First Woman to Run in Boston Marathon Did It Again — 50 Years Later
A Boston Marathon official tried to hustle Kathrine Switzer, No. 261, off the course during the race in 1967. PAUL CONNELL / THE BOSTON GLOBE, VIA GETTY IMAGES
By VICTOR MATHER
APRIL 17, 2017
Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon. On Monday, she did it again at age 70.
Kathrine Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant — her registration as “K.V. Switzer” hid her gender. The race resonated far beyond a footnote in the record books when an official tried to force her from the course after a few miles.
Kathrine Switzer was introduced before Monday’s marathon.
MARY SCHWALM / ASSOCIATED PRESS
“The marathon was a man’s race in those days; women were considered too fragile to run it,” she wrote in an essay for The New York Times 10 years ago. “But I had trained hard and was confident of my strength. Still, it took a body block from my boyfriend to knock the official off the course.” Switzer recovered to finish in 4 hours 20 minutes.
Switzer completed this year’s race only a little slower, in 4:44:31.
50 years ago, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run #BostonMarathon Today she did it again.
Women were finally officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon in 1972.
Women’s marathoning has come a long way, joining the Olympics in 1984 and gaining popularity through runners like Grete Waitz and Tegla Loroupe. More than half of marathon runners in the United States are women.
“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures,” Switzer wrote.
Over the years, Switzer has competed in more than 30 marathons, winning New York in 1974 in 3:07:29, and has worked as a television commentator. She is the founder of 261 Fearless, a running club for women. The name comes from the number she wore in 1967.
Switzer started this year’s marathon on Monday morning wearing the same number. It will be retired after the race. Before her start, she was given the honor of firing the gun for the women’s elite runners.
She has said she hopes to run New York this year as well.
Of her legacy as a pioneer, she wrote in The Times: “We learned that women are not deficient in endurance and stamina, and that running requires no fancy facilities or equipment. Women’s marathoning has created a global legacy.”
Correction: April 17, 2017
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to one of Switzer’s split times. She ran 10 kilometers, not 5, in 1:05:06.
On March 8 — International Women’s Day — lady protestors of all stripes donned red clothing and took time off from work to participate in “A Day Without Women,” a general strike designed to draw awareness to the vital role women play in America’s economic system.
On Wednesday, driven by a high volume of requests for time off, several schools were also forced to shutter their doors out of necessity. Below is a running list of the districts that cancelled classes.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
After administrators discovered that over 400 teachers, staff and bus drivers would be absent from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina on Wednesday, classes were cancelled, WRAL.com reports.
“This decision was not made to support any kind of demonstration or be part of any kind of political process,” school district spokesman Jeff Nash told the site. “We simply looked at the numbers and decided that in order to keep our children safe today it was best that we not have school.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools
Though the school took no political stance on “A Day Without a Woman,” Fox 5 News reported that Prince George’s County, Maryland, Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said in a statement that approximately 1,700 teachers and 30% of transportation staff had requested leave on Wednesday in the Maryland district.
We cannot transport students and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff. As a result, schools will be closed tomorrow for students. We apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause to many families.
Alexandria City Public Schools
As Micreported on Monday, public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, were also forced to close on Wednesday due to an “unusually high number of requests” for time off.
“The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction,” a statement from ACPS read.
‘This Kind of Strike Is Really Something New’
L.A. Kauffman, a historian of radical protest in America, fits the “Day Without a Woman” into history.
L.A. Kauffman may have the best-timed book release in years.
For the past quarter century, Kauffman has been researching and writing a chronicle of post-1960s protest on the American left. She has found and interviewed the participants of Mayday 1971, a forgotten D.C. blockade that triggered the largest mass arrest in U.S. history; she has identified the origins of affinity groups and consensus-based decision-making; and she has detailed the actions of ACT UP, the anti-AIDS group that she calls “the most innovative, influential, and effective radical organization of the late-20th century.”
The fruits of that labor—a concise and comprehensive book called Direct Action—came out late last month. It is her luck that it was released during the most fervent period of progressive mobilization since 1968. Many of the tactics that Kauffman details, previously on the margins, are now being deployed for the first time at a massive, nationwide scale.Wednesday is one of those deployments. “The Day Without a Woman,” a “general strike” led by the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, calls for American women to give up their labor at work and at home for 24 hours. I was curious: How did Kauffman understand the strike? How does it compare to other major, post-1960s actions? And how should interested Americans think about the efficacy of protest?I spoke with Kauffman about how protest movements become popular and how she has come to think change actually happens in the United States. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Robinson Meyer: My sense is that general striking is not a tactic that has been successfully executed, really, since the 1960s in the United States. Is that right?
L.A. Kauffman: It has not. There occasionally have been calls issued by small organizations that don’t have any traction. But there really has not been something that looks anything like a general strike in decades.
I’m not really a labor historian, so I can’t answer in detail about some of the earlier attempts at broad general strikes. But those were so long ago, and so different in character from what people are talking about now, that it’s really apples and oranges. In particular, earlier general strikes were an attempt to leverage the power of labor unions and oppositional organizations, and they were met by very violent crackdowns.
The whole dynamic is very different now. The model that’s being used is the “Day Without an Immigrant” model. It’s sectoral—the framing is a “general strike,” but in fact it’s coming from a particular sector and looking to demonstrate a level of collective power through mass noncompliance. It’s an approach that people have not used as much.
People have used various tactics of mass noncompliance; they’ve used boycotts; but this kind of strike is really something new. And it’s particularly new in that it’s redefining the general strike for an era in which organized labor is not going to be front and center. It’s redefining the general strike without the sense of it being led by a labor movement. What I find so compelling about it is that it shows a level of innovation, of people stretching the limits of the question: What can we do in this moment?
Meyer: You’ve written this history of protest tactics after 1970 in Direct Action.Are we seeing some of the largest-ever deployment of those exact tactics right now?Kauffman: Yes, absolutely. People are trying these tactics in a way, and on a scale, that we simply haven’t seen before. And having that perspective [of the last 40 years] is important because, I think, a lot of people are going to be looking to compare what happens on Wednesday with the numbers on January 21. And that’s not really the point of comparison. The point of comparison is the absence of walkouts and sectoral strikes like this in the past, and that these tactics are being tried on a national scale for the first time.We’ve had boycotts, we’ve had divestment campaigns, but outside of the immigrant-rights movement—which has been doing these Days Without an Immigrant for a while, this is hearkening back to the extraordinary mobilizations in 2006—[this kind of strike is] a tool that’s been used much more in other countries than here.And it’s kind of appropriate that they would have this more global perspective on what tactics we might use in this moment. The immigrant-rights movement is composed of many people who had experience responding to authoritarian regimes in their own countries before they came here.
Meyer: What does success look like for those tactics in the United States?
Kauffman: There’s many different kinds of protests and mobilizations, and gauging the success of them is always contextual. It depends on what arena you’re struggling in, and what the objectives are, and what the time frame for evaluating the success is.
At this moment, the first and foremost job of the broad resistance is to continue to keep the Trump administration in a state of crisis, to contribute keeping them off balance and on the defensive. [Day Without a Woman] has the potential to be one of many moves that are contributing to that. I think it’s important—the organizers of the Women’s March have been very thoughtful and intentional trying to harness the incredible energy of January 21 and think about how to move forward and transform that mobilizing work into new kinds of organizing.Meyer: What does that kind of mobilization and organization work entail?Kauffman: Mobilizing is getting people to show up. Organizing is building groups, amassing collective power within some kind of organizational entity that’s going to follow an agenda over time.So the “Day Without a Woman” is getting a lot of attention, but there hasn’t been as much attention to the fact that in the wake of January 21, the Women’s March called for—and people organized—5,000 small-group meetings all around the country to talk about this moment, to think about what steps people might take, and to take the self-mobilizing energy that made January 21 so massive and powerful and figure out how to put down deeper roots. You don’t keep it going by just calling for march after march.Meyer: It was interesting reading about the late ’60s in your book, which was another moment of mass mobilization. There, it did get to a point where people were tired of going to protests, and it seemed like that prompted some of the factionalization of the 1970s. People would go to demonstration after demonstration against the Vietnam War, and then they were eventually like, well, what are we demonstrating for?Kauffman: There’s certain tactics during that specific period, the late ’60s, that are pretty much off the table now. People were like, “Well, our marches and our demonstrations aren’t working, so maybe we need to go to street fighting. Or maybe we need to go to armed struggle.” And all those attempts backfired so spectacularly that those tactics are—and I expect will continue to be—off the table.But this is a moment where people are looking very thoughtfully at what tools we have at our disposal that we haven’t used as much, like going to town-hall meetings. The left hasn’t particularly done that kind of organizing on a large scale, in the way that we saw during the “resistance recess” [last month]. Part of that is people thinking about running for office and engaging with the electoral process in a different way. We’re seeing a lot of interest in engaging with the Democratic party at a grassroots level in a way that… you know, the left has mostly defined itself against that party for decades.Meyer: Why is that different now?Kauffman: I think part of [the erosion of that divide] has been the decline of the ideological left and the rise of the many identity and issue-based movements, many of which have understood that they need to engage liberals and progressives in order to push forward their agenda. They may stand in oppostion to the corporate liberalism of the establishment Democratic party, but there’s not that same sense of a big ideological divide that there was for a time [during the ’60s].
Meyer: After surveying the long sweep of post-1960s protest on the left, is there a movement or story in your book that you hope people now would know about?
Kauffman: The one I always cite first and foremost is ACT UP, which managed to accomplish an absolutely staggering amount despite never having had very large numbers compared to, say, the anti-war movement. It’s always much smaller than other movements that we’ve had. It was always socially and culturally on the margins and proud of that. It was disruptive, and rude, and in your face, and very bold and aggressive. And it succeeded—through its persistence, and its willingness to use controversial tactics—in transforming the drug testing and approval process and saving literally millions of lives.
As people are experimenting now with the ways that we can be a check on the Trump administration policies, the lesson there is that we should be willing to be unpopular, to do things that are controversial, to use tactics that are going to be criticized—all within the broad framework of nonviolence. There’s a lot of evidence that when you step outside of strictly nonviolent tactics, the negative reactions outweigh the positive gains.
[People have said,] “Well you’re not going to be reaching Trump voters if you do this, you’re not going to be reaching that broad middle.” I mean, that’s not how change happens in this country. There are kinds of change that happen that way, but the kind of change that has led us to have progress for LGBT folks across a period of mostly conservative governance, for instance, comes from bold, outsider activism that has been sustained and persistent and usually controversial in the moment.Meyer: There’s been this discussion among writers on The Atlantic: Should protesters be bold and uncompromising and disruptive, or should they be visibly patriotic, and think about how their actions will play on TV in Ohio and Michigan? What’s an example of a disruptive and controversial but ultimately successful tactic like that from, say, ACT UP?Kauffman: You can go to something that people know better than they know ACT UP, which is the movement to end racial segregation in the South in the Fifties. At the time, if you go back and look at public-opinion data from the period, the Civil Rights Movement was very unpopular. And its actions were consistently criticized as being polarizing and not reaching this mythical person in Ohio. “People are turned off by this. Why do you have to sit at the lunch counters? Isn’t there a way to do this that’s less disruptive? Did you really have to put everybody on that bus together and cross state lines? Look at the violence you provoked!”There’s a way in which people fail to see that the consensus in favor of the changes that movement wrought—they always come after they’ve won. Nothing makes a movement popular like winning. And to get to winning, you almost always have to do things that are controversial and unpopular. That doesn’t mean you have to be rioting and burning American flags—people will criticize you just for marching on Washington. But particularly when the odds are long, it’s in those stronger tactics that you’re able to create the crisis that forces decision makers to move your way, to accede to your demands.Meyer: You just alluded to this, but I want to get your I’ve-been-working-on-a-book-for-25-years-and-here’s-the-answer-I-finally-came-up-with answer. How does change happen in this country?Kauffman: I think, in a way, it’s kind of how Trumpism happened.Change happens slowly and unevenly over time, but it usually starts at the margins. It usually starts with people who are putting forth a vision that is dramatically at odds with the existing reality, whether their vision is women being able to vote, or black and white folks being able to live together in harmony and share public accommodations and schools. It’s been, time and time again, the actions of unpopular trailblazers that have over time catalyzed change, persuaded many others, rallied them to their pole of action by standing strong with a vision of something different—rather than watering [that vision] down with some idea that you’re going to get more adherents by doing so. That’s the great mistake of neoliberalism and Clintonism and the Democratic Party, and it’s why the Democratic party lost.
A gift of taking 25 years to write a book is that, by the time I finally got around to finishing it, I was able to take a long view of what has worked and what hasn’t worked. [You can] evaluate what movements did on a long horizon, so that you’re not just saying, “Well, the occupation of Seabrook Nuclear Plant [in 1976] kind of fell apart, and the movement dissolved into infighting, and they weren’t able to mount another protest.” Instead, you say, you know what? Not another nuclear plant was built for decades after Seabrook.
You have to have the long view and say, what that [protest] did was that it threw a monkey wrench into a process that was otherwise going to just unfold smoothly. With the longer time frame, you’re able to see that these protest movements—that appear marginal and unpopular in the moment—are often what succeed in catalyzing changes that the broad majority goes on to cherish and value.
Women’s Strike brings paid leave supporters to D.C. by the thousands
by Alan Pyke
They’re saying Trump’s paid leave plan is a sham.
A quarter-century ago, Safiyyah A. Muhammad almost lost her job.
The, her oldest son threw up in a trash can in front of her boss.
“I had called three hours before my shift to say, ‘my son has a 100-degree fever and he’s vomiting.’ And they said ‘well if you aren’t coming in today then don’t come back at all,’” Muhammad, now 47, said in an interview.
Then a 22-year-old single mother, Muhammad decided to bring her son with her to the retail store where she’d just been threatened with termination for trying to stay home with the boy. Two bus rides and two hours later, she plopped him down behind the register in his school uniform and went to work.
“Right as the manager walked by,” she said, “he keeled over and threw up in the trash can. My manager said, ‘He can’t be here! You have to take him home.’ That’s what I’m trying to tell you!”
On Wednesday, Muhammad and 2,000 other working women like her rallied outside the Department of Labor’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to get serious about paid sick leave legislation.
Convened by the national Family Values @ Work organizing network, Wednesday’s demonstration is just one of dozens being staged for International Women’s Day. These “A Day Without a Woman” protests and strikes are a direct response to the misogynistic shadow President Donald Trump now casts across American politics.
“It’s a blessing that business owners understand the value of having healthy workers.”
FV@W’s rally is a bit more delicate, politically speaking, than many of the other protests and rallies Wednesday, such as the large demonstration against Trump’s devastating “global gag rule” on abortion services. Where many of the causes bound up in Wednesday’s gender strike face outright opposition from Trump and his allies, the new president has at least claimed to support the idea of paid leave laws for working families.
The Trump team’s lip service to paid leave “was a testament to the power of our movement. But the devil’s in the details, and the details we’ve seen so far from the administration are devilish,” FV@W head Ellen Bravo told ThinkProgress.
Trump’s version of paid family leave — which the president is entrusting to daughter Ivanka, much as he did during the campaign — would be too small and too restrictive to help most of the people who need it, she said, and would be paid for with money from the already underfunded unemployment insurance system.
“It’s not just that it doesn’t go far enough. It’s that it’s a step in the wrong direction,” Bravo said.
Paid sick and family leave laws have spread rapidly in the past few years, in part because they don’t fall into the same oppositional political polarization that so often leads conservatives to oppose anything they perceive as liberal in intent. Business owners are often among the most fervent advocates for the laws, out of the recognition that a healthy workforce is far more valuable than one worked to the edge of sanity and ill health.
Big business is far from perfect here — especially on family leave laws — but corporate sympathy to these ideas gives groups like FV@W a powerful conduit to conservative politicians. And enough cities and states have adopted paid sick days or paid family leave policies that economists can now confidently debunk apocalyptic right-wing predictions about their impact.
A tentative alliance with the business community and a mountain of real-world evidence in favor of the laws could could have made it tougher for Bravo, Muhammad, and everyone else at Wednesday’s rally to connect their cause with the broader liberal and feminist backlash against Trump. Antagonizing an impulsive misogynist with the power of the federal government at his fingers could threaten the trans-ideological power of the paid leave idea.
Bravo isn’t worried.
“Our coalitions are great places to build bridges,” she said. “In many places we have people who signed a petition for paid leave and then voted for Trump. Maybe they have been fed the story that immigrants are the reason they are losing their farm or their job, but our coalitions are a venue for breaking down that lie.”
“We have people who signed a petition for paid leave and then voted for Trump.”
Besides, she added, Trump’s broader agenda is so objectionable that FV@W “can’t look at things piecemeal. When you say you’re going after ‘bad dudes’ and in fact you arrest a dad who’s taking his kid to school, when you have a president who demonizes an entire group of people based on their religion or where they come from,” Bravo said, “we have to oppose that in the strongest possible way.”
All else equal, Wednesday’s rally participants trust that the bleedingly obvious economic logic of the paid leave idea will eventually steamroll any petty partisanship or stick-in-the-mud tribalism from Trump allies.
Muhammad has seen for herself how math can triumph over ideology. Back home in East Orange, New Jersey, city leaders passed a paid sick leave law in 2014 — about 20 years after the day her oldest son threw up in front of her boss.
“This was brought up by our city’s Chamber of Commerce. It’s a blessing that business owners understand the value of having healthy workers,” she said. “We really hope that this administration comes on board, because we can see they are driven by economics, by big business.”
Today, Muhammad’s oldest son is 30 years old with two kids of his own and a third on the way. She’s had four other kids — three sons on the autism spectrum, and a daughter who’s about to graduate high school — and married again.
Now, she works as a peer support counselor for special-needs caregivers like herself. She works part-time so she and her husband don’t have to spend big bucks on child care, on top of the expensive support and care her three younger sons need.
“I get so excited when I look at my pay stub and see those sick days being accumulated,” Muhammad said. “Now I can say, ‘You know what, I’m not feeling well, I need a sick day.’ And I can take one.”
WHY WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD ARE GOING ON STRIKE TODAY
“A Day Without Women” aims to put an economic price on women’s political power.
Fresh off the success of the Women’s March, which drew 3 million to 4 million protesters in the United States alone, activists are urging women across the world to go on strike Wednesday, turning the annual International Women’s Day into “A Day Without Women.” The organizers of the day of action, which include a team orchestrating protests in dozens of countries around the world, are calling on women to take whatever action their lives allow for, including taking the day off from work; refraining from doing both paid and unpaid labor like childcare or household duties; attending 1 of the 50 rallies happening in cities across the country; declining to shop at male-owned or corporate businesses; or even just wearing red in solidarity.
The Women’s Strike, as the event is being called, is a way of leveraging women’s labor and spending to put an economic price on women’s political power. The goal, organizers say, is to recognize “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system—while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”
The idea of a general strike is foreign to many Americans. The labor movement in 2017 is far weaker than it once was, and general strikes haven’t been popular in the U.S. since the 1940s, though activists hope to change that. Unlike a strike against a company, in which workers pressure their employer for improved work conditions or better pay, a general strike has less specific goals. A Day Without Women—which takes place during a work day—is a more aggressive kind of protest than a Saturday afternoon march. It’s a means of reintroducing the concept of a strike into the political consciousness of the everyday American.
Specifically, in the case of the Women’s Strike, it’s a way to translate protest into economic impact. The goal is to make the absence of women and their labor felt, and in the process, make mainstream the concepts of striking and labor issues so that a day of action has lasting impact. “A lot of what people are trying to do is start to rebuild a muscle,” Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, told Bloomberg. “They are trying to get people to think about how they might participate.”
The strike is the latest in a series of mass protests that have taken place since President Donald Trump began rolling back his predecessor’s progressive agenda, energizing the left in opposition. The “Grab Your Wallet” boycott, started by anti-Trump activist Shannon Coulter after the election to educate consumers about companies selling Trump products, has called on participants to contact stores like Macy’s and Amazon to urge them to stop selling Trump-made goods. Since Coulter’s boycott began, companies like Nordstrom and T.J. Maxx have started to phase out their Trump-related inventories. In February, hundreds of Yemeni-owned bodegas shut their doors for one business day in protest of Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Next week, Silicon Valley’s tech workers plan to walk out from their jobs in protest of the president. The group’s goals include urging “our tech leaders to stand up and speak out for our users when the current administration enacts policies that negatively affect our community,” according to its GoFundMe profile.
Some writers have criticized the Women’s Strike, saying that it requires some amount of privilege to join a day of action, particularly for women who take care of young children at home or work hourly jobs they can’t afford to miss. But this criticism fails to take into account both the diverse means by which people can participate in Wednesday’s day of action, and the fact that the Women’s Strike has the support of domestic workers, restaurant workers, the bodega owners who went on strike in New York last month, and immigrant groups. In recent years, it has actually been groups with the least privilege—and the most to lose—that have often been at the forefront of social-justice protests and strikes. The Fight for $15 and other labor protests have seen thousands of fast-food and other low-wage workers go on strike for a higher minimum wage over the past two years. In 2016, Black Lives Matter supported prison strikes in 24 states, the largest coordinated effort in U.S. history to protest forced labor.
Both President Trump and his daughter Ivanka co-opted the message of the Women’s Strike on Wednesday, perhaps attempting to defuse some of its political power. “On International Women’s Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world,” the president tweeted, adding, “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.” His daughter wrote, “Today, we celebrate women and are reminded of our collective voice and the powerful impact we have on our societies and economies.”
Few are likely to be persuaded by the effort. Although the Women’s Strike is not explicitly aimed at protesting Trump, some of the organizers’ goals—abortion rights, for example—are a direct rebuke of the president’s policies. Under the House G.O.P.’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood, which provides women’s health care and abortion services, would effectively be defunded. The Women’s Strike on Wednesday will invariably draw comparisons to the widely attended Women’s March, and unlike the march on Washington, the optics of a general strike are less likely to include impressive aerial crowd shots and photo ops with witty protest signs. But if Wednesday can introduce the concept of a general strike to Middle America, organizers believe it will be a success in its own right.
Monday, January 16, marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal date of recognition for one of the most important figures in the civil rights movement. Signed by President Reagan in 1983, the holiday marked the culmination of efforts that started just four days after King’s assassination in 1968, when Representative John Conyers of Michigan began 15 years of introducing and reintroducing a bill to establish the holiday. (Stevie Wonder joined the chorus of Americans backing Conyers’ efforts; in 1980 he wrote the song “Happy Birthday” to help create a groundswell of support.)
While it would be impossible to encompass everything King accomplished in a mere list, we’ve compiled a few intriguing facts that may pique your interest in finding out more about the man who helped unite a divided nation.
1. MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS NOT HIS GIVEN NAME.
One of the most recognizable proper names of the 20th century wasn’t actually what was on the birth certificate. The future civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, named after his father Michael King. When the younger King was 5 years old, his father decided to change both their names after learning more about 16th century theologian Martin Luther, who was one of the key figures of the Protestant Reformation. Inspired by that battle, Michael King soon began referring to himself and his son as Martin Luther King.
2. HE WAS A DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY.
Using the prefix “doctor” to refer to King has become a reflex, but not everyone is aware of the origin of King’s Ph.D. He attended Boston University and graduated in 1955 with a doctorate in systematic theology. King also had a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary.
3. HE TOOK 30 TRIPS TO JAIL.
Dr. King leading a march from Selma, Alabama to its capital, Montgomery, in March 1965. Getty
A powerful voice for an ignored and suppressed minority, opponents tried to silence King the old-fashioned way: incarceration. In the 12 years he spent as the recognized leader of the civil rights movement, King was arrested and jailed 30 times. Rather than brood, King used the unsolicited downtime to further his cause. Jailed in Birmingham for eight days in 1963, he penned “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a long treatise responding to the oppression supported by white religious leaders in the South.
“I’m afraid that it is much too long to take your precious time,” he wrote. “I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers?”
4. THE FBI TRIED TO COERCE HIM INTO SUICIDE.
King’s increasing prominence and influence agitated many of his enemies, but few were more powerful than FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. For years, Hoover kept King under surveillance, worried that this subversive could sway public opinion against the bureau and fretting that King might have Communist ties. While there’s still debate about how independently Hoover’s deputy William Sullivan was acting, an anonymous letter was sent to King in 1964 accusing him of extramarital affairs and threatening to disclose his indiscretions. The only solution, the letter suggested, would be for King to exit the civil rights movement, either willingly or by taking his own life. King ignored the threat and continued his work.
5. A SINGLE SNEEZE COULD HAVE ALTERED HISTORY FOREVER.
Our collective memory of King always has an unfortunate addendum: his 1968 assassination that brought an end to his personal crusade against social injustice. But if Izola Ware Curry had her way, King’s mission would have ended 10 years earlier. At a Harlem book signing in 1958, Ware approached King and plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest, nearly puncturing his aorta. Surgery was needed to remove it. Had King so much as sneezed, doctors said, the wound was so close to his heart that it would have been fatal. Curry, a 42-year-old black woman, was having paranoid delusions about the NAACP that soon crystallized around King. She was committed to an institution and died in 2015.
6. HE GOT A “C” IN PUBLIC SPEAKING.
King’s promise as one of the great orators of his time was late in coming. While attending Crozer Theological Seminary between 1948 to 1951, King’s marks were diluted by C and C+ grades in two terms of public speaking.
7. HE WON A GRAMMY.
At the 13th annual Grammy Awards in 1971, a recording of King’s 1967 address, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” took home a posthumous award for Best Spoken Word recording. In 2012, his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (it was included decades later because its 1969 nomination was beaten for the Spoken Word prize by Rod McKuen’s “Lonesome Cities”).
8. HE LOVED STAR TREK.
It’s not easy to imagine King having the time or inclination to sit down and watch primetime sci-fi on television, but according to actress Nichelle Nichols, King and his family made an exception for Star Trek. In 1967, the actress met King, who told her he was a big fan and urged her to reconsider her decision to leave the show to perform on Broadway. “My family are your greatest fans,” Nichols recalled King telling her, and said he continued with, “As a matter of fact, this is the only show on television that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to watch, to stay up and watch because it’s on past their bedtime.” Nichols’ character of Lt. Uhura, he said, was important because she was a strong, professional black woman. If Nichols left, King noted, the character could be replaced by anyone, since “[Uhura] is not a black role. And it’s not a female role.” Based on their talk, Nichols decided to remain on the show for the duration of its three-season original run.
9. HE SPENT HIS WEDDING NIGHT IN A FUNERAL PARLOR.
Circa 1956. Getty.
When King married his wife, Coretta, in her father’s backyard in 1953, there was virtually no hotel in Marion, Alabama that would welcome a newlywed black couple. A friend of Coretta’s happened to be an undertaker, and invited the Kings into one of the guest rooms at his funeral parlor.
10. RONALD REAGAN WAS OPPOSED TO A KING HOLIDAY.
Despite King’s undeniable worthiness, MLK Day was not a foregone conclusion. In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan largely ignored pleas to pass legislation making the holiday official out of the concern it would open the door for other minority groups to demand their own holidays; Senator Jesse Helms complained that the missed workday could cost the country $12 billion in lost productivity, and both were concerned about King’s possible Communist sympathies. Common sense prevailed, and the bill was signed into law on November 2, 1983. The holiday officially began being recognized in January 1986.
11. WE’LL SOON SEE HIM ON THE $5 BILL.
In 2016, the U.S. Treasury announced plans to overhaul major denominations of currency beginning in 2020. Along with Harriet Tubman adorning the $20 bill, plans call for the reverse side of the $5 Lincoln-stamped bill to commemorate “historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial” including King’s famous 1963 speech..
12. ONE OF KING’S VOLUNTEERS WALKED AWAY WITH A PIECE OF HISTORY.
King’s 1963 oration from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, will always be remembered as one of the most provocative public addresses ever given. George Raveling, who was 26 at the time, had volunteered to help King and his team during the event. When it was over, Raveling sheepishly asked King for the copy of the three-page speech. King handed it over without hesitation; Raveling kept it for the next 20 years before he fully understood its historical significance and removed it from the book he had been storing it in.
He’s turned down offers of up to $3.5 million, insisting that the document will remain in his family—always noting that the most famous passage, where King details his dream of a united nation, isn’t on the sheet. It was improvised.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. speaking to American people
Dozens of Missouri high school students Wednesday walked out of class to protest racially charged incidents and what students say is a lack of appropriate response from the school administration.According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, at least 150 students assembled outside Ladue Horton Watkins High School and marched towards the district’s administrative offices, demanding speak with the superintendent.
The protest stemmed from an incident Thursday when a group of students on a school bus chanted “Trump” while two white students told their black peers to sit in the back of the bus. Those two students were disciplined.
Tuesday, parents, teachers, students and alumni gathered at the school board meeting to express their disgust over last week’s incidents.
“I’m outraged, I’m saddened, I’m disgusted,” alumni Melanie Hancock told Fox 2 Now.
Tango Walker Jackson, whose 15-year-old daughter was on the bus, said Thursday’s event was “not an isolated incident.”
“This is the fifth racially charged incident with my daughter since the beginning of the school year,” Walker Jackson told the meeting.
Walker Jackson’s daughter, Ladue Horton Watkins High sophomore Tajah Walker, also spoke at the meeting, telling the school board she will not tolerate this type of behavior.
“It’s hard to go through things like this,” Walker said. “I’m a very outspoken person and I will not be mistreated and I will not let my friends or anybody else be mistreated – white, black, anybody.”
Some parents were outraged that the two white students were already back in school, arguing the administration should further investigate what led to Thursday’s display.
“You imagine having to keep your cellphone on you constantly because you don’t know what’s going to happen to your child?” Walker Jackson asked Tuesday night. “Fix it.”
The district said it’s working on several tolerance initiatives, including diversity and equity training for staff. But Ladue Horton Watkins High principal acknowledged, “there is continued work to be done and we do know challenges lie ahead but now is our opportunity to bridge these issues.”
At the walkout Wednesday, Walker said the racially charged incidents required more of a response from the administration.
“We’ll come back to school when they treat us right,” Walker told the Dispatch. “If they suspend me, they better suspend everybody.”
NEW YORK – Women anxious that a Donald Trump presidency in the United States could set back or destroy many of their rights are planning a massive march in Washington one day after he is sworn in, organizers said on Friday.
On Facebook, where the “Women’s March on Washington” is being organized, some 35,000 people said they would attend within the first 24 hours after it was announced, said Bob Bland, an organizer based in New York.
The march comes in response to Trump’s attitudes toward women that emerged during his campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Bland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The Republican Trump insulted female reporters, a female political rival and other women over their looks, and a video surfaced in which he could be heard bragging about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.
The video prompted several women to say publicly that Trump had groped them.
Trump denied their allegations and dismissed his words as “locker room talk.”
During the campaign Trump also said abortion should be largely banned, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v Wade legalizing abortion should be overturned and that he would appoint an anti-abortion justice to the nation’s highest court.
He said women who had abortions should be punished, but later retracted this, saying that doctors who perform abortions should be punished.
Bland said plans for the march kicked off on Thursday, two days after Trump won the U.S. presidential election in a widely unexpected victory.
“A lot of women got up the second day with the same idea” for a march on Washington, and they coordinated on social media, she said.
“We need to be working together in a coherent, supportive way over the next four years, to activate more women into leadership positions, to be more politically active,” Bland said. “We cannot allow ourselves to give up, put our heads down and not hold this administration accountable for any violation of human rights or women’s rights.”
The march is being organized state by state, said Fontaine Pearson, 54, a coordinator in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We have a huge groundswell of women,” she said. “This is growing faster than anyone expected.”
The march is planned for Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump is to be sworn into office, at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial was the site of the famed civil rights march in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
There are two huge marches being planned for Washington around Inauguration Day. The women’s march is organizing quickly. Buses are being supplied on the local level. FB has pages for your state. You can go on the pages and find other women and feminist men who want to attend. This will be a history making march. It will show Washington that we will not bow down under the tyranny of hatred, bigotry, sexism and racism.
The section of New York City called Harlem was the home of a very wonderful poet during the 1920s and 1930s. Langston Hughes was one of the most influential black poets of the twentieth century. The blog I wrote and titled “I, too, am America” is a quote from this very talented man. He was born in 1902 in Missouri, however he lived most of his life in Harlem.
Langston was a mentor and inspiration to many other leading black writers and writers. In his poetry, he sought to foster black pride, break stereotypes, and outrage people by telling people about the injustices of racism and inequality. He wrote about lynchings, poverty, and the inner rage of blacks confined and humiliated by segregation. Hughes considered himself the people’s poet. He wanted his writings to be read and not studied. His writing is direct, accessible and often dramatic.
For instance, his poem “Ku Klux,” is written in the first person voice of a black kidnapped by the Klan. The title of the poem is truncated, but all of Hughes readers knew what the third word word would be. The poem concludes inconclusively, but readers understood the grim fate awaiting the man accused of “sassin’ ” white folks.
Hughes first poem was published in the Crisis, the NAACP magazine founded by W.E.B. DuBois. Hughes graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
He often wrote dark and pessimistic poetry, but considering his world, I believe it is understandable. Hughes did interweave his poetry with brighter optimism and humor. During his lifetime, the Civil Right’s Movement made progress toward equality, dignity and some of his work reflected this progress. Recently, Langston Hughes has been honored as a gay black male icon.
Portrait of African American poet Langston Hughes
Artists banding together to save Langston Hughes’ historic home in Harlem
Gentrification is a many-headed beast, and now that beast may be coming to devour the former home of Langston Hughes – one of the great pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance.
However, Renée Watson, a local writer who lives near the home, is trying to prevent that from happening. Watson has launched a fundraising campaign in hopes of raising $150,000 to rent the place and turn it into a cultural center.
As of today, the initiative has raised a little over $26,000.
“For the past ten years, I’ve walked past the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and wondered why it was empty,” said Watson on the campaign’s homepage. “How could it be that his home wasn’t preserved as a space for poets, a space to honor his legacy?”
“I’d pass the brownstone, shake my head, and say, ‘Someone should do something.’ I have stopped saying, ‘Someone should do something’ and decided that someone is me,” she added.
Watson also launched I, Too, Arts Collective (named in honor of Hughes’ poem I, Too, Sing America), a non-profit whose first major goal is to lease the apartment and “provide a space for emerging and established artists in Harlem to create, connect, and showcase work.”
Watson has lived in the city just over ten years, and she reached out to other writers once she learned of the possible fate of Langston Hughes’ home.
Old brownstones in the area are being torn down to make room for more modern buildings at an alarming rate. There is fear that the money won’t be raised in enough time, but “the current owner has agreed to hold off on selling to see how the project unfolds,” CNN Money reports.
Jason Reynolds, a young adult author, answered Watson’s call to action immediately. “I kept thinking, this is just like New York, nothing is sacred,” he told CNN Money.
Many are speaking ill of the organization Black Lives Matter. Many untruths are being said but these people are members of the organization and are speaking truth. I hope this will clarify issues for some people. Ultimately, I believe all lives matter. However. I do believe for America it must start with Black Lives Matter. We have been a racist country since our founding. The issue of slavery has been the ghost rattling keys in our closets.
I wish the Founding Fathers had succeeded in their attempts. They did try long and hard. They decided it would be a less emotional issue for Americans to handle after we had been a country for a while. They meant well. But it is still here and it is now an abyss which divides America.
I want this to be healed. I want an end to racism and soon. I don’t want more people to die.
Let today be the day you look inside your heart of hearts and find the racism that is still lingering and hiding. Pull it out, vow to look at all people as your brothers and sisters. They truly are. We are equal. Murdering each other, lynching, hating will not change the fact that all color of people are equal. We are all children of the Universe, made from the same matter as the stars. Let us accomplish what the Founding Fathers weren’t able to do: make America truly, now and forever equal. equal for all of us.
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