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Black Americans mostly left behind by progress since Dr. King's death

Black Americans mostly left behind by progress since Dr. King's death

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How much has really improved for black people in the U.S. since 1968? Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA

Sharon Austin, University of Florida

On Apr. 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, while assisting striking sanitation workers.

That was almost 50 years ago. Back then, the wholesale racial integration required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act was just beginning to chip away at discrimination in education, jobs and public facilities. Black voters had only obtained legal protections two years earlier, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act was about to become law.

African-Americans were only beginning to move into neighborhoods, colleges and careers once reserved for whites only.

I’m too young to remember those days. But hearing my parents talk about the late 1960s, it sounds in some ways like another world. Numerous African-Americans now hold positions of power, from mayor to governor to corporate chief executive – and, yes, once upon a time, president. The U.S. is a very different place than it was 50 years ago.

Or is it? As a scholar of minority politics, I know that while some things have improved markedly for black Americans since 1968, today we are still fighting many of the same battles as Dr. King did in his day.

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Black History Month - Celebrating Achievement!

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,”  which was started by the noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February, as well as in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in October.

This year, Black History Month is more important than ever. We have an overtly racist, sexist, homophobic government that wants to take America back to a time that never existed. Black history is American history, not a footnote. In 2018 it is still important to highlight this information because many people still don’t realize how much Black Americans have done to move America forward and make life better. Black people have slaved, created, invented, and entertained, making the America we know and remember. At the same time white supremacy has worked very diligently to keep black people from getting the credit and lives we deserve.

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Interactive MLK Time Line

We have created an interactive multimedia journey of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

 


Global Black Caucus: We’ve Only Just Begun

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The idea of a Global Black Caucus (GBC) was initially conceived by Black leaders from around the globe in London at the 2013 DA Global Meeting. Many of the members of this group were heavily committed to their local and country chapters in France, Italy, South Africa, Sweden and the UK. It wasn’t until August 7, 2017, during a conversation between me and Shari Temple, the Democrats Abroad (DA) Global IT Team Chair and a DA Germany Voting Representative, I asked the question, why isn’t there a Black Caucus? Shari told me no one has volunteered to start it, so I volunteered and off we went.  This really illustrates how DA is truly a grassroots organization. All of our members can participate in working for positive change. If you want to do something that will further progressive causes, DA is there to support you.

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International Day for the Abolition of Slavery - 2 December

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The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December, marks the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (-> resolution 317(IV) of 2 December 1949).

The focus of this day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, child labour, forced marriage, slavery at sea and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

These types of slavery are global problems and contravene Art. 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘’…no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’’

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are currently an estimated 21 million forced labor victims worldwide, creating US$ 150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy each year.

The Global Black Caucus  is deeply concerned about Human trafficking. Please use this day as an opportunity to learn about modern slavery and how much we are all benefiting from slavery. This is a problem that can be solved; in order to solve it we must know about the problem and care that our fellow humans are being denied their human rights.  For more information on modern day slavery, check out these articles, videos, and films.

 

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The Global Black Caucus (GBC) invites you to participate in our documentary "The Impact of Martin Luther King."

The Global Black Caucus (GBC) invites you to participate in our documentary "The Impact of Martin Luther King."  We are putting together a documentation about what MLK means to the members of Democrats Abroad and how he has affected their lives. How has MLK affected you? Perhaps you attended some of MLK's speeches, civil rights marches or protests in the 50s or 60s, or maybe you saw him on TV or on video. Even if you  were born after 1960, MLK had an effect on your life and we would like to hear from you.

What we’re looking for is a video sharing how MLK impacted your life. You can use the questions below to help stimulate your thoughts and dialog in the video. You are not limited to the questions below. Please tell us whatever you want to share. 

Here are some of the topics you could talk about in the video:

  • What does MLK mean to you?
  • When did you first become aware of MLK?     
  • How did you feel about MLK and the civil rights movement?
  • How were things in the past?      
  • How are things different now?  
  • Do you think MLK and the civil rights movement did any good?    
  • Did you participate in marches or see him in person?      
  • Do you remember when he was killed? How did you feel?

 

You can have someone interview you or just record the video on your own. Videos can be made with most smartphones, digital cameras, and webcams. It would be helpful if all the videos were recorded in landscape, but if that’s not the case we'll work with it.

Videos should be no longer than 30 minutes. If we need to do any substantial editing, we'll send the finished clip to you to approve before adding it to the documentary.

You can send your videos no later than January 5, 2018 to blackcaucus@democratsabroad.org via https://wetransfer.com (it’s free) or other file sharing service. If you have any questions, you can send them to  blackcaucus@democratsabroad.org address.

 


A Very Brief History of the Buffalo Soldiers and African Americans in the Segregated Armed Forces

The military history of African Americans spans from the arrival of the first black slaves to the present day. Since the time of the American Revolution, African Americans have volunteered to serve their country in time of war.

Revolutionary War:

The majority of colonist were neutral or Loyalist. For black people, what mattered most was freedom. As the Revolutionary War spread through every region, those in bondage sided with whichever army promised them liberty. The British actively recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters and, consequently, more blacks fought for the Crown. An estimated 100,000 African Americans escaped, died or were killed during the American Revolution.

By 1783, thousands of black Americans had become involved in the war. Many were active participants, some won their freedom and others were victims, but throughout the struggle blacks were not mere bystanders.  They gave their loyalty to the side that seemed to offer the best prospect for freedom. However, of the many thousands of Africans that fought, not many of them got their freedom.1 

Black people played a role on both sides during the War for Independence. Yet, at the Centennial Celebration of the Revolution in 1876 in Philadelphia, not a single speaker acknowledged the contributions of African Americans in establishing the nation. 

Civil War:

During the Civil War, the issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the war. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). During the War of 1812, about one-quarter of the personnel in the American naval squadrons at the battle of Lake Erie were black.

Fredrik Douglas wrote; "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." 2

 The first official authorization to employ African Americans in federal service was the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. This act allowed President Abraham Lincoln to accept persons of African descent in the military and gave permission to use them for any purpose he may judge best for the public welfare.

On July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 Lincoln, presented the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. 

A company of 4th USCT (United States Colored Troops)

A company of 4th USCT (United States Colored Troops)

Black units where not used as extensively in combat. “By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman” 2

 “In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received$13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay.” 2

By war's end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

 

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Black Caucus Introduction

The purpose of the Global Black Caucus is to provide a forum for all DA members to better understand the issues and concerns affecting Black Americans, to help eliminate unconscious bias within the DA membership and in America, to help engage with Black voters living abroad and ensure that their needs are met within the DA community, and, where needed, to advocate for reforms to political issues. We encourage and facilitate Black Americans abroad to engage, become informed, and exercise their voting franchise. 

Mission Statement

  • To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic[1]
  • To support the goals and ideals of the Democratic Party and Democrats Abroad
  • To encourage voting in every eligible U.S. election by as many Black Americans abroad and Black Caucus members as possible
  • To advocate on issues of concern to Black Americans
  • To be a voice for U.S. citizens living abroad
  • To support campaigns of Democratic candidates aligned with our interests running for elected office in the U.S.
  • To work with other teams within DA to further our joint goals.

 


[1] In these times where assaults on the constitutional rights are routinely taking place and there are many forces who are actively working to call a constitutional convention and change our rights, it is important that every American defend our constitution not just those who work for the government.