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Aline Black Hicks: Black Educator Who Fought For Pay Equity

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Aline E. Black Hicks was born in 1906 in Norfolk, Virginia. She attended Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State University). Hicks then began working in the local school system as a science teacher in 1924. She later obtained a master of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1935. At the time, teaching salaries for black educators were significantly lower than that of white teachers. Hicks volunteered to bring suit against the State of Virginia to pursue higher pay for black educators. According to the petition, black high school teachers received a minimum annual salary of $699 up to a maximum annual salary of $1,105. In comparison, white high school teachers received a minimum annual salary of $970 up to a maximum of $1,900. 

The suit resulted from The Norfolk Teachers Association and the Virginia State Teachers Association joining forces with the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People to challenge the pay inequity between Black and White teachers as being a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Thurgood Marshall, who would later become a supreme court justice, was one of the attorneys representing Hicks. The case was dismissed in 1939. An appeal was then filed on Hicks’s behalf. She was fired by the district in retaliation for filing suit. Her appeal was denied because she was no longer an employee. Hicks moved out of the area following her termination. 

Undeterred, the legal team sought another black teacher willing to bring suit. Melvin O. Alston took Hicks’s place as a plaintiff. A new suit was filed in 1940. This case was also dismissed. Another appeal was then filed. On appeal, the federal appeals court ruled against the City of Norfolk; siting that its policies were discriminatory. The City refused to increase the salaries of its black teachers and appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that teacher pay was protected by the fourteenth amendment and sent the case back to the lower courts. 

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Before The Montgomery Bus Boycott There Was The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott

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On June 15, 1953, the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott occurred. It was the first public transit bus boycott by African Americans 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. 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.

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How The Underground Railroad Got Its Name

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The Underground Railroad represented a diverse network of people and organizations. Black and white individuals and organizations participated in these networks,  offering aid to enslaved people escaping to freedom.  In 1831 an enslaved man named Tice Edwards escaped from Kentucky. He was able to swim across the Ohio River near Ripley, OH. His master was following close behind in a small boat. As Edwards came ashore, his master was certain he would quickly be apprehended. However, when the master came ashore, Edwards was nowhere to be found. Exasperated, the master exclaimed, “He must have gotten away by an underground railroad.”  At that time, the steam-powered railroad was considered new technology in the area of transportation. Railroad language was used metaphorically to describe the individuals and networks that assisted the enslaved in reaching freedom. The enslaved freedom seekers were often referred to as “cargo”. This type of imagery made the system seem much more organized than it actually was. The specific dates that the underground railroad is not known. But it was in operation from the late 18th century to the Civil War. 

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NATIONAL EQUAL RIGHTS LEAGUE (1864-1921)

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The National Equal Rights League (NERL) was founded in New York in 1864.   It is considered one of the first human rights organizations in the country.  The National Equal Rights League was established at a National Convention of Colored Citizens in Syracuse, NY.  142 delegates attended representing 17 states and Washington DC.  The organization advocated for full and immediate citizenship for African Americans.  It is It’s formation during the Civil War was a catalyst for its focus on full citizenship as compensation for the service of African Americans in the military during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  Founders of the organization including Henry Highland Garnet, Frederick Douglass, and John Mercer Langston, argued that the African American men engaging in military services should be given the right to vote and that both black men and women should have the right of full citizenship.  Over time NERL launched other organizations including the National Negro Bar Association, National Negro Business League, as well as investment groups. 

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Igbo Island Mass Suicide of 1803

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In 1803 one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved persons occurred on St. Simons Island in Glynn County, Georgia.  Hailing from what is now Nigeria, enslaved Igbo captives were transported to the Georgia coast on the “Wanderer” slave ship.  The average cost paid for each of the enslaved by slave merchants, John Couper and Thomas Spalding was approximately $100. The enslaved were to be resold to plantations on St. Simons Island. 

During their transport to St. Simons Island, approximately 75 of the enslaved Igbo, launched a rebellion and took control of the ship that was transporting them.  They drowned their captors which resulted in the grounding of the ship in Dunbar Creek. The order of events that took place following the ship running aground is uncertain.  What is known, is that the enslaved Igbo, came ashore, singing, led by their high chief.  At the chief’s command, the group of Igbo, walked into Dunbar Creek, committing mass suicide.  A written account of the mass suicide was documented by Roswell King, a white overseer from the Pierce Butler Plantation.  King, along with another man, recovered a large number of the drowned bodies.  It appears that only a portion of the Igbo actually drowned.  In total, only 13 bodies were recovered from Dunbar Creek; while others remained missing.  It is believed that some may have actually survived; making the total number of deaths unclear. 

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Florinda Soriano Munoz, “Mama Tingo”: Afro-Latina Farmers Rights Activist

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Mamá Tingó: “la tierra es de quien la siembra, por eso esta tierra es mía”  - CDN - El Canal de Noticias de los Dominicanos
Florinda Soriano Munoz “Mama Tingo”
(1921 – 1974)

Florinda Soriano Munoz (1921 – 1974) “Mama Tingo”, was a farmers rights activist in the Hato Viejo region of the Dominican Republic.  Her efforts aided over 300 families in reclaiming farmland confiscated illegally by a wealthy landowner. Friends gave her the name “Mama Tingo” because of her motherly tendencies.  She was born into a farming family.  Her mother’s name was Bonificacia Munoz, and her father’s name was Eusebio Aquio Soriano.  She became an orphan at the age of 5 and was raised by her grandmother.  She had no formal education and lived in poverty.  In 1951, she married a man named Felipe, who was a farmer.  The couple had one son, Domingo.  Mama Tingo began to advocate for farmers and their families in the Hato Viejo region who were losing farming land held for generations in their families.  The land was being confiscated illegally by a wealthy landowner, Pablo Diaz Hernandez.  Hernandez often used violent tactics against farmers.

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The African Roots Of Mental Health

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Egyptian healer Imhotep is credited with discovering a scientific approach to diagnosis and treatment of mental health.  His approach blended spirituality with mental health. Imhotep was born in the 27th century BC in Memphis, Egypt. He was second in command to Pharaoh Djoser. Imhotep was an architect, scribe, religious leader, astrologer and healer.  He was so revered that after he was death, he was worshipped as a God.

Imhotep employed “temple sleep” to help people experiencing mental health distress.  Sleep therapy was a combination of exploring spiritual meaning of dreams. Many of his approaches to health and medicine were documented in the Ebers Papyrus document.  The document was written around 1500 BC and contained a chapter on mental health called the “Book Hearts”.  However it it includes sources that date back as far as 3400 BC.  The document also identifies depression as a condition of the The Ebers Papyrus foreshadowed today’s focus exploring the multiple ways that mental health is influenced/impacted by things such as gut health and the body’s other regulatory systems. 

Ancient Egypt was also the place where the brain was given its name and its composition was studied. Imhotep’s findings existed over 2,000 years before those of Hippocrates who is credited with being the “father of medicine”.   However, Hippocrates recognized the influence and accomplishments of Imhotep.  Hippocrates described himself as a “child of Imhotep” meaning that Imhotep was a pioneer and trailblazer long him.

Sources:

http://blackyouthproject.com/mental-health-treatment-is-a-black-tradition-white-people-just-took-credit-for-it/

Mind The Gap: Clinical Signs & Symptoms Handbook For Black & Brown Skin Created By Medical School Student, Malone Mukwende

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Malone Mukwende

Malone Mukwende was born in Zimbabwe.  His interest in science and medicine developed at an early age.  After entering medical school at St. George’s University of London, 3 years ago, Mukwende observed that representations of black and brown patients were largely left out of study materials and textbooks.  This concerned because he and his classmates were only being taught how to diagnose conditions on white patients. Mukwende noted, “There was a lack of signs and symptoms on Black and Brown skin… and I didn’t understand why we weren’t getting taught the full spectrum of people. I’d ask people for answers and I couldn’t get the answer… I decided I needed to do something to challenge this issue myself.”

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Black Mail Quote

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Inequities and disparities are toxins planted with intention and inattention into the souls, soil, and systems within our communities. Our ‘strategies of choice’ in addressing inequities and disparities too often prioritize the comfort of the oppressor over and above the liberation of the oppressed.

Enid Gaddis, ©2021 All Rights Reserved

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