Muhammad Ali and the Civil Rights Movement.

               This article is about Muhammad Ali.  The author talks about Ali and mentions his famous fights against Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier.  She mentions the fact that Muhammad Ali, who was known for his outspoken confidence, called Joe Frazier a Gorilla and an Uncle Tom.  She states that these were often names given to African Americans who acted subservient to whites.  This is relevant to the time period we have been learning about because it made me think of the Malcolm X book we read.  Malcolm X often referred to certain types of African Americans as Uncle Tom’s.  He disagreed with those who were happy to be given crumbs from the whites, as he called it.  As I read this article, Malcolm X immediately popped into my mind.  Later in the article, the author writes about Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, despite being drafted.  This is another way in which it relates to the time period.  Ali, Martin Luther King, and other African Americans refused to fight for the United States in Vietnam because they did not have the civil rights they so greatly desired during the time of the war.  They believed that if they did not have civil rights in America, then they should not, and would not fight for the United States.  This article connects with the civil rights movement and shows how certain types of African Americans were looked down upon because of their willingness to accept a lower position in the social order.  The African Americans who were satisfied being subservient to whites were often looked down upon by other African Americans such as Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X.

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               This article gives a transcript of President Obama’s speech he gave to the world on May 1, after Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces.  He gives a fairly detailed description of Bin Laden’s violent history and states the attacks against America that Bin Laden has master minded and also informs his viewers about the threats that Bin Laden has made against the United States more recently.  It was a big day for the American people to know that the man responsible for the nearly 3,000 deaths on September 11, 2001 as well as numerous other attacks against US troops and innocent civilians was finally found and killed.  In some ways, this article reminded me of what it must have been like when the world heard the news that Hitler had been killed.  Although Hitler and Osama are two completely different people, they were both highly dangerous men who killed thousands and even millions of people during their lifetime.  The capture of these men was something that American officials wanted, and eventually achieved.  This article about Bin Laden relates to the time period we have been learning about because one could make the argument that Hitler was the Osama Bin Laden of World War II.  They both killed innocent people.  They both hid from the United States, and they were eventually both captured.  As I listened to the president address the nation on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but think that the news of Hitler’s death was almost as significant as Bin Laden’s death.  If I was alive when Hitler was found, I would have probably reacted in the same manner that I did when I heard Bin Laden had been killed.  I would have probably experienced many of the same feelings too.  Although Hitler and Bin Laden were two different men, they were similar in many ways.

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Owners Are Villains in NFL Labor Fight by Bill Plashke

               In this article, Bill Plashke, a writer for the La times, writes about the ongoing struggle between the owners and the players of the National Football League.  As one may assume from the title of the article, Plashke places the majority, if not all, of the blame on the owners.  He argues that professional football players sacrifice their physical health more than any other types of professional athletes, and he states that the owners, by demanding a higher percentage of the revenue generated by the NFL, are continuing to exploit the players/workers, that make the National Football League Possible.  I thought this story was relevant to the time period we have been learning about throughout the semester because it shows that disputes between business owners and employees are still a major part of American society.  Whether it was big business threatening to fire any employee who was an active participant in a labor union as Phillips-Fein tells us, or NFL owners threatening to shut down all football operations if the players refuse to give in to their demands, the battle between big business and its work force is everlasting.  NFL players, like industrial workers, are what make their respective companies run.  Without the services of the players in the NFL, there would be no football games, which would seriously impact the amount of revenue generated each season.  Likewise, industrial workers such as those who worked for General Electric provided the work force that made GE the powerful business it is.  Without the hard labor of these workers, GE would not be able to sell the amount of products they do yearly.  Traditionally, members of the work force have believed that they are underpaid for their services while the owners reap all of the financial rewards.  This belief is no different in 2011, when the NFL players feel exploited by the owners and feel like they deserve a bigger piece of the pie.

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King Class Post

               When one reads Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, his I See the Promised Land speech, and his Letter from Birmingham City Jail, they can see that there was a clear shift in King’s attitude in regards to race relations.  One will see that during the beginning of the 1960’s when he gave the I have a Dream Speech and wrote the Letter from Birmingham City Jail, he was a much more conservative King than he was in 1968 when he gave his I See the Promised Land speech the night before his death.  In the I Have a Dream speech, he states, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” (218). this statement shows his conservative view point in 1963 when the speech was delivered.  It represents his conservative views because even though nearly one hundred years had passed since Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation which was supposed to set the African Americans free, they were still suffering from certain types of enslavement.  They were not offered certain jobs, they could not eat in certain restaurants, and they could not attend the same schools as whites in many cases, but despite all of this, he was urging his people to fight the battle against oppression without bitterness and hatred.  This would have been a difficult task for anyone to accomplish, and if King was more liberal he would have not expressed the level of discipline he did when he encouraged his people to not be bitter toward white people.  The fact that African Americans had suffered oppression for another one hundred years after the emancipation proclamation, but yet King still refused to openly express bitterness and hatred toward whites, shows his conservative roots. 

               King’s conservative view point also comes through in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail.  In this letter, he writes that there are two types of African Americans in America, and he states that he stands in the middle of these groups.  As he writes, “One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation, and, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security, and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and comes perilously close to advocating violence.” (296-297). One may read this and think that King is a moderate with regards to race relations when he wrote this letter because he says that he stands in the middle of these opposing forces, but his conservative side is expressed later in the letter when he writes, “if I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable patience, then I beg you to forgive me.” (302). If King was a liberal, he would not have begged for forgiveness.  The more liberal Martin Luther King would have openly expressed his true feelings to the men he was writing to.  If he had written this letter in 1968 when he gave the I See the Promised Land speech, he would have omitted the begging for forgiveness part.

               As one reads the I See the Promised Land speech, they can see that the King of 1968 when he delivered it was much more liberal than the King of 1963.  His frustration with the slow progress he and his associates had made from 1963-1968 was evident in his speech.  By 1968, he was more outspoken in his view of race relations and expressed his impatience in more liberal terms than the King of 1963 would have.  For example, he states, “I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.” (280).  At this point in his life, he wanted change right at that moment.  This is not to say that he did not want immediate change in 1963, but the way he stated it in his speech the night before his death was much more firm than the way he wrote in his letter from Birmingham City Jail.  He begged for forgiveness in jail, and demanded reform in his I See the Promised Land speech.  The King of 1963 was much different than the King of 1968 in regards to his view of race relations in America; therefore, when one attempts to answer whether or not he was conservative, moderate, or liberal in his views of race relations, one must ask at what point in his life?

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King Individual Post

The section of the King book that I chose to read, summarize, and explore its historical significance, was the section entitled, Why We Can’t Wait. In this section, King writes about the racial oppression that African Americans faced and gives several explanations as to why their frustrations eventually erupted into the marches and protests of 1963. He states that it was the growing frustration with the amount of time it was taking American school boards to desegregate schools, the lack of either political party to stand up and act on behalf of African Americans and civil rights issues, and the simple fact that by 1963, it had been one hundred years since Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclemation, but yet African Americans were still facing a more current form of slavery. King goes on to state how his nonviolent approach was successful in attracting large numbers of people into the fight for civil liberties. He expresses the level of success his organized efforts experienced during 1963 and how they broke down racial boundaries throughout America. King’s efforts resulted in a direct strike in the region of America that was known as the heart of racism, Birmingham Alabama.
King worked very closely with a man by the name ofFred Shuttlesworth during the 1960’s, and together they organized a strategic plan to break the back of racism in Birmingham Alabama. The Mayor of Birmingham, Bull Connor, openly hated African Americans and subjected them to some of the most cruel treatment during his lifetime. Despite the fact that he was the mayor, Martin Luthor King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and many other activists did not back down. Their refusal to give up sparked a great deal of social change in Birmingham in the years following 1963. King and Shuttlesworth were not alone in fighting the struggle, but their ideas of nonviolent protest and activism made it possible for them to experience the level of success they did.
This section is of historical significance because it represents a major moment in United States history, the moment when African Americans collectively grew tired of the inhumane treatment they had recieved for centuries and joined together to theoretically put an end to it. This is not to say that 1963 was the first year that African Americans collectively worked together to achieve social reform, but it was definitely the moment that experienced the most success. King and his supporters were able to achieve social reform in Birmingham Alabama because they refused to give up, and because they had a great deal of financial support as well as human volenteers. King and his supporters refused to give up their fight until four changes occured. These four changes were, “1. the desegregation of lunch counters, rest rooms, fitting rooms, and drinking fountains, in planned stages within 90 days after signing. 2. the upgrading and hiring of Negroes on a nondiscriminatory basis throughout the industrial community of Birmingham, to include hiring of Negroes as clerks and salesmen within sixty days of the agreement, and the immediate appointment of a committee of business, industrial and professional leaders to implement an area–wide program for the acceleration of upgrading and employment of Negroes in Job catagories previously denied to them. 3. Official cooperation with the movements legal representatives in working out the release of all jailed persons on bond or on their personal recognizance. 4. Through the senior citizens committee or chamber of commerce, communications between Negro and white to be publically established within two weeks after signing, in order to prevent the necessity of further demonstrations and protests.” (King, 552). These for achievements represent the significance of this document. Never before had African Americans been able to gain the political support they did after the marches and protests of 1963. The four main changes that King and his associates accomplished were unthinkable achievements even ten years earlier, and this is why the section entitled, Why We Can’t Wait is so historically important.
The change in personal perspectives of many nonpolitical white Americans represents another way in which this document is historically significant. King writes about the marches and protests of 1963 and tells us that the atitudes of many white individuals shifted during this time period. He writes, “strangely enough, the masses of white citizens in Birmingham were not fighting us. This was one of the most amazing asspects of the Birmingham crusade. Only a year or so ago, had we begun such a campaign, Bull Connor would have had his job done for him by murderously angry white citizens. Now, however, the majority were maintaining a strictly hands off policy.” (King, 548). The fact that white citizens were physically staying out of the marches and protests during 1963 shows the shift in atitude they began to have. This is not to say that white people wanted African Americans to achieve racial equality or civil liberties; however, it represents a shift in the general thought process of many white citizens. This shift in thought, though on a minor scale, also represents why this passage is historically significant.

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Sugrue Question

Thomas Sugrue’s book tells us that racism was, and in many ways still is a significant problem in America.  He gives his readers a different perspective than many traditional accounts of civil rights activism by singling out the North rather than the South.  In doing so, he gives his readers a much more detailed account of the horrors of racism in the North.  It was not the first time that I have heard about the existance of racism in the North; however, it is the first book that I have read that addressed the issue in great detail.  Sweet Land of Liberty showed me that racism existed in the North and South and was terrible in both regions.  One example of racism in the North that caught my attention was the Coney Island incident.  According to Sugrue, “finally, in 1955, Coney Island’s operators agreed to open the park to blacks but excluded them from the swimming pool and the dance pavilion.  It was one thing for blacks and whites to share roller coasters carousels, but quite another to dance or swim together.” (Sugrue 159).  This shows how prevalent racism was well into the 1950’s and beyond in the North and expresses the seriousness of the racism.  I am used to hearing stories like this occuring in the South, but it really made me aware of how racism, whether North or South, was prevalent in vertually every American community.  Coney Island is in New York, which is not even a northern state that boarders the southern states.  It is a state geographically seperated from the South, but yet incidents like Coney Island occured in the North almost as frequently as they did in the South.

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Malcolm X Questions

1.  Malcolm X viewed white people differently during the early years of his life than he did towards the end of it.  One way in which his feelings towards white people changed throughout his life was the way he began to view them in a more individual way towards the end of his life, rather than collectively classifying them as exactly the same which he did during the beginning of his life.  In the early years of his life, he makes statements like, “whites have always hidden or justified all of the guilts they could by ridiculing or blaming Negroes,” which clearly represents his willingness to classify all whites in the same manner. (16).  However, near the end of his life, he makes statements such as, “in the past, yes, I have made sweeping endictments of all white people.  I never will be guilty of that again as I know now that some white people are truely sincere, that some truely are capable of being brotherly toward a black man.” (269).  This illustrates the transformation he made from collectively judging all white people the same during early years of his life to the more individual approach he adopted when classifying them towards the end of it.  This was the biggest shift I noticed in the way he viewed white people from the beginning of his life to the end of it.

2.  Malcom X view of AFrican Americans in the early stages of his life were also different than the view he would have of them near his death.  The transformation was not as obvious as his shift in beliefs towards white people; however, it did change in some ways.  In his younger life, he states, “I’m speaking from personal experience when I say of any black man who conks today, or any white-wigged black woman, that if they gave the brains in their heads just half as much attention as they do their hair, they would be a thousand times better off.” (57-58).  This signifies his belief that Negroes were both brain washed and ignorant.  He believed that African Americans were taught to live the life that the white people wanted them to live and he believes that straightening or conking their hair was just one way in which the African Americans fell into the white trap.  Without even knowing it, African Americans including himself were physically altering their appearance and hiding the African herritage that the white people had not allowed them to see.  Later in his life, he began to view the Islamic religion as a way to unify African Americans and help them understand who they truely were, rather than the people who whites had told them they were. 

3.  I do not believe that Malcolm X was a racist.  Throughout his book, he often makes excuses for the white people who made racist remarks towards him, and if he was a racist, I don’t believe he would do so.  For example, when he writes about one of his eighth grade teachers who told him he should try to become a carpenter rather than a lawyer because it is a more appropriate and realistic position for a Negro, he states, “I know that he probably meant well in what he happened to advise me that day.  I doubt that he meant any harm.” (38).  If he were a racist, he would have illustrated his anger and discontent towards the words of his teacher in a more angry manner.  He would have definitely not have defended him in the way he did.  He believes that the white men had enforced their religion on AFrican Americans, but that doesn’t mean he was a racist.  I am sure he had some bitter and angry feelings of white men which is to be expected; however, I do not believe he was a racist.  As I stated in question one, the fact that by the end of his life, he was recognizing that some white people were in fact sincere supports the idea that he is not racist.  He would not have stated that some white people are sincere if he was a racist.

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