Rosa Parks's papers and photos online at the Library of Congress

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The Howard Buffet Foundation owns 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photos of civil rights hero Rosa Parks. They've loaned them to the Library of Congress, who've digitized them and posted them online. Read the rest

Anti-Beyonce rally a flop

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The only people who turned up to the much-hyped Anti-Beyonce rally in New York? Fans, one of whom waved a placard asking "Where yall at?"

New York magazine's The Cut reported a grand total of three anti-Beyonce protesters, including a man named Ariel Kohane who told reporters he thought the song "Formation" was a call for violence against police.

Early Tuesday a tweet from "Proud of the Blues" account called on protesters to attend.

Conservatives tried to organize the event, at NFL headquarters, to protest Beyonce's recent performance at the Super Bowl. Featuring black-clad dancers in vaguely-military outfits (and followed-up by a music video portraying police violence against minorities) it led to complaints she was being "divisive" and "the real racist."

But so few turned up to support the complaints yesterday that it's became an embarrassment to those who had promoted the event online.

Here's Saturday Night Live poking fun at white folks dealing badly with getting woke by the new song:

The above photo was taken by Miss Al Boogie on Twitter. Read the rest

Cushy plea deal for Maryland Judge who had defendant tortured in court

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Maryland Judge Robert Nalley pleaded guilty Monday to ordering deputies to shock a defendant with a 50,000-volt charge. Nalley, who presided over Charles County Circuit Court, reportedly agreed to a plea deal whereby he receives a year of probation.

It's not Nalley's first trouble, either: In 2010, he pleaded guilty to tampering with a vehicle after deflating the tires of a cleaning woman's car, to punish her for parking in his space. For that, he was suspended for five days without pay.

CBS News reports that he was charged with violating the victim's rights in the July 2014 stun cuff incident. The maximum sentence is a year in jail and a fine of $100,000.

During jury selection, the defendant, reading from a prepared statement, objected to Nalley's authority to conduct the proceedings. After the man repeatedly ignored Nalley's questions and his commands to stop speaking, Nalley ordered a deputy sheriff to activate a "stun-cuff" the defendant was wearing.

"Do it. Use it," Nalley said.

The defendant stopped speaking when the deputy sheriff approached him and activated the device, which administered an electric shock for about five seconds. The defendant fell to the ground and screamed and Nalley then recessed the proceedings, according to the plea deal's statement of facts.

Ars Technica's David Kravets reports that stun cuffs are the hot new thing.

[Victim/defendant Delvon L.] King eventually agreed to serve two years after withdrawing a motion for a new trial. In that motion, he said he could not adequately represent himself out of fear of being shocked again.

Read the rest

Martin Luther King, socialist: "capitalism has outlived its usefulness"

In the great tradition of political heroes, Martin Luther King's legacy has been sanitized and purged of its most radical and urgent notions, watered down to a kind of meek pacifism that omits his beliefs in radical political change as a necessary condition of attaining real justice. Read the rest

50th anniversary of the Watts Riots: @wattsriots50's real-time history feed

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Yosi Sergant says,

This week marks the one year anniversary of the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots.

Read the rest

WATCH: John Cage, Gay Divorce Lawyer

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John Cage: Gay Divorce Lawyer from Funny Or Die

Now that America's civil rights honeymoon is over and everyone is reverting their rainbow avatars, divorce lawyer John Cage is ready to help gays achieve equality in divorce rates. Read the rest

DEA takes $16,000 cash from black man on train, leaves him penniless

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The takeaway from this story: never consent to a warrantless search.

On April 15 a DEA agent boarded a passenger train in Albuquerque and began grilling people about where they were going and why. Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old black man, told the agent he was going to LA to make a music video. The agent asked Rivers if he could search his bags, and Rivers, bless his naive heart, consented. The agent didn't find drugs or weapons, but he found $16,000 in cash, so he took it, simply because a black man with that much money must be a drug dealer.

Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal writes,

Rivers was left penniless, his dream deferred.

“These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me,” Rivers said in his email. “I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”

Other travelers had witnessed what happened. One of them, a New Mexico man I’ve written about before but who asked that I not mention his name, provided a way for Rivers to get home, contacted attorneys – and me.

“He was literally like my guardian angel that came out of nowhere,” Rivers said.

Joseph Rivers has a GoFundMe campaign to replace the $16,000. Read the rest

Annotated "Eyes on the Prize"

Glen Chiacchieri's produced a heavily annotated version of Eyes on the Prize, the brilliant video documentary series on the history of the Civil Rights movement that was rescued from copyright oblivion by a civil disobedience campaign. Read the rest

LISTEN: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1964 conversation with Robert Penn Warren

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Martin Luther King, Jr.'s soaring oration has come to define how many think of him, so it's interesting to hear Dr. King speaking conversationally in 1964 with Robert Penn Warren, almost in the relaxed feel of a podcast. Read the rest

Rare photos from a 1965 Selma March participant's POV

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To celebrate the film Selma and its two Oscar nominations today, here's a rare collection of Selma March photos by participant James Barker. The Smithsonian has Barker's back story: Read the rest

When the FBI told MLK to kill himself (who are they targeting now?)

We've known for years that the FBI spied on Martin Luther King's personal life and sent him an anonymous letter in 1964 threatening to out him for his sexual indiscretions unless he killed himself in 34 days. Now we have an unredacted version of the notorious letter. Read the rest

The Struggle in Black and White: Activist Photographers Who Fought for Civil Rights

Bob Fitch snapped this picture of a sheriff’s deputy pursuing photographer Matt Herron during a protest in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1966. Courtesy the Bob Fitch Photography Archive.

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "My colleague Hunter Oatman-Stanford has just published an article about the photographers who documented the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s. These photographers, Hunter learned, were deeply committed to the cause of Civil Rights, but their job was not be be heroes—they were expected to get their photos back to the offices of CORE, SNCC, and the NAACP, so they could be distributed to publications around the country in order to get the message out about what was going on down South."

Although organizations like SNCC supplied photos to both black and white publications, almost all their photographers were white men, which seems surprising for a group promoting integration at all levels of society. “With very few exceptions, we were white,” says Matt Herron, another prominent civil-rights photographer. “It was obviously very dangerous for a black photographer to shoot a demonstration or some public event. Also, to be a freelance photographer in those days, particularly a photojournalist, it required equipment, money, and spare time to teach yourself the craft. Those resources were not generally available to black kids.”

Herron had previously worked for Kodak in Rochester, New York, where he’d become one of Minor White’s students, learning the ins and outs of developing, printing, and photographic aesthetics. Through White, Herron would eventually meet his mentor, Dorothea Lange, who encouraged his interest in social documentary photography.

Read the rest

The missing body of Addie Mae Collins

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, a major event in the history of civil rights in the United States. Members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a box of dynamite at the church, which was a major organizing center for the black community and civil rights protests. The resulting explosion killed four girls — Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair.

That part of the story is pretty well-known. What isn't well known is the fact that one of those girls, Addie Mae Collins, may well have been a victim of racism after her death, thanks to a longstanding tradition where white medical schools raided black cemeteries for dissection cadavers. I happened to stumble across this story last week, while reading Harriet Washington's book, Medical Apartheid. The tale, and how it connects to racism both historical and modern, haunted me all day yesterday. Read the rest

Why Americans should be worried about state surveillance

As the Prism/NSA leaks story unfolds, many Americans are left with a cynical "are you surprised?" response that rather misses the point. Recent American history is full of stories of spies using surveillance to target civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King, who was heavily surveilled during the Kennedy administration, culminating with the FBI sending him an anonymous package with evidence of his adultery and a note telling him to kill himself.

Here's a video and transcript of an excellent Chris Hayes editorial on MSNBC in which Hayes reminds us that America's spooks can and do use intelligence to attack causes that are later seen as being on the side of justice:

In 1964, after Hoover called King the most "notorious liar in the country" in a press conference, a package was sent to King in the mail, a package the House select committee ultimately traced back to the FBI. Inside this package, one of the most remarkable artifacts in American history was an anonymous letter addressed to Martin Luther King and a copy of an electronic surveillance tape apparently to lend credence to threats of exposure of derogatory personal information made in the letter. We don't know to this day for sure what was on that tape. The heavy speculation throughout the years it was of personal and sexual nature recorded by a device planted in Dr. King's hotel room.

The letter that came with the tape read in part, "you know you are complete fraud and a great liability to all of us negroes.

Read the rest

Forced internment of British civilians during World War II

Something I didn't know about world history: During World War II, the British government rounded up thousands of its own citizens — people of German, Austrian, or Italian ancestry. Some were put into camps, others deported to Canada and Australia. Others were simply labeled as potential enemies and spied upon. The really crazy part: Many of these people were Jewish refugees who had become citizens of Britain in order to get away from the Nazis. (Via Carol Roth) Read the rest

Minnesota defeats discriminatory marriage amendment

Celebrate marriage equality with the Swedish Chef.

Republican revisionism and civil rights history

Jonathan Chait takes to New York Magazine to explain how a revisionist version of American civil rights history paints the Republicans as the party of racial equality:

The civil rights movement, once a controversial left-wing fringe, has grown deeply embedded into the fabric of our national story. This is a salutary development, but a problematic one for conservatives, who are the direct political descendants of (and, in the case of some of the older members of the movement, the exact same people as) the strident opponents of the civil rights movement. It has thus become necessary for conservatives to craft an alternative story, one that absolves their own ideology of any guilt. The right has dutifully set itself to its task, circulating its convoluted version of history, honing it to the point where it can be repeated by any defensive College Republican in his dorm room.

The Conservative Fantasy History of Civil Rights (via Making Light) Read the rest

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