Since the inception of slavery, through the Jim Crow era and beyond, Black women have been targets of sexual violence which they often suffered with in silence with no hope of justice or protection. As the Civil Rights Movement began to emerge, the sexual violence of black women received more attention and advocacy.
Which NAACP staffer investigated and rallied the black community of Alabama in opposition to sexual assault committed against black women?
Answer will be posted at 6pm EST.
Did you miss yesterday’s post? Click here to learn about Dr. Patricia Bath and her invention of a medical device to remove cataracts (a leading cause of blindness among African Americans).
Note: This blog post may contain images that may be disturbing. At the very end of the blog post a picture depicting a lynching is displayed.
Many of us, (unfortunately) are likely familiar with the history of lynching of blacks in America. However, some may not realize that these heinous acts were often photographed, and, the photos widely sold and circulated in the form of postcards. At the time, many did not see the postcards as depictions of a terrible crimes, but rather, as the commemoration of an act of justice. Lynching laws had made these acts of murder “permissible”. The term lynching did not always mean “hanging”; but, this method became a very common way to murder blacks and maintain white supremacy. Between 1882 and 1968, 4,738 lynchings were reported by newspaper outlets.
A lynching was viewed as being a “community/social” event. It was not unusual for a lynching to draw hundreds of people including small children. It would also normally attract photographers as well. These photographers would produce photo postcards of a lynching and sell them as souvenirs. In 1912, Congress officially passed a law to prohibit postcards depicting lynching from being mailed. But it would not pass a law to prevent lynching. It would not be until 1946 that someone would be convicted for lynching.
Below is a picture of a postcard of a lynching sent by the Klu Klux Klan to Rev. John Haynes Holmes, one the founding members of the NAACP. It was sent to intimidate him. The postcard message, indicates that Holmes would be “added” to the mailing list and that he could expect to receive a post card “about once a month”. W.E.B. DuBois published the postcard in the NAACP magazine, “The Crisis” in 1912 along with the photographs of many other lynchings. “The Crisis” was very outspoken in advocating against lynching and wanted to publicize it to advocate for it being stopped.
It is sad and sickening to think about the thousands of men and women who lost their lives as victims of lynchings.
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.
Willie James Howard’s flirtatious card sent to a white girl in 1944 would result in him losing his life 11 years before Emmett Till also met the same fate.
Emmett Till’s tragic story was captured by Jet Magazine when his mother decided to have an open casket at his funeral. In 1944 when Willie James Howard was murdered, there was no Jet Magazine. Willie had a crush on a young white girl that he worked with at a dime store. He sent her a Christmas card with the following words, “ I love your name. I love your voice. For a S.H. [sweetheart] you are my choice,”
The young girl, Cynthia Goff showed the note to her father, Phil Goff, a former state legislator. Phil Goff dragged Willie from his home at gun point on January 2, 1944. He and his father James Howard were taken to the Suwannee River where Willie was forced to jump in as his father watched the lynching. His body was pulled from the river the next day. Justice was sought for the cruel murder. Harry Moore, field secretary for the NAACP took statements from Willies parents. Moore had grown up in the town and was a classmate of Willie’s mother, Lula Howard. Thurgood Marshall, general counsel for the NAACP was told by Florida’s governor that it would be almost impossible to get a grand jury to believe the account of Willie’s father over the white men who murdered his son. The governor was right. A grand jury refused to indict Phil Goff and his accomplices. The Justice Department also refused to intervene; stating that it had no jurisdiction. Harry Moore continued to seek justice on behalf of the Howard Family until he and his wife were murdered by Klansmen who fire bombed their home in 1951.
The men who murdered Willie were never brought to justice. They are all dead now. Efforts to reopen the case thus far have been unsuccessful. Reflecting on how Emmett Till was beaten, shot, and thrown in the Tallahatchie River for whistling at a white woman; makes it even more troubling to know that another young man met the same fate years earlier.