Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

Gatherings from the Internet

10/02/2021
by barenose
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Remember the Ladies: Leontyne Price

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

230px-Leontyne_Price_(color)_by_Jack_MitchellMary Violet Leontyne Price (born February 10, 1927) is an American soprano. Born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi, she rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, and was one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.

One critic characterized Price’s voice as “vibrant,” “soaring” and “a Price beyond pearls,” as well as “genuinely buttery, carefully produced but firmly under control,” with phrases that “took on a seductive sinuousness.” Time magazine called her voice “Rich, supple and shining, it was in its prime capable of effortlessly soaring from a smoky mezzo to the pure soprano gold of a perfectly spun high C.”

A lirico spinto (Italian for “pushed lyric”) soprano, she was considered especially well suited to the roles of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, as well as several in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After her retirement from the opera stage in 1985, she continued to appear in recitals and orchestral concerts until 1997.

Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965),[6] the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and 19 Grammy Awards, 13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, more than any other classical singer. In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

14/12/2020
by barenose
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Remember the Ladies: Shirley Jackson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shirley Hardie Jackson

Shirley Hardie Jackson

Shirley Hardie Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American author. She was a popular writer in her time, and her work has received increased attention from literary critics in recent years. She influenced Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for the short story “The Lottery” (1948), which suggests a secret, sinister underside to bucolic small-town America, and for The Haunting of Hill House (1959), which is widely considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written. In her critical biography of Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when “The Lottery” was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that “no New Yorker story had ever received”. Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, “bewilderment, speculation, and old-fashioned abuse”. In the July 22, 1948, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson offered the following in response to persistent queries from her readers about her intentions:

Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.

Jackson’s husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote in his preface to a posthumous anthology of her work that “she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years.” Hyman insisted the darker aspects of Jackson’s works were not, as some critics claimed, the product of “personal, even neurotic, fantasies”, but that Jackson intended, as “a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb”, to mirror humanity’s Cold War-era fears. Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as revealed by Hyman’s statement that she “was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned ‘The Lottery’, and she felt that they at least understood the story”.

13/12/2020
by barenose
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Remember the Ladies: Ella Baker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ella Josephine Baker (December 13, 1903 – December 13, 1986) was an African-American civil rights and human rights activist. She was a largely behind-the-scenes organizer whose career spanned over five decades. She worked alongside some of the most famous civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King, Jr. She also mentored many emerging activists such as Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Rosa Parks, and Bob Moses. She was a critic of professionalized, charismatic leadership and a promoter of grassroots organizing and radical democracy. She has been called “One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement.”

Work with prominent organizations
NAACP (1938–1953)
In 1938 she began her long association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Baker was hired in December 1940 as a secretary. She traveled widely, especially in the South, recruiting members, raising money, and organizing local. She was named director of branches in 1943, making her the highest ranking woman in the organization. She was an outspoken woman with a strong belief in egalitarian ideals. She pushed the organization to decentralize its leadership structure and to aid its membership in more activist campaigns on the local level. Baker believed that the strength of an organization grew from the bottom up and not the top down. She believed that the work of the branches was the life blood of the NAACP. Baker despised elitism and placed her confidence in many rather than the few elitists. She recognized that the bedrock of any social change organization is not the eloquence or credentials of its top leaders, but rather, it lies in the commitment and hard work of the rank and file membership and willingness and ability of those members to engage in a process of discussion, debate, and decision making. She especially stressed the importance of young people and women in the organization.

Ella BakerWhile traveling throughout the South on behalf of the NAACP, Baker met hundreds of black people and solidified and establish lasting, enduring relationships with them. She slept in their homes, ate at their tables, spoke in their churches, and earned their trust. She wrote thank-you notes and expressed her gratitude to the people she met. This personalized approach to political work was one important aspect of Baker’s effort to recruit more members, men and women, into the NAACP. Baker formed a network of people in the south who would go on to be important for the fight for civil rights. Whereas some organizers tended to talk down to rural southerners, Baker’s ability to treat everyone with respect helped her in her recruiting. Baker fought to make the NAACP more democratic and in tune with the needs of the people. She tried to find a balance between voicing her concerns and maintaining a unified front.

When the opportunity arose in 1946 to return to New York City to care for her niece, she left her position with the national association, but remained a volunteer. She soon joined the New York branch of the NAACP to work on school desegregation and police brutality issues, and became its president in 1952. Her job as president was to supervise the field secretaries and coordinate the national office’s work with local groups. Baker’s top priority as the new director of branches was to lessen the organization’s bureaucracy and Walter Francis White’s dominating role within it. She was not fond of the fact that the program was more or less channeled through the executive secretary and the national office and not the people out in the field. She lobbied for a reduction in the rigid hierarchy within the association and the placing of more power in the hands of capable and heroic leaders. She also advocated for giving greater responsibility and autonomy to local branches. Between 1944 and 1946, Baker directed revolutionary leadership conferences in several major cities such as Chicago and Atlanta. She got top officials to deliver lectures, offer welcoming remarks, and conduct workshops. She resigned in 1953 to run unsuccessfully for the New York City Council on the Liberal Party ticket.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957–1960)
In January 1957, Baker went to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a conference aimed at developing a new regional organization to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. After a second conference in February, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed. This organization was initially planned to be a loosely structured coalition linking church based leaders in civil rights struggles across the South. The group wanted to emphasize nonviolence as a means of bringing about social progress and racial justice for southern blacks. The organization would rely on the southern black church for the base of its support. The strength of the organization rested on the political activities of its local church affiliates. It envisioned itself as the political arm of the black church. The SCLC first stepped on the political scene as an organization at the Prayer and Pilgrimage for Freedom. Baker was instrumental in pulling off this large scale event which became extremely successful. Her work as one of the organizers for this event demonstrated her ability to straddle organizational lines, deliberately ignoring and minimizing rivalries and battles. The conference’s first project was the Crusade for Citizenship, a voter registration campaign. Baker was hired as the first staff person for the new organization. Baker worked closely with southern civil rights activists in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi and was highly respected for her organizing abilities. She helped initiate voter registration campaigns and identify other local grievances. After John Tilley, director of the SCLC resigned, she remained in Atlanta for two and a half years as interim executive director of the SCLC until the post was taken up by Wyatt Tee Walker in April 1960. Baker’s job with the SCLC was more frustrating than fruitful. She was unsettled politically, physically, and emotionally. She had no solid allies in the office in which she could rely.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960–1966)
That same year, on the heels of regional desegregation sit-ins led by black college students, Baker persuaded the SCLC to invite southern university students to the Southwide Youth Leadership Conference at Shaw University on Easter weekend. This was a gathering of sit-in leaders to meet one another and assess their struggles and explore the possibilities for future actions. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed. Baker saw the potential for a special type of leadership within the sit-in leaders not yet prominent in the movement who could revitalize the Black Freedom Movement and take it in a new direction. Baker wanted to bring the sit-in participants together in a way that would sustain the momentum of their actions, teach them the skills necessary, provide the resources that were needed, and also help them to coalesce into a more militant and democratic force. The SNCC became the most active organization in the Delta, and it was relatively open to women. Following the conference Baker resigned from the SCLC and began a long and intimate relationship with SNCC (pronounced “snick”). Along with Howard Zinn, Baker was one of SNCC’s highly revered adult advisors, called the “Godmother of SNCC”. In 1961 Ella Baker persuaded the SNCC to form two wings: One wing for direct action and the Second wing for voter registration. It was with Baker’s help that SNCC (along with Congress of Racial Equality) coordinated the region-wide freedom rides of 1961 and began to work closely with black sharecroppers and others throughout the South. Ella Baker insisted that “strong people don’t need strong leaders,” and criticized the notion of a single charismatic leader at the helm of movements for social change. Ella Baker pushed the idea of “Participatory Democracy”; therefore, she wanted each person to get involved individually. She also argued that “people under the heel”, referring to the most oppressed sectors of any community, “had to be the ones to decide what action they were going to take to get (out) from under their oppression”. She was a teacher and mentor to the young people of SNCC, highly influencing the thinking of such important figures as Julian Bond, Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Curtis Muhammad, Bob Moses, and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who wrote a song in Baker’s honor, called “Ella’s Song”. Through SNCC, Baker’s ideas of group-centered leadership and the need for radical democratic social change spread throughout the student movements of the 1960s. Her ideas influenced the philosophy of participatory democracy put forth by Students for a Democratic Society, the major antiwar group of the day. These ideas also influenced a wide range of radical and progressive groups that would form in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1964 she helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) as an alternative to the all-white Mississippi Democratic Party. She worked as the coordinator of the Washington office of the MFDP and accompanied a delegation of the MFDP to the National Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1964. The group’s aim was to challenge the national party to affirm the rights of African Americans to participate in party elections in the South. When MFDP delegates challenged the pro-segregationist, all-white official delegation, a major conflict ensued. The MFDP delegation was not seated, but their influence on the Democratic Party helped to elect many black leaders in Mississippi and forced a rule change to allow women and minorities to sit as delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

Southern Conference Education Fund (1962–1967)
From 1962 to 1967, Baker worked on the staff of the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), which aimed to help black and white people work together for social justice; an interracial desegregation and human rights group based in the South. SCEF carried out the work of grassroots organizing. The organization raised money for black activists, lobbied for implementation of President Truman’s civil rights proposals, and tried to educate southern whites about the evils of racism. In SCEF, Baker worked closely with her friend, longtime white anti-racist activist Anne Braden, who had been accused of being a communist during the 1950s by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Baker viewed socialism as a more humane alternative to capitalism but she had mixed feelings about communism. Still, she became a staunch defender of Anne Braden and her husband Carl and encouraged SNCC to reject red-baiting because she viewed it as divisive and unfair. During the 1960s, Baker participated in a speaking tour and co-hosted several meetings on the importance of linking civil rights and civil liberties.

Final years
That same year, Ella Baker returned to New York, where she continued her activism. She later collaborated with Arthur Kinoy and others to form the Mass Party Organizing Committee, a socialist organization. In 1972 she traveled the country in support of the “Free Angela” campaign demanding the release of Angela Davis. She lent her voice to the Puerto Rican independence movement, spoke out against apartheid in South Africa and allied herself with a number of women’s groups, including the Third World Women’s Alliance and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She remained an activist until her death in 1986 on her 83rd birthday.

It is widely written that Ella Baker and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as other SCLC members, differed in opinion and philosophy. She once claimed that the “movement made Martin, and not Martin the movement”. Another speech she made, in which she urged activists to take control of the movement themselves, rather than rely on a leader with “heavy feet of clay”, was widely interpreted as a denunciation of King.

Ella Baker was a notoriously private person. People close to her did not know that she was married for twenty years to T. J. “Bob” Roberts. Ella though kept her last name. She left no diaries.

12/12/2020
by barenose
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Remember the Ladies: Linda Brent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jacobs in 1894

Jacobs in 1894

Harriet Ann Jacobs (February 11, 1813 – March 7, 1897) was an African-American writer who escaped from slavery and was later freed. She became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. Jacobs wrote an autobiographical novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, first serialized in a newspaper and published as a book in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. It was a reworking of the genres of slave narrative and sentimental novel, and was one of the first books to address the struggle for freedom by female slaves, and to explore their struggles with sexual harassment and abuse, and their effort to protect their roles as women and mothers.

After being overshadowed by the Civil War, the novel was rediscovered in the late 20th century, when there was new interest in minority and women writers. One scholar researched the novel, identifying Harriet Jacobs as the author and documenting many events and people in her life that corresponded to this fictionalized, autobiographical account. The novel has been the subject of many academic studies, as Jacobs challenged prevailing ideas about slavery and womanhood in her work.

Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1813. Her father was Elijah Knox, an enslaved biracial house carpenter owned by Andrew Knox. Elijah was said to be the son of Athena Knox, who was enslaved, and a white farmer, Henry Jacobs. Harriet’s mother was Delilah Horniblow, an enslaved black woman held by John Horniblow, a tavern owner. Under the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, both Harriet and her brother John were born into slavery, as their mother was enslaved. Their likely European-American paternity did not alter their status. Harriet lived with her mother until Delilah’s death around 1819, when Harriet was six. Then she lived with her mother’s mistress, Margaret Horniblow, who taught Harriet to read, write and sew.

Three months before she died in 1825, Jacobs’ mistress Margaret Horniblow had signed a will leaving her slaves to her mother. Dr. James Norcom and a man named Henry Flury witnessed a later codicil to the will directing that the girl Harriet be left to Norcom’s daughter Mary Matilda, Horniblow’s five-year-old niece. The codicil was not signed by Margaret Horniblow. Norcom became Harriet’s de facto master.

Norcom sexually harassed Harriet when she came of age. He refused to allow her to marry, regardless of the man’s status. Hoping to escape his attentions, Jacobs took Samuel Sawyer, a free white lawyer, as a consensual lover. Sawyer was later elected as a member of the US House of Representatives. With Sawyer, she had two children, Joseph and Louisa. Because she was enslaved, their biracial children were born into slavery and Norcom was their master. Harriet later wrote that Norcom threatened to sell her children if she refused his sexual advances, but she continued to evade him.

Reward notice issued for the return of Harriet Jacobs

Reward notice issued for the return of Harriet Jacobs

By 1835 her domestic situation had become unbearable, and Jacobs managed to escape. She hid in the home of a slaveowner in Edenton to keep an eye on her children. After a short stay, she took refuge in a swamp called Cabarrus Pocosin. She next hid in a crawl space above the ceiling of her grandmother Molly’s shack.

Jacobs lived for seven years in her grandmother’s attic before escaping in 1842 to the North by boat to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sawyer had purchased their two children from Norcom. He let them live with Jacobs’ grandmother but he did not free them. The state had made manumissions difficult following the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831. While in hiding, Jacobs had glimpses of her children from the attic and could hear their voices.

Jacobs escaped to the North in 1842, where she was taken in by anti-slavery friends from the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee. They helped her get to New York in September 1845. There she found work as a nursemaid in the home of Nathaniel Parker Willis and made a new life. She was also able to reunite with her daughter, Louisa, who had been sent to New York at a young age to work as a “waiting-maid.” By 1827, the last slaves had been freed in New York under its gradual abolition law.

In 1845, Jacobs’ employer Mary Stace Willis died. Jacobs continued to care for Mary’s daughter Imogen and to assist the widower Nathaniel Willis. In January she traveled to England with him and his daughter. In letters home, Jacobs claimed there was no prejudice against people of color in England. After returning from England, Jacobs left her employment with the Willises. She moved to Boston to visit with her daughter, son and brother for ten months. Her brother, John S. Jacobs, who had also escaped and was part of the anti-slavery movement, decided to open an anti-slavery reading room in Rochester, New York in 1849. The black abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, was active in Rochester and it was a center of anti-slavery activities among whites as well.

John Jacobs found a school for Louisa and by November 1849, she was attending the Young Ladies Domestic Seminary School located in Clinton, New York. The school was founded in 1832 by abolitionist Hiram Huntington Kellogg. In 1849 Jacobs joined her brother in Rochester, where she met Quaker Amy Post. Amy and her husband Isaac Post were staunch abolitionists. As Jacobs became part of the Anti-Slavery Society, she became very politicized. She helped support the Anti-Slavery Reading Room by speaking to audiences in Rochester to educate people and to raise money.

On October 1, 1850, John S. Jacobs’ speech was quoted in Meetings of Colored Citizens. Following Congressional passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, both John and Harriet Jacobs feared for each other’s safety, as legally they were still escaped slaves. The new law increased pressure to capture escaped slaves and required cooperation from officials and citizens of free states. The Jacobs’ siblings left Rochester and returned to New York City. Furious about the act, John wanted to leave the country. When he heard that the new state of California did not enforce the act, he decided to go there. He worked in the gold mines during the Gold Rush, where he was joined in 1852 by Joseph Jacobs, Harriet’s son and his nephew.

On February 29, 1852, Harriet Jacobs was informed that Daniel Messmore, the husband of her young legal mistress Mary Matilda (Norcom) Messmore, had checked into a hotel in New York. To avert the risk of Jacobs being kidnapped, Cornelia Grinnell Willis (Willis’ second wife) took Harriet and the Willis baby to a friend’s house where they hid. Cornelia Willis encouraged Jacobs to take the baby and go to Willis relatives in Massachusetts. Without Jacobs’ knowledge, Cornelia Willis paid $300 to Messmore for the rights to Harriet and gave Jacobs her freedom. Jacobs returned to New York with the Willis child.

Writing her memoir and other work
In late 1852 or early 1853, Amy Post suggested that Jacobs should write her life story. She also suggested that Jacobs contact the author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was working on A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When Stowe wanted to use Jacobs’ history in her own book, Jacobs decided to write her own account. She wrote secretly at night, in a nursery in the Willis’ Idlewild estate.

In June 1853, Jacobs wrote a letter in response to an article in the New York Tribune by former First Lady Julia Tyler, called “The Women of England vs. the Women of America”. Her letter was Jacobs’ first published work. As Tyler referred to the lives of enslaved women in the United States, Jacobs believed she had the right to comment, as she had lived that life.

Over the next several years, Jacobs continued to write her memoir, as well as letters to newspapers. In 1854, as Nathaniel Parker Willis was downstairs writing Out-doors at Idlewild; Or, The Shaping of a Home on the Banks of the Hudson, Jacobs was upstairs completing her own manuscript. Jacobs changed the names of all the people she depicted, including her own, to conceal their true identities and protect them from any adverse reaction. The slave owner “Dr. Flint” was based on Jacobs’ former master, Dr. James Norcom.

In 1856, Jacobs’ daughter Louisa became a governess in the home of James and Sara Payson Willis Parton (Sara was the sister of Nathaniel Parker Willis; she later became known as a writer, under the pen name of Fanny Fern.(Wikipedia)

“It is painful for me, in many ways, to recall the dreary years I passed in bondage. I would gladly forget them if I could.”

For a short time Harriet and her brother worked in Rochester, N.Y. in the Anti-Slavery Office and Reading Room, where they became acquainted with Frederick Douglass, Amy Post and other abolitionists. With Amy’s encouragement, Harriet began writing Incidents in 1853. When attempts to have the book published failed, she had it “printed for the author” in 1861. The British edition, The Deeper Wrong, was published the following year.

During most of the 1860s, Harriet performed relief work, first nursing black troops and teaching, and later, assisted by Louisa Matilda, aiding freedmen in Washington, D.C., Savannah, GA., and Edenton. For a time, she ran a boarding house in Cambridge, MA. Later, Harriet and her daughter lived in Washington, D.C., where Louisa Matilda participated in organizing meetings of the National Association of Colored Women.

Harriet died in Washington on March 7, 1897, and was buried next to her brother in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge. (Harriet Jacobs.com)

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