MOVE 9

Contributed by Paige Watkins

MOVE 9

MOVE 9

The MOVE Organization is a Philadelphia-based, Black liberation group founded in 1972 by John Africa.  Members lived communally, and, in the early 1970s, were based in the Powelton Village section West Philadelphia. They were ardent community organizers and grassroots activists who believed in natural living and were known to be against science, medicine and technology.

In 1978, there was a massive police attack on the MOVE house in Powelton Village. The military raid was ordered by then-mayor, Frank Rizzo and caried out by the Philadelphia Police Department. The fence surrounding the house was torn down and the house was filled with tear gas and flooded by the police. During the raid, one of the officers was killed by a single bullet. It is thought that he was killed by another cop while the raid was in progress, but 9 MOVE members were instead charged and convicted of the murder. All 9 were sentenced to 30-100 years in prison, and have consistently been denied parole since they were first eligible in 2008. Since then, parole hearings have happened yearly, but they have yet to be approved for release. In 1998, Merle Africa died in prison at the age of 47 after being denied medical treatment. In 2015, at age 59 Phil Africa also died in prison. Chuck Sims Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Debbie Sims Africa,  Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, Delbert Orr Africa, and Eddie Goodman Africa are the 7 members currently left imprisoned. Organizers are actively campaigning to secure the release of these political prisoners. 

Free the MOVE 9

Free the MOVE 9

 

The Angola 3

Contributed by Paige Watkins

The Angola Three - Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace - were Black liberationists known for spending decades in solitary confinement after being wrongfully convicted of killing a prison guard in Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison. 

The three men helped to create the prison’s chapter of the Black Panther Party and worked to organize prisoners in Angola - building a movement to improve the living conditions and the systemic oppression prisoners faced within the walls. They coordinated petitions, as well as work and hunger strikes to protest the prison's segregation, corruption, and violence.

The Angola 3

The Angola 3

In 1972, Woodfox & Wallace were convicted of stabbing and killing a prison guard - Brent Miller. There was no physical evidence to tie them to the murder, and witness testimonies that worked to incriminate the 3 have since been discredited. Yet and still, the decades that followed the guard's murder were spent in solitary confinement. Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his release in 2001. In 2013, Wallace was released after over 41 years in solitary confinement. He died just 3 days after being released. To this day, organizers and activists are still calling for the release of Woodfox - who has spent over 40 years in solitary confinement. His conviction was overturned in November of 2014, but he has yet to be released from Angola.

For more information on the Angola 3, visit: Angola3.org

 

Paradise Valley Clubs

Contributed by Paige Watkins

Club Harlem chorus line, c. 1934

Club Harlem chorus line, c. 1934

Detroit's Paradise Valley was full of nightclubs, bars and theaters frequented by Jazz & Blues musicians known locally and around the world. From the 1920s until the 1950s, Hastings Street was a hub for Black musicians to perform, rivaling other places like Harlem and the Southside of Chicago. Jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Duke Ellington were regular guests in Paradise Valley's nightclubs; playing in venues like Jake's, the Paradise Theater, the Tropicana, Club Harlem, the Flame Show Bar, Sportee's Lounge & the Horseshoe Bar.

The Flame Show Bar

The Flame Show Bar

Though known nationally as a place for Black music and entertainment, Paradise Valley was also a concentrated area of Black entrepreneurship. with dozens of the clubs, speakeasies and theaters owned by Black Detroiters.

When I-375 freeway was built, this area was essentially decimated to make room for the "urban renewal" efforts of the city. Few theaters, clubs, and restaurants remain from this era. One of the last vestiges of Paradise Valley, the Horseshoe Bar at 606 Adams St, came down recently with the construction of Ford Field.

Paradise Theater

Paradise Theater

 

George Washington Carver: Transforming American Agriculture

Contributed by Camille Johnson

George Washington Carver was a groundbreaking innovator and inventor, but over the past century his massive accomplishments have been distilled down to one point – the invention of peanut butter. As we celebrate him this month, it’s important to know that Carver’s legacy went much further.

Born in 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri, George Washington Carver was always exceptional. He taught himself to read and write and displayed an interest in plants from a very young age. After completing his secondary education, he attended Simpson College in Iowa before transferring to Iowa State where he studied agricultural chemistry. His academic success led Booker T. Washington to offer him a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama; it was here that Carver’s innovative legacy began.

While teaching at the Tuskegee Institute in 1916, George Washington Carver began sharing agricultural bulletins and brochures that instructed Southern farmers on practical uses for peanuts. He believed that peanuts were a cash crop that could help free southerners from the rural poverty that plagued them – other people agreed. Land devoted to peanut cultivation grew from ½ million acres in 1915 to more than 4 million acres in 1918. By 1921 Carver received national attention for the soaps, face powder, face bleach, washing powder, milk, wood stains and dyes he created from peanuts – proving that peanuts were indeed a multi-use, cash crop.

During his time at the Tuskegee Institute, George Washington Carver created approximately 300 products from peanuts, including insulation, flour, paper, wall board, shaving cream and skin lotion. Carver’s innovative transformation of peanuts also extended to World War I, where he created peanut-based replacements for rubber that were used by Henry Ford.

George Washington Carver had a lasting impact on the economy of the rural South and transformed the way scientists and Americans used basic crops. This Black History Month, we honor him and his phenomenal contributions to the legacy of Black Americans.

 

Learn more about George Washington Carver, including his innovative use of sweet potatoes, here.

 

A LEGACY OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

As Eli Day noted in Mayor Duggan, Revitalization, and Things Unmentioned, the housing and neighborhood redevelopment policies implemented by Mayor Duggan and the Detroit Housing Authority are the latest chapter in a long history of housing discrimination in Detroit. During the Great Migration, the municipal government worked with real estate associations and white residents, to redline Black people out of white neighborhoods in using various methods including restrictive covenants, racial codes, and neighborhood associations. The racial tensions and racial discrimination associated with housing in Detroit lasted until the late 1960s, when white flight replaced coexisting segregation in Detroit. The story of Dr. Ossian Sweet provides a great illustration of how neighborhood associations helped to exclude Black Detroiters from housing options in the city during the 1920s.

Ossian Sweet earned his medical degree at Howard University. In 1921, he set up a practice in Black Bottom, inside Palace Drugs – a black-owned pharmacy. This location allowed Dr. Sweet to a sign. # of Black Detroiters, since 2/3 of the city’s Black population lived in or near Black Bottom. Dr. Sweet left in 1993 to study in Vienna and Paris, then returned to Detroit and worked at Dunbar Hospital. After saving money, Dr. Sweet bought his family a home at 2905 Garland, in an all-white neighborhood at Garland and Charlevoix. It was a working class neighborhood, but the Sweet’s had a hard time finding a real estate agent and a family willing to sell them a house because they were Black. The Sweet’s paid $6,000 more than the fair market value of house because of the racial discrimination they faced.

At the time, the real estate market and neighborhoods themselves were committed to excluding Detroit’s Black population. These groups were very hostile toward Black families attempting to move into all-white neighborhoods. Restrictive covenants and racial codes facilitated the redlining of Detroit’s neighborhoods, keeping housing ownership out of Black hands. There were also neighborhood associations that were dedicated to keeping Black Detroiters out of white neighborhoods. These associations used slogans like “join the fight for the value of our homes” – thinly veiled racist epithets that were ironic, considering that Black Detroiters actually raised property values when they moved into neighborhoods, since they were willing to pay much more than whites were for homes.

The Waterworks Park Improvement Association was the neighborhood association of the area where Dr. Sweet’s home was located. This neighborhood association reached its height of power in 1925 – the year Dr. Sweet and his family moved into their home. Prior to the Sweet incident, the Waterworks Improvement Association pulled together mobs that violently forced Vollington Bristol and Dr. Alexander Turner out of homes they purchased in all-white neighborhoods. The day after Dr. Sweet moved into his Garland street home, approx. 500 angry whites collected outside his home. Sweet had nine armed men in the house with him, in order to protect himself, his family and his property against the mob. The mob rushed at two Black people invited over by Sweet, and began throwing rocks – breaking an upstairs window. Two shots were fired from the upstairs window, killing one white man and wounding another. Both men were part of the mob outside Dr. Sweet’s home. 

The eleven people in Dr. Sweet’s home were arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The first trial of the defendants resulted in a hung jury. In the second trial Dr. Sweet’s brother Henry was found not guilty, and the third trial of the remaining defendants also resulted in a not guilty verdict. The defense attorney Clarence Darrow secured these wins by arguing that the racial violence and tension of the time made it almost certain that the mob outside Dr. Sweet’s home was there with malicious intent. Based on these tensions, Darrow argued that it was reasonable for Dr. Sweet and the people in his home to fear for their lives and protect themselves however possible.

As we look to the future and fight for the inclusion of our community in the "new" Detroit, we are encouraged by Ossian Sweet's story and we are energized by the reminder that this fight does not start and end with us. Though there are attempts to exclude longtime Black Detroiters from the redevelopment of our city, we will use the stories of Dr. Sweet, Vollington Bristol, Alexander Turner as inspiration. These men and many others fought to ensure that Detroit's Black community could share in all of the opportunity that the city has to offer; we will continue this fight. 


Cora Mae Brown

 

Cora Mae Brown became the first Black woman elected to the Michigan state senate on November 4, 1952. She served two terms from 1953-1956. Born in 1914, Cora Mae Brown moved from Alabama to Detroit when she was 8 years old and went on to attend Cass Technical High School. Upon graduation, Brown attended Fisk University before returning to Detroit to obtain her law degree from Wayne State University Law School. Brown was devoted to her community, civil rights, and women’s rights activism. She worked as a social worker for the Women’s Division of the Detroit Police Department and later served as a police officer. During this time, Cora Mae Brown also maintained a private law practice. While seated in the Michigan state senate, Cora Mae Brown fought for fair housing, equal employment, and anti-discrimination legislation. In 1957, Brown was appointed as Special Associate General Counsel to the U.S. Post Office, where she worked until her death in 1972. 

Sidney Barthwell & Barthwell's Pharmarcy

 

 

 

Sidney Barthwell was a Black entrepreneur who, at one time, owned the largest black-owned drugstore chain in the country. He attended Cass Technical High School and went to college at what is now Wayne State University's College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Barthwell owned 13 stores around Detroit including his pharmacy in Black Bottom which sold ice cream & soda. Barthwell's network of businesses is remembered as one the most important businesses in America at the time, but freeway construction and national chains finally drove Barthwell Drugs out of business. His last store closed in 1987. 

Paradise Theater - Detroit, MI

From 1941 -1951 The Paradise Theatre thrived in Paradise Valley -- the entertainment and business district for Black Detroiters in the Black Bottom neighborhood. The Paradise Theatre hosted world renowned jazz musicians including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. Today, we remember the Paradise Theatre and it's impact on our city and our culture.

Bobby Joe Hill

On March 19, 1966, history was made in the sport of basketball, the United States, and the Black community; Texas Western College Miners defeated the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 1966 NCAA Division I Basketball Championship. At the height of the civil rights movement, Texas Western’s head coach Don Haskins made the decision to start five black players for the first time in the history of college basketball. 

The 5’9” point guard and leader of the 1966 Texas Western Miners was Bobby Joe Hill. Hill led the 27-1 Miners in scoring during their championship season, with an average of 15 points per game.  During the historical championship game, Hill scored 20 points on the Kentucky Wildcats and was named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team.  

On December 8, 2002, Bobby Joe Hill passed away at the age of 59.  Hill, his teammates, and head coach Don Haskins were the subject of the 2006 film Glory Road in which Derek Luke played Hill’s character. 

Born in Highland Park, Michigan, Bobby Joe Hill represented a historical figure from the Detroit area that not only left his mark on college basketball, but on the Black community during a pivotal time in our long fight for civil rights. Hill and his teammates faced racism throughout their 1966 championship season, especially playing in the south, but they excelled and in the toughest of situations. Bobby Joe Hill represented the perseverance that is instilled in Detroiters and the Black community as a whole.

 

Contributed by Reginald Dozier

Posted on February 20, 2015 .

THE MORRILL LAND GRANT ACT OF 1890

The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890 created dual segregated higher education systems, requiring states to establish and fund land-grant colleges for Black students, if Black students were excluded from the existing land grant colleges in the state. Land-grant colleges are public higher education institutions funded by the state government. The Act was the second of its kind; the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 provided funding for the creation of land-grant colleges across the country. In many states, the colleges established under the 1862 Morrill Act excluded Black students; the 1890 Morrill Act was a direct response to this discrimination.

Though the 1890 Morrill Act required states with these dual segregated university systems to provide equal funding to Black and white institutions, the funding provided to land-grant HBCUs was often low and inequitable in comparison to the money given to white land-grant colleges. Black churches and white philanthropists usually provided the primary funding for these colleges and universities.