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And in each poor cabin found

down the way,  black men sweat

and black women pray

that a blind white vengeance does not

take their soul away –

 

 

 

  

A Blues for the Birmingham Four

                                                  By Amin Sharif

They say the Devil walks the land

way down in Birmingham.

And when a black child

goes to sleep,

they dream of hell’s hounds

at their small brown feet –

no fairy land will they ever

greet – way down in Birmingham.

And in each poor cabin found

down the way,

black men sweat and black women pray

that a blind white vengeance does not

take their soul away –

way down in Birmingham.

For in the night beneath the stars –

the rope, the gun, the burning fire,

the pungent smell of roasting flesh

will this Devil never rest – way down

in Birmingham?

Now in the church four come to pray

but these young souls are marked to stay

‘til they wake on Judgment Day

way down in Birmingham.

Broken bodies! A tattered dress!

The fires of hell! A demon fest!

Yes, Lucifer is at his best – way down

in Birmingham!

As the blue black smoke begins to fade,

black heads have bowed and they

have prayed for heaven’s vengeance

to be displayed – way down in Birmingham.

But still black children dream

of Dragon’s Grand,

hell hounds' teeth, the bogey man –

and with pounding hearts they lay awake

way down in Birmingham!

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Born Nov. 17, 1951, Carol Denise McNair was the first child of  photo shop owner Chris and schoolteacher Maxine McNair. Her playmates called her Niecie. She was an inquisitive girl who never understood why she couldn't get a sandwich at the same counter as white children. A pupil at Center Street Elementary School, she had a knack of gathering neighborhood children to play on the block. She held tea parties, belonged to the Brownies and played baseball. Denise, who dreamed of being a pediatrician, asked the neighborhood children to put on skits and dance routines and to read poetry in a big production to raise money for muscular dystrophy. It became an annual event.

People gathered in the yard to watch the show in Denise's carport — the main stage. Children donated their pennies, dimes and nickels. Adults gave larger sums. The muscular dystrophy fund-raiser was always Denise's project — one that nobody refused.

 

Born April 30, 1949, Cynthia Wesley was the first adopted daughter of Claude and Gertrude Wesley (both teachers). Cynthia was a petite girl with a narrow face and size 2 dress. Cynthia's mother made her clothes, which fit her thin frame perfectly., whose parents were also teachers, left the house that day having been admonished by her mother to adjust her slip to be presentable in church. Cynthia attended the now-defunct Ullman High School, where she did well in math, reading and the band. She invited friends to parties in her back yard, playing soulful tunes and serving refreshments. 

When Cynthia died in the church blast, she was still wearing the ring Mrs. Savage gave her when they were younger. Cynthia's father identified her by that ring when he went to the morgue.

 
Born April 24, 1949, Carole Robertson was the third child of Alpha and Alvin Robertson. Older siblings were Dianne and Alvin. her father was a band master at an elementary school and whose mother was a librarian, was an avid reader, dancer and clarinet player. Carole was an avid reader and straight-A student who belonged to Jack and Jill of America, the Girl Scouts, the Parker High School marching band and science club. She also had attended Wilkerson Elementary School, where she sang in the choir. Carole grew up in a Smithfield home that was full of love, friends and the aroma of good cooking, especially her mother's spaghetti. 

In 1976, Chicago residents established the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, a social service agency that serves children and their families. Named after Carole, it is dedicated to the memory of all four girls.

 

Addie Mae Collins, born April 18, 1949, was one of seven children born to Oscar Collins, a janitor, and Alice, a homemaker. Addie's family was the poorest of the four. "It was clear that she lacked things," recalls Rev. John Cross, the pastor of the church at the time of the bombing. "But she was a quiet, sweet girl." And, Sarah adds, a budding artist: "She could draw people real good." When disagreements erupted among the siblings inside the home on Sixth Court West, Addie was the peacemaker. The Hill Elementary School eighth-grader loved to pitch while playing ball, too. "I remember that underhand," said older sister Janie, now Janie Gaines. 

Every second and third Saturday, children file into the Addie Mae Collins Youth Center in an Ishkooda Road church to build positive attitudes, develop talents and learn to deal with adversity. "Not only will it be a memorial to her but also we'll be helping other kids who are dealing with tragedies," said Mrs. Jones, whose mother is Janie Gaines.

 
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Summary of Southern Terror

On September 15, 1963, a savage explosion of 19 sticks of dynamite stashed under a stairwell ripped through the northeast corner of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The four girls killed in the blast: Addie Mae Collins, 14;. Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14, also died, and another 22 adults and children were injured. Meant to slow the growing civil rights movement in the South, the racist killings, like the notorious murder of activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi three months earlier, instead fueled protests that helped speed passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

From 1947 to 1963, the Birmingham area suffered 41 racially motivated bombings. "The 16th Street bombing left an indelible image all over the world of what Birmingham was like," said Wayne Flynt, a historian at Auburn University. "It established once and for all an international reputation for Birmingham as a city that was never too busy to hate." Yet the tragedy of the church bombing pushed blacks and whites to work harder at integration --- especially white moderates who had been silently tolerant of measures to quash attempts by blacks to achieve equality.

The funeral of the four girls marked the first time many whites in Birmingham had attended a predominantly black gathering. A strange unity began to develop.

Summary of Justice Done

Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, a truck driver and longtime Ku Klux Klan member, was convicted of the murders in 1977. Though the FBI always believed had had accomplices, even identifying three suspects, the case against them was marred by conflicting accounts, and Chambliss, who died in prison at age 81 in 1985, refused to the end to cooperate. But new leads that emerged a year ago have made the FBI cautiously hopeful.

A former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted of murder Tuesday (July 3, 2001) for the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls, the deadliest single attack during the civil rights movement. Thomas Blanton Jr., 62, was sentenced to life in prison by the same jury that found him guilty after 2½ hours of deliberations. The Rev. Abraham Woods, a black minister instrumental in getting the FBI to reopen the case in 1993, said he was delighted with the verdict.

*   *   *   *   *

Legal Chronology

Sept. 15, 1963: Dynamite bomb explodes outside Sunday services at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, and injuring 20 others.

May 13, 1965: FBI memorandum to director J. Edgar Hoover concludes the bombing was the work of former Ku Klux Klansmen Robert E. Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash and Thomas E. Blanton, Jr.

1968: FBI closes its investigation without filing charges.

1971: Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopens investigation.

Nov. 18, 1977: Chambliss convicted on a state murder charge and sentenced to life in prison.

1980: Justice Department report concludes Hoover had blocked prosecution of the Klansmen in 1965.

Oct. 29, 1985: Chambliss dies in prison, still professing his innocence.

1988: Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman reopens the case, which is closed without action.

1993: Birmingham-area black leaders meet with FBI, agents secretly begin new review of case.

Feb. 7, 1994: Cash dies.

July 1997: Cherry interrogated in Texas; FBI investigation becomes public knowledge.

Oct. 27, 1998: Federal grand jury in Alabama begins hearing evidence.

April 26, 2000: Cherry arrested on charges he molested a former stepdaughter 29 years earlier. He is later extradited to Alabama.

May 17, 2000: Blanton and Cherry surrender on murder indictments returned by grand jury in Birmingham.

April 10, 2001: Judge delays Cherry trial, citing defendant's medical problems, but refuses to dismiss charges against either man.

April 16, 2000: Jury selection to begin in case against Blanton.

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John Coltrane, "Alabama"  /  Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"  / A Love Supreme

A Blues for the Birmingham Four  /  Eulogy for the Young Victims   / Six Dead After Church Bombing 

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Denise McNair. Murdered in an act of terrorism on this day in 1963. We will never forget Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins—all 14 years old, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. They were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in an act of terrorism by a Klan related group on Sept. 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. The Birmingham Public Library has an online digital collection of photos and news clippings—bplonline

4 Little Girls is a 1997 American historical documentary film about the 1963 murder of four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. It was directed by Spike Lee and nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Documentary."  . . . The film covered the events in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 related to civil rights demonstrations and the movement to end racial discrimination in local stores and facilities. In 1963 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King arrived in the town to help with their strategy. People of the community met at the 16th Street Baptist Church while organizing their events.

The demonstrations were covered by national media, and the use by police of police dogs and pressured water from hoses on young people shocked the nation. So many demonstrators were arrested that the jail was filled. A local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan placed bombs at the Baptist Church and set them off on a Sunday morning. Four young girls were killed in the explosion. The deaths provoked national outrage, and that summer the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.—wikipedia

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Behind the Dream

The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

By Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

 “I Have a Dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.— Palgrave Macmillan

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation is a smart, insightful, enjoyable read about a momentous event in history. It is the "story behind the story" straight from Clarence Jones, the attorney, speechwriter, and close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. As I read the words on the page, I felt as if I were having an intimate conversation with the author. The book helped me to understand the humanity of Dr. King and the other organizers of the March on Washington. They were people who saw injustice and called for change. Despite FBI wiretaps and other adversity, together they undertook an enormous logistical effort in hopes that the March would be a success. Jones himself handwrote the first draft of the renowned “I Have a Dream” speech on a yellow legal pad, but it wasn't until King was inspired to veer from the text that he struck a chord with the audience, delivering the right words at the right time. The “I Have a Dream” speech helped to elevate King from a man to a hero; this book is a reminder to all to make sure that his Dream lives on.—amazon customer

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 16 September 2012

 

 

 

Home  Amin Sharif Table  Mau Mau Aesthetics

Related Files:   Speaks to AFL-CIO  Eulogy  for the Young Victims   Six Killed in Bombingham  A Blues for the Birmingham Four 

Mahalia Jackson  Funeralizing Mahalia  King Speaks to AFL-CIO  DuBois Malcolm King Political Action Forum  Portraits of Blacks