A Dream Renewed? Africans in America and the Obama Phenomenon.
A Dream Renewed? Africans in America and the Obama Phenomenon.
Black History Month
February 2, 2009
What better way to capture the essence of the African American struggle and the Obama phenomenon than as a dream? When the campaigns began, most people were more likely to say: “Barack who?” There were also many puns on Senator Barack Hussein Obama’s name, fears among many voters that he was a Muslim, and since Obama was trying to wrest the Democratic Party’s Presidential candidacy from Hilary Clinton, more senior senator, former first lady, passionate and well prepared, supported by numerous prominent Black leaders, he seemed at best, foolhardy.
When at the time, he spoke of Hope, and came up with the slogan: “Yes we can,” he seemed positively delusional. Even when he won the primaries in many states, as soon as he lost a state, such as with Pennsylvania, instead of inspiring hope, he evoked derision from the right and the center-oriented commentariat. Many Black people had given up on the idea that a Black person could ever become President in the United States of America. Many Black people who wanted a Black President wanted a person who was “blacker” than Barack Obama, and decried his lack of slave ancestry, and consequently the requisite understanding of the Black struggle in America. Some considered him too polished, too articulate, too full of “just words.” He was even accused of plagiarizing, when he used the same words as his friend, the governor of Massachussetts to refute the “just words” critique by invoking the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents, he was mocked. Yet, he maintained that he was the harbinger of hope. This was a dream par excellence.
A dream is the opposite of reality. It is ephemeral, yet inspirational. A dream seems to belong to the otherworldly realm of the imagination rather than to the cold, hard world of the here and now. It is a vision, it could also be criticized by those more practically inclined as no more than a daydream, an escapist reverie, or a dream could also uncover or unleash a nightmare, or even when it predicts something truly extraordinary, be dismissed as a hallucination, or a delusion. Dreams may also evoke a trance-like state. But Benedict Anderson famously said that a nation is an imagined community, and America is a country built on a dream. While that dream may have been dismissed by the British colonizers as delusional before the attainment of independence, the rise of the United States of America into prominence as a world power signifies the power of a dream.
The fact that a dream could also be a nightmare captures the paradox of the American dream, that while it opened up a realm of endless possibilities for the founding fathers and those of like class and status, it established a nightmare for the First Peoples of this land, the Native Americans, who were brutally exterminated, their land forcibly appropriated, the survivors colonized and segregated, and their basic humanity denied. For Africans in America too, although 401 years ago, the first ones came to the Jamestown colony as indentured servants and the institutionalization of slavery developed as a gradual process. Gradual or not, it was a nightmare par excellence. As much has been documented historically and this paper will not explore the intricacies and interstices of institutionalized slavery in the United States of America, but will uncover the extraordinary capacity to dream although in physical bondage, with no living prayer of gaining freedom. It will also use the metaphor of dreaming to argue that African Americans have always been active agents in both imagining and actualizing the American Dream-the promise of full citizenship to all as inalienable rights.
History tells us that African Americans were not the only marginalized people in the country’s early history. The non-landowning white majority that emigrated to America as indentured servants, and subsequently, as cheap labor also came to America in search of a dream, and while they eventually gained the right of citizenship, they initially had to endure vilification, derision, discrimination and bias. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,[i] designed to keep out Chinese indentured laborers who had been heavily recruited to work mines in the Gold Rush of 1848, and subsequently, to construct the Transcontinental Railroad, but were shunned, derided and reviled when the gold boom turned to bust, and post-Civil War hard economic times propelled the anti-immigrant fervor and nativist political responses. Similarly the fear of Germans was eloquently expressed by no less a person than Benjamin Franklin in the 1850s:
And since Detachments of English from Britain sent to America, will have their Places at Home so soon supply'd and increase so largely here; why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?[ii]
The Irish, the Southern Europeans (Italians, Spanish), and most other non White Anglo Saxon Protestant immigrants were subjected to varying levels of hazing before they earned the right to be American. Unlike these, Africans in America could not become anonymous Americans after paying whatever dues are believed to be appropriate. Thus, the mostly post-1965 immigrants of whom Obama’s father is one, did not always embrace Black American culture, and in many ways, the standoffish attitude was reciprocated. Each community had been influenced by colonial educational systems that trained them to fear the other. The Obama family enables one to imagine how this gap could possibly be bridged. While WEB DuBois’ prediction about the problem of the 20th Century being the Color Line is still relevant, and we have not entered into a postracial nirvana.
As I see it, MLK saw the American Dream in the context of imperialism, oppression and captivity. He also dug deep within the collective psyche of the African Americans to assert their humanity and entitlement to dream, to be hopeful, and to be free. The African American dream is then, a dream of freedom from segregation, discrimination, poverty, marginality, an appalling condition. A dream that hoped for a better tomorrow, and of realizing the promise/cashing the promissory notes that the Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Act, and the American national anthem constitute. We hear this from MLK when he talks about the Emancipation Declaration as decreeing “a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. … a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.” But Martin also hastened to tell us that “one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free”
As we consider MLK’s words, I’d also like to tell you what I hope to focus upon in this presentation. To properly understand the connection between the American dream, the history of African Americans in this country, and the Obama phenomenon, I want to take us all on a journey that hopes to capture the importance and relevance of dreaming as an active process of imagining a different and positive future as woven through the historical experiences of Africans in America. ****
The Martin Luther King Dream remains relevant: that all Americans, regardless of their origin, race, or creed, can enjoy the full rights of citizenship. The Obama candidacy suggests that it is possible to begin the process of racial reconciliation that once again, renews the American Dream. Is this going to be easy? The short answer is NO. It is heartening that President Obama stands on the shoulders of Martin Luther King and WEB DuBois in not trivializing the struggle that it would require to realize the Dream and hope. In many ways then, while Obama evokes a response from Americans that renews the Dream, his Presidency also signals the need for all Americans to collectively roll up their sleeves to work on actualizing the Dream.
Obama’s theme of Hope itself recalls the Dream. When one hopes, one expects something good. One trusts that there will be a turnaround. One anticipates the future in a positive light. One wishes things will change for the better. One looks forward to good things. One has the expectation that tomorrow will be better than today. One is optimistic. Hope is the positive aspect of a dream. It is a dream without the nightmare. I will argue that the relevance of the Obama phenomenon can best be captured as the renewal of the American dream. But a dream of what? And its renewal? How? What ought to be done? While Martin Luther King was by no means the first African American to cast the African American struggle as motivated by a dream, given the indelible character of the Martin Luther King speech, “I have a dream,” it might be useful to make his vision our guide in this exploration. WEB DuBois is also a worthy guide. The Dream would then be used as a connective thread that demonstrates the multidimensionality of dreams as embraced and declared by Africans in America.
The American Dream and the conundrum of imperialism, oppression, and captivity.
As an immigrant to this land, I’d like to ask a question on a subject that still puzzles me. What is the American Dream? Could anyone tell me? I thank all who have shared their ideas on the Dream. I will also depend on MLK as my guide to the constituents of the American Dream. For this, it’s best to look at a few of his speeches, including the “I have a Dream” one.
Martin Luther King conceived the dream as that of freedom from poverty, from marginalization and from oppression. He conceived the American Dream as inextricably linked to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. This as he saw it was no joke but a promissory note, a check that African Americans had come to cash during the Civil Rights struggle. It’s really better to hear this from originator of the speech: Let us then pause and hear a little bit of that historic speech, which MLK as we all know, the speech was delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
MLK assured his audience that the dream he envisioned is “deeply rooted in the American Dream,” and he gave voice to the dream in his time, connecting with past, acknowledging the present, and laying claim on the future. He told his audience and indeed, the world that African Americans and all Americans there present were at the Lincoln Memorial to express their “legitimate discontent,” which would “not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” As he saw it, the March on Washington was a beginning, and
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.[iii]
In many subtle and overt ways, Barack Obama acknowledged the symbolic and inspirational significance of this speech several times during the Presidential election season and its aftermath. This was obvious when he spoke about “the fierce urgency of now” in his speech in North Carolina on November 3, 2007. He acknowledged the elusive nature of the American dream to the majority, spoke of the pain of grappling with want amidst plenty, and spoke about the role of government neglect in making the situation even more unbearable and inequitable:
In the midst of great prosperity, families all across this country feel further from the American Dream. You know this from your own lives. Most Americans are working harder for less and paying more for health care and college than ever before. It’s harder to save. Harder to retire. And the policies of the last seven years have added to that unfairness.[iv]
Like MLK, Obama connected with the urgent nature of the struggle for justice. Like him, he spoke explicitly about the American Dream. Like him, he showed that while the Dream was available to some, it remained a mirage for most others. What MLK did the best was to point out that the American Dream was actually a nightmare faced by African Americans:
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.[v]
And Obama gave his own Lincoln Memorial speech at the pre-inaugural concert on January 19, 2009, and he reiterated the plight of Americans being tossed around by forces beyond their control:
In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes; they're worried about how they'll afford college for their kids or pay the stack of bills on their kitchen table. And most of all, they are anxious and uncertain about the future - about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what's best about this country to our children and their children.[vi]
America in the 1960s was beset by the challenges of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the continued segregation and other vestiges of institutionalized slavery. People were looking for new answers to the same old problems. Today, America is going through an extraordinary challenge to the essence of its being. If we accept that the pursuit of happiness is an integral part of the American dream, and we understand that this is about the freedom to accumulate property and wealth unimpeded by the state, with an economic meltdown and a deep recession, with people losing their jobs in droves, and almost 5 million people are unemployed, with these people and millions of others facing increasingly difficult times, where even those who have been prudent and invested have lost some/most/all their resources, sometimes because others “Madoff” with it in Ponzi schemes, where some of these either contemplate or actualize suicide/murder-suicide, and yet where paradoxically, some have just been announced to have made huge bonuses, as seen in the huge Wall Street bonuses by companies, some of whom had benefitted from taxpayer funded stimulus, today, we are witnessing the broadening of the circle of those who suffer from the inability to realize the basic minimum of the American Dream. This was the situation during the era of slavery, and the most significant indicator of the resonance of the situation for poor whites is the collaborative rebellions organized by enslaved Africans and poor white indentured servants.
These rebellions and insurrections were brutally crushed in the interest of the pursuit of happiness and the realization of the promise of the American Dream by the landowning elite. We also see aspects of the broader relevance of the nightmare in the elusive nature of the Dream for the Japanese Americans when they were subjected to the internment during the Second World War; we see it in graphic relief today. Eddie Glaude Jr., professor of Religion at Princeton University sees the despair that might result as indicative of the “layered complexity of the situation faced in everyday life.”
Both MLK and Obama made a connection between the Dream as expressed by the founding fathers and the quest for justice, and both rejected violence as a solution. MLK in “I have a Dream” said:
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.[vii]
Obama at the Lincoln Memorial pre-Inaugural concert address acknowledged that Americans are fearful of the bleak future they confront, and yet, he exhorted them to be hopeful:
I won't pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our fundamental resolve as a nation. But despite all of this - despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead - I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure - that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.[viii]
The election of the first African American President of the United States injects a significant measure of euphoria into the body politic, but Glaude also reminds us that these are “soul testing times that question the essence of who we are.” It is then necessary to “find resources from within and without, to support the ability to hold on for a better day.”[ix] Looking at circumstances such as this evokes the necessity to draw upon what President Obama termed “the audacity of hope,” it is also good to consider dreams, as Obama did in his Dreams from my father.[x] The matter was more clear-cut in the days of the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for Black liberation, when it was very easy to identify the problem and the oppressor and this propelled the call to dream. In turn, the accounts of people’s dreams inspired hope and optimism in the face of exploitation, segregation, marginalization and despair. Clearly, it is necessary to find ways of renewing the dream. But how? And what dream?
W. E. B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk (1903) gave a magisterial deconstruction that explicates analyzes analysis of the extraordinary collective experience of Africans in America and the likelihood that as a people, they would be able to enjoy the American Dream. Du Bois showed that the attempt made at addressing the structural flaws in the body politic arising from institutionalized chattel slavery through the policies and processes of the Reconstruction, including the Freedmen's Bureau, failed woefully due to overwhelming systemic and structural problems—it is difficult enough to uplift four million formerly enslaved people in a time of peace and tranquility, where everyone has the best intentions. It is well nigh impossible to accomplish this goal under conditions marked by “the spite and hate of conflict, the hell of war; when suspicion and cruelty were rife, and gaunt Hunger wept beside Bereavement,—in such a case, the work of any instrument of social regeneration was in large part foredoomed to failure.”[xi]
After the Civil War ended in 1865, the period of Reconstruction (1866-1877) brought great hope for change. Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of American history at Columbia University, describes this as “one of the most turbulent and controversial eras in American history.”[xii] The goals of racial and economic justice foregrounded by the Reconstruction was not acceptable to the majority. Their representatives in Congress rejected President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan but passed laws and Constitutional amendments that authorized the federal government to guarantee equal rights under the law, and for over ten years tremendous gains were made, including the creation of schools, training of teachers and election of black politicians into office. This brought to life, vicious and hostile resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist bodies who opposed the new Southern governments and the attempt to achieve racial justice through integration. The opposition to the progressive policies of the Reconstruction was tenacious and unrelenting. The promise that it presented – the assurance that formerly enslaved African Americans would enjoy the American Dream ended with the demise of the Reconstruction, which was widely (albeit erroneously) believed to be “an era of corruption and misgovernment, supposedly caused by allowing blacks to take part in politics.” For the South, the era of Jim Crow racial segregation was a necessary corrective to the distortions enabled by the Reconstruction. There was a violent backlash. Politically, the commitment to keep Blacks out of government was renewed, their rights and capacity as citizens to vote for the government of their choice was denied until the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Revisionist and critical historians have shed better light on the Reconstruction in contemporary times and the Reconstruction has come to be cast as a period when America attempted to reform a political system based on racial and economic injustice, with profound impact on the economic, social and political lives of all Americans.[xiii]
The Freedmen’s Bureau was one of the most significant institutions created at the time. Its function was to facilitate racial justice in the economic, political and social systems. These goals were revolutionary, being expected of a country where institutionalized chattel slavery had become the norm, and the discrimination against people of African descent as well of those who met the “one drop rule” (any Black ancestry) had become entrenched. As quickly as these gains came, however, they vanished after southern whites took back political power.
THE NEW NEGRO AND BLACK RENAISSANCE: HARLEM AND THE ROLE OF THE ARTS IN KEEPING THE DREAM ALIVE.
The HARLEM RENAISSANCE
The movement of Southern blacks to Northern cities, the emergence of radical thought, and the publication of black magazines set the stage for the Harlem Renaissance, when black writers produced some of the most profound literary, dramatic and musical works. The Jazz age was a part of this phenomenon and in many ways, Harlem was the place to be. The era presaged hope in spite of racial, class and sex discrimination, prejudice and exclusion. New opportunities emerged and injustices were challenged with renewed vigor, due to the hope that they could be eradicated or reduced. There was an efflorescence of music, fiction, poetry and art, an exploration of the foundations of African American thought, and ethos by African Americans coming from the South in the Great Migration and people of African descent from the Caribbean who flocked into Harlem, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century.
There was also renewed associational life, some for purely social purposes, and others to serve political ends. Two organizations are indicative of this development. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP), and The National League of Black Men and Women, which later became the National Urban League. The NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909 to combat the problems arising from racial hatred, segregation, discrimination by working to accomplish political, social, economic and educational equality in America. The organization’s journal, Crisis, was edited by W. E. B. Du Bois. It engaged in social and political analysis and critiques, and also published literary and artistic works edited by Jessie Fauset. The NAACP thereby influenced the development of a vibrant black intellectual culture. It nurtured a burgeoning race consciousness and the emergence of "The New Negro," deliberately focused on African American expressions and explications of the circumstances of human existence as it directly affected them. The National Urban League was founded on September 29, 1910. Unlike the NAACP, it was not as overtly political but focused on addressing cultural issues. Its journal, Opportunity was published by Charles Johnson, whose secretary was Ethel Ray Nance.
But before the Harlem Renaissance were people like PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR, whose poetry influenced a lot of the poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
Below are two poems about dreams as conceived in poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar, (1872-1906). Exceptional poet, controversial skilled interpreter of the African American folk experience in both dialect and standard American English, publisher of a newspaper, and writer for many prominent newspapers and journals of his time, Dunbar never experienced slavery but was born to two former slaves. From his mother, he learned the art of storytelling. For Dunbar, Dreams are fleeting, ephemeral and counter to reality. They lay open various possibilities for pleasure, goodness, but just as readily disappear, never to be experienced or grasped forevermore.
DREAM on, for dreams are sweet:
Do not awaken!
Dream on, and at thy feet
Pomegranates shall be shaken.
Who likeneth the youth
Of life to morning?
'Tis like the night in truth,
Rose-coloured dreams adorning.
The wind is soft above,
The shadows umber.
(There is a dream called Love.)
Take thou the fullest slumber!
In Lethe's soothing stream,
Thy thirst thou slakest.
Sleep, sleep; 't is sweet to dream.
Oh, weep when thou awakest![xiv]
WHAT dreams we have and how they fly
Like rosy clouds across the sky;
Of wealth, of fame, of sure success,
Of love that comes to cheer and bless;
And how they wither, how they fade,
The waning wealth, the jilting jade --
The fame that for a moment gleams,
Then flies forever, --dreams, ah --dreams!
O burning doubt and long regret
O tears with which our eyes are wet,
Heart-throbs, heart-aches, the glut of pain,
The somber cloud, the bitter rain,
You were not of those dreams -- ah! well,
Your full fruition who can tell?
Wealth, fame, and love, ah! love that beams
Upon our souls, all dreams -- ah! dreams.
In the first poem, Dunbar tells us about dreams as an experience encountered during sleep, but it’s also possible to daydream, to be transported to a state of youthful hopefulness, to imagine love, comfort, beauty, satisfaction, only to be rudely awakened to harsh realities.
Dunbar’s second poem also tells us about the way in which dreams lay open new vistas of pleasure, success, wealth, good cheer, but only for a fleeting moment, to disappear forever into the ether. Dreams lay open the possibility of a better world, but can be snatched away from under our very noses, revealed as ephemeral, never to be experienced as reality. In this sense,
While the men of the Harlem Renaissance are best known, there were also formidable women, including GEORGIA DOUGLAS JOHNSON, (September 10, 1880 - May 14, 1966). She was a poet and writer, as well as frequent contributor to The Crisis, the NAACP journal. Johnson wrote the following poem in 1922:
The right to make my dreams come true
I ask, nay, I demand of life,
Nor shall fate's deadly contraband
Impede my steps, nor countermand.
Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around,
And now, at length, I rise, I wake!
And stride into the morning break![xv]
Johnson affirms the right to make her dreams come true. She presents dreaming as an inspirational process that motivates the dreamer to break through all impediments and aspire, act, accomplish, all fearlessly.
Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1903 - January 28, 1960), writer and folklorist said of Dreams:
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing, until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. They then act and do things accordingly.
Dreams for Hurston are neither ephemeral nor unrealizable. They are “truth” and she speaks directly to women, inspiring them to think of dreams as motivation toward grasping the truth, and in consequence, the ability to “act and do things accordingly.” Another quote of Hurston’s shows us that poverty is deadly, liable to kill stymie one’s imagination, and kill one’s dreams.
There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rotting around the feet.[xvi]ARNA BONTEMPS
Arna Bontemps (Oct. 13, 1902, Alexandria, La.-June 4, 1973, Nashville, Tenn.) was an American writer and poet who depicted the lives and struggles of black Americans.[xvii] Bontemps said of dreams: “Let us keep the dance of rain our fathers kept and tread our dreams beneath the jungle sky.”[xviii]
Claude McKay (Sept. 15, 1890, Jamaica, British West Indies—May 22, 1948, Chicago)was a Jamaican writer and poet of the Harlem Renaissance. First Commumist, disillusioned, and then Roman Catholic. He was a quintessential race man who was fiercely committed to racial upliftment for black people, unabashedly proud of his black heritage. In this sense, he evokes Banneker who declared his pride in Black heritage in his letter to Jefferson, and is a precursor to the 60s and 70s Black Power revolution whose motto James Brown popularized in his music: “Say it Loud: I’m Black and Proud!” McKay’s Home to Harlem (1928) was a best seller in his time. The novel however attracted harsh criticism from WEB DuBois as dirty and pitched to the prurient interest in the sexual. DuBois famously said reading the novel made him want to take a bath. McKay had earlier (before coming to the US) written two books “of Jamaican dialect verse, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads (1912).”[xix]
One of McKay’s sayings that could relate to dreams include: “Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism.”[xx] For McKay then, to the extent that ideals are informed by dreams, they can amount to very little if not supported b social and political action.
Langston Hughes, (1902-1967) Harlem Renaissance writer and poet, was one of the more notable writers during this time. Known for his portrayal of black life in his work, Hughes’ success was partly due to his ability to effectively capture the essence of the black experience. One of his most famous sayings on dreams comes from his classic, A Raisin in the Sun: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up - like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore - And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over - like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags - like a heavy lead.” When one delays on the gratification of a dream, the danger is that the dream may never take off. It may rot, ooze like a wound, create a horrible stench, scab over, or weigh one down in perpetuity.
MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
Mary McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 - May 18, 1955) was an educator, racial justice activist and New Deal government official. She was a valiant advocate of better educational opportunities for African Americans. She was the President of the National Association of Colored Women and founder of the National Council of Negro Women. She also founded the Bethune-Cookman College. She was a member of FDR's "black cabinet." According to Bethune: “I do feel, in my dreamings and yearnings, so undiscovered by those who are able to help me.” This statement probably resonates with many African Americans and other marginalized people who over the years, long for social inclusion, racial, economic and political justice, but wait in vain for help from those already within the system, able to help, but unaware of their responsibility to step up to the plate, or unwilling to help. Bethune also said:
“For I am my mother's daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.” This quote does not overtly express a dream but a restlessness to fulfill an obligation--helping marginalized African American youth to realize their full potential. Bethune’s commitment to African America youth is also expressed in the quotes: “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.” And “There is a place in God's sun for the youth "farthest down" who has the vision, the determination, and the courage to reach it.”[xxi] As I see it, there is no point dreaming if one does not believe that the youth is central to the plans to create a better world. Mary McLeod Bethune recognized this and made this an essential part of her life’s work. Her role as an educator is the most consistent expression of this commitment.
The Civil Rights Movement: MLK & his precursors - Standing on the shoulders of the Moses generation
§ Slave insurrections, rebellions, protests, underground railroad.The African American Struggle, and thus, the dream of freedom is as old as the enslavement of Africans in America. Thus, the Slave insurrections, slave rebellions, and various and sundry protests are a part of this struggle, and were precursors to the bold and defiant expression of the dream by MLK.
Slave insurrections and Slave rebellions abound in the history of American development from colony to independent nation. From 1526 to 1854, there were 313 documented slave insurrections in news accounts.[xxii]
- Individual resistance against Cruel Masters or Overseer
Theft, subterfuge, pretending to be sick, slowing the pace of work, use of song, folktales, spirituality, religious practice, and above all, endurance.
Collective organized action against institutionalized slavery
Some collective organized action took the form of overt resistance through systematic and categorical conspiracies and rebellions against institutionalized slavery. To be successful, such conspiracies and rebellions had to be carefully arranged. Given the overwhelming individual danger involved, people had to be encouraged to participate and motivated to be courageous. Unquestionably, all these rebellions were motivated by dreams of freedom, equality, justice. Nat Turner’s rebellion and John Brown’s are examples that could be said to be motivated by visionary dreaming, instigated by a call to action by a higher authority.
Regardless of their motivation, these rebellions were harshly suppressed, with summary executions, overwhelming use of state/local power against transgressors, hanging, lynching, scapegoating to deter future similar actions and punitive regulations and laws used to discourage or forbid the quest for freedom and justice.
Some rebellions occurred before the formal founding of the United States. For example, a slave revolt was documented to have occurred in 1526 in a Spanish colony close to the mouth of the Pee Dee River in today’s South Carolina. Numerous slaves revolted and escaped to join Native American communities. The Spanish colonists, who left the area after a year, were never able to recapture the escaped slaves. There were also many documented accounts of slave insurrection in the British colonies in America. These continued until the period of the American Revolution, war of Independence and beyond.
Examples of these rebellions include the 1712 rebellion in New York City, the 1739 Cato's Revolt (Stono Rebellion) at Stono, near Charleston, South Carolina and a 1741 conspiracy among slaves and white servants in New York City. Other examples include Gabriel Prosser, who led a failed revolt Virginia in 1800, Denmark Vesey, (already free at the time) in Charleston in July 1822 and Nat Turner’s rebellion in August 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia.[xxiii]
Since the leaders of the slave revolts had more education than other enslaved people, and were motivated by strong religious beliefs, often drawn from the Bible, and they used the imagery, simile, and motivational passages from the Bible as inspirational texts to recruit and mobilize followers, restrictions on education and autonomous worship were believed necessary. The leaders of the revolts were also aware of world events, and the Haitian Revolution was particularly inspiring. White slave owners, terrified of the prospect of losing “everything,” sharply circumscribed black religious expression, movement, and speech. State and private surveillance of blacks increased prodigiously and the specter of blacks as “dangerous” increased in the popular imagination among white Americans. This was driven by media, high and low literature, drama, art and all manner of cultural production. Politically, the legislature in many states passed more restrictive slave codes and prohibited black preachers from leading services without a white person being present.[xxiv]
While physical restraints, legal prohibitions, surveillance, incarceration and social controls could circumscribe free movement and curtail the enjoyment of rights, nothing can restrain the urge to dream. Through dreaming, many enslaved people continued to imagine a better future. Through their own agency as sentient beings, they worked assiduously to realize these dreams. The dreams continue today as a motivation to creating a more inclusive nation where all Americans can access the American dream.The Underground Railroad was an essential part of the organized effort to resist enslavement and push for liberation.
The quintessential Moses-who led Black people out of slavery to freedom through the underground railroad was a woman. Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) who was born into slavery, but escaped and was the foremost guide that led others out of slavery into freedom. Tubman earned the name “Moses” from her contemporaries. She also was a soldier during the American Civil War, a women’s rights activist and manifested an uncompromising thirst for liberty. The American Dream was a dream of Freedom. According to Tubman: “I grew up like a neglected weed -- ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.” Going from slavery to freedom may not necessarily yield immediate gratification. In Tubman’s words, she had to grapple with the un-familiar as a free woman, and thus, said: “I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.” But in she also said: “I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” This declared unequivocally, Tubman’s commitment to abolitionism, demonstrated in her aforementioned commitment to the Underground Railroad.
Other abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were part of the struggle. So is the Back to Africa movement in its various manifestations, as well as the PanAfricanists such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, WEB DuBois and Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), was born into slavery but he escaped several times, joined the abolitionist movement, travelled to England, where he lived for two years. Quakers helped him to raise enough money to eventually buy his freedom. Douglass established The North Star, an abolitionist newspaper, and was a much sought after speaker who clearly pinpointed the contradictions within the American body politic, and while insisting on the citizenship of African Americans, questioned the values undergirding the central foundational narratives and values of an America that fought so valiantly for independence from Great Britain, while also holding Black people in bondage. Douglass speech, “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” was given in 1852 on the 4th of July in response to the request from the citizens of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The speech was a fiery indictment of the institutionalization of slavery in America.
Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?....
… I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin. …
…Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity, which is outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery -- the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate - I will not excuse." I will use the severest language I can command, and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slave-holder, shall not confess to be right and just. …
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced. [xxv]
Douglass proceeded to enlighten his audience about the wrongful inhumanity of slavery, the absence of equity and lack of equal justice before the laws. He concluded by pointing out that American slavery was the epitome of “revolting barbarity” and “shameless hypocrisy”
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was, in addition to being an abolitionist, anti-death penalty, a supporter of women’s rights, and a believer in temperance, justice, equity and honest, plain communication. When invited to address the Friends of Human Progress Association meeting on October 4-5, 1855, she too spoke of dreaming, rendering an account to her audience of visions where God spoke to her directly to show her that she was a human being rather than an animal, as she and other enslaved Africans in America had been led to believe. Her speech was written down by the Secretary of the Association and published in the Abolitionist Bugle:
Some years ago there appeared to me a form (here the speaker gave a very graphic description of the vision she had). Then I learned that I was a human being. We had been taught that we was a species of monkey, baboon or 'rang-o-tang, and we believed it -- we'd never seen any of these animals. But I believe in the next world. When we gets up yonder, we shall have all of them rights 'stored to us again -- all that love what I've lost -- all going to be 'stored to me again. Oh! How good God is.
The speech went on to lament the suffering inflicted on slaves in general, and Sojourner Truth in particular, expressing the agony and disappointment of calling upon God for relief, and having to cope with having no relief forthcoming.[xxvi]
Dreams can be explored as literal expressions of the hope and desire for freedom and equality. They can also be sought in actions that enslaved people took to assert their humanity, to strike out and find freedom, and to help others through individual and collective action to attain freedom, and/or build institutions that would sustain newly freed people beyond those provided by the state.
In this sense, the Underground Railroad is a great example of organized action. There were numerous networks, many operators, of whom Harriet Tubman was one of the foremost representatives. There were also various allies who offered safe haven for the passengers and guides/operators of the railroad. By 1850, there was a well established route, seen in this map: http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/geography/ugrr_1860.htm.
The important point here is to underline that the movement through the Underground Railroad was propelled by dreams, hope and the unflagging desire for freedom.
Protests stated the displeasure of the enslaved, their opposition to their enslavement, and insistence on freedom. These include protests expressed through song – the Negro Spirituals. American history is replete with examples, including: “O Freedom,” composed during the American Civil War by free Black soldiers in the Union Army.[xxvii]
These songs are old. Most evoke deep emotion. Many before 1865 were spontaneous. They are inspirational and motivational, inspiring singers and audience both to dream and imagine a better world, future, hereafter. Prominent 20th Century examples sung by famous people include: Marian Anderson and “Deep River,” Paul Robeson and “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” In his inimitable way, WEB DuBois in The Souls of Black Folk told us as much. For him, these “sorrow songs” expressed the spiritual strivings of Africans in America. To emphasize the intricate connections between these sorrow songs and the African American aspirations for freedom, justice, equity and self-actualization, DuBois used selected songs as starting points in each chapter of the book. For him,
the Negro folk-song—the rhythmic cry of the slave—stands to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas. It has been neglected, it has been, and is, half despised, and above all it has been persistently mistaken and misunderstood; but notwithstanding, it still remains as the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.[xxviii]
Pan Africanism is also a collective effort informed by the philosophical belief in the need for unity of all peoples of African descent wherever they are in the world.
Martin Delany (1812-1885) was an abolitionist and Pan Africanist. He too dreamed.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 (compromise between Northern “freesoilers & Southern slaveowners that any escaped slave would be returned to their masters) and the Dred Scott Decision of 1857 (all people of African ancestry -- slaves as well as those who were free -- could never become citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal court. The court also ruled that the federal government did not have the power to prohibit slavery in its territories. Scott, needless to say, remained a slave).[xxix] were disheartening to enslaved people in America and they stymied political agitation because there seemed to be no hope. Yet, Martin Delany dreamt of “black men from America and Africa working together to build a viable economy. He was critical of the back to Africa movement and the return of enslaved and now freed Africans in America to Liberia. Instead suggested the exploration of Yorubaland in South Western Nigeria. Went with another emigrationist, Robert Campbell of the West Indies, to the area that is now Nigeria in mid 1859, travelled through the region and selected Abeokuta, near Lagos. Signed a treaty with the Egba authorities “for the right and privilege of settling in common with the Egba people in any part of the territory not otherwise occupied.” Delany returned to the US in 1860 to recruit emigrants but his efforts were overtaken by the American Civil War, consequent lack of interest in emigration, as well as the repudiation of the treaty by Egba authorities, and the outbreak of war in the area.[xxx] and generalized
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League (founded 1914) with Amy Ashwood, (later Garvey), and others to unite all of Africa and its diaspora into "one grand racial hierarchy." The US branch was founded in May 1917.
Marcus Garvey also had a dream. According to a scholar, he dreamt of Mother Africa.[xxxi] (Grant, 2008) He is also renowned for dreaming of a panAfrican empire where all people of African descent would become rich and economically free in ten years for an investment in his company, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which under Garvey’s leadership, established the Black Star Line on June 27, 1919, the Negro World Newspaper on August 17, 1919, and the Negro Factories Corporation, to manufacture and market every kind of commodity to Black people worldwide. The Liberia Program was established in 1920 to take people of Black descent from the Diaspora back to Africa The UNIA hoped to raise $600,000,000 and invest funds directed by E.B. Knox from the Association’s 142 West 130th Street headquarters in Harlem, NY[xxxii]. The FBI made its investigation of Garvey a top priority, and hired the first Black agents in 1920 to find a way of prosecuting him. Due to their efforts, he was charged with mail fraud for selling stock in the Black Star Line, tried and sentenced to prison on June 23, 1923. He began serving his sentence on February 8 1925. with WEB DuBois initially writing in support of the imprisonment, but later writing against it. According to Garvey:
You can get out of life as much as any other man. And if you don’t get your share, you have no one to blame than yourself. I am introducing you to a new philosophy of life, although I may be able to touch the fringe only. Life is real, life is earnest, life is not any easy dream. It is sweet and dear from birth to the grave and any man who does not appreciate it is a damned fool.[xxxiii]
From prison, on February 10, 1925, Garvey wrote his "First Message to the Negroes of the World From Atlanta Prison" saying:
“ Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life."
Given that we’re now experiencing this dreadful meltdown, and it is causing tremendous devastation in many people’s lives, it is germane to my subject today to have us consider one slice of past parallel. In An American Dilemma,[xxxiv] Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish sociologist, who was paraphrased in the UNIA papers, “The UNIA dream of an expanding black entrepreneurial base that would form the foundation for a separate black economy was dashed by the harsh economic realities of the 1930s. The Depression reversed the gains blacks previously had made in entering the small business and service sectors and the professions, offering few alternatives to the majority of urban blacks other than unemployment in wage work. During the 1930s the majority of blacks who were employed were working in agriculture. Black owned businesses in the cities experienced a 28% loss in total sales in a constricting market; the comparable figure for white owned shops and restaurants for the period was 13%” (quote from UNIA papers, page 859, fn 7).
Marcus Garvey died penniless in 1940. By 1983, thanks to the unrelenting and tenacious efforts of staunch Garveyists, President Manley of Jamaica appealed to the US government under the Reagan administration, and Senator Jesse Helms endorsed the pardon in a statement that said Garvey had a dream of empire to valorize “Black achievement, Black participation in the free enterprise system, and of Black leadership throughout the world.” Congressman Rangel of NY also attempted to get Congressional agreement to declare the charges of mail fraud and imprisonment of Garvey unwarranted and unjust in 1987, but did not succeed.[xxxv] The Marcus Garvey Cultural Center at the University of Northern Colorado put it best:
Garvey captured the interest of the ordinary Negro as no other leader before or since, but his dream was based on a fatal flaw: his failure to understand that the overwhelming mass of Negroes considered America their rightful home and had no real desire to leave it. His weakness lay in thinking that the Negro, after helping to build America, would abandon it. His greatness lies in this daring to dream of a better future for Negroes somewhere on earth.[xxxvi]
WEB DUBOIS (1868-1963). Professor of sociology, panAfricanist, public intellectual, philosopher, historian, writer, editor, and civil rights activist. He was dedicated to educating Americans and the world about the contribution of Black people. Hence, the quote: “Would America have been America without her Negro people? made in 1903; predates the embrace of Black pride, pride in Black history, and insistence that African Americans were fundamental to the creation of America and its wealth and power.
Du Bois too had a Dream. According to him: “There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.” He was passionate about Black history, civilization, and culture, subjects on which he made magisterial contributions. He became a citizen of Ghana in 1963, at the age of 95. Before Barack Obama, he attended Harvard. Unlike him, he lived in segregated housing and had to survive as well as pay his fees by
According to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man.[xxxvii]
DuBois, a brilliant young man who enjoyed scholarship and academic pursuits, like many of the smart young people in Great Barrington, where he grew up, longed to go to Harvard for his university education, but this seemed like an impossible dream. He was able to draw upon assistance from friends and family to fund his education at Fisk. He graduated from Fisk and not having given up on attending Harvard, he applied for a scholarship that paid his fees. He was admitted as a junior, earned a BA in 1890 and started studying for his Master's and Ph.D. His experience was socially brutal but intellectually rewarding. I can relate to his DuBois on many levels. As a product of Columbia University who felt likewise, I understand at a deep psychic level what DuBois meant when he said: "I was in Harvard but not of it."[xxxviii]
DuBois completed his master's degree in the spring of 1891. However, shortly before that, ex-president Rutherford B. Hayes, the current head of a fund to educate Negroes, was quoted in the Boston Herald as claiming that they could not find one worthy to enough for advanced study abroad. DuBois' anger inspired him to apply directly to Hayes. His credentials and references were impeccable. He not only received a grant, but a letter from Hayes saying that he was misquoted.[xxxix]
DuBois wanted, and chose to study at the University of Berlin in Germany for his Ph.D. This was believed to be one of the best universities at the time. DuBois believed the doctoral degree would give him the best training for his career.
While prominent white scholars denied African-American cultural, political and social relevance to American history and civic life, in his epic work Black Reconstruction, Du Bois documented how black people were central figures in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, and also showed how they made alliances with white politicians. He provided evidence to disprove the Dunning School theories of Reconstruction, showing the coalition governments established public education in the South, as well as many needed social service programs. He demonstrated the ways in which Black emancipation— the crux of Reconstruction — promoted a radical restructuring of United States society, as well as how and why the country failed to continue support for civil rights for blacks in the aftermath of Reconstruction.
Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”
The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races. Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.[xl]
The idea of the Talented Tenth is of course elitist, but given the tremendous challenge faced by African Americans at the time, WEB DuBois believed that it was the best way to uplift African Americans and foster rapid correction of the problems instantiated and entrenched by lack of racial, economic and political justice. quoting from, his “Talented Tenth”,
In colonial days came Phillis Wheatley and Paul Cuffe striving against the bars of prejudice; and Benjamin Banneker, the almanac maker, voiced their longings when he said to Thomas Jefferson, "I freely and cheerfully acknowledge that I am of the African race and in colour which is natural to them, of the deepest dye; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that I now confess to you that I am not under that state of tyrannical thraldom and inhuman captivity to which too many of my brethren are doomed, but that I have abundantly tasted of the fruition of those blessings which proceed from that free and unequalled liberty with which you are favored, and which I hope you will willingly allow, you have mercifully received from the immediate hand of that Being from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift.
"Suffer me to recall to your mind that time, in which the arms of the British crown were exerted with every powerful effort, in order to reduce you to a state of servitude; look back, I entreat you, on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed; reflect on that period in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict, and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation, you cannot but acknowledge, that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy, you have mercifully received, and that a peculiar blessing of heaven.
"This, sir, was a time when you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of Slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition. It was then that your abhorrence thereof was so excited, that you publicly held forth this true and invaluable doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding ages: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."[xli]
Martin’s dream was connected not only to the American Dream but to DuBois’ thought, and to Banneker’s and others before him. It is also connected to Obama’s message of Hope and the dreams expressed by others in-between. DuBois in acknowledgment of the importance of history, created a record that showed what African Americans were capable of, even under the burden of slavery. As we saw earlier, MLK acknowledged the debt of all African Americans to DuBois’ pioneering efforts in documenting and explicating African American history.
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Again, drawing from the MLK speech made for the march on Washington,
So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Marian Anderson, (1902-1993). An African American singer, Marian Anderson was originally more renowned in Europe than America. However, when in 1939 she was not allowed to sing in the Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)in Washington, DC., she was propelled into public prominence. Marian Anderson said the following: “I have a great belief in the future of my people and my country.” This was an expression of hope in America as a place where African Americans could expect a betterment of their circumstances. She also said, (and this is self-explanatory): “When you stop having dreams and ideals - well, you might as well stop altogether.” And just like WEB DuBois, she appreciated and valorized the cruciality of Negro spirituals, saying: “I do not have to tell you that I dearly love the Negro spirituals. They are the unburdenings of the sorrows of an entire race, which, finding scant happiness on earth, turns to the future for its joys.” [xlii] Because Negro Spirituals externalize the deep-seated painful, emotional and psychic experiences of Africans in America, they have a healing character to them for a people who have been denied the full benefits of citizenship and the full measure of all consequent rights, entitlements and duties by their fellow citizens.
MAYA ANGELOU, the writer who through her literary, poetic, and other artistic expressions, documented an essential element of the contribution of African American experience in the American imagination. In relation to dreams, Maya Angelou said: “I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition -- about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive.”[xliii] As articulated in the quote, Maya sees dreams as one of the ways in which the human condition finds expression. Dreaming is also presented coterminously with endurance, failure and survival in a manner that like Martin Luther King’s dream, seems to evoke its normalization and inevitability.
THE RADICAL RESPONSE: THE PANTHERS, MALCOLM X
One could see the slave insurrections, revolts and rebellions as precursors of the radical response within the Black freedom movement. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense and the Malcolm X will be taken as exemplifying the radical response in the 20th century. The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland California, October 1966 by a group of people led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The Panthers’ ideology of militant self-defense against the racist government and institutions of the United States advocated armed struggle, revolutionary socialism, mass organizing and community based programs. While their ideals were not always realized in fact, the Black Panthers were trailblazers who sought economic, political and social equality through positive organized and militant action by the oppressed across racial, ethnic, class and gender lines. [xliv]
The Black Panther Party and Malcolm X were deeply committed to militant, revolutionary strategies for liberation. Both perspectives advocated that oppressed people develop dignity and self-respect, a will to confront the oppressor, and struggle relentlessly until full equality became a reality for all oppressed minorities. They believed that those in oppressed communities should engage in the building of institutions that would serve their needs, particularly in the absence of government will and/or resources. As well, they shared the belief that the vanguard of political activists should be exceptional role models, hard-working community organizers who design and provide social services; particularly in the realm of welfare and education. They also shared a belief in the importance of “international working class unity across the spectrum of color and gender, and thus united with various minority and white revolutionary groups.” The Panthers combined elements of Maoism with Marxism, considered their Party the vanguard of the revolution and attempted to develop a united front, to challenge the capitalist economic system, using the theory of dialectical materialism. Thus, they advocated a coming to arms by all workers and oppressed people to forcibly overthrow the capitalist state and its bourgeois sponsors.[xlv]
Practical, cold analysis may suggest that there is nothing more remote from dreaming than the Black Panthers. What could the advocacy of violent armed resistance possibly have to do with dreaming? To the contrary, I argue that the Black Panthers too were dreaming of attaining the full benefits of citizenship but they chose to use the force of arms to accomplish their goals. They also dreamed to the extent that they were a small, community based movement that was organizing and mobilizing to face off against one of the superpowers of the day in a “David and Goliath” type struggle. Of course the story is well known, because their audacity brought the full force of the state on their heads and they were infiltrated, pursued, hunted down, murdered and imprisoned. Some chose exile. The movement declined into obscurity.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965). He also became known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after his pilgrimage to Mecca. Malcolm X. was an African American Muslim Imam, eloquent and powerful public speaker, and committed human rights activist. He was both adored and reviled. Those who supported and believed in his vision saw Malcolm X as a bold activist who was uncompromising in his belief that the United States of America had to grant full citizenship rights to African Americans. He consistently spoke out against white privilege and white supremacy as spawning a system that normalized the oppression of black Americans. Malcolm X was also excoriated by white critics for advocating racial discrimination, prejudice and bloodshed.
In his Ballot or Bullet speech of April 12, 1964 in Detroit, MI, Malcolm X said the following:
I don't believe in fighting today in any one front, but on all fronts. In fact I'm a Black Nationalist Freedom Fighter. Islam is my religion, but I believe my religion is my personal business.... The economic philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that we should own and operate and control the economy of our community.
This government has failed us, the government itself has failed us. The white liberals, who have been posing as our friends, have failed us. Once we see that all these other sources to which we've turned have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self-help program, a do it yourself philosophy, a do it right now philosophy, an it's already too late philosophy. This is what you and I need to get with... Black Nationalism is a self-help philosophy... this is a philosophy that eliminates the necessity for division and argument.
Malcolm X too was pursued relentlessly by the US government and its agents, and finally was executed by forces sponsored by the FBI. As with the Black Panthers, Malcolm X would seem to be the last person to conceive as having a dream. He spoke of the need for Black Nationalism, he spoke of the necessity to mobilize an armed military struggle against all forms of oppression, economic, political, and social. He advocated self-help as a corrective to government neglect and hostility. He also advocated freedom of conscience. But he dreamed, and the dream was that through this mobilization, African Americans would be liberated from a racist political system that had also pushed them to the margins and fringes of the economy. For him, all forms of discrimination should be fought at all times until complete freedom was accomplished.
The Obama Phenomenon: The Joshua generation
If Martin Luther King and his generation are the Moses generation for African Americans, Obama is part of the Joshua generation. Martin and all the other Moses’ were visionary, although not despondent. In his last speech, Martin Luther King embraced the mantle of Moses when he told us that he had seen the promised land but might not get there with them. Let’s hear him:
Africans in America and intraracial identity – an evolving story - The Old and New African Diaspora, emphasis on Obama's Kenya origin: continuity and change
The story of Africans in America is still being told. It is a rich, complex, extraordinary strory of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of seemingly overwhelming and intractable adversity. It is a story of oppression, of dreaming, of the weaving together of the lives of an old and new Diaspora, intertwined by linkages of intraracial identity. It is a much too complex story to be told here. Suffice it to say that Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, through blood, marriage, and other kinship relations, weaves together the old and new Diasporas. He was born to a Kenyan father, who like me, came to the United States to study. He married a white woman from Kansas, they had a baby. He left the US when Barack was only two years old. They did not have a close relationship. Yet Barack could write a book titled: Dreams from my Father, in which he eulogized his father and asserted his connection to both the African dream of an immigrant student who was one of the nationalists of his day. He also has asserted the American Dream in a manner that connects with the African American story again and again. In many ways, Obama is like my children, they are products of immigrant parents but more American than continental African. Although Obama was raised by his white single mother and grandparents. White origins notwithstanding, Barack is still considered a Black man To all intents and purposes, he is compelled to live the life of a Black man in America. For this reason it must be painful for him to hear that he’s not black enough. It is painful for me as well. It is gratifying that Obama embraced life as a Black man in America. That he tried to study the history, understand the struggle and aftger getting the excellent education that he did, he sought to give back by becoming a community organizer. He also took on some civil rights cases pro bono as an attorney in one of Chicago’s law firms.
Barack embraced the Joshua legacy at his Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia speech on January 20, 2008. According to him,
The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.
But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram's horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.[xlvi]
As part of the Joshua generation, Barack sees himself as standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before, those whose sweat, blood and tears, unrelenting hopes and dreams blazed the trail to freedom and equity. In this speech, he sees the walls of racism, inequality and oppression as formidable but NOT insurmountable. He also asserted the need for a spiritual approach, combined with united action under the leadership of one who has the message as well as the charge of leadership from God, as vital elements in the struggle to overcome.
On inauguration day, Obama’s speech acknowledged the increased formidability of the challenge faced by America and Americans, but also exhorted his audience to remain hopeful and motivated to work for change:
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.[xlvii]
As President, Obama has a tremendously challenging task. The economic meltdown makes it even more serious. Is it then rational to speak of renewal? Clearly America is at a special crossroads. There is the opportunity to renew the dream of past generations, but in very difficult economic times. This also has examples we can draw upon from the past. The most recent is the Great Depression when most people lost everything, including the will to live. Under FDR, positive government action created a structure that enabled economic recovery. What do Americans expect from an Obama administration? Most Americans are anxious. There is the feeling that “we have overcome”, but…How about the economy? How about the health care crisis?: How about the housing debacle? How about unemployment? How about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? How about ---FILL IN THE BLANK.
It’s then crucial to ask the question: What would renewal done well look like both domestically and internationally? For the US, Renewal done well would first hearken to the MLK injunction that America live up to its creed that the Dream of full citizenship rights becomes reality. This also means that as he said in other contexts (and this notion is to be found in all the great women and men quoted above), people must be ready to struggle, march, insist on justice and face down the oppressors. Today, many have said that we are in a post racial moment. This means that WEB DuBois’ assertion that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line is no longer germane because we have overcome. Is this necessarily the case? Is this a post racial moment?
It is necessary to deconstruct and interrogate the "post-racial moment." As I see it, this is by no means a post racial moment. Race is still very relevant although we live in a world that is influenced profoundly by new worldwide events. Many would see globalization as the defining characteristic of this age. I don’t, for me, globalization is as old as time itself. We are highly interconnected and the technological innovations are dazzling and dizzying. However, it must have seemed the same way for past generations when innovations were made. The economic meltdown of today recalls the Great Depression. The mechanisms being used are also indicative of the resurgence of the Keynesianism found useful by the FDR administration, and the downgrading of Neoliberal Economics.
What then are the challenges and possibilities of the moment? The challenges are tremendous – economic renewal, rehabilitation and recovery, racial reconciliation, ensuring that America lives up to its creed. Immigration also looms large. We have not as a nation, truly processed the ways in which the contemporary immigration of Africans into America have complicated our understandings of who is black, what black means, who is more or less entitled to the benefits of citizenship. These issues raised their heads early on in the Democratic primaries when some African Americans looked askance at a black man who was not a direct descendant of slaves claiming blackness. Obama too pitched himself not as a black man running for President, but an American whose race matters less than his commitment to American values and ideals. During the Democratic primaries, his Kenyan aunt Zeituni Onyango, was reported to be an undocumented alien who outstayed her visa, “illegally” donated a modest amount to the campaign, and was supposedly scheduled for hearings to determine her status and ability to legally continue her stay in the US. The information was leaked to the press, allegedly by a Bush administration appointee, who was suspended pending investigation.[xlviii] The incident and much of the right wing oppositional commentary it generated raise the specter of immigration as a dirty secret, of continued fear of immigrants as a drain on the US economy, and of immigrants as a general problem that could be manifested in many different, unexpected ways. I saw the inauguration ceremony on various TV stations, switching between PBS, ABC and CBS. I saw a black woman in a headwrap, but she was never introduced to the audience, although all the major and minor dignitaries as well as various and sundry celebrities were. I surmised that the headwrap wearing woman must be a relative of the President from Kenya, and was happy that they were included. A friend later told me that the station she watched identified the woman as a Kenyan relative of the President. I still wonder about the silences on Obama’s Kenya origins, but know that in time, America will have to grapple with the new Africans in America. I know too that in the private sphere and in many workplaces, such grappling is underway. The grappling is not always warm and effusive, but could also be tense and abrasive. It is slowly being documented, although incompletely. I contribute to this effort in an article written shortly after the Democratic Party’s 2004 Convention, “Dimensions of African Migration to the United States: Labor, Brain Drain, Identity Formation and Naturalization,” published in the online journal that I co-edit titled: Ìrìnkèrindò: a Journal of African Migration, I said on this subject:
Barack Obama is a second generation immigrant whose father hails from Kenya, and his mother is a white American. Theresa Heinz-Kerry is a naturalized Mozambiçan American. She is a first generation immigrant. Both Obama and Heinz-Kerry drew heavily upon their African roots in their speeches, emphasizing their recent American origins. Viewing the program on the Voice of America in Nigeria exposed one to a significant amount of triumphalism by the African host who described Obama as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King rolled into one, and characterized Heinz-Kerry and Obama ‘s participation as a probable African foreign aid to the United States. Senator Charles Rangel, Democratic Member of the House of Representatives, from Harlem saw the two as an example of the openness and expansiveness of America’s embrace of immigrants. They made such great strides so rapidly, he argued because America is the only country where it matters not a whit where you come from. The sky is the limit if you work hard and decide to integrate. He emphasized the fact that Obama is a Columbia and Harvard alumnus, a person who is not only African but American in all the senses of the word. He also cast Heinz-Kerry in the same light. Whose interpretation of Obama and Heinz-Kerry’s participation should one consider more relevant, the host’s triumphalism or Congressman Rangel’s banality? We argue that neither interpretation is characteristic of the African immigrant experience in the United States. For one thing, these are very privileged people, and attention to the class origin and position of the individuals in question is relevant. Heinz-Kerry is wealthier than majority of Americans, white, black, or other, and even if Obama came from humble roots, by virtue of his Columbia and Harvard education, he is more privileged than most Americans as well. Heinz-Kerry also came from privileged roots, since her father was a white man who was a doctor in a country where apartheid automatically privileged whites over blacks. She also married into money, both in her first marriage and her second. Finally, Heinz-Kerry is white, and were she not to mention her Mozambiçan heritage, most Americans would assume that she is a multi-generational American due to the profound influence of race on American social, economic and political life. Heinz-Kerry’s color offers her a kind of invisibility that no black person could have in America.
It is also important to consider that neither Obama nor Heinz-Kerry claimed to represent Africa or African immigrants. It is doubtful that their participation would make one iota of difference to the lives of the overwhelming majority of African immigrants, and it is even likely that their prominence would generate some backlash against recent African immigrants who may be perceived by native born Americans as usurping their position and “reaping where they did not sow”. This latter point may be considered by some to be far-fetched, but only if one forgets the point made recently by Professors Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Harvard University about recent African and Caribbean immigrants taking the places that ought to be reserved for African Americans in the Ivy League schools. Professor Gates also mused about probably having to “bottle” whatever it is that these new immigrants have and selling it to African Americans to make them similarly successful, thus trivializing the immense and enduring effects of racism in America, where it is the color of one’s skin that determines how one is treated , and not necessarily the place of origin. Or is Professor Gates right? Are white Americans using new African and Caribbean immigrants as wedges to prevent African Americans from accessing and enjoying the benefits of affirmative action, which was wrested from white American institutions only with the sweat, blood, and tears expended in long years of struggle for civil rights. Although this issue will be considered in this editorial, it is impossible to address it conclusively here, instead, its significance makes it worthy of being the subject of a special issue in the future.[xlix]
As for the world, there are many trouble spots. Zimbabwe, Congo, the Sudan, and Somalia are some in the African continent. The Middle East is experiencing another serious crisis between the Israeli and Palestinians. Iraq and Afghanistan remain challenging for America, which opened two warfronts, one in each country during the Bush administration. And there is the rampaging terror of the economic meltdown which has left no country untouched. Even in these times, the possibilities are defined by hope, daring to dream, working to actualize the dream and ensuring that we all become truly free, able to pursue happiness –beyond the almighty dollar, and are able to enjoy the unalienable gifts with which the Almighty has endowed us.
I will take a moment to consider again the question: What does the Obama phenomenon mean for all Americans? This I see as a time of hope, a time when we should dare to dream but be ready to work. It took over 400 years for America to develop into the country that it now is. One person, no matter how phenomenal, cannot singlehandedly solve the problems. Obama said as much in his January 21 2008 speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church (MLK’s church) in Atlanta, Georgia. He chose to speak about the story of Joshua leading the Israelites to the promised land, and facing the formidable wall of Jericho. He casts the struggle as one of fierce urgency and need for unity, because “unity is how we shall overcome” this for him means collective action, justice, need to overcome moral deficit. Empathy deficit, bad schools, corporate greed, unscrupulous lending, healthcare crisis, Scooter Libby Justice vs. Jena Justice, Nooses on a tree in a schoolyard, homelessness, slaughter of innocents in the deserts of Darfur, endless service tours to fight in Iraq for some and none for others.
How then does this affect the nature of the dream and possibilities? Obama also said Americans tend to believe unity can be bought on the cheap. We ignore profound structural and institutional barriers to unity but don’t want to pay the price.
No change is possible if hearts and minds are not changed, if people do not want to stand in others’ shoes. If we do not all oppose divisive politics and otherization.
To what effect? For Marcus Garvey, who by this time, had been freed from jail, went to Toronto in August 1938, and made a speech titled: “Suggestions for the good and welfare of the Race: A Great Appeal.” Part of his exhortation was that black people need to develop unity of purpose in order to succeed in fighting against oppression. Among other things, he said:
It is something that you must dream. Except you can dream it you cannot see the visions of it. It is as true as you and I are here.
He went on to reiterate the importance of racial unity and purposefulness. He recommended the establishment of serious institutions, and saw the UNIA as an ideal example because it was founded by serious minds for uplifting the race
from their position to the hope that they might be able to establish themselves as one of the units that God or nature made when he made man. …to at least accomplish this dream, we must work hard[,] then it will become a reasonable possibility as reasonable as it was for Italy to invade Abyssinia. It only wants organization.[l] The programme of the UNIA is to bring to the race something that is positive out of which would rise a new race with a new dream.[li]
MARCUS GARVEY SPEECH JULY 1921 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIiae5Pu234
Thus, the urgent need is for unity of purpose, to fuel the fight against oppression. Racial unity is also crucial. By this Garvey meant the collective action of black people for self help and the purposeful creation of institutions to harness the collective efforts to fight against oppression. Purposeful action is also an essential part of moving from dream to reality. Thus Garvey saw a need for what he called “serious minds organized for uplifting from their position to the hope that they might be able to establish themselves as of the units that God or nature made when he made man.
Investment so that African Americans become part of the “ownership society.”
Martin Luther King said in his “I have a Dream” speech of what the realization of the dream would look like:
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
WEB DuBois should be approached again for a penultimate word on the inquiry: A Dream Renewed? Africans in America and the Obama Phenomenon. One year before we end the first decade of the 21st Century, there is a deep recession in America and the world. Numerous people are laid off and must cut corners, while many are left with few to no options. To explicate the level of despair currently buffeting America and the world, Glaude draws from WEB DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk to show that Americans today face situations of “layered complexity”. DuBois in the eulogy for Alexander Crumell, identified three temptations that stand between Black people and self realization/actualization: Hate, Despair and Doubt. For Glaude, drawing on DuBois, Despair is by far the most problematic and debilitating of all three temptations, since Hate and Doubt can be more easily defeated, but Deapair combines doubt with lack of capacity to imagine a future. When juxtaposed with change, conceived as hope, excitement, and euphoria, there’s a need for deep, incisive realism in considering possible alternatives. Those who succumb to despair see no hope for the future. Hope on the other hand remains confident that the future is not only possible, but bright. Those in despair should be motivated to re-connect to hope.
Barack Obama presented his vision to the American people as a message of hope. He also sees himself as the harbinger or hope. Seen in light of DuBois’ analysis in The Souls of Black Folks, Barack offers the antidote to despair. In essence, he brings a message that offers an opportunity to renew the American dream in a manner that is relevant to the present challenges confronted by the country and people. That Obama advocates the necessity of hope is not to imply that he supports passivity. Time and again he like MLK, exhorts his audience to work assiduously to as Jesse Jackson said, “Keep Hope Alive.” DuBois warns that such work may be solitary, requiring immense stoicism, tenacity, selflessness, and unacknowledged.[lii]
And for the final word, from the Obama inauguration speech:
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.
We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.
We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality...... and lower its costs.
We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.[liii]
It is part of the Barack Obama phenomenon that America is yet again, a nation of immigrants, and of the melding together of white and black, the embrace of all Americans, people of all races, creeds, faiths, colors, ethnicity, sexualities, non-believers and believers, to strive to renew the American Dream with confidence, tenacity and diligence. Will the dream be renewed? No doubt. Will it be perfect? There is no perfection in this world, but that should not prevent people from dreaming.
[i] (Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882)
[ii] (Franklin, 1755)
[iii] (Martin Luther King)
[iv] (Obama, 2007)
[v] (Martin Luther King)
[vi] (Obama's Speech At Lincoln Memorial, 2009)
[vii] (Martin Luther King)
[viii] (Obama's Speech At Lincoln Memorial, 2009)
[ix] (Tavis Smiley Show, 2009)
[x] (Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, 1995)
[xi] (DuBois W., Chapter II: Of the Dawn of Freedom, 1903)
[xii] (Foner, 2003)
[xiii] (Foner, 2003)
[xv] (Women's History.About.com )
[xvi] (Zora Neale Hurston Biography)
[xvii] (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002)
[xviii] (Arna Bontemps Quotes)
[xix] (2002 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.)
[xx] (Claude McKay Quotes)
[xxi] (Mary McLeod Bethune Quotes)
[xxii] (Slave Insurrections, 1526-1864)
[xxiii] (US History Encyclopedia, 2006)
[xxiv] (US History Encyclopedia, 2006)
[xxv] (Douglass, 1852)
[xxvi] (Butler, 1997)
[xxvii] (O Freedom: A Negro Spiritual)
[xxviii] (DuBois W. , Chapter XIV: The Sorrow Songs, 1903)
[xxx] ((The Marcus Garvey & UNIA Papers (University of California, p. 270, 2009)
[xxxi] (Grant, 2008)
[xxxii] ((The Marcus Garvey & UNIA Papers (University of California, p. 299-300, 2009)
[xxxiii] ((The Marcus Garvey & UNIA Papers (University of California, p. 806, 2009)
[xxxiv] (Myrdal, 1944)
[xxxv] ((The Marcus Garvey & UNIA Papers (University of California, p. 608, 2009)
[xxxvi] (Colorado, 2009)
[xl] (DuBois, 1903)
[xli] (DuBois, 1903 )
[xlii] (Marian Anderson Quotes)
[xliii] (Maya Angelou Quotes)
[xliv] (The Black Panthers)
[xlv] (The Black Panthers)
[xlvi] (Obama, Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: The Great Need of the Hour Atlanta, GA | , 2008)
[xlvii] (Obama, Transcript: Barack Obama's Inaugural Address, 2009)
[xlviii] (Kiely, 2008)
[xlix] (Okome, 2004)
[l] (Colorado, 2009, p. 880)
[li] Ibid, p. 886.
[lii] (DuBois W. , 1903)
[liii] (Obama, Transcript: Barack Obama's Inaugural Address, 2009)