We often imagine that one individual citizen of the United States cannot make a difference. We give up before even trying. Believing that without large sums of money and powerful political backing it is an impossibility that one individual’s action can lead to change.
Thankfully we have the remarkable example of Rosa Parks. She reminds us of the power one person has to make a stand against social injustice. Her single act of determination to stand up, or in this case to stay sitting down, in the face of a violent, even murderous, and intimidating society of racism could and did make a change. We must remember that this was no ordinary act of protest. The society of racism in Montgomery, Alabama was a formidable foe. The threat was very real. Many were willing and ready to murder innocent people to maintain white power and privilege, where blacks are conveniently relegated, literally to the back of the bus, into a state of dehumanization.
Her arrest report can be found here.
On Oct. 1, 1962 Mississippi University admitted James Meredith; their first black student. This Federally ordered act of integration resulted in a violent mob riot on the campus. Two people were killed and hundreds injured. Mississippi had segregationist laws that Governor Ross Barnett tried to uphold despite President Kennedy’s order to obey the federal law against segregation. The fight to preserve James Meredith’s civil right to attend the University of Mississippi is sometimes referred to as “the last battle of the Civil War”.
It was 58 years ago today Dec. 1, 1955 on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama that Rosa Parks, an NAACP member, bravely refused to move to the back of the bus. She refused to allow a white man to have her seat on the bus.
We often imagine that one individual citizen of the United States, cannot make a difference. We give up before even trying believing that without large sums of money and powerful political backing it is an impossibility for our simple effort to succeed.
Thankfully we have the remarkable example of Rosa Parks. She reminds us of the power one person has to make a stand against social injustice. Her single act of determination to stand up, or in this case to stay sitting down, in the face of a violent, even murderous, and intimidating society of racism could and did make a change. We must remember that this was no ordinary act of protest. The society of racism in Montgomery, Alabama was a formidable foe. They were willing and ready to murder innocent people to maintain white power and privilege, where blacks are conveniently relegated into a state of dehumanization.
Her arrest report can be found here.
There are only about a thousand grand masters of chess in the world and only one of them is African-American: Maurice Ashley.
He wasn’t even good enough to make his high school chess team. But he studied hard and became a master when he was 20, then, 14 years later– a grand master– a ranking just short of world champion.
He’s 45 now and Maurice Ashley has made chess his life. He travels the world bringing chess to kids who might not otherwise be aware of it, often playing…and winning! against an entire room of young hopefuls lined up before him at their chessboards.
Some of the upstarts he may have to keep an eye on: three young African-American New Yorkers who recently became masters before their 13th birthdays!!
Arthur Ashe biography
Born on July 10,1943, in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Ashe became the first, and still only, black player to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, or the Australian Open. Always an activist, when Ashe learned that he had contracted AIDS via a blood transfusion, he turned his efforts to raising awareness of the disease, before finally succumbing to it in 1993.
Tennis player. Born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. on July 10,1943, in Richmond, Virginia. The oldest of Arthur Ashe, Sr. and Mattie Cunningham’s two sons, Arthur Ashe, Jr. blended finesse and power to forge a groundbreaking tennis game. He became the first, and currently only, African-American to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, or the Australian Open.
Ashe’s childhood was marked by hardship and opportunity. Under his mother’s direction, Ashe was reading by the age of four. But his life was turned upside-down two years later, when Mattie passed away.
Ashe’s father, fearful of seeing his boys fall into trouble without their mother’s discipline, began running a tighter ship at home. Ashe and his younger brother Johnnie went to church every Sunday, and after school were required to come straight home. Arthur, Sr. even clocked the distance: “My father…kept me home, out of trouble. I had exactly 12 minutes to get home from school, and I kept to that rule through high school.”
About a year after his mother’s death, Arthur discovered the game of tennis, picking up a racket for the first time at the age of seven, at a park not far from his home. Sticking with the game, Ashe eventually caught the attention of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, Jr., a tennis coach from Lynchburg, Virginia, who was active in the black tennis community. Under Johnson’s direction, Ashe excelled.
In his first tournament, Ashe reached the junior national championships. Driven to excel, he eventually moved to St. Louis to work closely with another coach, winning the junior national title in 1960 and again in 1961. Ranked the fifth best junior player in the country, Ashe accepted a scholarship at UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in business administration.
Ashe continued to refine his game, gaining the attention of his tennis idol, Pancho Gonzales, who further helped Ashe hone his serve-and-volley attack. The training all came together in 1968, when the still-amateur Ashe shocked the world by capturing the U.S. Open title. Two years later, he took home the Australian title, and in 1975 registered another upset by beating Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon finals.
For Ashe, however, success also brought opportunity and responsibility. He didn’t relish his status as the sole black star in a game dominated by white players, but he didn’t run away from it either. With his unique pulpit, he pushed to create inner city tennis programs for youth; helped found the Association of Men’s Tennis Professionals; and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa—even going so far as to successfully lobby for a visa so he could visit and play tennis there.
Ashe’s causes were shaped by both his own personal story and his health. In 1979, he retired from competition after suffering a heart attack, and wrote a history of African-American athletes: A Hard Road to Glory (3 vols, 1988). He also served as national campaign chairman of the American Heart Association.
Ashe was plagued with health issues over the last 14 years of his life. After undergoing a quadruple bypass operation in 1979, he went under the knife again in 1983 for a second bypass. In 1988, he underwent emergency brain surgery after experiencing paralysis of his right arm. A biopsy taken during a hospital stay revealed that Ashe had AIDS. Doctors soon figured out that Ashe had become positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, from a transfusion of bad blood during his second heart operation.
Initially, Ashe kept the news hidden from the public. But in 1992, Ashe came forward with the news after he learned that USA Today was working on a story about his health battle. Finally free from the burden of trying to hide his condition, Ashe poured himself into the work of raising awareness about the disease. He delivered a speech at the United Nations, started a new foundation, and laid the groundwork for a $5 million fundraising campaign for the institution.
He continued to work, even as his health began to deteriorate, making it down to Washington D.C. in late 1992 to participate in a protest over the U.S. treatment of Haitian refugees. For his part in the demonstration, Ashe was taken away in handcuffs. It was a poignant final display for a man who was never shy about showing his concern for the welfare of others.
Death and Legacy
On February 6, 1993, Arthur Ashe passed away. Four days later he was laid to rest in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Some 6,000 people attended the service.
Ashe, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, was married to Jeanne Moutoussamy from 1977 until his death. They have one daughter, Camera.
Allen was born in Indiana in 1816. After beginning his career as a school teacher, he moved to Portland, Maine to study law. He was admitted to the Maine bar in 1844, becoming the first licensed African-American lawyer in the United States. He became a justice of the peace in Massachusetts in 1848, and was again the first African-American to do so. He practiced law in Boston before moving to South Carolina in 1868. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in November 1869 and joined in partnership with William Whipper and Robert Brown Elliott. Their law firm in Charleston was likely the first African American law firm in the nation. At age 55 he was elected by the General Assembly to succeed George Lee as judge of the Criminal Court in Charleston. He remained on the bench until the Inferior Court was abolished in 1874. Allen then served as a clerk in the Second Auditor’s office of the Treasury Department from 1874 to 1876. He was a probate judge for Charleston County from 1877 to 1878 before leaving South Carolina for Washington, D.C. There he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He died in Washington on October 15, 1894.
Charleston News and Courier, December 21, 1874.
Terison, F. Mark. “Macon Bolling Allen-A Milestone for Maine.” 15 Maine Bar Journal 15 (2000): 234.