This Week In Black History

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May 31

1870—Congress passes the first Enforcement Act providing stiff punishment for both private citizens and public officials who conspired to deprive the recently freed slaves of either their civil rights or their right to vote. The Act was in response to the old plantation aristocracy and the defeated rebel soldiers who were taking control of Southern governments and enacting “Black Codes” aimed at the suppression of Black freedoms and voting rights. The Act was also in response to the growing power of White terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

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TULSA RIOTS

1921—The infamous and bloody Tulsa (Oklahoma) Riots begin. Whites go on a violent rampage lasting several days. When the rioting was over, an estimated 21 Whites and 60 Blacks were dead. In addition, as many as 15,000 Blacks were left homeless as hundreds of homes and businesses were burned to the ground.  The area bearing the brunt of the destruction was known as the “Black Wall Street” because of its large number of African-American owned businesses. As recently as 2007, Detroit Congressman John Conyers was working on legislation designed to give the few remaining Black survivors of the rioting additional time to sue in order to recover some of their loses. The rioting was reportedly sparked by a false claim from a White female elevator operator of being assaulted by a Black man. But White jealousy of Black success in the Tulsa area may have also played a major role.

June 1

1835—The Fifth National Negro Convention convenes in Philadelphia, Pa. The gathering of free Blacks demonstrated how history can sometimes come full circle. One major focus of the convention was to urge Blacks to stop referring to themselves as “Africans,” “Blacks” or “Coloreds” and instead adopt the word “Negro” as the official racial designation. Gradually, the designation became popular even though all Blacks did not agree with it. Researcher Richard Benjamin Moore writes that at the time some Blacks felt word “Negro” was “a symptom of the degrading sickness of opportunism and the increasing acceptance of inferior social and political status.”

1864—Solomon George Washington Dill is murdered by angry Whites. Dill was one of those rarities in Southern society—a poor White man who supported an end to slavery and Black demands for social justice. Dill’s “crime” was giving what some Whites considered “an incendiary speech” to a group of South Carolina Blacks.

1973—Detroit’s WGPR becomes the nation’s first Black-owned television station. It was granted a license to operate on this day in 1973, but did not actually go on air until September 1975.

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