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A Great & Terrible Thing

This morning I woke to the first day of Black History Month where we have a leap day at the end. That means an extra day of sharing Black History facts this year.

The New York Times article I'm sharing is authored by three people and contains some great and terrible parts as the photos are great but it's terrible we have yet to be privvy to them since they weren't deemed worthy of sharing. It's titled Unpublished Black History (not to be confused with the cheeky and always hilarious Little Known Black History Facts curated by Tracy Clayton). 

While there are several fascinating stories shared here, it's the photo of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr (no relation to the above as I know) that gives me pause in 2016.


photo credit to George Tames for the NYT

It's a telling photograph, one that reaches into a not-so-distant history for the United States in terms of politics and, perhaps, is one that the people in it could not conceive of a 2016 with a Black president. Being shut out and asked to do your job from behind a wall where, truly, many inside that semi-circle are hoping that you don't do your job even though you are representing a marginalized group of people.

In 1967 Rep. Powell, a Baptist minister representing people from Harlem, was being invesitgated and this photo shows him being banned from Congress. He took this case to the Supreme Court and won his argument of being unfairly treated. In total, Rep. Powell served 12 terms and fought for the Civil Rights doing his job as an activist long before Black Lives Matter came into our vernacular. 

The photo, I admit, is jarring. I suppose it's meant to be. He seems to be smiling while his face is at rest and he appears to be pleasant. The man standing in front of him has a much different stature and it's hard to know what his role was from this picture. A great photo from a terrible overt incident that would continue to foreshadow events of keeping marginalized Black Americans from serving or working or simply living without having to fight for equality.

A few years ago I shared articles daily about Black History (you can find them in the archives) and this year I'm making it a point to do some things differently for personal reasons. First, I'm not sharing any history with this or anything I do at work with my students that has to do with slavery. They've gotten enough of that, I think. What must it be like to be a Black student in America in 2016 with controlling narratives continuing to struggle for the microphone? They're living in a world where many of us continue to say that Black lives matter, too, only to be shouted down from people who want to say that ALL lives matter when we see that they truly do not.

I'm looking at you, Flint, Michigan and other places having a water crisis. 

Secondly, this year is specific to my students. Some of them are helping me write these. Some of them are doing research on their own from a request I made last year. I will be publishing some of their writing, too. But I'll still include Black politicians, artists, writers, athletes and people from all walks of life. Just no slaves this year. 

It is a great and terrible thing to be responsible for teaching students in any capacity. Our work is, seemingly, never completed. 

I bid you a Happy Black History Month, nonetheless. It is, for me, always a celebration.

« Black History, Black Future: Wendell Scott | Main | Where I've Been »

Reader Comments (1)

I had just scrolled through all these photos and their stories earlier today when I came here to your blog and found you writing about them as well. The one thing I have to give a little credit to the NYTimes for is their (subtle) admission that, at the time of the photos, they went unpublished because the editors didn't think the subject or the event was "newsworthy ... at a time when black people were marginalized in society and in the media."

Well, yes. The editors were, and still are, the gatekeepers of information for the mainstream media, which is why blogs like yours, Kelly, and social media, and the Internet in general, is so important to us! People get to tell their own stories, and those of people and events around them. Thank you for doing so, and encouraging your students to, as well.

February 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGurukarm

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