Must we hate them?

In April of 1937, Jamaican-born mechanic Canute Frankson left his home in Detroit and travelled to Europe to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of approximately 2,800 American volunteers who were keen to offer support in the fight against Franco and his supporters during the Spanish Civil War. Three months after arriving, Frankson wrote the following powerful

Kiss my ass

In 1970, shortly after being elected Attorney General of Alabama, 29-year-old Bill Baxley reopened the 16th Street Church bombing case — a racially motivated act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls in 1963 and a fruitless investigation, and which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Baxley’s unwavering commitment to

My dungeon shook

Early-1963, 100 years after Abraham Lincoln called for the release of all Confederate slaves by way of the Emancipation Proclamation, renowned author James Baldwin wrote the following moving letter to his 14-year-old nephew, James, and offered some advice. The letter later featured in Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time. (Source: The Fire Next Time; Image:

American democracy will have disappeared

On May 2nd of 1940, a Reverend Leon M. Birkhead — National Director of “Friends of Democracy,” an organisation committed to combatting “anti-Semitic propaganda” — wrote to the author John Steinbeck with the following enquiry: I hope that you will not think I am impertinent, but our organization has had put up to it the problem of your nationality. You

I have no ancestors of that gifted people

In 1938, some months after the initial publication of The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien and his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, opened talks with Rütten & Loening, a Berlin-based publishing house who were keen to translate the novel for the German market. All was going well until, in July, they wrote to Tolkien and asked for proof of

Nor was there a stock comedy Negro

In 1943, Alfred Hitchcock approached author John Steinbeck and asked him to write the script for his next movie, Lifeboat. Steinbeck agreed, and quickly supplied the director with a novella. Over the coming months, Hitchcock gradually modified the story with the assistance of other writers, and in January of 1944, just before it premiered, Steinbeck

I don’t support Clay’s decision to refuse induction

“Ain’t no Vietcong ever called me Nigger.” – Muhammad Ali, 1966. In a frank letter to friend William Reinmuth in May of 1967, retired heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano weighs in on the debate surrounding fellow boxer Muhammad Ali‘s public refusal, in 1966, to serve in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War. The situation

Even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters

Early-1966, celebrated journalist Alex Haley bravely entered the headquarters of the American Nazi Party in Virginia and proceeded to interview its founder – retired U.S. Navy Commander, George Lincoln Rockwell – for Playboy Magazine; to further intensify the situation, Rockwell, until then unaware of his interviewer’s African roots, sat through the entire meeting within reach of a

The Little Rock Nine

On September 25th of 1957, under the watchful eye of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black teenagers nervously entered the previously all-white Little Rock High School to become students. A similar but unguarded attempt weeks earlier had been alarmingly unsuccessful, and even this subsequent military intervention – ordered by President Eisenhower no less

Negro Bucks and White Hoodlums

In the iconic 1963 photo shown above, a young Tougaloo College lecturer and two of his students defiantly stage a sit-in at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi whilst surrounded by disapproving onlookers. All three are covered in sugar, salt, mustard and their own blood. In the middle, head turned, is Joan Trumpauer

An offense that comes from misinterpretation is vulnerable

No sooner had the above cartoon been published than complaints from offended readers began to reach the offices of The Rebel Yell, student newspaper of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. It was early-1997, not long after a controversial decision by the school board of Oakland to recognise Ebonics as a primary language had kick-started a national

It is my dream and goal to capture TRUTH

In 1988 as his record-breaking Bad World Tour rolled on, Michael Jackson penned a rare note to Bill Pecchi, a camera operator who, due to his recent work on the movie Moonwalker, had been asked to film crowd reactions prior to and during each of the 123 concerts. The letter followed a clearly emotional conversation between the

The crime of being a Negro was far more heinous

Henry Ossian Flipper became, in 1877, the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point – an admirable achievement given both his being born into slavery in 1856 and the abhorrent treatment he received during his military training – and subsequently was the first African American commissioned officer in

The trouble with Chinese…

Following the 1946 release of The Wild Flag (a collection of essays previously published in The New Yorker) author E. B. White – now best known for his novels Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little – was contacted and questioned by a Mr. Wells with regard to his usage of the word ‘Chinaman’. White responded with the

The KKK will receive a taste of its own medicine

May, 1964: The world looks on as peaceful, non-violent protests against racial segregation turn sour in St. Augustine, Florida. During the coming weeks many protesters will receive verbal and physical abuse from local segregationists, most notably Klansmen. The SCLC, founded by Martin Luther King, lends support to the protests. June 30th, 1964: Controversial activist Malcolm

This issue transcends all others

2 years prior to Hitler‘s rise to power in 1933, Germany was chosen as host of the 1936 Olympic Games. As the games approached and Hitler’s regime shocked the world, the air was filled with rumours of boycott, both from individual athletes and entire governments. Walter White, then executive secretary of the NAACP, wrote a

Number One Snoopy Place

A couple of days ago, as the axe was barely settling in the head of Charlotte Braun, I was alerted to another letter by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. He wrote this one back in 1986, in response to an inquisitive letter from a 15 year old boy named Randee. Randee had questioned Schulz regarding what

17 million Negroes cannot wait for the hearts of men to change

Jackie Robinson was an exceptionally talented baseball player. In fact, such was his talent that on April 15th, 1947 he obliterated an unwritten policy within baseball that had, until that point, prevented players of African descent from joining teams in either the minor or major leagues. After his baseball career ended, Robsinson took an active