Black History Fun Fact Friday – 5 Things You Didn’t Learn About the 1963 16th Street Church Bombing

Yesterday marked the 59th Anniversary of the bombing of the sixteenth street baptist church that killed four little girls on September 15, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama. After revisiting revisions for the book, I realized I hadn’t included a chapter on this story. You’ll have to get the deeper details later. For now, here are five things we didn’t learn about that tragedy.

Bombings Were Common in Black Homes and Churchs At That Time

Part of the shock and awe factor was the audacity of someone to bomb a church. But, this wasn’t the first time a bombing had taken place. African Americans lived in constant fear as bombs and riots erupted during summer. On December 25, 1956, the KKK bombed the home of civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Fifty dynamite explosions occurred in Birmingham between 1947 and 1965, giving the city its nickname “Bombingham.”

Campaign to End Community Integration

The bombings started as a campaign by white people to stop Black people from moving into all-white neighborhoods. Governor George Wallace and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Conner went the extra mile in their fight to keep the south segregated. The starting point of many marches, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was a target because it was where civil rights activists held many meetings during the 1960s.

The Fifth Little Girl

A fifth little girl was injured but survived. We don’t hear much about Sarah Collins Rudolph, but she was the sister to Addie Mae Collins and was present in the basement with the girls during the explosion. She was blessed to survive, though she lost her right eye.

The Two Little Black Boys

Sadly, the four girls weren’t the only tragedy that happened that day. Shortly after the church bombing, someone killed two black boys, Johnny Robinson Jr. and Virgil Ware. In the book, we’ll dig deeper into their story and what led to their deaths.

A Separate Service

With over 8,000 attendees and Dr. King giving the eulogy, Carole Robertson’s family opted out of the joint funeral and held a separate, private funeral for her. I can’t say that I blame them. What’s worse than seeing the small casket of your now deceased daughter but also having to see the three coffins of her friends?

Black History Facts You Didn’t Learn in School

Coming 2023

American History by Michael S. Harper

As we get closer to September and the close of this year’s poetry contest, I will post more poems from other artists to help spark creativity. I hope you will use them as a guide as you write your own.

This year’s theme is Freedom, so we will focus on poems that are relatable to the topic.

Today’s featured poem is “American History,” by Michael S. Harper. Enjoy!

Photo by Emmanuel

Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn’t find them.
Can’t find what you can’t see
can you?

Source: Poets.org.


Don’t Know About the Poetry Contest? Click the Link Below to Enter for a Chance to Win Promotion, Interviews, and Cash Prizes.

Click Here!

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Publisher: Berkley

Published: April 12, 2022

ASIN: B0998ZCQTK

Pages: 367

I have little time to read for leisure, so it excited me to squeeze in this gem.

Civil Townsend was a nurse at the Family Planning Clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1973. Erica (thirteen) and India (eleven) were assigned to her case. As their nurse, Civil is to administer the Depo-Provera birth control shots.

This shocks Civil as the girls are still very young, have never been sexually active, and little India is not only mute but has yet to start her cycle. 

The Williams sisters are being raised by their father and grandmother, both illiterate, their mom having passed on. Their living conditions in rural Alabama are not fit for any human to live.

Take My Hand is a powerful historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Eugenics Movement that led to the involuntary sterilization of Black women in the twentieth century. This sterilization continued in many states until as late as the 1970s.

Eugenics, from the Greek word eugenes, was a term coined by Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin. It was a racist scientific idea that only those “well-born” or with “good” genes should be allowed to reproduce. This was a fancy way of controlling the Black population, which meant that at the center of eugenicists’ agenda were Black women.

“We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children.” 

Barbara Harris, Founder of Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK),
C. 1990

Although Erica and India are fictional characters, they represent the many actual women who experienced this form of lynching. In August 1964, the North Carolina Eugenics Board met to decide if a 20-year-old Black woman should be sterilized. 

She was a single mother with one child who lived at the segregated O’Berry Center for African American adults with intellectual disabilities in Goldsboro. According to the North Carolina Eugenics Board, the woman (whose name was redacted from the records) was said to exhibit “aggressive behavior and sexual promiscuity.” She had been orphaned as a child and had a limited education. The board determined she was not capable of rehabilitation.

Take My Hand also mentions The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972) and the Roe vs. Wade decision (‘73). You can tell by how Valdez brings it out that she fully intends to educate her readers on these events. As the characters are learning, so are we. 

The story opens in 2016 and is told from the perspective of an elderly Civil traveling back to Alabama to visit an adult but sick India. The story goes back and forth between 1973 and 2016.

This is a book about racism, sexism, classism, poverty, and white privilege.

But it is also a story of strength.

Although heartbreaking, I find the book well-written and historically accurate.

Ratings

Plot Movement / Strength: 5/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Juneteenth

I have not done a Black History Fun Fact in a while because the book requires my time. Soon, I’d like you to have a complete Black History book to read.

For now, with Juneteenth around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to revisit the article below. It was originally published June of 2018 and then updated again last year (’21)

Enjoy.


Many Black Americans are replacing their fourth of July celebrations with Juneteenth. For many, this day is a celebration of freedom. Although, even after Juneteenth, many Blacks were still enslaved and suffering.2154

Born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln is most famous for preserving the Union during the American Civil War and bringing about the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

However, before he wrote the esteemed Emancipation Proclamation, several efforts were made to preserve the Union without freeing the enslaved. These efforts included Colonization, or the idea that a majority of the African American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America.

On August 14, 1862, five years after The Dred Scott Decision that reiterated Blacks were not, and as “a second class of persons,” could not be citizens, Abraham Lincoln hosted a “Deputation of Free Negroes” event at the White House. Led by the Rev. Joseph Mitchell, commissioner of emigration for the Interior Department, it was the first time African Americans had been invited to the White House to weigh in on a political matter. 

Lincoln planned to produce a document that would not only free some of the enslaved but, once freed, call on them to leave the country voluntarily. This idea, Lincoln’s Panama Plan, was not new but had been circulating among white racists, elites, and eugenicists since the 1700s.

“In 1816, a group of white enslavers and politicians in Washington, D.C. created the American Colonization Society (A.C.S.) to promote the removal of free Black people, who would be encouraged to leave the United States and resettle in West Africa.” A.C.S. and its many chapters hoped this would rid them of free Black people while preserving slavery.

-The 1619 Project, pg. 23

These organizations did not only speak on Colonization, but the U.S. government allocated much money for its implementation. In April 1862, Congress passed the District of Columbia Act, emancipating enslaved persons in Washington and appropriating $100,000 to resettle “such free persons of African descent now residing in said District, including those liberated by this act, as may desire to emigrate.” 

To make a long story short, Lincoln’s original plan was to have a document that, while freeing some enslaved people, also required those freedmen to, sum up, “go back to Africa.”

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Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, to end slavery in the States that were in Rebellion. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

“The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slave states that weren’t in rebellion; Kentucky, Delaware, Missouri, and Maryland. It also didn’t apply to territories. It didn’t apply to Tennessee, lower Louisiana, and the counties of Virginia that were to become West Virginia.”

-William Spivey 

With the passing of the 13th Amendment in January of 1865, slavery was officially deemed illegal in America, freeing all people enslaved.

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Well. Wait, except the people in Texas and other places.

Many Texas men, women, and children were still being held in bondage and did not know that slavery was over.

News of the supposed emancipation did not spread as quickly as the movies would have us to believe. Many slave-owners packed up their belongings and moved to Texas in mass.

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach.”

-Henry Louis Gates Jr.

More than 150,000 enslaved people had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former enslaved person recalled, “it looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.” For the next two years, the enslaved would live removed from the updates of the war, and slavery would go on, business as usual.

These men, women, and children were still enslaved until June 19, 1865. Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended.

This, the freeing of the enslaved in Texas, is the reason many Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4th as their National Independence Day.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The language of this decree is important. Enslaved people are being told they are free two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

They are also being told that they must remain at their present homes (the plantation) and work (continue slave labor) for “wages.” And that any “idleness,” among them won’t be tolerated. 

Much like the Emancipation Proclamation, this order also did not free all enslaved persons.

Juneteenth0619

“There is much evidence to suggest that southern whites—especially Confederate parolees—perpetrated more acts of violence against newly freed bondspeople in Texas than in other states,” writes historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner in an essay titled “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory.” 

“Between the Neches and Sabine rivers and north to Henderson,” she continues, “reports showed that blacks continued in a form of slavery, intimidated by former Confederate soldiers still in uniform and bearing arms.” Murder, lynching, and harassment were common. “You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom,” reported one freed slave, “They would catch them swimming across Sabine River and shoot them.”

Celebrations

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African Americans celebrated their freedom with the first official Juneteenth event in 1866, where they read the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and praised Abraham Lincoln (who repeatedly said his intent was not to abolish slavery but to save the union) as the “great liberator.”

“Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not.”

– Abraham Lincoln, August 21, 1858

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

– Abraham Lincoln, Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862

The celebrations continued until coming to a halt with the institution of Black Codes and, eventually, Jim Crow.

These laws essentially put Blacks back into a form of slavery where they were fully disenfranchised. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, southern states, which had amassed great wealth from slavery, found their economy in shambles. They had to figure out how to keep a slave-like system going.

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Black Codes were laws created to limit the rights of African Americans. They subjected them to criminal prosecution for “offenses” such as loitering, breaking curfew, vagrancy, having weapons, and not carrying proof of employment. These were the same “offenses” that would get enslaved people whipped or sold during slavery.

For example, the enslaved could not travel from place to place without a pass signed by their owner. Those without such a pass could be arrested, jailed, and detained as a runaway. Some owners wrote general passes allowing their slaves to “pass” and “repass.”

Black Codes included Pig Laws that unfairly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a pig. It was also a crime to be unemployed.

These laws could be imposed on Black men easily, sending them to jail, and thus, former slave owners turned “entrepreneurs” could lease them to various companies that would work them to death and treat them like they were slaves. This made the states tons of money.

In 1883, about ten percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately ten times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died.

The laws passed in Texas were similar to those passed in every other Confederate state. Modern-day politicians often make comparisons to Jim Crow as one of the worst periods in African American life.

Jim Crow didn’t have shit on the Black Codes, which was the South’s attempt to recreate enslavement and go back to business as usual. Mass incarceration isn’t a recent invention; during the Black Codes, Black people could do little without running afoul of the law with the penalty being sent back to the fields if they weren’t already there.

William Spivey, Why Celebrate Juneteenth and What Did It Accomplish

Juneteenth didn’t make a full resurgence until The Civil Rights Movement when Blacks began to celebrate it fully again. And while many Blacks have celebrated it for centuries, it still did not become an official Holiday until 1980, when it was made a Texas State Holiday.

Still, it wasn’t until 1997 that Congress recognized June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” after pressure from a collection of groups like the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage and the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.


UPDATE:

As of today, June of 2021, Juneteenth is now a National Federal Holiday.

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But the question remains, what exactly did Juneteenth accomplish for the Black man, woman, and child? What freedom did it bring about? Some sum it up this way:

“Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.

Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.” – https://juneteenth.com/

But, Spivey brings out another good point worth considering:

“Texas after Juneteenth wasn’t an anomaly. Slavery continued to go on in states in the South, North, and West. In some cases, for several years. Slavery still existed in other parts of the United States and did so until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, and beyond.

Slavery still existed in Delaware and Kentucky, which resisted all Union attempts to end slavery and refused to ratify the 13th Amendment. In California, slavery was sort of outlawed in 1850 as a condition for statehood. The exception was slaves who had been brought to California and where the possibility they might return one day to their original home existed, even if that state had voted to ratify the 13th Amendment.

New Jersey had as many as 400 people remain slaves long after Juneteenth. Oregon’s provisional government banned slavery in 1844 but forbade free black people from settling in the territory. Settlers continued to bring slaves with them. General Joseph Lane, a former territorial governor, kept at least one slave on his farm until 1878, 13 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment.”

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It is true Blacks were not free on July 4, 1776. But it is also true many Blacks were not free on June 19, 1865, either.

As many African Americans celebrate and reflect this weekend on what this day means to them, there is certainly much to think about.

For now, it is important to understand that Juneteenth did nothing to restore land or citizenship rights to the 40 million newly freed Blacks. Immediately after African Americans in Texas were freed from chattel slavery in June of 1865, they were required to have labor contracts, and many Blacks returned to their former slave-owners. 


Click HERE for more Black History Fun Facts!

Speaking of Freedom, this is a great time to dive into The Stella Trilogy if you have not already! Below is the link to book one. Enjoy!

About.

In book one, Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racists’ feelings toward blacks. They visit Cynthia’s Grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, a slave named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes.

How Do You Approach Writing Black Historical Fiction?|Ep. 116 | The Merry Writer Podcast

I got to sit with Ari Meghlen and Rachel Poli of The Merry Writer Podcast on writing Black Historical Fiction. Check it out at one of the links below.

EPISODE SHOW NOTES

Have you ever tried writing diverse characters and didn’t know where to start? Or maybe you want to dive deeper into historical fiction? This week, author Yecheilyah Ysrayl joins Rachel in discussing how to approach writing black historical fiction with plenty of tips, advice, and fun conversation. As always, thanks for listening, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Pod Link:

https://pod.link/1504502949

YouTube: 

https://youtu.be/Lmufz1WW5l4

Podbean: 

https://themerrywriterpodcast.podbean.com/e/how-do-you-approach-writing-black-historical-fiction-ep-116-the-merry-writer-podcast/?token=04b9284c45a417396afde887ca5a6fcc

And be sure to check out Rachel and Ari’s blogs below!

Rachel:

http://rachelpoliauthor.com/

Ari:

https://arimeghlen.co.uk/

Let the Words Be Seasoned

Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels

There are times when Black authors find themselves fighting against those who wish them to edit their soul. Take the salt out the meat. Take the voice out the work, and leave it seasonless. To quote Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “People still have a white, western idea of how intellect is ‘spose to walk in the world.” 

Let it not be lost that how Black people speak, including how we write, has been under fire since the days they forbade us to read and write. Considering us fools (and hoping we’d believe we were), they told us our language was broken. Told us massa was some jumbled version of master to justify our alleged stupidity and inhumanness. (Note: Massah is a Hebrew word meaning burden or oppressor. We called them what they were.)

The audacity to dilute language rich in culture by “correcting” it is just as brutal as stripping away someone’s name and replacing it with your own. What does your Ph.D. in poetry have to do with my grandmother’s tongue?

The way our slang terms do not always mirror what is heard or written within collegiate circles.

The way proverbs and parables roll off the tongue only to be shackled to some white scholars’ standards of brilliance. He think it’s nonsense how Jay Jay and Man Man ‘nem talk about how they be chillin. Or how Aunt Lou tells one of her grandchiren to go wrench off this spoon. She puts her hands on her hips, waves and says ‘How you?’ (She means it the way she says it, leaving out the ‘are.’) 

The way the world attempted to tuck knowledge away from us, hide from us its secrets. (Though, we already knew them.) 

Black writers do not need to sacrifice their soul or shapeshift into white standards of intellect to create something beautiful. They need only to be who they are and let the words be seasoned.

Do You Know Your Somebodiness?

Crazy to think that in just a few short hours, this day will be part of history. As I write this, I think about how easily today becomes a memory. The question is, will it be a day worth remembering? Will I remember a cold day with clear skies and the birds building their nests in the tree outside my bedroom window?

As I sit here wearing my I am Black History sweatshirt and my blackballed fists earrings, I am forced to ask myself what it means. What does it mean to be the embodiment of black history? 

When I think about it, I think about legacy. Those things we leave behind for others to grab onto. We live in a world where a person’s significance is realized the most after death. Something about the absence of their presence forces us to consider the nobility of the lives they lived and what we take from it.

Toni Morrison once said, “the function of freedom is to free someone else.” I think about the responsibility of that, and I resolve that being black history in the flesh means to live my life in such a way that black people feel free. 

Still, I am constantly contemplating what that means in all its fullness. How does a person feel free? What parameters must exist for an individual to feel uncaged? These are not simple questions to answer, yet I think we answer them daily with our actions. I think we answer them with the lives we live.

Alice Walker said “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” I supposed this is why Dr. King talked about holding on to your somebodiness, because your somebodiness is your power. Your sense of identity and belonging. Your truth. 

Do you know your somebodiness? Do you know your mother’s name and her mother’s name? Do you know your people? Do you know from what root you sprang? How much time do you spend investigating how to reclaim your own identity? You say you are black history. You wear the shirts, use the hashtags and pump your black fists into the air, but do you know your name? Do you know what was taken from you? Do you know what was not?

Do you know your own somebodiness