Celebrate Black History Month with CWA District 4

When we think of Black History, what comes to mind?

Is it the slavery of North America in 1619, the rise of the coalition industry in 1793?

Was it the abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in 1831, which was fueled by slaves’ efforts to liberate themselves, and by groups of white settlers who opposed slavery on religious or moral grounds?

Was it the John Brown Raid of 1859? He was a native of Connecticut who was a passionate opponent of slavery. He was very involved with the Underground Railroad efforts in Missouri, only to be hanged in 1859.

Perhaps it was after the Civil War when President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1863? Or maybe when the 15th amendment was adopted in 1870, which guaranteed that a citizen’s right to vote would not be denied regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude?

In 1896, we saw the Jim Crow laws that were taken from a white actor who performed in black face, which served as a derogatory term for African Americans.

In 1884 in the south, schools were segregated. By the 1900's, we saw the separation of railroads, theaters, restaurants, and barber shops by color.

Then we saw a coalition being founded in 1909 called the NAACP, soon to have the Niagara Movement join forces. They started working to fight for equality, such as the abolishment of all forced segregation, and education for all blacks and whites.

In 1941, during WWII, we saw African Americans fighting two wars at once. The one against our enemies and the one against racism while in combat. In 1948, President Truman integrated the United States Army.

Was it the color line in sports that barred blacks from playing on white professional teams? This changed once Jackie Robinson, who joined the Kansas City Monarchs the (Negro American League), showed his power and talent. He became the first African American baseball player in the major league in 1947. He opened the door for others in basketball and tennis.

Here comes Rosa Parks who, in 1955, refused to sit in the back of the bus. She stated, "I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed."

We heard of the sit-in movement, which started with a group of students called SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). We saw the Freedom Riders and the historic March on Washington in 1963.

Maybe it was the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which came about through a nonviolent campaign lead by Martin Luther King Jr. This act guaranteed equal voting rights by removing biased registration requirements and procedures. It authorized the United State Office of Education to provide aid to assist with school desegregation.

Was it the march on Selma to Montgomery in 1965? The purpose of this march was to register voters in the south, with over 7,000 marchers who made it to the Edmund Pettis Bridge, only to be met by state troopers with whips. After seeing the March participants being beaten and bloodied by the state troopers, President Lyndon Johnson called on federal legislation to ensure protection of the voting rights of African Americans. This resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Maybe it was Shirley Chisholm. She was the first black woman in Congress in 1968; the first African American who made a bid for President of the United States in 1973. She failed to win her primary even though receiving more than 150 votes at the Democratic National Convention. She stated "I have always met more discrimination being a woman than being black."

Next we saw a young African American, Jesse Jackson, run for President of the United States of America. He ran in 1984 and again in 1988 only to lose both times.

Let's fast forward. In 2008, we finally elected an African American for President of the United States. Our 44th President, Barack Obama. Yes We Can! Yes We Will!

However, while we have seen many victories, history is repeating itself. We got comfortable. We said that since we now have an African American president, he will take care of everything.

Sisters and Brothers, we are right back where we started. Many of the things that President Obama did to help us have been stripped. Just like all of those who fought the fights for us many years ago, we are seeing that we can't afford to sit still! We are continuing to have to fight against modern day slavery, racism, discrimination, voting rights, and human rights!

We now have a chance to get it right. We have elected as President of the United States, a previous Pro Worker VP, and as Vice President of the United States we’ve elected our first woman of color! We must hold all of our elected officials accountable. No more talking the talk -- they must walk the walk!

We have seen an unprecedented number of Black voters, Latinos, and Asian Americans come out and vote in the Presidential and Georgia Senate races. The people are sick and tired of being sick and tired!

We can win these battles. We must get up and let our voices be heard! We will have to continue building these coalitions, marching, electing those who see no color, and work together for the betterment of all! While it may not be easy, together anything is possible.

Let me end with this quote from Mary McLeod Bethune:

“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.”

Article submitted by:
Diane Bailey- CWA Local 4310 President and D4 Civil Rights and Equity member