In the News | How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland #Buffalo #Reparations #BigIsms #ElizabethKeckly

American Racism and the Buffalo Shooting
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, May 15, 2022, The New Yorker


On Saturday, in the parking lot of a neighborhood grocery store, an eighteen-year-old armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, the N-word emblazoned on its front sight, began shooting. Shots cracked in the air, piercing through an unusually warm eighty-degree spring afternoon in Buffalo, New York. The teen-ager, who was later identified by the police, donned military-esque camouflage, was draped in body armor, and wore a camera to capture his bloody rampage. When the shooting stopped, thirteen people had been hit, ten of them killed. Eleven of those shot were Black. The gunman was captured by the police when he left the grocery store, and, by late Saturday night, he was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder.

The shooter is alleged to have posted a hundred-and-eighty-page “manifesto” avowing white-supremacist beliefs. In the hate-filled text, he denounced immigrants and Black people as “replacers” of white people. The notion that white people are being replaced has recently moved from the fringe of far-right politics to mainstream Republican Party politics. The Fox News personality Tucker Carlson has helped to popularize the ideology, and it has dovetailed seamlessly with the rhetoric of the Republican Party, which has insisted on describing the arrival of migrants at the southern border—seeking entry into the U.S. as asylum seekers—as an “invasion.”

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How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland
Dania Francis, Darrick Hamilton, Thomas Mitchell, Nathan Rosenberg, and Bryce Wilson Stucki, May 5, 2022, The New Republic


The office of civil rights at the Agriculture Department is located on the third floor of a building named after a white supremacist. The Jamie Whitten Building, named in 1994, honors a member of Congress who started his career by eliminating a federal agency because its studies encouraged “racial intermingling” and ended it by referring to Mike Espy, a Black member of Congress and future secretary of agriculture, as “boy.” Whitten’s prejudices were reflected in the policies he supported: floods of cash for wealthy white farmers and next to nothing for Black farmers.

The representative from Mississippi never worked for USDA, but as chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture for over four decades, he exercised so much control over the department’s budget that he became known as the “Permanent Secretary of Agriculture.” 

In a “typical year” in the 1960s, writes historian James Cobb in The Most Southern Place on Earth, Whitten secured $23.5 million for wealthy farmers who made up 0.3 percent of his district—and just $4 million in food stamps for the 59 percent of his district that lived below the poverty line. He once explained to Senator George McGovern that if “hunger was not a problem, [n-word]s won’t work.”

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America Needs a Better Reparations Plan
A. Kirsten Mullen, May 20, 2022, The Washington Post

More than a century and a half after the official end of chattel slavery in the US, the idea of paying reparations is finally gaining some momentum. A congressional bill named H.R. 40 — after the 40 acres that the US government promised but never delivered to the formerly enslaved — has emerged from committee for the first time since the late Representative John Conyers initially introduced it in 1989, and might even proceed to a vote.

Unfortunately, even if the legislation passes, it’s highly unlikely to deliver true reparations. On the contrary, it could undermine the whole project. Why, some readers might ask, are people talking about reparations at all? 

Hasn’t this country already had a civil rights movement and a Black president? Let’s assume for a moment, as I hope we all do, that race does not determine a person’s abilities. It follows that, in the absence of racism, the average wealth of Black and White Americans should be roughly equivalent, or at least trending in that direction. Yet government data going back to the 1940s show a vast and persistent racial wealth gap. As of 2019, the average net worth of Black families stood at less than 15% of their White counterparts. This difference, which amounts to some $14 trillion, reflects the extent to which centuries of slavery, Jim Crow laws, disproportionate application of the Homestead Act, ongoing mass incarceration, inequitable housing policies, predatory finance and much more have enriched one race at the expense of the other. Closing the gap is not only a moral imperative. It’s also a growth opportunity: By providing financial resources to many of the country’s most disadvantaged, it could make the economy more resilient and unlock the productive potential of millions.

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The Ugly Backlash to Brown v. Board of Ed That No One Talks About
Leslie T. Fenwick, May 17, 2022, Politico


Today, most Americans think about the segregation-shattering 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in one of three ways. We may think about Linda Brown, the plaintiff in Brown, a little girl forced to walk miles to a segregated Black school instead of attending the white school down the block. We may remember the famed Norman Rockwell painting featuring 6-year-old Ruby Bridges escorted by U.S. Marshals past a wall splattered with tomatoes and a racial slur. Or we may recall the tumult of busing in the South — Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia… and even much further north of the Mason-Dixon Line in South Boston, too.

But there is plenty that we have not been taught about Brown, which turns 68 today, or how it continues to impact us. We know about Linda Brown and Ruby Bridges. But we don’t know about Pressley Giles, Mary Preyer, Virgil Coleman and Jewel Butler. They were among the 100,000 exceptionally credentialed Black principals and teachers illegally purged from desegregating schools in the wake of Brown.

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Uncovering Hidden Lives: Black Stories in the Mid-Atlantic
Carolyn Wallace, May 10, 2022, National Trust for Historic Preservation


Many family histories are hidden in archives. A recent project, funded by a Racial Justice mini-grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offered Cliveden an opportunity to bring some of these stories to light. Part of the National Trust’s Interpretation and Education Fund, the Racial Justice mini-grants support work at historic sites which focused on lifting up Black history in an inclusive way.

"Illuminating Hidden Lives: Black Stories of the Mid-Atlantic Region" delved into the historic records to identify and gather information about the lives of those enslaved by the families of Benjamin Chew (1722-1810) and Benjamin Chew Jr. (1758-1844) in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Over the course of 2021 and the early part of 2022, Cliveden staff worked with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) to digitize documents pertaining to the lives of the men, women, and children enslaved by the Chew family.

The documents were then reviewed and interpreted by members of the African American Genealogy Group, an organization with a mission to educate, provide resources, and create a community for anyone interested in Black family history and genealogical research. The goal of this project was to make documents readily available to the public, offer opportunities to connect with the past, and help preserve the documents.

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Rust Belt Resilience: The History of Buffalo’s Colored Musicians Club
Tiana U. Wilson, May 19, 2022, Black Perspectives


When I first heard of the Buffalo mass shooting from my residence in California, I immediately reached out to my mother in a panic. Thankfully, she picked up the phone within 30 seconds, exclaiming, “I know, I know everyone is calling me, I am safe, praise the Lord.” Knowing the neighborhood and my loved ones’ familiarity with that exact grocery store, I followed up with the question, “where’s grandma?” My mom reassured me that my grandma was in her home, despite her plans to visit that market earlier in the day to pay her light bill. See, the market is the only one on the East Side of Buffalo and offers the predominately Black community more than groceries. It is a place where people without access to a car, a debit card, or the internet can pay their utility bills, purchase money orders, shop for sneakers and clothes, and pick up prescribed medicine. Although none of my immediate family members were present at the targeted store, we knew some of the victims—they were churchgoers, local organizers, leaders, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, fathers, and so much more. We all share the collective trauma, fear, pain, uncertainty, and, dare I say, rage from this horrific violence on Black people.

On Saturday, May 13, 2022, a white supremacist from Broome County (3.5 hours away from the city) opened fire at a Tops Friendly Market, which was located in a food desert. He took the life of Ruth Whitfield, Aaron Salter Jr., Pearl Young, Roberta A. Drury, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Andre Mackniel, Katherine Massey, Geraldine Chapman Talley, and Margus D. Morrison. While my city continues to mourn the lives of these individuals and hold up the families they left behind, I am reminded of Buffalo’s resilient Black community. And, how this ethic of care and restorative work can help heal the heart of Black Buffalo.

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Living History: Elizabeth Keckly - Freedom Tailored By Hand
Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
211 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT
Thursday, Jun 2, 2022 * 6:00 to 8:00 pm ET
In person • register here


As an enslaved woman, Elizabeth Keckly had two dreams—she yearned for her freedom and to someday work for the ladies of the White House.  After achieving her freedom, the road to the White House is filled with uncertainty and drama as the story unfolds in this nations capital. 


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