Sunday, June 17, 2007

Black Holocaust Museum

"we're still not integrated... we've just been tolerated."
> James Cameron... founder of the Black Holocaust Museum (only known lynching survivor... wrote the book "A Time of Terror")

a group of us went to the Black Holocaust Museum on 4th and north ave on wednesday, june 12. ( ) we all learned a lot... it's a lot to take in. it is packed with information about african culture, slave trade, slave life, the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings and violence, the NAACP, African American role models, and leaders and movements that took place in milwaukee during the 60s and 70s. i'd like to go ahead and share some of the stuff that stuck out to me, and hopefully start a discussion going with comments about what other people learned as well.

slave trade

- in the 15th century, europeans began to "claim" africa. it was not until the 1950s that africa is finally ruled by africans again.
- 20 million africans were captured over a span of 300 years of slave trade
- slaves sold for about $5,000-$22,000 each in 2001 dollars
- the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln in 1863, but the last slaves did not find out they were free until 1865... two and a half years later. some states had outlawed slavery prior to the Emancipation Proclamation
- slave owners encouraged slaves to have sunday morning services, thinking that religion would make them more obedient and less likely to run away. instead, the slaves identified with the oppression of the hebrew people, emphasizing moses and the exile. this produced a liberation theology which gave them the strength to carry on and the boldness to hope in Jesus for their freedom... completely the opposite of what the owners intended. YEAH Jesus! that part made me think of God as a rock star. not to mention all of the amazing music that came out of those people during that time.

post-slavery & the civil rights movement
- 4,743 lynchings were reported between 1882-1968 (3,446 of those victims were black... i would think the rest were non-racist white people)... this number is likely much lower than what actually happened, because of the fear preventing many black people from reporting these crimes
- the ku klux klan, founded by veterans of the confederate army (big surprise), stood for: white surpremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Catholicism, homophobia, and nativism. they later added anti-Communism, and many were Nazis for a while but that quickly declined the popularity of their group (shucks.)

contemporary application
- although Barack Obama is the 5th African American in US history to serve on the Senate, he is the ONLY one right now. so 1% of our Senate is African American... in 2007... right now.
- if there is any interest, we should watch Mississippi Burning as a group. for those of you that have seen it, i saw a story at the museum that HAS to be the one the movie is based on. the Freedom Summer volunteers (registering African Americans to vote in the south) James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Nashobah County in Mississippi, the bodies hidden and later found. it's a very hard movie to stomach, but provides a lot of insight as to the terror of African Americans living in an angry white nation in the 60s.
- anyone know anything about Vel R. Phillips? she achieved many "firsts" for women and African Americans, and marched with Father Groppi (big Catholic Milwaukee Civil Rights Movement/NAACP Youth icon) in the 60s/70s. she is still ALIVE! i am going to try to contact her if there's any interest in meeting with her and learning from her.
- june 13, 2005... the US senate issued an official apology to lynch victims through history. James Cameron (founder of this museum... recently deceased)accepted the apology since he was the only known lynching survivor. anyone else think this is cool, but also a little odd that it took until 2005 for it to happen?

questions i have
on the map showing where the captured africans were sent, many were sent to europe and south and central america. what was the enslavement of africans like in other countries? what consequences are they suffering in their social structure today? i feel like i have not heard anything about this.

Malcolm X was the front man for the Nation of Islam. our group was not quite sure what that was... vanessa, i heard you are a Malcolm X buff. can you tell us more about him and that religion?

has anyone heard anything about the Halyards? it appears they were very involved in the milwaukee NAACP but i have not heard of them before

can anyone enlighten us about sharecropping, the practice that kept many ex-slaves essentially in a legal form of near-slavery in the south?

does anyone know anything about the black woman who stabbed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the chest with a letter opener during a book signing? the museum mentioned that very nonchalantly, giving no explanation. i'd love to know what that was all about.

what is nativism?

anyone seen the 1915 film "The Birth of a Nation"? apparently it popularized the KKK. we should try to find it.

so how does this relate to this group?

acknowledging the segregation in milwaukee is ESSENTIAL to understanding our city. racial prejudice and explanations for the cultural and economic differences between different racial groups can only be understood in light of our country's not-so-long-ago history. praise God that we were not born into a generation practicing the cruelty of slavery... praise Him that we have access to education and understanding about our history... and let's ask Him together to reveal to us the ways that the effects of this oppression continue, and how we might be instruments of liberation theology for Him today.

if anyone still wants to set up another time to go, go ahead and post on here and we can send another group. admission is $5 or $3 with student ID, and it's open monday-saturday from 9-5. it's very worth your time, and we are lucky to have it in milwaukee.

discuss away!


ashlynhurley said...

for a woman's experience with involvement of the NAACP in the 60s the book "coming of age in mississippi" by anne moody is amazing. it shares really awesome personal stories about segregation and intolerance... verying interesting.

and i have a few articles on vel phillips. quite the pioneer. let me know if anyone wants to know more...

Jacob Dietrich said...

One of the main forces of segergation in modern America is actually the tool that was supposed to help...the federal housing programs. Here is a link to an article describing a book called: "Housing Segergation in Suburban America Since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics" by Charles M. Lamb.

It might be interesting to take a look at this. Here is another to follow, that takes an in depth look at the issue of discriminitory lending practices, judicial decisions and so forth. Just select the address here, and coppy it to your clipboard, and paste it in your browser's address bar.

This might be a good start to take a look at discrimination in modern America.

Vanessa said...

Malcolm X had a tough life, and felt the affects of racism more so than MLK, living a difficult life in the poor, segregated cities of the North. He was a leader in the Nation of Islam, which he originally joined during his time in jail and which he attributed to pulling him out of his low point of getting into not so great stuff (i.e. drugs, etc.). Eventually he worked his way up to being a leader within NOI, and a follower of NOI's founder, Elijah Muhammad. Although they were more about black power, the main emphasis was the need for action vs. not doing anything about the extreme racism and discrimination against blacks during the Civil Rights Mov't. Malcolm's big change occured though when he discovered Elijah Muhammad's many affairs outside of his marriage. To see a prominant leader and mentor in his life not live up to his values just crushed Malcolm. Malcolm decided to search for the core of his religion elsewhere and traveled to Islam to take part in the pilgrimage to Mecca. This experience changed his outlook on the Civil Right's Mov't tremendously, and revealed to him the importance of working towards integration and coming together as people of all races. Unfortunately, shortly after coming back to the US, he was assassianted. If you're interested in more detailed information, I'd be happy to elaborate, just ask questions and I'll try my best to answer them.

I was quite surprised to see that there was such a huge portion of the Museum devoted to MLK, but nothing (other than a picture of Macolm and MLK) about Malcolm X. I think that to get what was a acheived during the Civil Rights Mov't, both leaders were important and helped to progress in different ways, and it's sad to see that only one is usually recognized.

Also, if you want to read more about both leaders, a book I would recommend is Martin, Malcolm & America: A Dream and A Nightmare, by Cone.

Another interesting topic is liberation theology, which I happened to take a class on last semester (where I learned about Malcolm and MLK).

Within liberation theology, there's something called black theology which has really come to light more since the Civil Right's Mov't. Black theology looks at the oppression of the white-Christian religion. Questions such as how a black person can relate to a white Christ? Yet, within liberation theology, there is a great deal of focus on liberation from the oppressors, heard throughout scripture, as well as a restored hope.

For me it was a huge eye opener to have to work right after going to the museum. I work in Muskego, so it was literally going from a predominantly black neighboorhood to predominately white- such a huge witness of the segregation within our city. My question is how can we crack the racism of segregation? More so, how can we bring what we learn from the inner city to the suburbs?

Allyson said...

Vanessa, is Nation Of Islam an organization or a religion? Can you explain that a little more? Is it directly related with the Islamic faith? Anyone can answer, I just thought I'd ask Vanessa, since she seems to know a lot about it.

Also, Vanessa, do you have anything we could look at about liberation theology, if anyone wants to look at that? It sounds interesting, I'd like to learn more.

Vanessa said...

Nation of Islam is kind of both an organization and a religion. It's a type of Islamic religion (kind of like how we have different denominations/affilations), but is only in America, and started during the Civil Rights Mov't. It's core beliefs are associated with the idea of "black nationalism". Black nationalism is the desire for blacks to connect back to their homeland of Africa, and during the Civil Rights Mov't was the desire for blacks to reclaim their nationality as Africians, and reclaim what was taken from their ancestors through slavery. So although NOI is associated with the Islamic religion, it doesn't practice it the same way as the basic Islamic religion.

Another good book to check out is the biography of Malcolm X- an awesome life story and real witness of how a person can dramatically change in their life time.

Allyson, unfortunately, other than my notes I don't have a great deal of resources. There are a lot of good books that I read for the class that I would be happy to share if interested. Some good authors that wrote about liberation theology or ideas associated with it are: Frerie (Pedogogy of the Oppressed), Bill Moyer (Doing Democracy), Virgil Elizondo (Guadalupe- Mother of the New Creation). I could go on and on, but I think Liberation Theology could be a whole other topic to discuss on the blog, since there are a great deal of "theologies" within that theology (black theology, feminist theology, etc.).

kmac attack... said...

I'm reading 'Let Justice Roll Down', its a autobiography of Dr. John Perkins life. Dr. Perkins is the founder of Voice of Calvary Ministry, which is the organization in MS. that the Ave goes to every spring break for the last four or five years now. Anyways, Dr. Perkins has a bit in book about sharecropping (Chapter 4, "Farming on Haves").

Sharecropping is when a Black free person would work on a White man's plantation. First, He would do what is called "the arrangement" or "furnishing" with the land owner. This is basically agreeing on a monthly salary of some sort. In 1930's, the highest monthly wage was ten dollars, which was rarely given. The conversation would then end with landowner and the sharecropper agreeing on the number crops (corn and cotton)to be planted that year.

The landowners could not pay the sharecroppers until after harvest so the landowners would setup accounts for groceries at certain stores usually owned by a relative or friend. The landowner would get charged by the store. The problem is that landowners would charge 20% interest and the store owner would charge around 25%. So the sharecropper would not only pay the principle of the bill but can also pay up to 45% on top of that.

Whatever profit is made on the crops that is harvested is split in half between the sharecropper and the landowner. It is what is know as "farming halves". So to put it in more practical terms. If you make ten dollars a month, spending five dollars worth on groceries, add 45% interest ($2.25)your total bill is $7.25. Giving the sharecropper only $2.75 for that month for his whole family. Of course this would come out of the sharecropper's half of what was harvested that year. This of course is an estimate for good harvest year and no natural disasters or or any kind of Health issues.

This is what I understand sharecropping to be from the description in Dr. Perkins book.

Matt said...

Several Things...

In regards to Vel Phillips: I think it would totally rock if we could meet her. It would rock even more than fried bread...

In regards to segregation and housing: Jacob, you're totally right - the housing projects did a lot to create the situation, but I think they were more of a reaction to what the banks were doing. Banks would make it very difficult for non-white people to get home loans. This resulted in an exodus of white people from city centers to the more expensive suburbs which they could afford due to preferential treatment by banks. The void created by all these people moving out was filled by people of color who could afford inner city properties that were going down in value due to many people moving out. That is why major urban areas are typically inhabited by people of color and the exterior suburbs house all the white folks. Doesn't that make you feel good about your grandparents?...

In regards to Malcom X:
Vanessa, I noticed the lack of info on Malcom right away myself. I wonder if that has anything to do with the founder of the museum being Catholic and Mr. X being a follower of NOI. Call it a conspiracy theory.

In regards to Civil Rights:
The thing I appreciated most about the museum was the section on the civil rights movement. I especially loved the huge photo on the red wall of the march observing MLK's funeral. Something about that picture said, "F-You! We're not going to take this any more!" I really wish people would get excited like that today and agree to speak out together against social injustices. Maybe it's a sign that we're becoming even more apathetic as a society.

One last thing:
Is there a weeknight that people would want to get together some time and talk face to face? Meg - would this be appropriate to do at your place on Sundays instead? or do you guys already have stuff planned out for those get-togethers?

Allyson said...

something kind of interesting...

I am making a documentary for a program at MIAD called Future Designers. Kids from schools in milwaukee come to MIAD and work with students and teachers at MIAD on a project of their teacher's choice (animation, graphic design, etc.) Anyways, why this applies...

I have been interviewing some of the T.A.'s and Teachers about their experiences and one of the T.A.'s mentioned a project that he had worked on fairly recently with an area school which is set to be a part of the ABHM when it's done. They made (and I think they are still working on it) a history of hip hop timeline slideshow type of presentation to add to the museum.

I just thought that was cool to hear about youth contributing to the museum, and hopefully it will be up soon so we can go see that too!