GREAT Photo Slideshow: A Day in the Life of Black America

I’ve become something of a junkie for vintage photos of African Americans. I’ve purchased over a dozen photo books that feature images of black folks from slavery times through the 1970s, and I can’t get enough. Well, I would… maybe if I had more money.

As a child of the 60s and 70s, I never ever saw images of black people in the history books. It’s like we didn’t exist. And when images of black folks were displayed, it was always in a negative or demeaning or depressing context.

I never got the full picture.

Perhaps that’s why, when I am able to find vintage pictures of black folks, I am touched and filled and uplifted. These photos show that black life wasn’t always about being downtrodden. You can see moments of joy, of pride, of strength.

And seeing how they lived makes me even more appreciative for what I have, and for what they’ve given me.

In that light, you MUST take a look at this GREAT slideshow of vintage photos of African Americans, which I’ll get to in a second.

But first, turn on some background music to add to your viewing experience. This vintage gospel song (circa World War II) by Bertha Houston, We are Americans, Praise the Lord, will do. Just click on this sound bar below, and then immediately click on the photo of the two women to start the slide show.

Black-Bathers
Click on this photo or here to start the slideshow.

This is something of a takeoff on the many A Day in the Life of… photo books, such as A Day in the Life of America by Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen. But make no mistake, these are great photos that paint a vivid and compelling picture of African American life from days gone by.

The photos are from the Discover Black Heritage section of the Flickr website. (Flickr is a media storage site, similar to Youtube.) The Discover Black Heritage section has a bunch of other slideshows featuring black vintage photos, which are very much worth your time.

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Hats Off to Black Radio’s Tom Joyner for His Get Out the Vote Efforts

The very effective use of the Internet by the Obama campaign, and the role of the Internet in this election season, have gotten a lot of attention, and deservedly so.

But an old mainstay of the black community – black radio – has, as usual, has played an important role in informing and mobilizing black voters.

The Nation magazine talks about the great work being done by radio DJ Tom Joyner (paid subscription required to read the full article):

In October, as trumped-up accusations of voter fraud swirled around ACORN, another national grassroots voter registration drive aimed at low-income and ethnic communities steamed along, under the radar of the mainstream press and the Republican operatives hoping to challenge such efforts.

Called 1-866-MYVOTE1, it is headed by African-American disc jockey Tom Joyner. His Tom Joyner Morning Show, fourteen years old this year, broadcasts nationwide on 115 radio stations, reaching more than 8 million weekday listeners. His website, blackamericaweb.com, receives 3.5 million page views per month.

…Joyner downplays rhetoric endorsing individual candidates–he supports Obama but has made no official endorsement–in favor of touting the 1-866-MYVOTE1 campaign as a nonpartisan effort to provide voter registration and polling place information and to give his listeners a way of reporting, in real time, problems they encounter at their local balloting place. Listen to his program daily and you will hear relentless references to 1-866-MYVOTE1, all delivered in cheery language free of rancor.

“Politics is never a sexy subject,” Joyner said in a phone interview from his Dallas studio in early October. “We’re in the business of reaching as many people as we can. That’s how we stay in business. But in taking up topics like politics and health, or unemployment or the economy, we’ve found that our formula for success is to put humor with it.”

In his twice-weekly “Trickery Updates,” he turns to Ken Smukler, a political and technology consultant in Philadelphia, for jocular updates on signs of polling irregularities around the nation. Smukler built Joyner’s call-in voter information and poll-monitoring system after determining that two principal factors had contributed to problems at polls in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004: voters’ lack of information about the process and particulars of registering and voting, and the fact that many polling places lack the resources and well-trained staff to handle large numbers of voters.

Links of Interest: Black Viewers Tuning-In to the Election

A story at DailyKos.com, Signs of impending African American voter tidal wave, discusses the high interest of African American viewers in the election. The story notes that according to Neilson, ratings for the presidential debates have been especially high in metropolitan areas with a high percentage of African Americans.

An article from the Baltimore Sun, Debates drawing big TV audiences in Baltimore, notes that:

Among the Top 30 TV markets in the country, Baltimore has the second-highest percentage of black viewers at 27.1 percent. But for the (first two presidential and vice-presidential) debates, Nielsen figures show the black audience tracked higher than that, at about 38 percent of all viewers.

In the Baltimore area, ratings collectively were the highest in the country for the first two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate.

Baltimore ranked third nationally in viewership for the first debate, first for the vice presidential showdown and third for the second presidential debate – far outpacing even the nation’s steeped-in-politics capital 40 miles down the parkway. That’s a marked change from the 2004 race, when Baltimore did not finish in the top 10 TV markets for any debate.

“When you look at the ratings for the debates, the large number of black households in the market would have to be a major factor,” says Emerson Coleman, vice president of programming for Hearst-Argyle, which owns WBAL-Channel 11 in Baltimore.

In other markets where black households make up more than one-quarter of all TV homes, viewership for the recent debates was also among the strongest in the country – in metro areas including Memphis, Tenn.; Raleigh- Durham, N.C.; and Norfolk and the Richmond, Va., area.

Black viewers compelled by Obama’s candidacy are being drawn to national politics in a way not seen since the civil rights movement, several analysts said. In Baltimore, other factors could be at play, they said, such as the concentration of colleges, including historically black Coppin State and Morgan State universities.

“The reason, of course, is Barack Obama, who has made it possible for African-Americans to hope again,” said Sheri Parks, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, who specializes in the study of media, pop culture and African-American families. “Many African-Americans, and I am one of them, did not expect to see this in our lifetimes, an African-American who could be president, and you are not going miss any chance to see him on television.”

Because of its large percentage of black households, the Baltimore area became known in the TV industry in the 1990s as part of the “Cosby Belt.” The Cosby Show was a huge hit most everywhere, but scored exceptionally high ratings in Baltimore and cities demographically like it.

The debates are captivating people of all colors and creating newfound political junkies who are watching together at movie theaters, bars, churches, college dorms, restaurants and in private homes.

Through a Glass, Darkly: How Whites See Blacks, How Politics Color Everything.

There’s been a lot of buzz on the Internet about an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of the attitudes of whites toward blacks, and the possible effect of those attitudes on the presidential election. This is a summary of the poll results, from the AP article Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them “lazy,” “violent,” responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.

More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can’t win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views.

“There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots,” said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.

The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.

The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5.

Some of the more troubling findings of the poll are summarized in this graphic:

That graphic is worth a thousand words, all of them disheartening. When you consider that less than 30% of whites surveyed consider African Americans to be Law-Abiding, Hard-Working, Smart at Everyday Things, Intelligent at School, or Dependable… that is extremely troubling.

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Obama Campaign Addresses Black Economic Issues; Did You Hear About It?

{Hats off to the South Florida Times, an African American news source, for the article referenced below.}.

Some observers of the Obama campaign complain that it is not doing enough to speak to the specific concerns of the black community.

But what if the campaign was speaking to the concerns of the black community… and nobody knew it?

Consider this article in the South Florida Times, in which the Obama campaign does speak specifically to African American economic issues. I don’t recall any reporting of this in the mainstream press. But then, this is not of real interest to the “general public”:

Black unemployment in the United States reached 10.6 percent last month, up from 9.7 percent in July and an average of 8.8 percent during the first quarter of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On Tuesday, Sept. 9, the Obama campaign seized on the statistic to attack both the Bush administration and the John McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign in Florida did not respond to a request for comment.

“I wish we could say that reaching 10.6 percent is the highest unemployment we’ve had under this administration,” said former Bill Clinton administration Labor Secretary Alexis Herman during a conference call with members of the black press Tuesday. “But we’ve actually seen rates as high as 11.5 percent.’’

Herman and other surrogates said economic issues would take center stage in an Obama presidency, and they assailed what Herman called “a constant economic deterioration for the African-American community” under George W. Bush. The overall unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent last month, with unemployment for whites at 4.9 percent and for Hispanics at 7.7 percent.

“We’ve actually lost more than 500,000 jobs in the African-American community,” since Bush took office in 2001, including 55,000 jobs since December 2007, Herman said, citing U.S. Department of Labor statistics and contrasting the grim numbers of what she called record low unemployment, “the lowest since the Department of Education began collecting the data” during the Clinton years.

“The fact is that when you look at the unemployment numbers” under Bush, she said, “we have lost good jobs in our community, particularly in construction and manufacturing, where we are disproportionately employed. Any attempts to continue to open the doors of the middle class and to move us up the economic ladder really have been stopped dead in its tracks by this administration.”

Herman said that by contrast, Obama has proposed increasing the minimum wage from the current $6.55 to $9.50 by 2011, which she said would disproportionately help black women, plus a “long-term plan to target urban areas” for economic development, rebuilding the infrastructure of American cities, ending tax breaks for employers who ship jobs overseas and providing tax breaks for companies that create jobs in the U.S.

It is worth noting that the comments from the Obama campaign on the black economy were made around the same time as the “lipstick on a pig” controversy. Guess which of those two news stories was widely reported, and which was not?

I encourage you to go the South Florida Times’ website to read the rest of the article, and browse through the site’s other contents as well.

Fox News: Obama is an “Angry Black Man”; Why Should He Go on the O’Reilly Show?

The “angry black male” is one of America’s enduring stereotypes. The image of the emotional and violence-prone black man goes back to the days of slavery (see Nat Turner), and reached its political zenith in the negative-imagining of Jesse Jackson during his runs for president. I’ll never forget a Newsweek magazine cover from the period that featured a picture of an impassioned Jackson, his faced contorted with emotion, in a way that no doubt scared the bejesus out of any white American who saw it.

Being called an angry black male is not a good thing.

Is it no wonder, then, that Fox News played the ABM card on Barack Obama? Witness this from a broadcast of Fox’s Cavuto on Business show on August 30, featuring writer/economist/actor Ben Stein:

Note that Stein says Obama is an angry black male without giving any reason or explanation for the charge. Show host Neil Cavuto did not challenge Stein’s claim; instead, he echoes it. Meanwhile, neither Stein nor Cavuto make mention of John McCain’s well documented anger management issues.

Interestingly, an African American who was on the show – Charles Payne, a Fox Business Network contributor – said nothing regarding Stein’s angry black male charge. Thanks, bro.

(Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who is an Illinois congressman, made the point in a Democratic Convention forum that Obama is like baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson — he must endure jeers and not to hit back “because no one wants an angry African American in the White House.”)

But there’s nothing new to Fox’s use of race-based and otherwise insulting attacks on Obama. Consider the following:

• In February, in response to a caller who described Michelle Obama as a “militant woman,” Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly offensively stated that he “didn’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence.”

• In May, Fox News’ Liz Trotta referred to Obama as “Osama” and then joked that both should be “knocked off.” Fox later apologized.

• In June, Fox News’ E.D. Hill described a fist bump between Obama and his wife Michelle as a “terrorist fist jab.” Fox later apologized.

• In June, a Fox producer described Michelle Obama by using the offensive slang term “Obama’s Baby Mama.” Fox later apologized.

• In June, Fox aired a smear/rumor from Republican operative Roger Stone that there was a tape of Michelle Obama using the term “Whitey.” The tape never surfaced, however.

• Since last year, Fox News has been echoing false rumors that Obama attended a so-called “madrassa” Islamic fundamentalist school as a child.

I have no doubt there are many more instances of unfair and unbalanced coverage of Obama by Fox.

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I Feel His Pain: Hurting Vicariously for Obama

I’m trying not to take it personally. But…

But when an ad appears on the TV screen, and a picture of Barack Obama is juxtaposed with images of two blonde bimbos (sorry for the disrespect Britney and Paris), it makes my eyes see red.

I know my reaction isn’t reasonable. After all, It’s not like Obama is my brother, and so “if you start a fight with him, you’d better be ready to fight all of us.” An attack on Obama is not an attack on my family’s honor. I know this.

But darn it, I am pissed off at the McCain campaign’s personal and scurrilous attacks on Obama.

Because it feels like an attack on me. I’m trying to get over that, but it’s been hard.

I’m living vicariously through Obama in the worst kind of way.

Here’s the funny thing about it. I don’t feel that Obama’s success is my success. I don’t believe that an Obama presidency will somehow “make things better” for black people, as some folks think/hope. I don’t think it will necessarily uplift or inspire the downtrodden portions of the black community that could use it most. In fact, just the opposite could happen. There is a real possibility that black Americans will go through a period of despair and even anger when they see the reality that there is very little that Obama can or will do to help the lives of the average person on the street.

And it’s not like I see myself in Obama. His atypical African American experience-raised by a white family from Kansas in the “exotic” state of Hawaii-doesn’t resonate with me at a personal level.

It’s not like the prospect of Obama being elected is moving the needle on my Black Pride Meter.

So no, I’m not “feeling” Obama, to use a recent slang term.

But I am feeling his pain. A lot.

But pain, after all, is a part of the black experience, a universal part of the black experience: whether you live in a mansion in Baldwin Hills or a shack outside of Indianola, Mississippi, you will cringe at the sight of a lynching photo. We can all “relate” to that.

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