400 Year Blog #25 – White Supremacists Wage War

[PLEASE, before reading this week’s blog, go to www.400years.today and make a commitment] In July of 1863, Union soldiers who had just survived the bloodiest battle of the Civil War at Gettysburg were given a new assignment. They were sent to New York City to protect African Americans from white workers incensed at being drafted […]

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400 Year Blog #23 – Greenwood: The Ugly Paradox of Success

After the Civil War, some Black entrepreneurs overcame Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in their pursuit of “the American Dream.”  In 1900, two decades after his Tuskegee Institute began training Black workers, Booker T. Washington founded the National Negro Business League. Washington counseled that, “economic independence is the foundation of political independence…. Land ownership […]

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400 Year Blog #22 – Is Memorial Day for Everyone?

  On the day when we honor American soldiers killed in battle, the origin of Memorial Day may not seem important to you. However, for many Black Americans it is important. It helps frame how many died defending a country that enslaved and oppressed their people.   Most believe Memorial Day began in 1868 when […]

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400 Years Blog #21 – Education and Liberation

Malcolm X was right: “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” This passport was kept from Black people for centuries. South Carolina’s government denied it in 1740 when they outlawed teaching writing to enslaved people. Virginia denied it in 1819 when it inflicted 20 […]

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400 Years Blog #20 – The Racist Legacy of Inmate Labor

The 13th Amendment didn’t end slavery. It allowed it to continue “as a punishment for crime.” What better way to fill the labor shortage throughout the defeated confederacy? Authorities arrested formerly enslaved people at record rates for vagrancy, unlawful assembly, having a gun, making liquor, and other trivialities. Many were sentenced to hard labor. From […]

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400 Years Blog #19 – Incarceration and Toxic Environments

In my last two blogs I explored how environmental dangers disproportionately threaten schools and neighborhoods where many people of color live. This blog focuses on environmental threats to those sent to prison. Many of you know that people of color are incarcerated at close to five times the rate of whites. But few know that […]

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400 Years Blog #18 – Rising Tides of Racism

In 2006, Hurricane Katrina delivered both devastation and a lesson in environmental justice. Michael Eric Dyson explains in Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster how 1,836 people died, many of them people of color, because they couldn’t escape. “134,000 people in New Orleans were without cars. They were stuck — […]

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400 Years Blog #17 – Schools, Cities, and Environmental Racism

My last couple of posts highlighted lynching, a grisly and public manifestation of white supremacy.  My next couple will touch on a more hidden form of violence: environmental racism.  I heard this term when Baltimore’s 25-year-old Freddie Gray died on April 19, 2015, due to a spinal cord injury in police custody.  In a way, […]

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400 Years Blog #16 – Breaking Through Silence and Shame

On March 30th of this year, the front page of the Washington Post featured a photo of John Johnson. At 80-years-old he looks like a history detective, complete with dark coat and fedora. Much of his life he’s been obsessed with uncovering the truth about what newspapers in 1926 called a “crime of collective bestiality.” […]

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400 Years Blog #15 – Remembering Lynching Victims at Memorial Square

Bryan Stevenson is an American hero. His book, Just Mercy, documents his work as a lawyer and social justice activist. He has for years defended the poor and people of color caught up in our criminal justice system, some facing execution. Now Stevenson has created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to remember the […]

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