I have never accepted February as being only the month recognized as Black History Month because it is my conviction that we should focus on Black History the entire year. It is disturbing to me that we as a people have allowed advertisers and ourselves to a large degree to give the wrongful impression that only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and some times Frederick Douglas as the only Black people to shape History.
This column does not attempt to dismiss the great importance of these two men, but to remind us that there are untold numbers of Black men and women who also played a tremendous role in the freedom and advancement of Blacks in America. I will highlight some of those whom we seem to ignore or have forgotten or maybe we just are not familiar with them.
For 2,000 years Christians have worshipped a Black man who died on a cross for them, his name is Jesus. What about Black men like Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey who chose death over being the property of another man. Black men and women who founded Black newspapers that served the dual purpose of informing the Black communities about our accomplishments and to enlighten us about our rights and how to challenge the system.
In my estimation the most powerful Black man in history was Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, he drove through 57 major pieces of legislation that were responsible for improving the quality of life for Black Americans.
Secondly there was Attorney Thurgood Marshall, who was chief attorney for the NAACP and later Supreme Court Justice. We need to recognize that every achievement we accomplished was the result of the brilliant legal work of Thurgood Marshall. All of the issues were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Some of us were under the illusion that boycotting, marching, picketing and other activities were the only reason that things were changed.
The news media did not always love Dr. King, they vilified him, they called him an agitator, troublemaker, communist, communist dupe and worse. Malcolm X appears on the scene, he was a fiery and gifted orator and Blacks, particularly the youth across this nation, began to take note and listen. Brother Malcolm did not preach turn the other cheek like Dr. King when someone slapped you. Because of the growth of the popularity of Malcolm X the powers in this nation who owned the media then did an about turn and decided that Dr. King was a wonderful guy or at least the lesser of two evils.
Often I have been involved in conversations where people sought to make a difference in the roles that northern Blacks and southern Blacks played in the civil rights movement. Most generally believed that northern Blacks could not under any circumstance believe they could compare with the dangers encountered by southern Blacks. It was my nature to disagree.
Why? Pennsylvania, according to federal statistics, had more KKK chapters than any state in the country. Pittsburgh in the days of the civil rights upheaval had the second highest number of corporate headquarters in America with awesome powers that the south could not even dream of. Chief Bull Connors had the power to make a Black or two disappear, but in Pittsburgh the power existed to make an entire ward disappear (lower Hill) and thousands of jobs disappear too (steel mills).
The Pittsburgh Police have been more powerful than any southern city. A Black youth was beaten and arrested by three White police officers in 2010 (not during the civil rights movement) and still there is no justice.
Last but not least when do we tell the history of local Blacks such as Mrs. Alma Illery, Mrs. Frankie Pace, Mal Goode, William P. Young and Robert L. Vann? All of whom are deceased. There are those still alive like Attorney Wendell Freeland, Alma “Speed” Fox, Judge Warren Watson and the Johnson brothers, Judges Livingston and Justin.
We in the north have fought the good fight and the fight still continues. To those of you of the “now generation,” who have been so critical of the past generation, I ask the question: what have you done to help your brother or sister?
A lady stopped me Saturday and gave me a $25 check for the Kingsley Association. Have you?
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)