Twelve African American women helped destroy Jim Crow laws in Long Beach, California, the same way Rosa Parks changed the Jim Crow South.
|Autrilla Scott (left)|
One of the 12 Women
Sunny Nash (right) Editor & Producer
BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way
|U.S. Supreme Court Building|
The U.S. Supreme Court, closely divided in a 1978 decision of University of California v. Bakke case, held that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions. The Court also held, however, that the use of quotas in such affirmative action programs was not permissible; thus the University of California, Davis, medical school had, by maintaining a 16% minority quota, discriminated against Allan Bakke, a white applicant, who had twice been rejected, even with a higher grade point average than a number of minority candidates who were admitted. As a result, Bakke was admitted to the medical school and graduated in 1982. This decision did not send the minority community into riot mode, indicating that it was accepted that the law of the land should be executed in a manner that protects the rights of people of all colors, races, genders, religion, national origin and physical conditions, and guarantees their fair treatment, regardless of past acts against any group. This means that we as a nation cannot go backward in our attempt to equalize in race relations what was not equal in the past. Race relations in America must start from where we are today and go forward.
Jim Crow, a minstrel character invented by a white actor in black face, Thomas "Daddy" Rice, represented laws to perpetuate oppression of African Americans after the Civil War. Outlandishly dressed, oafish portrayals of plantation slaves entertained white audiences from the 1850s to the mid-20th century with performances in Long Beach churches and public schools through the 1950s and into the 1960s. Based on a slave song, Jim Crow not only represented oppressive laws but also helped to sustain a degraded image of African Americans and the lifestyle in which they were portrayed.
Nine Supreme Court Justices
Decide Plessy v. Ferguson
|Lynching of African American|
Female During Reconstruction
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed over President Andrew Johnson's veto. Andrew Johnson was President Abraham Lincoln's vice president and the successor to the office when Lincoln was assassinated after the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared, "all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition. As citizens they could make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. Persons who denied these rights to former slaves were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both." Activities of the Ku Klux Klan undermined the act and it failed to guarantee civil rights for former slaves, including female African Americans who suffered retaliation for speaking out for their civil rights. Because many victims of lynching were females, black women led the outcry against racially motivated lynching in the United States in the late nineteenth century, a key ingredient in the enforcement of the Jim Crow system of government in most parts of the officially segregated South and to a large degree universally enforced in the unofficially segregated North.
|Anti-lynching Crusaders |
NAACP Button, 1900
In the 1890s, journalist, Ida B. Wells (1852-1932), wrote in protest of lynching and later the Anti-lynching Crusaders, a group of black women within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), made a lot of noise against this criminal practice, until the Legislature took on the problem in 1918 in a bill intended to punish state, county and local officials who did not stop lynching in their locales and create an atmosphere to end the practice altogether. Although the House of Representatives passed anti-lynching laws three times, none of the efforts passed in the U. S. Senate. The Senate finally apologized on Monday, June 13, 2005, for not passing anti-lynching laws over the course of its history.
A second attempt at civil rights legislation was passed in 1868 in the form of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Section I of the amendment sums up its meaning and intentions. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The struggle extended into the lives of black women in Hollywood and those relegated to the backs of buses in real life. Unlike publicized cases of Rosa Parks and black actresses in early Hollywood, black women nationwide affected the history of race relations in America.
Featuring these black women of Long Beach in BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way and writing my own memories with my grandmother in Bigmama didn't Shop At Woolworth's helps me to make an installment in the story of race relations in America. In their own ways these women made statements of their worth, worth of their people and worth of their cause. I happened to live through some of those dark times. Having survived and even thrived in the messiness of segregation, I am not bitter. Bigmama, my grandmother, born in 1890, always said, "Take your emotions out or they will distract you to the point of losing the battle. I have found that to be true.
My mother, Littie Nash, wrestled with Jim Crow racism during the 1950s and 1960s, while giving me the life of a little princess with imagination and without the luxury of having a lot of money...Littie did not waste compliments on me or anyone else. She reserved accolades to celebrate real accomplishments, not just because I dragged myself out of bed before noon on Saturday or because I made an 'A' on my report card. "Some things you have to do," she said. "And those things pass, not without notice, but without an all-day hullabaloo."
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