Table of contents
- African American History
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Claudette Colvin
- Emmett Till
- Long Way to Go
African American History
The history of African-Americans begins with slavery, as white European settlers first brought Africans to the continent to serve as slaves. The destiny of slaves in the United States would divide the nation during the Civil War. In addition, after the war, the racist legacy of slavery would continue, inspiring movements of fighting, including the Underground Railroad, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery March. Through it all, black leaders and writers would occur and help shape the character and identity of a nation.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on the 15th on January 1929. His birth name is Michael Luther King Jr. but later changed his name to Martin. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up to become a minister. Mr. Martin graduated from a segregated high school in Georgia when he was only 15 years old. Later, in his career Luther enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University and receiving his doctorate in 1955. In Boston he met Coretta Scott and later married her and they both birthed two sons and two daughters. Mr. King was always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race. During this time Mr. King was a member of the executive committee of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). “In December of 1955 he accepted the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the U.S., the bus boycott. This boycott lasted 382 days. In late December 1956 after the Supreme Court of the U.S. had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but t the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been arrested 29 times just because he had a dream that one day ALL men would be equal, he had a dream that former slaves and slave owners would sit and eat together, he had a dream that his four little children would one day live in a nation where they will NOT be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, he had a dream that down in Alabama little black boys and little black girls would join hands with white girls and white boys. Dr. Martin had a dream that one day we will be free at last! Dr. King gave us hope. Dr. King gave us hope that one day whites wouldn’t look at us like we’re disgusting and or filthy or abandoned property. Dr. King gave us hope that one day when we’re walking on the sidewalk we wouldn’t have to walk on the road when a white person walks by. Dr. King gave us hope that one day we would drink out of the same drinking fountains as the whites, Dr. King gave us hope that one day we wouldn’t have to sit up on the balcony just to watch a movie at the cinema, Dr. King gave us hope that one day we would be able to smile at a white person and not being lynched for being “inappropriate”. Dr. King also gave us hope that one day we would wake up and everything will be alright. Even though we still have a long way to go, without Mr. Martin’s bravery and dedication to demand for us African American Individuals to be treated like the people, we will still be trying to prove our existence. Sadly, on the evening of April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated by a white man. Martin’s entourage rushed him to the hospital where he died. He was only 39 years young. Although Dr. King isn’t alive to see how far we’ve come as a community, I hope he knows that without his bravery we would all still be cowering down to the dominant race.
Some mistake Rosa Parks as the first woman to refuse to give up her seat to a white, but a girl named Claudette Colvin was the first. In March 1955, nine months BEFORE Rosa Parks disobeyed segregation laws by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did the exact same thing. Claudette Colvin was born on the 5th of September in 1939, she was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and attended Booker T. Washington High School.
“On March 2, 1955, it started out a normal day, Claudette and 13 other students walked downtown Montgomery and boarded the city bus on Dexter Avenue, exactly across the street from Dr. Martin Luther King’s church. As the bus continued, more white passengers got on the bus. For this white lady to have a seat, four students would have to more because a white person wasn’t allowed to sit across from a colored person. The bus driver asked for the four seat my friends and I were sitting in but only three of us got up. I remained seated. Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing down on one and shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hand was pushing down on the other shoulder”. One thing that Claudette said when the police dragged her off the city bus was “I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right!” if it wasn’t for the legends like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Claudette wouldn’t have had the courage to stand up for what she believed in and for that she’s one of the most respected African American woman in the black community.
Emmett Louis Till was an African American boy who was lynched at the age of after being accused of offending a white woman in a grocery store. Emmett Till was born on the 25th of July 1941. He attended an all-black McCosh Grammar School, he was not prepared for the harsh level of segregation he was about to encounter later in his early life. In August 1955, Emmett walked into “Roy Bryant’s” country store to buy some bubblegum. Roy Bryant’s wife, Carolyn Bryant was working in the store at the time and spent no more than one minute with Till alone in the store before others heard Emmett whistle at Carolyn. It was stated by Emmett’s family that he had a lisp and that he did NOT whistle. Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam abducted Till and tortured him to death. The two men were indicted and tried in September 1955. On the stand, Carolyn had asserted that Till had grabbed her and verbally threatened her. She also said that this 14-year-old boy said that he had “done something” with other white women before. Carolyn claimed she was “scared to death”. After deliberating for just over an hour, the ALL white, all male jury announced that these two white men who openly abducted a 14-year-old, beat him, brutally dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with a barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water, were not-guilty. Moses Wright reported Emmett’s disappearance to the local police department and three day later, his body was pulled out of the river. His face was damaged beyond recognition, the only way they knew it was him was by the ring on his finger that was engraved with his father’s initials. The authorities wanted to bury the body swiftly, but Emmett’s mother disagreed. Emmett’s mother wanted to have an open casket funeral so people could see what those disgusting men did to this young man. Sixty-Two years later Carolyn Bryant came in for an interview with Timothy Tyson and admits that she lied on Emmett Till. She confessed that Emmett did NOT grab her, he did NOT make any sexual comments towards her and that he did NOT whistle at her. Emmett Till was only 14 and was accused of acts that he did not commit, and it cost him his life. Emmett Till might not have lived to defend his name to the public or to tell his mom he didn’t do it, but I hope he knows that the African American community loves, appreciates, and respects the brutal beating you took for us.
Long Way to Go
As you can tell African Americans have come along way. With the help of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Claudette Colvin, Emmett Till, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Eldridge Cleaver, Kunta Kinte, Ella Baker, and many more we as African Americans can say “We Are Free at Last”. Although we have a long way to go, I’m glad we’re not were we used to be.