Tag Archives: black history month

Martin Luther King: How the dream speech wasn’t planned

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It was one of the most famous speeches ever made and led to two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation in the USA.

Yet, in issue 1277 of the Big Issue, author Philip Collins tells how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” on August 28th 1963 in The Mall, Washington DC, wasn’t planned as it happened.

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The Fight for Equality Goes On!

I have been inspired by Paul Walter’s excellent series on this site for Black History Month. If you have as well, I encourage you to write a blog for Black History Month and send it in.

American by birth, I am guilty of unconscious bias which permeated through my upbringing. Many people don’t recognise the racism which lies beneath the surface in the way they relate to one other. Of course overt acts of racism make the news, but it is the little interactions and assumptions which bother me, as they are …

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Protesting by ‘taking the knee’ during the “Star-spangled banner” – who are the patriots?

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This is the sixteenth and final of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month I have been posting about my experiences. In this last article, I reflect on my journey and its relevance to what is going on these days in the good ol’ US of A.

Imagine the scene. Being an absolute sucker for plaques, I was dutifully reading the plaques in Court Square, Montgomery AL. I was queuing up, or should I say “in the line”, to read the Rosa Parks’ plaque there. There was a couple in front of me.

Why should we celebrate that ****?

– said the fellow in front of me, using a very strong expletive not normally wittingly unleashed on LDV readers. Neeedless to say, the man was white also. This outburst surprised me a bit. Here I was, paying great reverence to Ms Parks, having travelled 4,303 miles (as the crow flies) to do so. And here was this guy asking why we “should celebrate this ****”.

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A journey through American history – a compendium


Over the last few weeks, I have posted up recollections from my recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I have been relating some of the things I saw. Here is a compendium which lists the sixteen posts in this series with links to all of them:

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This single photograph shows an amazing crucible of American history


This is the fifteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Without any doubt, the highlight of my USA tour was my visit to Mongomery, Alabama. To coin a phrase of Stephen Fry’s, for someone interested in history, it was like swimming through liquid chocolate. Within half a mile of the State Capitol, there are a clutch of historic sites which bore witness to some of the most seminal events in the history of the USA.

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The woman who refused to budge on the bus – and made history


The statue of Rosa Parks in the Rosa Parks museum, Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the fourteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I’ve wanted to visit the Rosa Parks museum for years. It has been very high on my bucket list. It was a strange desire. The Rosa Parks museum is in Montgomery, Alabama, which is not one of the easiest places to places to get to in the States. (I had to go on a Greyhound bus from Atlanta, Georgia – which turned out to be a very peaceful and calm experience!) And I would not say that I am an expert on the history of Rosa Parks. I had barely read her Wikipedia write-up before I planned a trip to Montgomery. It was just that I respected her as someone who did something quite awesome – she simply, and with quiet dignity, refused to give up her bus seat to a white person and, as a result, sparked a movement that led eventually to the end of racial segregation in the USA and a step-function advancement in civil rights for Black people there.

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The home where Martin Luther King’s family were bombed



This is the thirteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

In Montgomery, Alabama I visited the Dexter Parsonage Museum (photo above) – which was the home of Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the Montgomery Bus Boycott (of which more in a latter post). Dr King lived here with his family from 1954 to 1960. It is preserved with the furnishings and household things as per that period.

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In the heart of the American rebellion


The main drawing room – what was effectively the “Oval Office” – of the First Confederacy White House in Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the twelfth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

You’re in the heart of the Jefferson Davis rebellion empire!

I had just walked up to the door of “the first Confederacy White House”, across the road from the Alabaman State Capitol in Montgomery. I wasn’t sure that the museum was open – the door was closed and there was no sign of it being open. So it was a bit of a surprise to open the door and be immediately confronted by a very excited docent, who was like a character actor from a John Wayne film. After the declaration above, I half-expected him to shout “Yee-haa!” and plonk a globule of his oral juices into a nearby spittoon!

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Just as US President Jimmy Carter was the antidote to “Tricky Dicky”, could Oprah Winfrey save the world from Trump?



This is the eleventh of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I had the great pleasure of visiting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. It is set just outside the city centre, in very leafy and peaceful surroundings. The exhibition gave me a sense of a great man, shaped by his upbringing in Georgia, his experience as a farmer and businessman, and his service in the US Navy in nuclear submarines.

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Splendid memorial to Dr Martin Luther King Junior in Washington DC

This is the tenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

In Washington DC, I was lucky enough to stay in a neighbourhood where the people were extremely friendly and welcoming. But it is true that the centre of “DC”, as it is almost universally called in the States, is odd. It consists of virtually all federal buildings of some sort or another, plus a lot of monuments. In fact there are so many monuments that, after a couple of days, I had definitely reached “peak monument”.

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The black slave whose failed bid for freedom led to the American Civil War

This is the ninth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I enjoyed a visit to the wonderful US Capitol “Visitor Center”. At presumably astronomical expense, a fantastic underground visitors’ entrance has been built on the east side of the Capitol. You enter it and are taken on a tour of the US Capitol where you go up inside the centre of the building.

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Reminders of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery



Bermuda (UK) image number 431 graphic depiction of how slaves were kept below decks

This is the eighth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I visited two sites which reminded me of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery.
The Charles H Wright Museum of African American history is superb. From the very origins of humanity from one common mother, revealed via mitochondrial DNA, “And still we rise” tells the story of African Americans in great detail with very attractive displays.

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The music that united the world



This is the seventh of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

When I started planning my US trip, I had two items high on my bucket list which I wanted to tick. One was the Rosa Parks museum (of which more later in this series) and the other was the Motown museum in Detroit. I was extremely excited to visit the home of Tamla Motown. I made a major 3000 mile detour in my trip just to do it! And I was not disappointed. I have still not completely calmed down from my excitement three weeks after visiting it!

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The underground road to precious freedom for black slaves

This is the sixth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I had low expectations for Detroit. You hear stories about bankruptcy and violence. In fact, I found Detroit to be a wonderful city. It is beautifully spaced out. Rather than having all its prominent buildings in the centre of the city, they are spread out across the urban area. The heritage of the wealth of the automative industry has bestowed some wonderful buildings to Detroit.

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Riot? Rebellion? or Revolution?



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Violet Temple Lewis – an educational trailblazer for African American women

The Lewis College of Business, Detroit, Michigan

This is the fourth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

As I was wondering through the streets near my hotel in Detroit, I came across one of the many historic plaques which one sees right across America. The plaque was next to this house (above) in John R Street, Detroit. It records that this building became, in 1941, the office of the Lewis College of Business. It said:

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The governor who stood in the doorway to stop black students entering university – and the landmark speech which followed


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This is the third of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

On the first day of my tour, I made a bee-line for the John F Kennedy Presidential library and museum. It’s on the outskirts of Boston and quite magnificant. In the comprehensive display of JFK history, one of the events given prominence concerned two African American students trying to enrol in a previously all-white Alabaman university in June 1963.

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Prominent US statue of Philip Randolph – #2 in a journey through African American history



This is the second of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Back Bay metro station in Boston, Massachusetts, is a very prominent and large underground railway station, serving a particular busy and affluent part of the city.

As I moved through it, I couldn’t help noticing that the passenger transit area is dominated by a very large statue of a man (photo above). There were several panels explaining the statue, with much praise for its subject, A. Philip Randolph.

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#1 in a journey through African American history – the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment


Detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston

I’ve recently returned from a seven city, 10786 mile-long tour across the eastern United States.

This trek sprang from several random “bucket list” items of mine. I was fortunate enough to be able to stitch together an itinerary which did a lot of ticking of my terminal wish list. The visits were all deeply “anorakky” in nature – mainly to museums.

But as I prepared to travel, I noticed that there was a clear theme running through most of my destinations – that of African American history.

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Vince Cable’s message for Black History Month

Over on the Black History Month website, as they gear up for the 30th year, Vince Cable has sent a message for this year’s Black History Month which starts next week.

Since its inception in 1987, Black History Month has given us many inspiring stories, reminding us of the tireless efforts of those who have fought for equality in the face of adversity, hate and indeed danger. They did so selflessly, so that future generations would enjoy the freedoms and opportunities they were denied.

I am really pleased to once again extend my support to this annual celebration of culture, identity and community in this its 30th year in the UK. As I think back over British history, I am overwhelmed by the remarkable legacies of BAME diaspora communities, whose contributions have transformed the political, economic and cultural landscape of this country for the better.

Undoubtedly, though, there is still so much more to be done. Levels of hate, prejudice and discrimination remain worrying and by some measures are on the increase, as evidenced in the recent Lammy Review. It is our duty to tackle this head on.

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The happiest photo of the week

obamas mclaurin

Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet 106-Year-Old Virginia McLaurin during a photo line in the Blue Room of the White House prior to a reception celebrating African American History Month.

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LibLink: Tim Farron’s introduction to Black History Month

bhm-logo600Tim Farron has been writing at the Black History Month website about what the event means to him:

As a Liberal Democrat, one of my most deeply held beliefs is that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their ambitions and become anything they want to be.

So many of the people who we will remember this Black History Month embody this ideal.

People like Winifred Atwell, the first black artist to have a number one single in the UK or John Kent the first black police officer. People like Mary Seacole, the pioneering nurse who overcame prejudice in order to go and treat sick and wounded soldiers in the Crimean war.

To me, part of the importance of Black History Month is that it reminds us of the invaluable work of so many black and minority ethnic men and women, who have fought discrimination and injustice to secure freedoms and opportunities for future generations.

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Being a LibDem in Black History Month 2015!

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Our party will officially celebrate Black History Month 2015, with photos of members celebrating their Black Heroes hosted on our website.  Event lists with Black History Month information is being mailed out to Local Party Chairs – alerting them about the eclectic mix of theatre, music, film and talks etc., taking place during this celebratory month of October.  The information is an aid to encourage us to take this celebratory month and embrace new cultures and new members from ethnic minority backgrounds.

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During Black History Month, take some time to learn from the injustices of the past

I first realised that people from different ethnic groups could have very different attitudes to the same death, the same violent deaths- the same killings, when I went to see the film Gandhi for the third time in the cinema at the age of 14. It is something David Cameron would do well to remember.

I first went to a glitzy showing of the film in Leicester Square, London with my whole family, including my aunt and uncle who had come over from India, where some of the people involved with the film had met them at their home in Delhi while it was being made; then with a school friend to see it at Marble Arch, London and finally with cousins and friends in Calcutta. (The owner of the petrol station in Southern Avenue had over a dozen tickets spare and gave them to our uncle- our great favourite, my father’s youngest brother, and I was part of a big group.)

Watching General Dyer, in the film, order the troops to turn their guns on the crowds of unarmed people, children, women and men in Amritsar, and to start the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was an entirely different experience in Gariahat, Calcutta to that in either Leicester Square or Marble Arch. There was a sharp intake of breathe in the audience, a feeling that the general had ordered that he turn his guns on us, us personally and then complete dismay. Where in London it was one more scene of violence in one more film, in Gariahat, Calcutta it was something taken personally. My own reaction to the scene and its horror was entirely different in Calcutta and London. In Calcutta the scene was one of pure evil, and in London there was no reaction, no sound and it was just a film.

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Opinion: What Black History Month means to me

black history monthI was delighted by Nick Clegg’s excellent statement welcoming the start of Black History Month. As he says, this is an important aspect of British history whatever our background.

Black History Month exists because black history has long been overlooked. Large swathes of social history, the story of the working class and women battling for rights, have also been relatively absent from standard history taught in schools.

The two strands are often intertwined. The great abolitionist Thomas Clarkson led a grassroots movement against slavery in tandem with the likes of …

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Nick Clegg writes: Black History Month

black history monthBlack History Month reminds us that remembering the past is about more than just memorising important dates and facts. It’s about recognising and understanding the kaleidoscopic mix of people, events and influences that have shaped the country we live in and make us who we are.

Over the last 26 years, Black History Month has helped to inform and educate men, women and children across Britain, highlighting and celebrating the powerful contribution of African and Caribbean people in every area of British society, across centuries of our history.

Black History Month …

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Opinion: Let’s put the C back in the FCO (in celebration of Black History Month)

The Commonwealth Games ended last week. This probably means that the Commonwealth will not be mentioned in the media for another 4 years. But surely there should be more to the vestiges of the British empire than mere staging of the Commonwealth Games? What does the Commonwealth actually do in this day and age and is it still relevant?

Representing a quarter of the world’s governments, a third of its population and a fifth of global trade, this network of 54 countries is a diverse community. Yet we share many common traits, not least the use of …

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