400 Years Blog #52 – Spiritual Resistance

My early memories of Martin Luther King Jr. impressed upon me how America’s racial freedom struggle is fueled greatly by the Black Church. Resistance was fueled by faith in a better world and the courage to resist. Although I am not a believer, and despite the fact that Christianity was often used to defend slavery, […]

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400 Years Blog #51  – Harriet and Malcolm: Any Means Necessary

Few heroes of the liberation struggle inspired Black Americans as much as Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X. While watching the new film Harriet, I recognized parallels between their willingness to use, as Malcolm X famously said, “any means necessary.” Tubman would do anything to save her passengers, even threatening to shoot any of them who wanted to […]

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400 Years Blog #50  – Letter from Birmingham Jail

Clarence B. Jones, a friend and speech writer for Martin Luther King Jr., called the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” “one of the most profound (examples of) literature created in the 20th century.” The letter of nearly 7000 words scrawled on the edges of a newspaper and various scraps of paper is now routinely studied in college […]

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400 Years Blog #49  – Harriet Jacobs and the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs, weaves together forms of oppression and the persistence of motherly love. Ignored for decades and labelled a work of fiction, during the Civil Rights Movement it reemerged as a heroic tale of resistance to patriarchy and racism. She shared with the world her experience […]

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400 Years Blog #48 – Du Bois and Double-Consciousness

One of our nation’s most brilliant scholars, W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), lived as “an outcast and a stranger in mine own house.” Growing up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he experienced relatively mild racism as one of the few Black people in town. He was confronted by Jim Crow racism when he entered Fisk […]

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400 Years Blog #47 – Legal Powers: Pauli Murray and Thurgood Marshall 

Our Constitution has supported slavery and many laws have reinforced racial oppression. This reality makes it all the more remarkable that African American legal activists – like Pauli Murray and Thurgood Marshall – were able to use the Constitution and law as tools of liberation. Rutgers professor Brittany Cooper recently described Murray as “Black, queer, feminist,” and […]

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400 Years Blog #46 – The Great Migration and a New Black America

In 1900 most Black Americans were “trapped” in a southern caste system.  According to historian Lerone Bennett Jr., the former confederate states had “become a prison.” Sharecropping re-enslaved many Black farmers, condemning them to debt peonage. The arbitrary and deadly vigilante violence kept disenfranchised Black citizens “in their place.” So, first a few, but soon thereafter […]

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Blog #45: Black Veterans: Punished for Serving

As we approach Veterans Day this year, the expression “Thank you for your service” seems almost trite – an admission that it’s nearly impossible to pay veterans back for their sacrifice. Many Black veterans, however, weren’t thanked. In fact, they were denied equal benefits and physically assaulted. In the Civil War, Black soldiers were paid […]

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Blog #44: The Contributions of Black Health Care Professionals

After emancipation Black people in the devastated south were refused treatment by most doctors and hospitals. This health crisis led Rebecca Lee Crumpler to move south and work at the Freedmen’s Bureau Medical Division immediately after the Civil War ended.  As the first Black graduate of the New England Female Medical College, and the only licensed Black doctor […]

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400 Years Blog #43  – Stem Cells and More: Contributions from, and abuse of, Black Patients

The Tuskegee syphilis study (Blog #42) is just one reason why people of color have indicated wariness of the medical establishment. As Dr. Zia Okocha wrote, “trust is hard-earned in a system that has historically utilized Black lives and bodies to advance medical knowledge and consistently fails at improving health disparities for Black people.” The case of […]

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