On March 5, 2020, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) highlighted the difference in treatment that he experienced in 2012 when he wore a hoodie and sunglasses on the house floor to protest the death of Trayvon Martin. Rush was forcibly removed from the house floor by the seargent-at-arms for violating its decorum code. Fast forward to 2020. Republican Rep. Matthew Gaetz came onto the floor with a full gas mask to call attention to the COVID-19 virus. While he was asked to remove the gas mask, he was not removed. Gaetz is white and Rush is African American.
In response to the difference in treatment, Rush tweeted, “In 2012, I wore a hoodie on the House Floor to make a statement about the deadly consequences of racial profiling. On Wednesday, @RepMattGaetz wore a gas mask in the chamber, making light of an epidemic that has killed 14 Americans.Guess which one of us was forcibly removed.” Gaetz defended his actions by saying that the gas mask was “medically necessary”. However, gas masks are not normally considered to be medically necessary.
The Central State Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane opened its doors in 1868 to provide mental health treatment for African Americans. The quality of care and conditions was often substandard. Like many institutions at that time, blacks receiving care were often segregated and subjected to substandard conditions. The 1866 Civil Rights act actually required that state-owned mental hospitals accept black patients. Despite the law, mental hospitals refused to do so. Located in Petersburg, Virginia, it was the first facility to care for black people who were thought to be experiencing mental health challenges. However, the criteria for determining if a black patient had a mental disorder was often racist and inequitable. Prior to the facility being opened, politicians and medical professionals in the state of Virginia viewed the enslaved as being at no risk for mental health challenges because they were not property owners. Thus, continuing to advance the stereotype of the inhumanity of black people. At the time, the prevailing sentiment was that only white landowners who were engaged in commerce would be at risk for mental health issues.
At the close of the civil war, landowners and legislators, seeking to maintain control of the formerly enslaved began to assert that African Americans suffered a mental illness; especially if they were seeking to flee the South. Doctors created fictitious diagnoses to label those who chose to migrate away from the south as deviant and mentally deficient. The characterization of freedom as the cause of a patient’s mental health diagnosis was intended to vilify emancipation and subjugate the formerly enslaved. Blacks could be committed to the asylum for infractions such as not following oppressive Jim Crow laws. Infractions such as not stepping off the sidewalk to allow a white person to pass, arguing with a white supervisor, or talking back to a white law enforcement officer were incidents that could result in a black person being committed to the asylum. Poverty was also a significant factor in admissions to the asylum.
In recent years, over 800,000 patient records were discovered from the Central State Assylum, as well as pictures, letters, and various other documents. Central State patient records were stored in onsite and were set to be destroyed until an astute professor, Dr.King Davis from the University of Texas recognized the value of the medical records and sought to preserve them and undertake the tedious process of digitizing the records. Davis was previously a commissioner for the Virginia Department of Mental Health. The institution remained segregated until the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is still in operation today. Sources:
On June 15, 1953, the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott occurred. It was the first Black bus boycott in in the U.S. Years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the black residents of Baton Rouge took a stand against racism and segregation. In 1950, the city began to require all residents to use segregated public bussing. Prior to this, black residents utilized black-owned public transportation and required all residents to use the city’s public transportation which enforced segregated seating. Black residents had to sit at the back half of the bus or stand, even if seats in the “white” section were empty. Black passengers comprised 80% of bus passengers and were fed up with standing up on buses while “white” seats remained empty, particularly after the company had raised fares from ten to fifteen cents in January 1953. Continue reading “Before The Montgomery Bus Boycott There Was The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott”→
Alice Augusta Ball (1892 – 1916) was the first to develop an effective treatment to cure leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). It was not until years after her death that she received the credit she deserved. Ball was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother Laura was a photographer and her father, James P. Ball, Jr. was a lawyer. She had 3 siblings, two older brothers, and one younger sister. The family lived comfortably and by today’s standards would have been considered middle class. The family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1903 hoping that the warmer climate would be better for her father’s arthritis. James Ball, Sr. died shortly after the move and the family relocated back to Seattle. Ball graduated from high school in 1910 and then attended college at the University of Washington and the College of Hawaii (University of Hawaii); earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and a bachelors degree in pharmacy in 1914, both from the University of Washington. She then transferred to the College of Hawaii and was the first African American as well as the first woman to graduate with an M.S. degree in chemistry in 1915. Upon graduation, she was offered a teaching and research position, making her the first woman chemistry instructor at the College of Hawaii at the age of 23. Continue reading “Alice Ball: African American Chemist Who Developed First Successful Treatment of Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)”→
The size of Africa as a landmass is greatly underestimated. This is due in part to the proportions used on the Mercator map. The Mercator map is the map that is most commonly used and tends to skew the view of the world’s landmasses, which has led to misrepresentations of the size of countries and continents. The issue with the Mercator Map is not Africa’s size on the map. Its size on the Mercator map is proportionally accurate. Because the map lays out the landmasses of the world across a circular/cylinder-like area. This causes the areas closest to the “poles” to be elongated/stretched. Africa overlays the Equator so it’s size proportions change only minimally while the size of other continents/countries is inflated.
On, Monday, February 24, 2020, NASA announced that African American American physicist and mathematician, Katherine Johnson has died. She was 101 years old. In 1969 she calculated the flight path for NASA’s historic Apollo space mission to the moon. The movie, “Hidden Figures” chronicled Johnson’s experiences along with that of several other African-American women at NASA.
Employed by NASA for over 30 years, she retired in 1986. Johnson’s love for math dates back to her childhood. She loved to “count everything”. A gifted student, Johnson graduated from high school at age 14. On November 24, 2015, she was one of 17 individuals to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is truly a pioneer! Johnson was also a distinguished member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc!
We salute you, Soror Johnson!! Well done! Rest Well!
Born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, Dr. George Herman Canady (1901-1970) was an African American psychologist who explored bias in IQ testing administration. Canady earned a BA, in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Northwestern University in 1927, a masters of arts in Clinical Psychology in 1928, and a Ph.D. in psychology, all from Northwestern University. Canady was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fratenity, Inc. He is most recognized for being the first psychologist to examine how the race of the test proctor could possibly create bias when administering IQ testing. This was the focus of his master’s thesis, “The Effects of Rapport on the IQ: A Study in Racial Psychology.” His work provided recommendations for improving testing environments. Continue reading “Dr. George Herman Canady: African American Psychologist Who Explored The Impact of Bias In IQ Testing”→
Ballad of Birmingham was written by African-American poet Dudley Randall (1914-2000). Randall was Detroit, MI’s first African American to become Poet Laureate. Randall was born in Washington DC. The family relocated to Detroit, Michigan when he was 4 years old. Randall’s first poem was published in the Detroit Free Press when he was just 13 years old.
Randall owned and operated Broadside Press publishing company between 1965-1977. Broadside published many leading African American authors including Melvin Tolson, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Margaret Walker, and others.
One of the poems penned by Randall was “Ballad of Birmingham” The poem chronicles the story of a mother who refused to allow her child to participate in a civil rights march. However, the mother did give the child permission to go to church. The powerful imagery of the poem honors the life of little girls killed in the Birmingham Church bombing. It also demonstrates the irony of how the mother believed she was choosing a safer option for her child only to have them killed at church, which in theory should have been safer than the March.
Ballad of Birmingham
By Dudley Randall (1914 – 2000)
(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)