Throughout the course of history, Black men and women have stood the test of adversity and were totally prepared to pay the ultimate price. There were an untold number of courageous people who would stand to be counted, and this column will list a few and miss an untold number of others who deserve to be mentioned.
Allow me to start with Moses as he challenged Pharaoh to free the Israelites.
The next group is elected officials, because that is where the real power exists, among those who not only make laws but have the capacity to change them.
The first Black U.S. senator was Senator Hiram Revels in 1870. In 1873 Thomas Page out of Alabama became a U.S. congressman and both were stand up men and would not be silenced. In the year of 1907 another super strong committed Black man was elected to the U.S. Congress from the state of California, Gus Hawkins. In the 40s the all powerful Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell came on the scene and he was followed by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and Edward Brooks, who was the first Black elected to Attorney General of Massachusetts and then was elected to the U.S. Senate as the first Black since the reconstruction era. In 1978 Chicago elected Harold Washington to the position of mayor and although he was limited because of his early death he demonstrated the same fortitude, principle and concern about his people as the preceding giants.
In the early 1900s a great Black visionary appeared, Marcus Garvey and he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
All of the following nationally known and local had a common denominator—all were or are advocates for the equality of Black people here and everywhere: Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Jackie Robinson, Ralph Bunche, Thurgood Marshall, the Freedom Riders, Eldrige Cleavers (Black Panthers), Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Richard Allen, John Brown, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Delaney, Frederick Douglas, Henry Garnett, Toussaint Louverture, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Nat Turner, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Huey Newton, A. Phillip Randolph, and Paul Roberson.
In Pittsburgh we had Mal Goode, Rev. Cornell Talley, Attorney Byrd R. Brown, Speaker of the Pa. House K. Leroy Irvis, Charles Kindle, Jim McCoy, Charles Harris, Matthew Moore Sr., Harvey Adams Sr. and Bowie Hayden.
All of those mentioned in this week’s column are not, nor have they been, voices of compromise, but voices and actors who demanded that Blacks not be given any special treatment, but be recognized as equals.
I close with the question, “What has happen in 2011 that our voices and acts have become so silent?” In the next couple weeks I will publish the answer.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)