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Black History: Special Delivery!!


September 12, 2015

W.E.B. DuBois Quote: “The COST of liberty is LESS THAN the price of repression.”

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

liberty quote

Black Violin: The Dynamic Duo of Hip Hop & Classical Music

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Black Violin:  Kevin Marcus & Wil Baptiste
Black Violin: Kevin Marcus & Wil Baptiste

 Kevin Marcus and Will Baptiste are the duo that is, “Black Violin”. The two first met in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and played together in high school. Both were classically trained and were also avid fans of rap music as well. They attended different colleges but reunited to launch a career playing and producing other musicians. The two quickly noticed that when playing with other performers that the audience was often drawn to them. They developed performances, covering hip hop songs on their violins that became popular in local night clubs. Their recognition as a group increased greatly when they were invited to appear on Showtime at The Apollo…..which they won. After winning, they sought to brand themselves and their unique style of music. The group has worked on a variety of projects with other artists in addition to producing their own music. Artists they have worked with include: Alicia Keys, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, Wu-Tang Clan, as well as scoring an episode of CSI: New York. They also performed for President Obama at his 2013 Inauguration. Black Violin continues to tour and perform playing as many as 200 shows a year. They have also released two independent albums. The group has created a unique brand and niche for itself. Baptiste and Marcus group describes itself as bridging the gap between classical music and hip-hop.

The groups newest album, “Stereotypes” will be released on September 18, 2015. This album is more than just music….it also has a message. The view their music as the vehicle for an important message….which is that people should not be afraid to be different.

Click here to check out a performance!  You will be impressed!

The Niagara Movement: A Predecessor of The NAACP

Black History: Special Delivery!!

1905 Niagara Movement Convening  Session - Founding Members (Image:  Library of Congress)
1905 Niagara Movement Convening Session – Founding Members
(Image: Library of Congress)

The civil rights organization known as the “Niagara Movement” was organized by W.E.B. DuBois, William Trotter, Frederick McGhee and Charles Bentley in 1905. Its inaugural meeting convened 29 business owners, teachers, and clergy at Niagara Falls in 1905.

By the turn of the 20th century, African American activists began mounting a more active opposition to racist government policies and practices than what was advocated by Booker T. Washington.  Washington, at the time was considered to an influential African American leader at the time.  The Niagara Movement stood in staunch opposition to Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise which promoted accomodationism. The compromise was an agreement struck in 1895 lead by Booker T. Washington and other African American leaders with southern white leaders. The agreement sought to have blacks agree to work menial jobs and be submissive to white political rule. In exchange, Southern whites agreed that blacks would get basic education and due process in legal matters. Blacks would agree not to agitate in their quest for racial equality, integration, or justice, and Northern whites would agree to fund educational charities for blacks.

DuBois and Trotter felt strongly that Washington’s expectations of blacks were too low and that as a race of people, blacks should not be resigned to these lower expectations. In its “Declaration of Principles”, The Niagara Movement proclaimed,

“We refuse to allow the impression to remain that the Negro-American assents to inferiority, is submissive under oppression and apologetic before insults.”

The movement’s goal was to address various sectors and systems that disenfranchised blacks such as the criminal justice system, economic system, the religious community, health and educational systems as well as bring an end to segregation. The Niagara Movement stood in contrast to other black organizations of its day because of its unrelenting emphasis and demand for racial equality. It tirelessly advocated for the right to vote as well as educational and economic opportunities for black men and women. From its initial group of 29 members, it grew to 170 members in 34 states by 1906.

Though making great strides, the movement also experienced some significant struggles over its four year existence. One of its primary struggles was the disagreement of its founders on the inclusion of women as part of The Niagara Movement. DuBois supported the inclusion of women, while Trotter was against it. Trotter resigned from the organization in 1907. His departure from the organization appeared to have a negative effect on the membership The Niagara Movement. Booker T. Washington used his popularity and the high profile attention he received in the media to further undermine The Niagara Movement. His influence impacted the amount of media coverage the movement received at its 1908 conference. Washington also published an “obituary” in The New York Age to publish satirizing the decline and metaphorical “death” of The Niagara Movement. The New York Age was one of the most influential black newspapers of its time.

The group convened annual meetings until 1908 and disbanded in 1909. Racial unrest was rampant in many areas at the time. Springfield, IL was the scene of deadly race riot in 1908 where 8 blacks were killed. The unrest caused over 2,000 blacks to leave the city. While other riots had taken place in different parts of the country, this riot was the first to ocurr in the north in 40 years. Both black and white activists, including members of The Niagara Movement agreed that an interracial entity needed to be organized to combat racial injustice. From these concerns and the collaboration of an interracial group of leaders, the NAACP was born. The Niagara Movement was seen as being the precursor to the NAACP. W.E.B. DuBois was one of its founders.

Though the Niagara Movement was a powerful new force fighting for racial justice, Booker T. Washington and his position of “accommodationism” appeared to receive more acceptance from blacks at that time. Washington was highly revered in the black community and had close relationships with whites who were wealthy and had positions of influence. Washington used his connections and popularity to advocate against The Niagara Movement. It is interesting to note, that both groups agreed on the need for racial equity but disagreed on how to achieve it.

“The Brownies”: The First African American Children’s Magazine

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Image:  Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

The Brownies Book is recognized as the first magazine published for African American children and youth. Its first issue was published in January 1920 and it would eventually be hailed as an important event in establishing black children’s literature. W.E.B Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Augustus Granville Dill were the three creators of, “The Brownies Book”. It began under the umbrella of The NAACP’s national publication, “The Crisis”.

Each year, “The Crisis” published a children’s edition called the “Children’s Number”. It included stories, photos, poetry, and educational achievements of black children. The issue also contained more serious content, such as lynching and discrimination against blacks. The target audience was children between the ages of 6-16 years old. Its creators Dill and Du Bois established Du Bois and Dill Publishers in New York to publish The Brownies. One of the primary goals of the magazine was to dispel negative stereotypes about Africa and its people. At the time, it was a common occurrence to use children’s literature as a medium for spreading negative messages and images about blacks. Du Bois felt strongly that children should be educated on and take pride in their racial identity. The name of the magazine came from fables and folklore where stories were told of creatures called “brownies” who did household chores at night in exchange for food. It played on the stereotype of blacks being servants and slaves. However, the goal was not to reinforce the negative stereotype but rather to empower children to take pride in and embrace their racial identity. Another goal for the publication was to expand the availability of black children’s literature and increase youth participation in the NAACP.

The seven goals stated in “The True Brownies” were

  • To make colored children realize that being “colored” is a normal, beautiful thing.
  • To make them familiar with the history and achievements of the Negro race.
  • To make them know that other colored children have grown into beautiful, useful and famous persons.
  • To teach them a delicate code of honor and action in their relations with white children.
  • To turn their little hurts and resentments into emulation, ambition and love of their homes and companions.
  • To point out the best amusements and joys and worth-while things of life.
  • To inspire them to prepare for definite occupations and duties with a broad spirit of sacrifice.

It was a publication of very high quality and its cover pages were designed by prominent black artists. Each issue cost 15 cents, with a yearly subscription costing $1.50. The content of the magazine highlighted Du Bois’ opposition to Booker T. Washington and Washington’s belief that blacks should be more passive in working towards racial equality. It was long known that Du Bois did not agree with the philosophy of Booker T. Washington in achieving racial equity. A little know fact, is that in 1921, The Brownies became the first publication to print the poetry and literary work of Langston Hughes. Due to financial trouble, The Brownies ceased publication in 1921.

The Library of Congress’ Rare Book and Special Collections Division provides to all but the last issue of the Brownies’ Book. Click here to see copies of The Brownies.

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