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THIS DAY IN HISTORY DECEMBER 01, Rosa Parks Ignites Bus Boycott

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In Montgomery, AlabamaRosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience.

“The mother of the civil rights movement,” as Rosa Parks is known, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African Americans were required to sit at the back of public buses and were also obligated to give up those seats to white riders if the front of the bus filled up. Parks was in the first row of the black section when the white driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white man. Parks’ refusal was spontaneous but was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend. In fact, local civil rights leaders had been planning a challenge to Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion.

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History

(On This Day) Dec. 4,1969 – A police raid that killed two Black Panthers, shook Chicago and changed the nation

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The police moved in before dawn.

Their target was a first-floor apartment on Chicago’s West Side. Among those inside were two top leaders of the Illinois Black Panther Party — chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

Officers assigned to Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan approached the dwelling with a warrant authorizing a search for illegal weapons. Gunfire — police claimed they faced a barrage from inside the apartment — erupted shortly after the raid began at 4:45 a.m.

When the shooting stopped, Hampton, 21, and Clark, 22, were dead. Four other Panthers and two police officers were wounded. Seven Panthers in the residence were charged with attempted murder.

The Dec. 4, 1969, confrontation at 2337 W. Monroe St. ended quickly, but the controversy over what exactly happened — fought over in the pages of the city’s newspapers, on local TV and in the courts — reverberated for years to come.

Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther party, speaks at a 1969 protest over the trial of eight people accused of conspiracy to cause a riot during the Democratic National Convention. (ESK/AP)

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How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans

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When Eugene Burnett saw the neat tract houses of Levittown, New York, he knew he wanted to buy one. It was 1949, and he was ready to settle down in a larger home with his family. The newly established Long Island suburb seemed like the perfect place to begin their postwar life—one that, he hoped, would be improved with the help of the GI Bill, a piece of sweeping legislation aimed at helping World War II veterans like Burnett prosper after the war.

But when he spoke with a salesman about buying the house using a GI Bill-guaranteed mortgage, the door to suburban life in Levittown slammed firmly in his face. The suburb wasn’t open to black residents.

“It was as though it wasn’t real,”Burnett’s wife, Bernice, recalled. “Look at this house! Can you imagine having this? And then for them to tell me because of the color of my skin that I can’t be part of it?”

The Burnetts weren’t the only black Americans for whom the promise of the GI Bill turned out to be an illusion. Though the bill helped white Americans prosper and accumulate wealth in the postwar years, it didn’t deliver on that promise for veterans of color. In fact, the wide disparity in the bill’s implementation ended up helping drive growing gaps in wealth, education and civil rights between white and black Americans.

While the GI Bill’s language did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million black veterans who had bravely served their country during World War II, in segregated ranks.

Fear of Black Advancement

When lawmakers began drafting the GI Bill in 1944, some Southern Democrats feared that returning black veterans would use public sympathy for veterans to advocate against Jim Crow laws. To make sure the GI Bill largely benefited white people, the southern Democrats drew on tactics they had previously used to ensure that the New Deal helped as few black people as possible.

During the drafting of the law, the chair of the House Veterans Committee, Mississippi Congressman John Rankin, played hardball and insisted that the program be administered by individual states instead of the federal government. He got his way. Rankin was known for his virulent racism: He defended segregation, opposed interracial marriage, and had even proposed legislation to confine, then deport, every person with Japanese heritage during World War II.

When the bill came to a committee vote, he stonewalled in an attempt to gut another provision that entitled all veterans to $20 a week of unemployment compensation for a year. Rankin knew this would represent a significant gain for black Southerners, so he refused to cast a critical proxy vote in protest. The American Legion ended up tracking down the Congressman who had left his proxy vote with Rankin and flying him to Washington to break the deadlock.

Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, only weeks after the D-Day offensive began. It ushered into law sweeping benefits for veterans, including college tuition, low-cost home loans, and unemployment insurance.

The GI Bill’s Effect on Black Veterans

From the start, black veterans had trouble securing the GI Bill’s benefits. Some could not access benefits because they had not been given an honorable discharge—and a much larger number of black veterans were discharged dishonorably than their white counterparts.

Veterans who did qualify could not find facilities that delivered on the bill’s promise. Black veterans in a vocational training program at a segregated high school in Indianapolis were unable to participate in activities related to plumbing, electricity and printing because adequate equipment was only available to white students.

Simple intimidation kept others from enjoying GI Bill benefits. In 1947, for example, a crowd hurled rocks at black veterans as they moved into a Chicago housing development. Thousands of black veterans were attacked in the years following World War II and some were singled out and lynched.

Though Rankin had lost the battle to exclude black men from VA unemployment insurance, it was doled out inequitably. Men who applied for unemployment benefits were kicked out of the program if any other work was available to them, even work that provided less than subsistence wages. Southern postmasters were even accused of refusing to deliver the forms black veterans needed to fill out to receive their unemployment benefits.

Black veterans’ and civil rights groups protested their treatment, calling for protections like black involvement in the VA and non-discriminatory loans, but the racial disparities in the implementation of the GI Bill had already been set into motion. As the years went on, white veterans flowed into newly created suburbs, where they began amassing wealth in skilled positions. But black veterans lacked those options. The majority of skilled jobs were given to white workers.

Staff Sergeant Herbert Ellison explains the G.I. Bill of Rights to the African American members of the quartermaster trucking company. 
Staff Sergeant Herbert Ellison explains the G.I. Bill of Rights to the African American members of the quartermaster trucking company. Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

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Some white people don’t want to hear about slavery at plantations built by slaves

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The nasty online reviews have gone viral on Twitter.

“It was just not what we expected.”

“I was depressed by the time I left.”

“ … the tour was more of a scolding of the old South.”

“The brief mentions of the former owners were defamatory.”

“Would not recommend.”

These are a few of the apparently negative reviews posted online about guided tours of Southern plantations, some of which went viral Thursday after former Colorado congressional candidate Saira Rao tweeted a screenshot of one.

 

Approximately 12.5 million human beings were kidnapped from their homes in Africa and shipped to the New World from 1514 to 1866, according to historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. One in eight died en route. Most were sent to South America. In 1860, the Census counted approximately 4 million enslaved people in the United States, according to PolitiFact.

“Would not recommend. Tour was all about how hard it was for the slaves,” wrote one reviewer of the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana.

Slaves who lived on plantations typically worked 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, according to the University of Houston’s Digital History. Children as young as 3 were put to work.

“I was depressed by the time I left and questioned why anyone would want to live in South Carolina,” read one review posted to Twitter about the McLeod Plantation in Charleston.

In 1860, 402,406 people were living in South Carolina not because they wanted to, but because they were enslaved. They made up 57 percent of the state’s population, according to census data.

“I felt [the African American tour guide] embellished her presentation and was racist towards me as a white person,” another McLeod visitor wrote.

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