At the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, we are working diligently to share our resources by offering public programs that feature some of the interviews in our collection. Through these public programs, we have taken oral histories off the archival shelves and turned them into documentary form, public readings, and panel discussions.
Our first public program featured Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson, who spoke about his latest book, The Day of Battle, which is the second title in his trilogy on the liberation of Europe. Our World World II public program premiered a SPOHP-produced documentary titled I Just Wanted to Live! and provided a panel discussion among four veterans whose oral histories are included in the SPOHP World War II Collection. Our last program shined a spotlight on Florida Black History and included a panel discussion, an award presentation, and inspirational music, dance, and spoken word performances.
To read more about each program, just click on the title below to open or close the content and learn more!
Acclaimed author, historian, and faculty member at Evergreen State College Stephanie Coontz visited the University of Florida on March 13 a series of events focusing on her groundbreaking research into the history of family policy and women's activism in America. Coontz teaches history and family studies and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001-2004. Coontz has authored and co-edited several books about the history of the family and marriage.
In the afternoon, she participated in a campus roundtable discussion in the Ustler Hall Atrium focusing on her acclaimed book, "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawning of the 1960s" at 2:30 p.m. In the evening, she gave a public presentation, "Madmen, Working 'Girls', and Desperate Housewives: Women, Men and Marriage in 1963 and 2013," at 6 p.m. in Pugh Hall. The event also included a book signing.
See Professor Coontz on the "Colbert Report" with Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central ...... HERE
Read "The Myth of Male Decline", an article in The New York Times Sunday Review by Professor Coontz.....HERE
The event was sponsored by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research. Co-sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, the Department of English, Philip Wegner, Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar Chair, the George A. Smathers Library, and the Journal of Family Issues.
From February 21-22, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program joined the McComb Legacies group of McComb High School in Mississippi for their conference, "Exploring Our Past, Shaping Our Future" a student-directed event celebrating local Civil Rights history. This special two-day event was organized by five McComb students who traveled through the Mississippi Delta last September with SPOHP on our annual Mississippi Freedom Project trip.
The conference, organized and coordinated by McComb High School students, included an interactive panel discussion, student-led Civil Rights sites driving tour, and onsite oral history interviews. Legacies Project students also debuted their documentary, "The Voting Rights Struggle," which they submitted for National History Day's nation-wide contest. Their documentary later won first place in the state of Mississippi, and the students will submit their work for the nation-wide contest this summer in Washington, D.C.
The Zinn Education Project, coordinated by the nonprofits Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change, is cosponsoring the event. This two day convening coincides with research and documentation by the McComb Legacies students in preparation for the 2013 National History Day competition. To find out more information about this conference, read the McComb High School Legacies blog post: http://mccomblegacies.org/blog/2012/12/1068/
On the evening of February 12, Dr. Alan Rosen presented a program at the University of Florida about his research on a series of some of the earliest oral history interviews ever conducted with Holocaust survivors. The importance of these interviews, which were recorded by Dr. David Boder in the years immediately following World War II, are detailed in Rosen’s book, “The Evidence of Trauma: David Boder and Writing the History of Holocaust Testimony.”
Dr. Rosen earned his PhD in literature and religion at Boston University, where he studied under renowned Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel. He has taught Holocaust literature at universities in the United States and Israel, and Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem. Dr. Rosen is the author of two monographs, “Sounds of Defiance: The Holocaust, Multilingualism, and the Problem of English” and “Dislocating the End: Climax, Closure, and the Invention of Genre.” From 2004 to 2005, Rosen was the Ruth Meltzer Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania at. He has published over a dozen scholarly articles on the Holocaust in literature, and is the recipient of numerous scholarly awards for his work, including from Bar-Ilan University and the National Center for Genocide Studies.
This event included a book signing, and was sponsored by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and UF Hillel.
Read the news release for this event........HERE
On January 15, SPOHP students and staff presented a panel at the Civic Media Center to discuss their experiences from SPOHP's fifth annual Mississippi Freedom Project research trip last September. Panelists Jessica Taylor, Joanna Joseph, Justin Dunnuvant and Diana Dombrowski reflected on how their time in the Delta provided them with a better working understanding of social movements in American history and discussed the value of hands-on research experience they gained during the trip. The panel also featured selections from an organizing workshop held with Lawrence Guyot, a prolific SNCC organizer directed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964.
On the evening of Wednesday, November 14, the University of Florida hosted Dr. Larry Rivers, President of Fort Valley State University, for a public program at Pugh Hall at 6 pm on his new book, “Rebels and Runaways: Slave Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Florida.” President Rivers will also be signing copies of his books “Rebels and Runaways” and “Slavery in Florida.”
Dr. Rivers is an award-winning author of numerous books and essays on African American history, including “Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation.” Under his leadership, Fort Valley State University has risen to become one of the top-ranked Black Colleges in the United States and was recently ranked 9th among the top regional public colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report.
Larry Rivers earned his PhD at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1977. For more than twenty years, Dr. Rivers taught history at Florida A & M University, ultimately receiving the rank of Distinguished University Professor. During that time, he held a series of administrative appointments, leading to his selection in 2002 as Dean of the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Rivers is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Fort Valley State University National Alumni Association, Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sigma Pi Phi (The Grand Boule) Fraternity, the Urban League and Prince Hall Masonic Lodge.
President Rivers was also Hank Conner’s guest on the WUFT-FM program “Conner Calling” on Friday, November 9.
The public program was sponsored by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, George A. Smathers Libraries, UF African American Studies Program, Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, Institute of Black Culture, UF Department of Anthropology, UF Office of the Provost, Bob Graham Center for Public Service, UF Speech and Debate Team, North Star Leadership Council and UF Black Graduate Student Organization.
In September 2012, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program launched its fifth annual Mississippi Freedom Project research trip to the Mississippi Delta. For the fourth year in a row, SPOHP held a Civil Rights Movement and Oral History in the Mississippi Delta panel event at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS. On Wednesday, September 19, students and community members from Cleveland gathered to hear prominent scholars and community organizers who have participated in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and beyond. The theme of this year’s panel was, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil Rights Movement Organizer: Lessons and Legacies.” Panelists explored Hamer’s approach to organizing for social change, and we will consider how these lessons can be applied today to deepen our commitment to economic justice, democracy, and a deeper understanding of American history. Participants: GWENDOLYN ZOHARAH SIMMONS, A former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) project coordinator in Laurel, Dr. Simmons is a professor at the University of Florida and teaches courses on Islam, Women, Religion and Society as well as African American Religious Traditions. For twenty-three years, Dr. Simmons was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization working for peace, justice, human rights and international development headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
MARGARET KIBBEE, A member of SNCC in the Mississippi Delta during the 1960s, Kibbee is now member of the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization. Kibbee was a college student from northern California who was assigned to work for SNCC in Indianola during college. She was a community organizer with SNCC, and had many different responsibilities pertaining to voter registration work. Kibbee stayed in the Delta after her time with SNCC and has devoted her work to Legal Services, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, and prison reform groups among other organizations.
BRIGHT WINN, A member of SNCC and COFO in the Mississippi Delta from 1964-65, Winn returned from Mississippi to work as a longshoreman, and then went to San Francisco State College to get a teacher's credential in secondary education. At that time Winn joined the Third World Strike in 1969 at San Francisco State. Winn became a plumbing contractor and ran his business for thirty-five years, remaining vigilant in hiring minorities on his staff. Winn provided invaluable training to young people and minorities to stabilize their economic viability.
BILL CHANDLER, A veteran of the United Farm Workers, Chandler participated in the 1965 grape boycott effort and organized cross-border actions with Mexican and American workers to support the United Farm Workers in their efforts to improve conditions, even in the face of police harassment and brutality. Chandler is executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance. Today, Chandler’s organizing focus is primarily with the lowest paid workers in the South, including farm workers, hospitality, health care, public and immigrant workers.
D'ARMY BAILEY, An attorney, retired circuit court judge, civil rights activist, former alderman of Berkeley, CA, author and film actor currently living in Memphis, Bailey founded the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and wrote two books, Mine Eyes Have Seen: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Final Journey, and The Education of a Black Radical. Bailey practiced law for 16 years in Memphis before being elected as a judge on the Circuit Court of Tennessee's Thirtieth Judicial District in 1990. Bailey also portrayed a judge in the 1999 film The People vs. Larry Flynt.
Panel Organizers and Sponsors: The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida, co-sponsors include the Agora Club at Delta State University, Diversity Advisory Committee at Delta State University, Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization, The Sam Block Civil Rights Organization, and Patricia Stephens Due and John Due Freedom Foundation.
See Delta State news release: http://www.deltastate.edu/pages/1073.asp?item=9520
Peter Wood, a professor emeritus at Duke University, spoke at the University of Florida on February 7, 2012 at The Harn Museum about his book, “Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer's Civil War,” and about what people can learn from art to get a better understanding of American history. His talk is part of the Black History Month celebration.
Read the Gainesville Sun's article on Dr. Woods' visit to UF
The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations would like to sincerely thank our co-sponsors for their generous assistance in planning this event: The University of Florida African American Studies Program, the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, The Center for African Studies, The Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research, the UF Department of Anthropology, George A. Smathers Libraries, the UF Department of History, the Office of the Provost, and the Gainesville Women's Liberation.
The event was a great success! Thank you to all who attended.
In 1960 Patricia Stephens Due and five other students from Florida A&M University made history when they chose a jail cell rather than paying a fine for sitting at a "Whites Only" lunch counter in Tallahassee, Florida. The 49 days Due served in jail represented the first "Jail-In" of the Civil Rights Movement, and the beginning of her lifelong fight for human and civil rights in America.
As one of the leading civil rights activists in the nation, Patricia Stephens Due has devoted her life to social justice and equality. At age thirteen, she defied Jim Crow and a “COLORED ONLY” sign by standing in a segregated line at a south Florida Dairy Queen. At age nineteen, she and her sister Priscilla Stephens established a Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) chapter in Tallahassee, Florida. And at age twenty, she organized a protest that became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.
In 1960, Due led her sister and three other students from Florida A&M University in a lunch counter sit-in at a Woolworth’s store in Tallahassee. They were arrested for their actions, and told they could either pay a fine, or go to jail. They chose jail. Ultimately, the forty-nine days they spent behind bars generated national and international media coverage, and even drew the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On March 19, 1960, the jailed students received a telegram from Dr. King that offered words of encouragement:
"I have just learned of your courageous willingness to go to jail instead of paying fines for your righteous protest against segregated eating facilities. Through your decision you have again proven that there is nothing more majestic and sublime than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of freedom. You have discovered anew the meaning of the cross, and as Christ died to make men holy, you are suffering to make men free. As you suffer the inconvenience of remaining in jail, please remember that unearned suffering is redemptive. Going to jail for a righteous cause is a badge of honor and a symbol of dignity. I assure you that your valiant witness is one of the glowing epics of our time and you are bringing all of America nearer [to] the threshold of the world's bright tomorrows."
While this jail-in was a critical moment for the movement, it was just the beginning of Due’s commitment to civil rights. Through protests, marches, boycotts, voting drives, lectures, presentations, and workshops, Due has inspired young generations of black and white students. She has been honored with multiple awards including the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Outstanding Leadership, the Gandhi Award for Outstanding Work in Human Relations, and the Florida Freedom Award from the NAACP. Although she was suspended several times as an undergraduate student for her activism in the 1960s, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater Florida A&M University.
John Dorsey Due, Jr. is a prominent civil rights attorney who was selected by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to serve as Field Secretary for the organization's first voter education and registration project in North Florida. Due's work in Florida registered more African Americans to vote than another region in the South.
Attorney Due has devoted his life to civil rights advocacy and activism. Beginning at age fourteen, when he became a member of the Youth Council of the NAACP, Due has participated in some of the most seminal episodes of the movement.
In 1961, while still a law student, he was a member of the CORE Freedom Rides testing the prohibition of segregation in interstate transportation—taking his textbooks along on the bus to not fall behind with his studies. Shortly after marrying Patricia Stephens in January 1963 he became a co-defendant in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Due v. Tallahassee Theaters, where the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that no state could interfere with non-violent protesters exercising their freedom of speech. After passing the bar he argued Florida v. Hayling, a case involving friends that were almost burned alive at a Ku Klux Klan rally, and later he become a part of the first integrated law firm in the state of Florida.
Over the course of his career Due has been retained as counsel on many important court cases, voting projects, and labor initiatives. He has organized community action programs in the war on poverty in many North Florida counties, and has been instrumental in voter education. After establishing a private law practice, Due went on to a distinguished career in county government that spanned over thirty years. He has left a legacy of public service that still resonates today, and has been recognized with many awards including the Chancey Eskridge Distinguished Barrister Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Martin Luther King “Keepers of the Dream Award” from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, and the “Foot Soldiers Award” from the NAACP.
The words of Monica Russo, President of Local 1199 of the Florida Services Employees International Union, and Co-Chair and Co-Founder of South Florida Jobs with Justice, best summarize Due’s involvement and commitment: “John Due epitomizes a grass-roots activism— his mission is the empowerment of disenfranchised communities—not credit or glory for the work he does. He has dedicated his life to fighting against racism and fighting for our children to have quality education, for workers to have the right to a decent way of life, basically for equality."
On April 14, 2010 Dr. Mike Honey, author of Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign spoke to an audience at the Eastside Recreation Center about the change enacted by Martin Luther King Jr. and its relevance in the age of President Obama.
On April 8, 2010, Vivian Filer, Kathie Sarachild, Gene Martin, Deany Overman, Sallie Ann Harrison, and Corkie Culver gathered at the Matheson Museum to discuss the ongoing struggle for social justice, gender equality and human rights.
These seven female activists served as important members of the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, League of Women Voters and the Gainesville community at large.
Activists Among Us: Women’s Activism in Gainesville is the first of many initiatives the SPOHP is taking towards the collection and preservation of historical materials on the history of women’s activism in Gainesville.
With this public program, our hope was to facilitate a dialogue on the importance of African American history, as well as the urgent need to gather, preserve, and promote Florida black history to younger generations before this history is lost forever.
The event, which took place on March 17, 2009, was attended by more than 250 people in Library East, and featured inspirational music, dance, and spoken word performances. UF President Bernie Machen presented Joel Buchanan with an achievement award in honor of his work to preserve and promote African American history for future generations. During the 1980s, Joel Buchanan documented the lives of many residents in Gainesville's Fifth Avenue community. These interviews are now part of the Oral History Program's collection. Joel Buchanan is a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award and the Rosa Parks Silent Courage Award.
The program acknowledged the presence and contributions of revered, living persons whose sacrifices in the past-as students-played key roles in the development of UF as a place honoring diversity and inclusion. Several of the "firsts" (original African American graduates of UF's various colleges) were present and recognized by President Machen: Federal Judge Stephan Mickle, his wife, Evelyn Marie Moore Mickle, and Reuben Brigety. Sherry DuPree, Gwendolyn Zohara Simmons, and Dan Harmeling joined Evelyn Mickle as panelists, rounding out the discussion group, with each contributor bringing unique offerings of personal experience with past racism and its implications in today's world. The conceptual developer of this public event was Marna Weston, a third-year doctoral student in Agricultural Education and Communication at UF.
The UF Gospel Choir, the Black Student Union Leadership Council, and Madear's Kids gave inspiring performances at the event.
Watch a slideshow featuring Madear's Kids.
This event was co-sponsored by SPOHP; UF African American Studies Program; George A. Smathers Library East; Bob Graham Center for Public Service; UF Center for African Studies; UF Department of History; UF Office of the Provost; Civic Media Center; Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, Inc.; Yavitz Fund of the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville; Social Justice Council; Anti-Racism Coalition; North Star Leadership Council Alumni; and Alachua County Historic Trust--Matheson Museum, Inc.
See story about this event in the Summer 2009 History Speaks newsletter, pages 14-15. (Linked on the homepage.)
Carlos Munoz, Jr. wrote:
I am pleased to share my recent keynote on Dr. King.
From Dr. King to President Obama:
A Call for an Authentic Multiracial Democracy
Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
Delivered at the University of New England
January 21, 2009
I never turn down an invitation to speak about Dr. King. Especially this time around because we not only honor Dr. King and his legacy today, but we also celebrate the election of the first African American President in our nation's history. It was truly a historic moment. As a veteran of the 1960's civil rights movement and as one who has been marching for freedom for over 40 years, I feel blessed that I lived long enough to witness President Obama's election.
Dr. King inspired people from all walks of life to tap into their own inner spirit and courage and to commit their lives to the struggles for racial equality, social justice, human rights, and peace. If he were alive today there is no doubt that he would still be inspiring us to continue the long march to freedom.
Dr. King inspired me to contribute to the making of the Mexican American civil rights movement throughout the Southwest. It became known as the Chicano movement. The movement was ignited by non-violent protest by Mexican American students against racism in the largely segregated high schools of Los Angeles, California. Over 10,000 students walked out of the schools on March 3, 1968, and brought the nation's largest school system to a standstill. It was the first time Mexican Americans had marched against racial and ethnic inequality in the history of the United States.
Several weeks after the 1968 student strike. I was one of thirteen Mexican American civil rights activists indicted and imprisoned for "conspiracy to disrupt the educational system of the city of Los Angeles". We each faced 66 years in prison for the felony "crime" of conspiring to organize non-violent protest. It took two years for the higher courts of the State of California to free us from the conspiracy charges. In 1970, the State Appellate Court ruled we were innocent by virtue of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I thank God for that amendment and the civil liberties we enjoy every day. If it were not for that amendment, which as you know, grants us freedom of speech, I would be in prison today instead of being with you. Regretfully, the Patriot Act that was established during the Bush Presidency undermined that amendment and our civil liberties. I pray that it will be terminated during the Obama Presidency.
In the 1960s there was another government program that undermined our civil liberties. It was the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program, known as COINTELPRO. The COINTELPRO included police and military intelligence agencies that conducted political surveillance of activists identified as the key leaders of the Civil Rights struggles throughout the nation.
When I was doing the research for my book on the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, I discovered that those of us who organized the student walkouts had been targets of the COINTELPRO. The FBI also targeted Dr. King and many other Civil Rights Movement activists. As a result of the COINTELPRO, civil rights activists were arrested on trumped up charges, undercover agent provocateurs were placed in civil rights movement organizations, and character assassination stories about activists were leaked to newspapers throughout the Southwest and the nation. Those tactics victimized Dr. King himself. The COINTELPRO did all possible to disrupt and undermine our civil rights movement as it did Dr. King's.
Our movement adopted Dr. King's philosophy of Non Violence and echoed his ideas for racial equality and justice and we applied them to Mexican Americans. Puerto Ricans in Chicago, New York, and throughout the East coast, also applied them to their civil rights movement. Our movements connected us directly to the historic common ground of struggle against racial and ethnic injustice that Latinos have shared with African Americans.
Like African Americans in the South, Mexican Americans also have a long history of struggles against racial and ethnic oppression throughout the Southwest. Mexicans were also lynched and could not vote unless they paid a poll tax they could not afford. Prior to the 1960s, they were also were victimized by segregation in the schools and were not allowed in public places like swimming pools and restaurants. Signs reading "No Mexicans Allowed" were common throughout the Southwest during the time those that read "No Blacks" and "No dogs" were common in the South. As was the case with African Americans, Mexicans were considered a racially inferior people.
As is the case today, during the 1920s and 30s, the U.S. Congress engaged in debates over Mexican immigration. Politicians and academics gave testimony that categorized Mexicans as a menace to the dominant culture. The debate pitted those concerned with keeping America racially pure and protecting white workers from foreign competition, against those who argued that Mexican cheap labor was essential to capitalism. Those representing conservatives argued that Mexicans were a threat to the cultural and social fabric of American society. They defined Mexicans as the most "insidious mixture of white, Indian, and Negro blood strains ever produced". Others argued that Mexicans were eugenically as low powered as the NegroS. of low mentality, inherently criminal, and therefore a degenerate race that would afflict American society with an embarrassing race problem". These racist attitudes and beliefs about Mexicans and other Latinos continue to permeate our society at large.
During the same time those hearings were taking place in the U.S. Congress during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, Mexican Americans fought against the segregation of their children into "Mexican Schools". The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Mexican American civil rights organization, with the help of progressive white lawyers, waged numerous legal struggles in the courts during those decades.
The most important case took place in 1946 and was named "Mendez vs. Westminster. It ended the segregation of Mexican American children in California. The Mendez case paved the way for the historic "Brown v. Board of Education" nearly a decade later in 1954. Indeed, Thurgood Marshall, at the time a young attorney was a co-author of the NAACP's Amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Méndez case.
As a result of the 1960's civil rights movements that were inspired by the ideas and ideals of Dr. King, there are more black and Latino faces visible in the entertainment and professional sports industry than there were back in the 1960s. There are more black and Latino scholars, writers, poets, artists, dramatic artists, and middle class professionals and corporate executives. There are more black and Latino faces in the U.S. Congress and state and local governments. And there is now a black president!
If Dr. King were alive today, no doubt he would have celebrated Obama's victory with us. Like those who voted for him, he would be hopeful that President Obama would keep the promises he made during his presidential campaign. Like those who voted for him, he would have responded with joy to his calls for hope and change. But Dr. King would remind us that a black president alone would not be able to overnight make the changes he promised. He would remind us that racial and ethnic inequality remains alive and well today and that Obama is not a messiah with the power to change that reality.
The 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education and the 1946 Mendez v. Westminster that ended dejure segregation and opened the doors into white schools for black and Latino children. But they continue to be victimized by defacto segregation in the poor and working class inner city school districts throughout the nation. Latinos are now the most segregated student population in the nation and they also have the highest drop out rate.
In higher education, affirmative action programs have been either terminated or watered down as a result of conservative white opposition. The consequence is that Black and Latino student enrollments have drastically declined in public colleges and universities across the nation.
For example, Black students at my campus, the University of California, Berkeley, are now largely invisible, except on the football and basketball teams. And Latinos, who are now the majority people of color population in my state, have also declined and remain under-represented in institutions of higher education.
Those who have led the struggle against Affirmative Action have been victorious because they have effectively co-opted Dr. King's ideas and vision for a colorblind society. They have falsely redefined Affirmative Action as a "racist in reverse" policy discriminatory to White students. The majority of white Americans, and regretfully, many people of color, have bought into this false definition.
It is ironic that Ward Connerly, a conservative African American and a product of affirmative action, has been a prominent leader in the struggle against affirmative action. Dr. King's historic 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech is the only one of his many speeches that is publicized during his holiday. The most the following are the most quoted words from that speech:
"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". Most who use that quote ignore the fact that in that speech, Dr. King was making specific references to black racial inequality. Dr. king was well aware that white supremacy had created an institutionalized system of white privilege that continues to be alive and well today.
Those opposed to anti-affirmative action ignore this fact. Dr. King was aware that racial preferences for whites had always existed since the system of white privilege was instituted when our Republic was founded. He argued that laws or policies that allowed preferences to black people were legitimate because they didn't disenfranchise other powerless groups of people. They instead contributed toward an equal playing field between people of color and the white majority. If he were alive he would argue that affirmative action remains critically important today because African Americans and Latinos remain underrepresented in institutions of higher education and other dominant social and political institutions. In contrast, they are over represented in the prisons and the military. That is not the type of affirmative action Dr. King had in mind.
Today, we are once again confronted by critical and challenging times. As a matter of fact, I think we are currently living in the worst of times. President Obama has bluntly stated that conditions will get worse before they get better. But Dr. King would remind us that conditions will get better sooner than later if the people will continue to march for social justice and peace. President Franklin Delano Rosevelt was able get congressional support for his proposed legislation in the interest of the poor and working class only because a strong and vibrant mass labor movement demanded it.
Social Security and the right to organize unions were two examples. President Lyndon B. Johnson received congressional support for civil rights legislation because there was a strong and vibrant mass civil rights movement that demanded it. Dr. King courageously spoke truth to power to both liberals and conservatives.
His words and criticism of political leaders who remain part of the problem instead of the solution, and ofthose who remain passive during the critical and challenging times our nation faced during the 1960s, still ring true today. He would be the first to hold President Obama accountable if he ignores the poor and does not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his 1967 speech entitled "A time to Break Silence" he spoke out against the War in Vietnam because the war was "the enemy of the poor". As a Vietnam War Era Veteran, that speech was especially meaningful to me. In that speech, Dr. King vividly saw the connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle against poverty and racial inequality at home. He spoke out against the Vietnam War because it not only drained funds away from meeting the human needs of the poor at home, but also sent black men to ostensibly fight and die for democracy abroad when it did not exist in Georgia or East Harlem at the time.
As was the case in Vietnam, poor and working class Black and Latino soldiers are dying on the battlefield while their families back home continue to struggle to survive against the conditions created by poverty and racial inequality.
Many of us have already broken the silence against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we need to remind those who have not, that Dr. King would also have wanted us to act and not be intimated by those who tell us it is unpatriotic to openly criticize our government and the President, whether he be white or black, during a time of war. Or that speaking out against the war means that we don't support our soldiers.
To the contrary, those of us who favor the immediate withdrawal of our troops, demand it precisely because we do support them and we want them home safe and out of harms way. We have lost enough of our young men and women of all races and ethnicities. As of today, 4,230 of them in Iraq and 640 in Afghanistan died. We don't want to lose anymore. We must also speak out against the killing of any more innocent people in those countries.
Over a hundred thousand of them have died and we should not allow any more to die. We must also let President Obama and the Congress know that we won't tolerate a war against Iran. We must also let it be known that we oppose continued U.S. military and other assistance to Israel because of their massacre of over a thousand innocent people in Gaza. We must have the same courage Dr. King had during the Vietnam War and demand that the over three trillion dollars being spent on the wars in the middle east must be diverted to fight poverty at home. In the process, it would a better way to resolve the economic crisis confronting our nation today.
We must demand that as he and the Congress have supported the bail out of the corporate, banking, and financial institutions responsible for that crisis, that they must also bail out the poor and the underclass during the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency.
Dr. King would remind President Obama that the gap between poor and rich has grown wider since the 1960s. In 1968, 12% of the people lived in poverty. In real numbers, that added up to 25 million people. Today, it remains 12%, but the numbers have increased to 36 million people. Twelve million of them are children! The gap is even worse in the case of poor undocumented immigrants who are forced to work as the cheapest labor force in the nation. And more tragically, the most vulnerable to economic and social injustice. War and Poverty negatively impacts all the American poor regardless of race and ethnicity.
Prior to his assassination in 1968, Dr. King called for the nation to dedicate itself to a War on Poverty. He had decided to build a multiracial coalition of all poor people, inclusive of white, black, indigenous, Latino, and Asian. As part of the building process, he had started organizing a Poor People's march on Washington. Dr. King perceived believed the time had come to transform civil rights struggles into a mass movement for human rights.
If we want to truly honor Dr. King's legacy, we must build Poor People's coalitions, inclusive of the immigrant poor, both documented and undocumented, throughout our nation. And hopefully, those coalitions can lead toward the organizing of another march on Washington to demand that the Obama Presidency and the Congress declare a war on poverty. Not a temporary one like the one declared by President Lyndon Johnson, but a permanent one that would last until poverty is eliminated!
Dr. King did not hesitate to speak truth to power no matter the consequences. We must do the same today. We must use his legacy as the inspiration for us to become active citizens beyond the time for elections. We do not have the luxury to leave it up to President Obama to keep hope alive. Neither can we assume he will keep his campaign promises. We must be mindful that he did not win by a landslide in terms of the popular vote.
We must also be mindful that he will meet resistance from Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Congress to whatever progressive measures he proposes. We have joyfully celebrated the election of President Obama. Now the time has come for us to become active citizens in our communities, in our workplace, and elsewhere. We must become community organizers and continue to carry the torch for hope and fundamental, not symbolic change. In the final analysis, we are the ones we have been waiting for.
Dr. King's ideas remain vibrant to those of us committed to social justice, human rights, and peace. The words he wrote and spoke on the issues of his time remain meaningful for us today. We must put them into practice and keep his revolutionary spirit alive and struggle to build an authentic Multiracial Democracy committed to social justice and peace at home and abroad.
Dr. King inspired me to have my own dream for an Authentic Multiracial Democracy. I would like to share my dream with you today. I have a dream that Americans of all colors, ethnicities, cultures, religions, sexual preferences, the able and disabled, men and women, will give birth to an authentic Multiracial Democracy.
A Democracy that will promote and nurture racial and ethnic diversity and equality beyond symbolic tokenism. A Democracy that will promote social, economic, and environmental justice, religious tolerance, and peace at home and abroad.
A Democracy with a government that will include a representative of every diverse group at the table of political power on behalf of the people, not the military corporate prison complex.
A Democracy with a national political multiparty electoral system where candidates for elective office include the poor and working class, not just those who are rich or middle class. With an electoral system where every vote will in fact be counted. No more Floridas, Ohio's, or Bushes!
A Democracy where human needs are prioritized and not the needs of the rich and the corporations. And makes possible a government bureaucracy that assures the safety of our citizens, especially the poor, when natural disasters take place. No more Katrinas!
A Democracy that honors all workers, those who are citizens and those who are not, the documented and the undocumented. A Democracy that defines health care and education as Human Rights.
A Democracy that prioritizes youth as the most important investment for the future of our nation and builds more schools instead of prisons.
A Democracy that wages war against poverty and not sovereign nations.
A Democracy that will be based on love and compassion and not hate and greed.
In conclusion, I pass on to you the main lesson that I have learned during my years as a freedom fighter. And that lesson is that struggle is life and life is struggle. But most importantly, that victory is in the struggle!
Love, Peace, Justice, and blessings to you all!
Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr. Professor Emeritus
Department of Ethnic Studies 510-642-9134
"Life is struggle and struggle is life,
but be mindful that Victory is in the Struggle"
- Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
On November 10, 2008, SPOHP presented "Testimony of War," a two-part program in Pugh Hall that attracted several hundred people from the community, including students, faculty, and veterans. The first part of the program premiered the SPOHP-produced documentary titled "I Just Wanted to Live!". This film utilized SPOHP's World War II Collection in an unusual way.
SPOHP historian Diane Fischler selected passages from four oral histories with a common theme...four men who all experienced the horrors of being held prisoners by the Japanese, and developed a narrative account of their POW experience. The POWs featured in "I Just Wanted to Live!" are Victor Cote, Herbert Pepper, Conrad Alberty, and John Bumgarner.
Deborah Hendrix, SPOHP videographer, used film clips, photographs, and artwork-some created by former POWs-from the Pacific Theater to provide a graphic context for the compelling audio passages. Two of the featured POWs attended this public program. Their families came from across the United States to view the documentary.
The documentary is now part of the educational resource archives of three major museums:
The film is also included in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
Diane Fischler has written a study guide for the documentary as a resource for 11th grade American history teachers in the Alachua County Public School System, and the documentary has been shown at several retirement facilities and veterans' gatherings in Florida and North Carolina.
The second part of "Testimony of War" featured a panel discussion among four WW II veterans whose oral histories are also included in the SPOHP World War II Collection. One panelist, Clif Cormier, talked about being a forward liaison officer with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima. A second panelist, Victor Cote-one of the POWs featured in I Just Wanted to Live!-discussed in more detail the darker and little known side of war--being a POW in the Philippines and Japan. The third panelist, Frank Towers, representing the European Theater of Operations, spoke about his 30th Army Infantry Division participating in Operation Cobra, the Battle of the Bulge, and liberating a train load of 2,500 Jewish concentration camp survivors. The fourth panelist, Clair Chaffin, related his harrowing experiences of being a corpsman (medic) with the 4th Marine Division on Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. Julian Pleasants moderated the panel.
On September 24, 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson spoke in Pugh Hall about his latest book, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, which is the second title in his trilogy on the liberation of Europe.
Rick Atkinson is also the author of: An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943; The Long Gray Line; Crusade; and In the Company of Soldiers. He is currently researching and writing his third book in the trilogy, which focuses on the Normandy Invasion to the end of the war. At the author's request, SPOHP has provided his research team with more than a dozen oral histories from its World War II Collection of veterans who participated in the D-Day landings.
And My Values Are Still There: Seminole Reflections on Their Changing Society, 1970-2000 2010
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