The Works that Influenced the Anti-Lynching Movement

Between the years of 1892-1940, 3000 lynchings had occurred and 2600 victims were African American men. Lynching was a means of white supremacy and was used to prevent African Americans from achieving political, social, and economic success. They were often brutal and included torture of the victims. Lynchings were usually announced in the papers or mobs would drag victims out of police custody and bloodthirsty crowds would gather to watch and at times, collect “souvenirs” such as bones and fingers. The murderers and the crowds would then return to their homes at the end of the day and go about their normal lives until it was time for the next lynching. A common myth used by White Southerners was that mob action was warranted by the threat of Black male assault on White women. From post Civil War and throughout the jazz age, many women and organizations made strides to disprove this theory and encourage legislation for anti-lynching. Beginning in the late 19th century, women like Ida B. Wells Barnett and Mary Church Terrell used their writing talents to both disprove the protection of White women theory and also reveal the true horrors of lynching. Wells-Barnett also brazenly called out organizations, politicians and readers for their failure to speak out against lynching. She also called black people to arm themselves because it may have been the only way to avoid lynching when they were targeted. Mary Church Terrell addressed misconceptions about lynching and analyzed the reasons as to why it was still occurring at such a high rate. Both used graphic details and recounts of mob action and Wells-Barnett frequently compiled facts and statistics in order to convey her investigation and exposure findings. These methods were then used by the NAACP.

The NAACP was heavily influenced by women during the Jazz Age and relied on women as “anti-lynching crusaders.” As previously mentioned, the NAACP gained their investigation and exposure tactics from Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Other women’s organizations also contributed heavily to the NAACP and for the push of Anti-Lynching legislation. For example, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW), formed by Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, pushed for legislation in Pennsylvania. Many women from the NACW also served in executive positions in the NAACP. White women in the South also joined the fight to end lynching and joined organizations such as the one formed by Jessie Daniel Ames, the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

During the Jazz age, Abel Meeropol, a Jewish composer, wrote “Strange Fruit” which was sung by Billie Holiday. “Strange Fruit” was a song that addressed lynching in the South and though Billie Holiday may never have witnessed a lynching personally, it was certainly a song that she, as a Black woman, could relate to as lynching was a threat to all Black people. Though she feared retaliation for singing the song, Billie Holiday agreed to a special performance that would compliment the mood of the song. When it was time to sing, the waiters no longer served customers and all of the lights were dimmed to allow only one spotlight on Billie’s face. Once she was finished, she disappeared before the lights were turned back on. Though the song was controversial, Billie Holiday still won an award for the song and it is still popular until today.

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop

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For my activism project I did a PSA on cultural appropriation.  I had different African American women speak on why cultural appropriation is wrong and why it upset them I had three women of all different ages speak on the subject and I added dialogue in myself. I incorporated pictures of the Kardashians who have been the biggest culture vultures lately, stealing everything from hairstyles, clothes, to body parts. At the end of my video I pleaded with young girls to love them because not only do they have something that is desired by most women in this new age but they are beautiful no matter what. Black women are the most neglected and disrespected race of people in America we are called undesirable, ugly, ghetto, and blamed for the raising of thugs. When you put this kind of weight and negativity to a black woman then they begin to see themselves as just that. This causes a huge problem in self-esteem and self-love, which in turn can be very detrimental to a woman’s psyche. This PSA although a small PSA is just to inform the public what cultural appropriation is and inform them that contrary to what the media portrays it is unacceptable. During this project I really thought I was going to be able to make this like a high class video that a lot of youtubers can accomplish but I contacted a youtuber and she informed me you need lights, backgrounds and a camera that has really good pixelation  which would be quite costly for a project, next time I would definitely maybe try and find someone from the photography department who was a little skilled in videography and such things to perhaps work on the project with me so it wouldn’t be such a rough copy and could be more polished. What also didn’t work was I had intended there to be a discussion to go along with the PSA but because of how heated and the language used in the debate I decided to pull it. I would definitely have participators more aware that they are engaging in a discussion about school and can’t use such language to demonstrate their feelings. Also, I asked most people to just talk about what makes them upset about cultural appropriation which is a long list of things and people just went off on random tangents, next time I will have set questions to ask my interviewee’s as to prevent this from happening.  However, even though these glitches occurred I have definitely become more aware of my role on this planet as an activist. When seeing an injustice I now often question myself on what I can do to make it better, I didn’t know that so many things upset me until this project. Cultural appropriation is just one of many things that aren’t right in the world, transgender rights, our perpetuating rape culture, police brutality are all issues that need to be addressed and it’s going to take someone who is really passionate about them to stand up and do something I now use my Instagram and Facebook to speak out against these issues. I learned not only from this project but from this entire class that activism no matter how small can make a difference in the world.

To check out my PSA against culture appropriation you can Click Hereblack girl magic

Missing! Have you seen us?

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Upon the one year anniversary of the Baltimore Uprising and the murder of Freddie Gray, I noticed something very big missing from activism in the city, something that was there and prominent this time last year— Continue reading

Lost Prophets: Bayard Rustin and the “First Freedom Rides”

Bayard_RustinWhen I think of some of the best, largely untold stories of activism, the first person I think of is Bayard Rustin, and his involvement with the American civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Bayard was one of the most important thought-leaders of that time, and played a huge role in the movement’s success. However, Bayard’s story is kept out of history books, and has been excluded in favor of stories of other prominent figures such as Dr. King or Malcolm X. When I mention “Bayard Rustin” in conversation, most people reply, “Who was he?” Bayard’s story is important to me, as a young, black, gay man, for he exemplifies resilience, character, shrewdness and pride. For my activist history project, I chose to highlight Bayard Rustin.

I expected that my project would center on Bayard’s involvement with Dr. King and the March on Washington in 1963. However, during my research, I ended up learning about Bayard in 1947, earlier in his organizing career, and stumbled across two other lesser-known, great stories that are distantly related to Bayard’s early activism. I decided that my project would take a different direction, and tell these stories instead. Continue reading