was it necessary to separate them? The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Marshall went on to become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in American history.

  • The Little Rock Nine were the first black teenagers to attend an all-white school.The Little Rock Nine included: Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Melba Pattillo, Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford and Minnijean Brown I went to the first day of school with Ernest and it burst my bubble, I usually say that. Thats when I became aware that the world of open and available doors were in no way going to be open and available to me. "I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob. . . . I looked into the face of an old woman, and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat at me."

    These remarkable young African-American students challenged segregation in the deep South and won.Although Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in schools, many racist school systems defied the law by intimidating and threatening black studentsCentral High School was a notorious example. But the Little Rock Nine were determined to attend the school and receive the same education offered to white students, no matter what. Things grew ugly and frightening right away. On the first day of school, the governor of Arkansas ordered the state's National Guard to block the black students from entering the school. Imagine what it must have been like to be a student confronted by armed soldiers! President Eisenhower had to send in federal troops to protect the students.But that was only the beginning of their ordeal. Every morning on their way to school angry crowds of whites taunted and insulted the Little Rock Ninethey even received death threats. As scared as they were, the students wouldn't give up, and several went on to graduate from Central High. Nine black teenagers challenged a racist system and defeated it.

  • Born: 1925 Died: 1965Born Malcolm Little. X is the name he gave himself.If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."What is your real name?" an interviewer asked him. "Malcolm, Malcolm X," he replied. "What was your father's real name?" the interviewer went on. Malcolm answered: "My father didn't know his real name. My father got his name from his grandfather and he got his name from his grandfather and he got it from the slave master."

    He was introduced to the Black Muslims while serving a prison term and became a Muslim minister upon his release in 1952. He quickly became very prominent in the movement with a following perhaps equaling that of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. In 1963, Malcolm was suspended by Elijah after a speech in which Malcolm suggested that President Kennedy's assassination was a matter of the chickens coming home to roost. He then formed a rival organization of his own, the Muslim Mosque, Inc. In 1964, after a pilgrimage to Mecca, he announced his conversion to orthodox Islam and his new belief that there could be brotherhood between black and white. In his Organization of Afro-American Unity, formed after his return, the tone was still that of militant black nationalism but no longer of separation. In Feb., 1965, he was shot and killed in a public auditorium in New York City. His assassins were vaguely identified as Black Muslims, but this is a matter of controversy.

  • Born: 1820 Died: 1913American abolitionistI had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other. I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.

    Born into slavery, she escaped to Phildelphia in 1849, and subsequently became one of the most successful conductors on the Underground Railroad. Returning to the South more than a dozen times, she is generally credited with leading more than 300 slaves (including her parents and brother) to freedom, sometimes forcing the timid ahead with a loaded revolver. She became a speaker on the anti-slavery lecture circuit and a friend of the principal abolitionists, and John Brown almost certainly confided his Harpers Ferry plan to her. During the Civil War, Tubman attached herself to the Union forces in coastal South Carolina, serving as a nurse, cook, laundress, scout, and spy, and in 1863 she played an important part in a raid that resulted in the freeing of more than 700 slaves. At Auburn, N.Y., her home for many years after the war, the Cayuga co. courthouse contains a tablet in her honor.

  • Born: 1797 Died: 1883Womens Rights ActivistThe rich rob the poor and the poor rob one another. That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

    American abolitionist, a freed slave, originally called Isabella, b. Ulster co., N.Y. Convinced that she heard heavenly voices, she left (1843) domestic employment in New York