Monthly Archives: February 2011


As the following article attests, the hells that so many Black women suffered during the reign of Jane Crow segregation are swept under the rug, forgotten, as if Black American women had it so easy during the nadir of pigmentocracy.

Mrs. Recy Taylor tells her story of the brutal gang rape she suffered at the hands of things that looked like men, but were in no way men; they were less than the spit from a dog’s mouth.

There are countless Black women like Recy Taylor who still live. Black women who suffered through the racial-sexual pogroms of Jane Crow segregation.

Black women who walk amongst us, shouldering the heavy burden of atrocities committed against them.

Atrocities which will never be given justice in their lives.


Recy Taylor: A Symbol of Jim Crow’s Forgotten Horror

After her brutal gang rape, Recy Taylor became a global symbol of American injustice and helped inspire the civil rights movement. So why has nobody heard of her today?

  • By: Cynthia Gordy | Posted: February 9, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Sept. 3, 1944: It’s a damp evening in the Alabama black belt, nearly midnight, but services at Rock Hill Holiness Church in the small town of Abbeville have just let out. Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old sharecropper, sets out along the town’s fertile peanut plantations, accompanied for the walk home by two other worshippers from the African-American congregation. Moments later, a green Chevrolet rolls by — and their routine journey takes a horrifying turn.

Wielding knives and guns, seven white men get out of the car, according to Taylor and witnesses from a state investigation of the case. One shoves Taylor in the backseat; the rest squeeze in after her and ride off. Her panicked friends run to tell the sheriff.

After parking in a deserted grove of pecan trees, the men order the young wife and mother out at gunpoint, shouting at her to undress. Six of them rape Taylor that night. Once finished, they drive her back to the road, ordering her out again before roaring off into the darkness.

Days after the brutal attack, Taylor’s story traveled through word of mouth, catching the attention of a Montgomery NAACP activist named Rosa Parks. A seasoned anti-rape crusader, who focused on the sexual assaults of black women that were commonplace in the segregated South, Parks would eventually help bring the case international notice. Despite her efforts, however, in Jim Crow-era Alabama, Taylor’s assailants were never punished.

It’s curious, to say the least, that Taylor’s name is not mentioned in history books. While most analyses of circumstances that inspired the civil rights movement focus on black men — being lynched or railroaded into jail, or facing down segregationists — the stories of countless black women like Recy Taylor, who were raped by white men during the same era, have gone understated, if not overlooked entirely.

Nearly 70 years later, having such a brutal attack swept under the rug is still a source of pain for a surviving victim.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

“Wasn’t nothing done about it,” Taylor, now 91, told The Root in a phone interview from her Florida home. “The sheriff never even said he was sorry it happened. I think more people should know about it … but ain’t nobody [in Abbeville] saying nothing.”

Organizing a National Movement

At the time, others — more than she ever knew — did speak out in defense of Taylor. Her brother Robert Corbitt, now 74, was just 8 years old when his eldest sister was kidnapped, but he remembers that night well, and all that followed.

He recalls crying on the porch of their childhood home as their father, Benny Corbitt, went out looking for her. “He came back by the house about three times, and each time, his shirt was wringing with sweat,” he told The Root. “Nobody slept that night.”

Two days later, he remembers, someone threw a firebomb at the home of Taylor, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. “After that, they moved in with us,” said Corbitt. “At night, my father would sit in a tree and guard the house with a shotgun.”

The following month, in a farce of a grand jury trial at which none of the assailants even showed up, an all-white, all-male jury elected not to indict.

The family didn’t know it back then, but Parks, dispatched by the Montgomery NAACP to investigate the case, was setting the gears in motion for a far-reaching campaign. “Miss Parks told me to go with her to Montgomery until things were clear,” said Taylor, who stayed for three months in a rooming house, arranged for by Parks, before returning home. “She was trying to get something done. I’m not sure what. I was young and didn’t know nothing about law and stuff like that.”

Parks saw an opportunity to hold up Taylor’s story as a national example of Southern injustice. She partnered with other progressive groups — including the now mostly forgotten Southern Negro Youth Congress, the defense team of the Scottsboro Boys, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and other labor organizers, as well as communist networks — to form the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor. The coalition became a national movement that the Chicago Defender called “the strongest campaign for equal justice to be seen in a decade,” and daily stories on the case were printed in newspapers across the nation, from Baltimore to Los Angeles.

But not in the tiny town of Abbeville, where Taylor’s family was largely unaware of the proceedings. Corbitt had quite a shock, years later, as a soldier stationed in Germany. “A German guy asked me where I was from, and when I told him Alabama, he started to tell a story he knew about that happened there,” he said. “He was talking about my sister.”

Danielle McGuire, an assistant professor of history at Wayne State University and author of the recently published book At the Dark End of the Street, documenting Taylor’s story as well as others from the civil rights era, says that the broader goal of the Committee for Equal Justice was to quash the legacy of Jim Crow. “They used the horror of her story to highlight the hypocrisy of the United States — at war around the world for democracy, and yet there was no democracy at home,” McGuire told The Root. “They might have not seen Recy Taylor as sophisticated enough to be a spokesperson for the campaign, so a lot of this was organized without the family’s knowledge.”

The effort included a massive letter-writing campaign to Alabama Gov. Chauncey Sparks in order to shame the state into bringing Taylor’s abductors to trial. Worried about the impact on Alabama’s reputation, Sparks arranged an investigation and even got admission statements from the assailants. “He and the attorney general believed the guys were guilty, and they were ready to do something,” explained McGuire. The only problem was that in Alabama law, a criminal case can’t proceed without an indictment in the county where the crime happened.

“They just were not going to indict their neighbors and sons in Abbeville,” said McGuire. There was no further hearing.

A Forgotten History

As the years passed, talk of the incident faded out. Somewhere along the way, it seems that history also forgot Recy Taylor and black women like her, many of whom also testified about the crimes committed against them. Although some African-American historians, such as Darlene Clark Hine, have cited incidents of rape as catalysts for the Great Migration, it hasn’t been part of the civil rights story in the major historical world.

“I think that has to do with, on some level, historians having a narrow focus on what ‘civil rights’ means,” said McGuire. “It has always meant voter registration and desegregation of public accommodations and schools, but in the 1940s in particular, the movement was really focused on human rights.”

Meanwhile, Taylor and her family did their best to forget and move on. Corbitt eventually settled in New York City, but during a visit home in 1999, he and his sister got to talking about the rape. “She started to cry,” he said. “I didn’t realize she was still hurting that bad. She tried to hold it inside all those years, but she talked freely to me. When I retired in 2001 and moved back to Abbeville, I decided to devote my time to trying to find some way to help her get justice.”

Corbitt spent days at the library, poring over microfilms of newspapers from the era. Nothing turned up but missing pages. The county courthouse had no record of the incident. He had nearly given up when, in 2008, he typed his sister’s name into an online search engine. Up popped an essay by Danielle McGuire referencing the case. Finally: historical recognition that this had happened.

“The article said the name of the man that held the gun on her and forced her to get in the car,” Corbitt said. “Just exposing this man’s name was a little measure of justice.”

After meeting McGuire and learning more about Abbeville’s handling of his sister’s assault, he redirected his anger from the rapists to the police. “All of the men admitted that they kidnapped and raped her, but the police covered for them and said they didn’t do it,” he said. “That was a hard pill to swallow.”

Corbitt doesn’t think he’s asking for much these days. “I’d like a public apology from the city of Abbeville and the state of Alabama,” he said. “Most of the white people here don’t know anything about what happened, because the police kept it such a secret.”

It’s unclear what legal options the family has today, but because Alabama has no statute of limitations on rape, McGuire posits that Taylor’s case could potentially be reopened if the assailants are still alive. “There may be a possibility that they could sue the county or sheriff’s department for obstruction of justice, given the cover-up,” she said. “A creative attorney could certainly find a way.”

As for Taylor, she agrees with her brother that an apology is the least anyone could do. She also blames herself for some of the hush-hush nature of her story. “I should have talked more about it too myself,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t want nobody to think something like that happened to me. I thought folks were going to talk about me and say, ‘You was raped.’ I was ashamed of it, and I didn’t know how to go about talking about it.”

She pauses, lost for a moment in her thoughts. “It was a long time ago,” she says finally. “But I still think something should have been done about it.”

Cynthia Gordy is the Washington reporter for The Root.



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Published: February 23, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie, a comic-book writer known for diversifying the pantheon of superheroes, creating popular black characters in print and on television, died in Burbank, Calif., on Monday, the day after his 49th birthday.

February 24, 2011

John Sotomayor/The New York Times

Dwayne McDuffie’s stewardship the Justice League of America added new black and female characters.

February 24, 2011

DC Comics

Dwayne McDuffie diversified the ranks of superheroes with characters like Static, above.

Mr. McDuffie, a resident of Sherman Oaks, Calif., died of complications from heart surgery, said Matt Wayne, a longtime friend.

Mr. McDuffie was best known as a founder of Milestone Media, described by The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2000 as “the industry’s most successful minority-owned-and-operated comic company.”

An independent company whose work is distributed by DC Comics, Milestone produces comics with ethnically diverse casts. Among its major characters (all of whom Mr. McDuffie helped create, in collaboration with illustrators and other writers) are Static, Icon and Hardware, all of whom are African-American; Xombi, who is Asian-American; and the Blood Syndicate, a crime-fighting group of men and women that includes blacks, Asians and Latinos.

Static, perhaps the most famous, is the alter ego of a mild-mannered teenager, who uses secret electromagnetic powers to do valiant things. Mr. McDuffie named Static’s alter ego Virgil Hawkins, after the black man who waged a midcentury fight to be admitted to law school at the University of Florida, a process that eventually led to the desegregation of Florida’s public university system.

That comic inspired the animated television series “Static Shock,” originally broadcast on the WB television network from 2000 to 2004, for which Mr. McDuffie was a creator, story editor and writer.

Mr. McDuffie’s other screen credits include writing and producing several mainstream animated series for television, including “Ben 10: Alien Force” and “Justice League.” Under his stewardship the Justice League of America — predominantly an old boys’ club featuring white males like Batman and Superman — added new black and female characters.

Dwayne Glenn McDuffie was born in Detroit on Feb. 20, 1962. Growing up, he later said, he encountered few comic-book characters who looked like him; he encountered fewer still who were simultaneously black, heroic and even remotely authentic.

“You only had two types of characters available for children,” Mr. McDuffie told The New York Times in 1993. “You had the stupid angry brute and the he’s-smart-but-he’s-black characters. And they were all colored either this Hershey-bar shade of brown, a sickly looking gray or purple. I’ve never seen anyone that’s gray or purple before in my life. There was no diversity and almost no accuracy among the characters of color at all.”

Mr. McDuffie received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan, followed by a master’s in physics there; he later studied film at New York University. After a stint as a copy editor at Investment Dealers’ Digest, he took a job as an editor with Marvel Comics in 1987.

At Marvel Mr. McDuffie helped develop the company’s first line of superhero trading cards and wrote for established series like Spider-Man and Captain Marvel. He also created Damage Control, a mini-series published at intervals from the late ’80s to the present. Mr. McDuffie devised the series to address a long-overlooked but perennially nagging question: Who cleans up the comic-book universe after the preternaturally messy battles between the forces of good and evil?

After leaving Marvel in 1990, Mr. McDuffie did freelance work for DC and other comic publishers before founding Milestone with three partners in the early ’90s. The company’s first comics appeared in 1993 and were published regularly by DC until 1997 and in reprints afterward; two new Milestone series, Xombi and Static Shock, are scheduled to be published by DC this year.

Mr. McDuffie’s honors include a Humanitas Prize in 2003 for an episode of “Static Shock” about gun violence.

Mr. McDuffie’s first marriage, to Patricia Younger, ended in divorce. He married Charlotte Fullerton, a writer of comic books and animated TV shows, in 2009. She survives him, as does his mother, Edna McDuffie Gardner.

To those who thought comic books unlikely vehicles for advancing social justice, Mr. McDuffie’s reply was simple.

“You don’t feel as real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 1993. “There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.”





Published: February 24, 2011

Dr. Edwin D. Kilbourne, a medical researcher who figured out how to outwit fast-evolving flu germs, developing a new vaccine each year by intermingling genes of different disease strains, died Monday in Branford, Conn. He was 90.

February 25, 2011

Associated Press

Dr. Edwin Kilbourne in 1973.

His family announced the death. He lived in Madison, Conn.

For all his prestigious discoveries, awards and positions, Dr. Kilbourne had his greatest visibility during the swine flu epidemic of 1976. When a soldier died at Fort Dix, N.J., after being infected by a particularly virulent flu virus, Dr. Kilbourne wrote an Op-Ed article in The New York Times warning of a worldwide flu pandemic, and personally led in developing a vaccine to meet its challenge.

President Gerald R. Ford ordered 200 million doses of the vaccine to be administered to that many Americans. Dr. Kilbourne was a principal adviser to the president on the program. But even as the disease seemed to subside on its own, several hundred people who received shots contracted a kind of paralysis. Some died.

Time magazine asserted that “election-year fever” had prompted the president to move quickly, while The Times called Mr. Ford’s scientific advisers “panicmongers.” The program was stopped after 43 million vaccinations.

A causative connection between the vaccinations and the paralytic syndrome was never proved. And Dr. Kilbourne remained convinced that the mass vaccinations were the right policy, pointing out that the virus that killed the soldier bore a sinister resemblance to the pandemic of 1918-19, which infected two billion people around the world and killed 20 million to 40 million. He also warned that the disease could be hibernating, which he had proved it could do.

“Better a vaccine without an epidemic than an epidemic without a vaccine,” he said years later. He called the episode “my 15 minutes of infamy.”

Although Dr. Kilbourne never stopped believing that Mr. Ford’s aggressive actions were warranted, only 230 cases of flu were diagnosed at Fort Dix, and none elsewhere.

Of the 43 million who got flu shots, 535 came down with the paralytic syndrome known as Guillain-Barré; 23 of them died.

Dr. Kilbourne’s early research examined links between hormones and viruses, but it was his work on the flu that earned him global note as early as the mid-1950s. His goal was to find weapons to combat the flu virus comparable to the way penicillin fights bacterial infections.

He was up against one of the most fickle, enigmatic, persistent microbes to attack man or beast. These microbes are capable of changing their surface characteristics to elude barriers the body has erected against them. Dr. Kilbourne’s solution was to mix, or “recombine,” the genes of different strains of the virus to “persuade” the body to come up with new defenses.

“This accomplishment represents the first deliberate genetic engineering of any vaccine,” the New York Academy of Medicine said in presenting Dr. Kilbourne with its highest award in 1983. For years after, he created annual versions of flu vaccine targeted at emerging viruses.

In 1973, Dr. Kilbourne proposed that worldwide epidemics might be terrestrial “Andromeda strains” coming to man from the barnyard and then retreating to await the next great outbreak. “The Andromeda Strain” in Michael Crichton’s novel of that name is an organism from outer space that Earth is not prepared to handle.

In delivering the R. E. Dyer lecture to the National Institutes of Health in 1973, Dr. Kilbourne suggested that two conditions must be met for a new viral strain to go from swine or other animals to man. One was the random recombination of a virus, making it infectious to man. The other was an ecological niche for the virus in a human population unprepared to fight back.

“If my hypothesis is correct,” he said, “the pandemic viruses of tomorrow and of remote yesterdays may already exist in our domestic animals today.”

Edwin Dennis Kilbourne was born on July 10, 1920, in Buffalo. He graduated from Cornell University in 1942 and Cornell Medical College in 1944. For the next two years he served in the Army, where he became intrigued with influenza while treating soldiers.

He next worked as a researcher at the Rockefeller Institute before working at four medical schools: Tulane, Cornell, Mount Sinai (as chairman of the microbiology department) and New York Medical College.

Dr. Kilbourne is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Joy Schmid; his sister, Sylvia Hosie; his half-sister, Lynn Norton; his sons, Edwin, Richard, Christopher and Paul; and eight grandchildren.

Over the desk in Dr. Kilbourne’s laboratory, the most prominent award, obscuring honors like his membership in the National Academy of Sciences, was a plaque honoring his contribution to his team’s 1988-89 victory in a men’s bowling league in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.

He was also a published poet, devoted to extolling the bizarre mating habits of animals like hairy-legged fruit flies. A paean to the bighorn ram illustrates:

His wooly wooing is neither smooth nor is it unctuous,

And therefore can be fairly termed rambunctious.





Published: February 22, 2011

Edward Zigo, a seasoned New York detective who helped arrest David Berkowitz for the so-called Son of Sam serial murders, which terrorized New York in the mid-1970s, died Saturday at his home in Lynbrook, on Long Island. He was 84.

February 23, 2011

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Edward Zigo with David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, in August 1977. Mr. Zigo had searched Mr. Berkowitz’s car.

His death was confirmed by Michael Grant, a director of the Flinch & Bruns Funeral Home in Lynbrook. The Associated Press reported that he died of cancer.

The Son of Sam case was one of New York City’s signature crimes. Starting in July 1976, a serial killer wielding a .44 caliber Charter Arms revolver preyed on young women or couples in Queens and the Bronx. By the summer of 1977, the toll had reached five dead and six injured. A bizarre four-page letter, addressed to Capt. Joseph Borrelli, the head of the homicide unit for Queens, and peppered with allusions to vampires and monsters, heightened the unease by warning that he would strike again.

When the killer shot Stacy Moskowitz, his sixth murder victim, and wounded a companion in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn on July 31, 1977, Mr. Zigo, a homicide detective at the time, was assigned to work on the case with Detective John Falotico, Mr. Borrelli said Tuesday. Fifty detectives had already been assigned to the manhunt in a task force known as Operation Omega.

A significant break in the case came when a woman walking her dog the night of the Moskowitz murder remembered seeing an officer ticketing cars. Another detective, James Justus, followed up on the tickets, one of which had been issued to a David Berkowitz of Yonkers for a Ford Galaxie parked too close to a fire hydrant.

According to an account of the case in Jonathan Mahler’s 2005 chronicle of the year 1977, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning,” Detective Justus called the Yonkers police and reached the switchboard operator, who turned out to be the daughter of Sam Carr, a neighbor of Mr. Berkowitz. Mr. Berkowitz later told the police that Mr. Carr’s dog was giving him instructions to kill.

On the afternoon of Aug. 10, Mr. Zigo arrived outside the apartment house where Mr. Berkowitz lived and saw the Ford Galaxie. In its back seat, he spotted a duffel bag containing a rifle. In the glove compartment, he found a letter threatening to attack a disco. “Eddie said the writing resembled what I had shown him,” Mr. Borrelli said.

The police waited until Mr. Berkowitz emerged and got into his car. Detective Falotico, his gun drawn, approached the car and ordered Mr. Berkowitz out.

“You got me,” Mr. Berkowitz said, adding a moment later, “I’m the Son of Sam.”

When Mr. Berkowitz was led into the 84th Precinct station house the next day, with an army of photographers and reporters recording the event, Detectives Zigo and Falotico flanked him. For his role, Mr. Zigo was promoted to first-grade detective.

The A.P. reported that he is survived by his wife, Eileen; a son, Edward III; a daughter, Susan; and eight grandchildren.

Mr. Zigo, who retired from the police force in 1982, went on to have a brief movie career, playing law enforcement figures in two movies and working as a technical consultant on four others.

In a 1985 television movie about the Son of Sam case, “Out of the Darkness,” Mr. Zigo was portrayed by Martin Sheen.



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The Moon up close &mdash; <i>very</i> close
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State Univ.

Bulletin at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

A Half-Gigabyte View of the Moon

February 25, 2011 | This week NASA scientists unveiled a view of the lunar nearside that measures an astounding 24,000 by 24,000 pixels. > read more 

NASA’s First Robot Astronaut

February 23, 2011 | Imagine an astronaut that can work tirelessly 24 hours a day, seven days a week — without needing food, drink, or oxygen. > read more 

Galaxy Sparkles in New Hubble Image

February 21, 2011 | The Hubble Space Telescope captures a spiral galaxy in remarkable detail. > read more 

Sky & Telescope April 2011

February 12, 2011 | Sky & Telescope‘s April 2011 issue is now available to digital subscribers. > read more 



Venus and the Moon in broad daylight

See Venus in Broad Daylight!

February 25, 2011 | Monday and Tuesday, February 28th and March 1st, offer excellent opportunities to spot Venus during broad daylight with your unaided eyes. > read more 

Tour March’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

February 24, 2011 | This will be a month of transition, celestially speaking: spring and daylight-saving time arrive for northern skywatchers, Jupiter makes an exit, and Saturn is waiting in the wings. > read more 

Saturn’s New Bright Storm

December 27, 2010 | A massive new storm in the ringed planet’s northern hemisphere is bright enough to see in small telescopes. > read more 

This Week’s Sky at a Glance


Dawn view

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

February 18, 2011 | Sirius shines highest after dusk, four constellation carnivores are marching in parallel, and the Moon passes Venus at dawn. > read more 



GLOBE at Night's 2010 results
GLOBE at Night

How Many Stars Can You See?

February 23, 2011 | Join the sixth worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 star-counting campaign (February 21st to March 6th), and do your part to fight light pollution! > read more



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February 24, 2011 Direct | Published by the Applied Research Center

It’s 1968 All Over Again, and King’s Fight For Unions Is Still Essential

MLK died fighting for the rights that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and a growing number of his GOP counterparts want to take away. King historian Michael Honey explains how past is present.

Also: Van Jones Calls For Massive Day of Action for Workers’ Rights

Arizona’s Hate Machine on the Move, Again

Soon it may be illegal for undocumented immigrants to go to school and drive in Arizona. Julianne Hing explains.
Also: ABC Shows Everyday Bravery in Face of Arizona’s Racial Profiling

Is This the Beginning of the End for a Multiracial Oscars?

Jorge Rivas reports on why you won’t be seeing any black Oscar winners this Sunday.

Rep. Moore Tells Anti-Choice GOP Where to Shove Black Genocide Lie
“I know a lot about having black babies. I’ve had three of them,” she explains during Pence Amendment debate.

Banksy Transforms Migrant Road Sign into DREAM Crossing
The iconic Southern California road sign was originally created by Navajo artist John Hope.

Minuteman Vigilante Shawna Forde Sentenced to Death
The anti-immigration activist was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the deaths of young Brisenia Flores and her father.

The Budget Line Neither Party’s Willing To Defend: Foreign Aid
We’re still putting our money into war, rather than peace and prosperity.

Beyonce Sports Blackface To Honor Fela Kuti
Just when we thought she couldn’t get any lighter, the singer takes a turn in the opposite direction.

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Gender Matters
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In addition to adding insult to the legacy of the Civil Rights marchers who participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965, the neo-confederates of the following SPLC article show their ludicrous and slavish worship of a flag that still represents slavery, legalized mass gang rape, institutionalized oppression and hatred of one’s fellow human beings.

When, oh when, are they going to realize that the CSA lost the Civil War 146 years ago come April 9, 2011?

Give it up.

The South lost; stop celebrating a lost cause that condoned slavery, inhuman chattel bondage, and racist hate.

Why continue to celebrate defeat?

Face facts—the South destroyed itself with the continuation of the institution of slavery (handed over to it by the North), its brutal bestiality towards defenseless Black people, its convincing weak-minded poor Whites to embrace whiteness and take much of their hate out on Blacks with lynchings and carnivals of atrocities, instead of directing their efforts to overthrow the ruling/planter class which stayed in power after the abolition of slavery.

Texas, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina (and your allies)—all were in rebellion against the United States—and all suffered the consequences.

File:Map of CSA 4.png


When you fight in your own house, you destroy more than tangible items.

You destroy yourselves and it takes years, no–centuries, to begin to overcome the destruction you brought on yourselves and those around you.


by  Ryan Lenz  on February 19, 2011

It’s hard to say exactly what the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) remembered so fondly on Saturday during a sesquicentennial celebration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inauguration: a way of life that has been dead for a century and a half, or the day when the public at large appreciated their cause.

With booming cannons and bombastic rhetoric, about 1,000 Confederate revelers dressed in period costume marched up Dexter Avenue to the Alabama State Capitol – the end of the very same route taken by Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of others who participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965. There, on the gold star where former Alabama Gov. George Wallace gave his 1963 inaugural address with the infamous phrase, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” an actor playing the part of Davis became the president of the Confederacy to cheers and hurrahs.

Jefferson Davis in parade

But the SCV wasn’t interested in commemorating King or the civil rights march, nor the passage of the 14th Amendment that gave freedmen citizenship, instead their hope is to ensure “the Heritage of Confederacy” is remembered and portrayed in the right way. “We say very proudly to the world: We are proud of our heritage and will not lay down the mantle of its defense … As long as there blows a southern breeze, this flag will fly in it,” said Charles “Chuck” McMichael, past commander-in-chief of the SCV, gesturing to one of the hundreds of confederate battle flags flying.

Open only to male descendents of Confederate veterans, the SCV sees Southern history differently than most historians. From the group’s point of view, the confederacy was a victim of Lincoln’s tyranny. The South did not intend to fire the first shots on Fort Sumter; rather, Lincoln manipulated them into it. There was no “Civil War,” but instead an attempt by one country to invade another that was simply fighting for “independence.” The Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves and the war had nothing to do with slavery. The group can’t even admit that the South, home of slavery, may have been uniquely racist, arguing that there was more of that in the North.

But racism cuts to the heart of the SCV, which was roiled by an internal civil war for much of the last decade between racial extremists and those who want to keep the Southern heritage group a kind of history and genealogy club. In the end, the extremists won.

At capitol steps

The current commander is Michael Givens, who is best known for his 2000 video about a “heritage celebration” held in Columbia, S.C., to defend the display of the Confederate battle flag over the statehouse there (the flag was taken down in July 2000). The video was heavy with interviews from hate group members. Other extremists on the general staff include: Lt. Commander Charles Kelley Barrow, once was a member of the League of the South; Adjutant-in-Chief Chuck Rand, also a former leaguer; and Chief of Protocol Lee Millar, once the contact for an event scheduled to feature a blackface group called the Snowflake Minstrels.

Such veiled racism lets the SCV parade under the guise of a well-meaning group of people who view Civil War re-enactments as a hobby. McMichaels on Saturday even co-opted icons of the Civil Rights Movement to justify his defense of the Confederacy, saying, “Like Rosa Parks who went from the back of the bus to the front, we of confederate descent have been pushed to the back … and it is time for us to say ‘No more!’”


In the end, it’s all part of a slick machine to control the image of the SCV for public consumption. Rand, for example, on Saturday confiscated racist newspapers from his supporters after police arrested Olaf Childress, the neo-Confederate stalwart who publishes The First Freedom. Many wouldn’t accept the paper he offered, but others tucked copies under their arms, hiding the masthead that proclaims the newspaper to be an invitation to “the Zionist-controlled media’cracy to meet a rising free South.”

As if the theatrics of a Davis inauguration were not enough to celebrate the Civil War anniversary, a week ago the SCV chapter in Mississippi announced a campaign to push for a commemorative license plate honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a millionaire Memphis slave trader and the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan. The state has shown no interest in the proposal.


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All the Ladies Say, a film by Ana “Rocafella” Garcia celebrates the female b-girls: a female breakdancer, hip hopper who is involved in hip hop culture, while sporting Addidas or shelltoe sneakers. Ms. Garcia’s film, which premiered in June 2009, is a documentary that showcases the talents of six female street dancers from Atlanta, San Jose, Miami, and Chicago who have carved out a place for themselves in the overtly masculine world of  break dancing and hip hop. Per the website, the following is the film’s mission:

“All The Ladies Say” is a film that highlights the lives of six iconic female street dancers from San Jose, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago, who have carved a niche in the physically challenging, male dominated breakdance world. Discussions about motherhood, sexual tension, femininity versus masculinity and the rap industry/mainstream images are a few of the themes explored by the documentary’s main characters. International dancers not only make appearances but also add their two cents about life as a B Girl in the Hip-hop world.”

The film premieres March 12, 2011 at 1:00 P.M. at the Byrd Theater in Richmond, Virginia  as a screening to benefit Camp Diva, with a post screening discussion to follow. Tickets are $3.00 for the entrance fee, with a dance workshop offered by Rokafella. For more information, call the following number:  (804)-852-4385.

To learn more about the women highlighted in the film click here.


A second showing of the film will be held on March 26, 2011 for the “Ladies Get Down” festival in Manhattan, New York. More information is soon to follow.

For those who live in the North Jersey area, mark your calendar for a screening and after screening party in Newark at NJPAC on April 9th beginning at 1pm as part of Alternate Routes Hip-hop festival -more info at

To see b-girls in action, check out the following videos:


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Virginian Luxuries, unknown artist, circa 1810 – 1825.

“As if to mimic the tendency of most Americans, including the Founding Fathers, to say as little as possible about slavery, and either to deny or avoid discussing its brutality, the painting, Virginian Luxuries appears anonymously (undated and unsigned) on the back or unseen side of another painting.] This two-part picture is hidden on the back of another painting. Written in fairly large letters at the bottom of the painting is its title, Virginian Luxuries, suggesting the scene’s location as well as a critical perspective on slavery.”

Excerpted from Seeing Slavery: How Paintings Make Words Look Different, by Alex Bontemps.

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Published: February 13, 2011

Charles E. Silberman, a journalist whose books addressed vast, turbulent social subjects including race, education, crime and the state of American Jewry, died on Feb. 5 in Sarasota, Fla. He was 86 and had lived in Sarasota in recent years.

February 14, 2011

Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

Charles E. Silberman in 1985.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said.

A former writer and editor at Fortune magazine, Mr. Silberman was known in particular for three books that took on some of the most highly charged issues of the day: “Crisis in Black and White” (1964), “Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education” (1970) and “Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice” (1978).

In “Crisis in Black and White,” he explored the nation’s long history of racial oppression and its dire effects on the economic, social and educational prospects of 20th-century blacks. The book spent nine weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Reviewing it, Time magazine wrote that Mr. Silberman “marches in no-nonsense fashion to a number of hard truths that are not meant to comfort or console.”

In “Crisis in the Classroom,” the product of a study underwritten by the Carnegie Foundation, Mr. Silberman turned his attention to the state of American public education, which he indicted as bleak, oppressive and generally in disarray.

“Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice” examined American crime and punishment through the lens of racism.

Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Roger Wilkins said, “In a field as beset by emotion, mythology and fear as crime is, honest reporting, earnest analysis and honorable speculation can surely serve the republic well, and that is what this book does — and more.”

Charles Eliot Silberman was born on Jan. 31, 1925, in Des Moines and grew up in New York City. After Navy service aboard a minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1946 and did graduate work in economics there.

Mr. Silberman taught economics at Columbia and the City College of New York. He joined Fortune in 1953 and was on staff there until the early 1970s.

Mr. Silberman’s wife, the former Arlene Propper, whom he married in 1948, died last year. He is survived by four sons, David, Rick, Jeff and Steve, and six grandchildren.

His other books include “The Myths of Automation” (1966), written with other Fortune editors, and “A Certain People: American Jews and Their Lives Today,” which he described in interviews as his most personal book.

Published in 1985, “A Certain People” drew wide attention for its hopeful assertion — contrary to the hand-wringing by many prominent Jewish writers over intermarriage and assimilation — that American Jewry was undergoing a renaissance.

Jews could now enjoy success without fear of anti-Semitic reprisals, Mr. Silberman argued, and there was renewed interest among young Jews in keeping the faith.

To critics who took the book to task for naïve optimism, Mr. Silberman’s response was simple. As he told Newsweek in 1985, “It takes guts to bring good news to the Jewish community.”




Courtesy of Laura Siegel Larson Joanne Siegel in the 1940s, left, and in a drawing by Joe Shuster, who with Ms. Siegel’s husband, Jerry, created Superman.
Courtesy of Laura Siegel Larson, left; Joe Shuster, right

Joanne Siegel in the 1940s, left, and in a drawing by Joe Shuster, who with Ms. Siegel’s husband, Jerry, created Superman.


Published: February 15, 2011

Joanne Siegel, who as a Cleveland teenager during the Depression hired herself out as a model to an aspiring comic book artist, Joe Shuster, and thus became the first physical incarnation of Lois Lane, Superman’s love interest, died on Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 93.

February 16, 2011

DC Comics

Lois Lane and Clark Kent on a Superman comic book cover.

February 16, 2011

Everett Collection

Noel Neill and George Reeves in the 1950s television show “The Adventures of Superman.”

February 16, 2011

TMS & DC Comics Inc., via Associated Press

Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie.

Ms. Siegel was married to Shuster’s partner and Superman co-creator, the writer Jerry Siegel. Their daughter, Laura Siegel Larson, confirmed her death.

A high school girl with an ambitious nature and stars in her eyes, young Joanne, like teenagers everywhere, was seeking a way to earn some money when she posed for the first time as Lois Lane. It was probably 1935, her daughter said, and “somebody had told her modeling was easy,” so she placed a brief ad in the classified section of The Plain Dealer, declaring herself available for modeling work and confessing that she had no experience. Most of the responses to the ad were requests for dates, but one at least seemed serious, and she presented herself to Shuster and Siegel, who were then developing Superman. (The first Superman comic was published in 1938.)

By that point the character was well along in Siegel’s mind; he knew he wanted her to be a journalist, and his model was a film character, a clever reporter named Torchy Blane who had been featured in a series of B movies, played by Glenda Farrell. (In the 1938 film “Torchy Blane in Panama,” the title character was played by Lola Lane, a singer and actress who some sources — including Ms. Larson — say influenced the name of Superman’s leading lady.)

In any case, during the modeling session Joanne struck various poses — draping herself over the arms of a chair, for example, to show how she might look being carried by Superman in flight — and she and the two men, who were barely in their 20s, became friends. Shuster’s drawings reproduced her hairstyle and her facial features, though in the most famous of the original drawings, Lois is considerably more voluptuous than her model was.

“Joe might have taken a few liberties,” Ms. Larson said with a laugh. She added that her mother’s irrepressibility, ambition and spunk informed her father’s development of the character: “My dad always said he wrote Lois with my mom’s personality in mind.”

The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, she was born Jolan Kovacs in Cleveland on Dec. 1, 1917; classmates and teachers who couldn’t or wouldn’t pronounce her name properly — YO-lan — called her Joan or Joanne, and the second name is the one that eventually stuck.

After her Lois Lane debut, she was an artist’s model in Boston and elsewhere. (For a time she used the name Joanne Carter.) During World War II she worked for a California ship builder, supporting the war effort. Returning to New York, she re-established a connection with Siegel at a fund-raising ball for cartoonists at which, according to family lore, the costumes were judged by Marlon Brando, then in the middle of his Broadway run in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Both had been married; she was divorced and he was soon to be. They married in 1948 and lived in Connecticut and on Long Island before moving to California in the 1960s. In addition to her daughter, who lives in the Los Angeles area, she is survived by a sister, Sophie Halko of Cleveland, and two grandsons.

Ms. Siegel worked at a number of jobs during her marriage — as one of California’s early car saleswomen, she sold new and used Chevys from a lot in Santa Monica — but much of her life was taken up trying to reclaim the original Superman copyright that Shuster and her husband sold to Detective Comics in 1937 for $130.

Of course, since then Superman as a character had become the central figure in comic books, television shows and blockbuster movies, not to mention the progenitor of legions of other superheroes. Ms. Siegel was the first in a long line of Lois Lanes, who have included Phyllis Coates, Noel Neill, Teri Hatcher, and Erica Durance on television and Margot Kidder in the movies.

The story of the plight of Shuster and Siegel, whose lives were marked by privation, is one of the cautionary tales in the annals of intellectual property. In a series of legal and public relations battles that began in 1947, the families eventually won some compensation from DC Comics (the successor to Detective Comics), and in 2008 a federal judge restored Siegel’s co-authorship share of the original Superman copyrights, though how much money the Siegel family is entitled to is still being adjudicated.

“All her life she carried the torch for Jerry and Joe — and other artists,” said Marc Toberoff, the lawyer for both the Siegel and Shuster families. “There was a lot of Lois Lane in Joanne Siegel.”




Obit Monroe

Andrew J. Choon/Associated Press SOURCE

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford at Tulane University in 1985 with Bill Monroe, center.


Published: February 17, 2011

Bill Monroe, a television journalist whose long career with NBC included stints as the network’s Washington bureau chief and moderator of its Sunday interview program, “Meet the Press,” died on Thursday at a nursing home in Potomac, Md. He was 90.

The cause was complications of hypertension, his daughter Lee Monroe said. He moved to the nursing home after taking a fall in December.

From 1975 to 1984, Mr. Monroe was the producer and moderator of “Meet the Press,” the long-running Sunday morning news program built around interviews with national and international figures. He was its fourth producer and moderator, succeeding Lawrence E. Spivak, after serving as a panelist himself.

On camera Mr. Monroe was serious and direct. In 1976, soon after becoming the permanent moderator, he grilled Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, who had once championed segregation and was running for president. “Have you personally changed your views about segregation?” Mr. Monroe asked.

When Mr. Wallace did not respond directly, Mr. Monroe interrupted him and repeated the question twice more. Mr. Wallace went on to say that race relations were better in the South than in other parts of the country.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter used a “Meet the Press” interview with Mr. Monroe to announce that the United States would boycott the Olympics in Moscow that year to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Mr. Monroe was previously Washington editor of the “Today” show; before that he was NBC’s Washington bureau chief. He was succeeded on “Meet the Press” by the co-hosts Marvin Kalb and Roger Mudd and later returned to “Today” to present a broadcast equivalent of newspapers’ letters-to-the-editor columns. People who wrote compelling letters were interviewed in their homes or places of work.

After retiring from NBC in 1986, Mr. Monroe was editor of The Washington Journalism Review and worked for the Defense Department as ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. His last job was editing The Early Bird, a compendium of newspaper stories the Pentagon sent to bases around the world.

William Blanc Monroe Jr. was born in New Orleans on July 17, 1920, and graduated from Tulane University with a degree in philosophy and a Phi Beta Kappa key in 1942. He worked for United Press while in college and served in the Army Air Forces in the Mediterranean during World War II.

After the war he worked as a newsman on local radio and a local newspaper in New Orleans before becoming news director of WDSU’s AM, FM and television stations in New Orleans.

As part of the job he began writing editorials and delivering them himself, many of which called for calm during the early days of the civil rights movement. Some editorials provoked death threats.

In 1959, WDSU-TV won a George Foster Peabody Award for work done under Mr. Monroe’s direction. He also won a Peabody in 1973 for his news reporting on the “Today” show.

Early in his career, Mr. Monroe fought for greater press access to courtrooms and legislative chambers. In 1972, he testified before Congress to criticize the fairness doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission. Saying he was speaking for himself and not NBC, he argued that instead of being licensed and regulated by the F.C.C., broadcasters should be accorded the same unfettered First Amendment rights as newspapers.

He testified that the regulatory system led broadcasters to fear that Congress or the F.C.C. would discipline them for political reasons. The result, he said, was that they felt “boldness equals trouble with the government, blandness equals peace.”

In addition to his daughter Lee, Mr. Monroe is survived by three other daughters, Arthe Monroe Phillips, Catherine Monroe and Maria Monroe Poole; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.





Published: February 17, 2011

There’s a holdup in the Bronx,

February 18, 2011

John Strauss

Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.

There’s a traffic jam in Harlem

That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.

There’s a scout troop short a child,

Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.

Car 54, where are you?

Ask almost anyone over 50, and the song pours buoyantly forth, evoking one of television’s best-loved comedies.

The lyrics, by Nat Hiken, the show’s creator, capture New York in all its frenzied geography. But they would never have been as singable — or as enduringly etched in public memory — had they not been set to John Strauss’s jaunty march-time tune.

Mr. Strauss, an Emmy-winning composer and music editor who wrote the theme music for “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Phil Silvers Show” (familiarly known as “Sergeant Bilko”), died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 90 and a longtime Los Angeles resident.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son, Larry, said.

Mr. Strauss received an Emmy for sound editing in 1978 for his work on the TV movie “The Amazing Howard Hughes,” and a Grammy in 1984 for producing the soundtrack album of the film “Amadeus.”

But it was for “Car 54” that he remained best known. Broadcast on NBC from 1961 to 1963, the show opens with its stars, Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross, blithely cruising the city in their squad car (they can be seen playing checkers on the dashboard as they drive), oblivious of the catastrophes erupting throughout the city.

Melodically, the opening bars of Mr. Strauss’s theme song recall the start of the second movement of Mozart’s G major Piano Trio (K. 564). As the song ends, the title question hangs in the air in plaintive treble.

John Leonard Strauss was born in New York on April 28, 1920, and began piano lessons as a boy. After Army service in France and North Africa in World War II, he studied composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale.

“The Accused,” a one-woman opera by Mr. Strauss with a libretto by Sheppard Kerman, was broadcast in 1961 on “Camera Three” on CBS. Centering on the Salem witch trials, the opera was conducted by Julius Rudel and sung by the soprano Patricia Neway.

Mr. Strauss’s marriage to the actress Charlotte Rae ended in divorce. His partner afterward, Lionel Friedman, died in 2003. (Mr. Hiken died in 1968.)

Besides his son, Larry, Mr. Strauss is survived by three grandchildren.

His film credits, as music editor, include “Take the Money and Run,” “Bananas,” “Hair,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Zoot Suit” and “Ragtime.”

Mr. Strauss was the music coordinator on “Amadeus,” in which he also appeared briefly on screen as a conductor, complete with powdered wig.


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Stardust's flyby of Comet Tempel 1
NASA / JPL / Cornell Univ.


Stardust’s Date With Comet Tempel 1

February 15, 2011 | Low on fuel but right on the money, NASA‘s Stardust spacecraft visited its second comet earlier today. Scientists are eager to see the crater supposedly punched in the icy nucleus 5½ years ago. One small problem: there’s not much of a crater to see. > read more 

Sky & Telescope April 2011

February 12, 2011 | Sky & Telescope‘s April 2011 issue is now available to digital subscribers. > read more 



X2 solar flare Feb. 15, 2011


Biggest Solar Blast in 4 Years

February 15, 2011 | Solar activity is indeed ramping up: the strongest solar flare in four years erupted on February 15th, dealing a glancing blow on the 18th. > read more 

Tour February’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

January 28, 2011 | February brings into view Orion and his faithful hunting dogs, a set of constellations that sparkle with bright, colorful stars. > read more 

Saturn’s New Bright Storm

December 27, 2010 | A massive new storm in the ringed planet’s northern hemisphere is bright enough to see in small telescopes. > read more 

This Week’s Sky at a Glance


Midnight view


This Week’s Sky at a Glance

February 18, 2011 | Orion stands highest after dark, four constellation carnivores are marching in parallel, and the Moon triangulates with Saturn and Spica. > read more 



Inside Boston's Hayden Planetarium
Museum of Science / Michael Malyszko


Boston’s Hayden Planetarium Gets a Makeover

February 18, 2011 | Looking spiffy after a year-long, $9 million renovation, New England’s largest sky theater can now transport audiences to the edge of the universe in style. > read more 

Measuring Skyglow with Digital Cameras

February 14, 2011 | Digital cameras are great for measuring skyglow, but more work needs to be done to automate the process. > read more



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February 17, 2011 Direct | Published by the Applied Research Center

America’s Food Sweatshops and the Workers of Color Who Feed Us

A new study from’s publisher, the Applied Research Center, reveals deep inequity in the food system.

Also: A Food Crisis Is Coming, But Urban America Already Has It Solved

Crucial College Grants Survive Obama’s Budget Knife, Barely

Julianne Hing explains Obama’s 2012 education budget proposals.
Also: Congressional Black Caucus “Cannot Accept” Obama Budget Cuts

Our Most Popular Love Posts

On Valentine’s Day we highlighted our most popular stories celebrating love.

Another Fashion Week, Another Colored Model Fad
But still no sign of questioning the Euro-supremacy at the root of what’s hot and what’s not.

Minuteman Vigilante Shawna Forde Convicted for Brisenia Flores’ Murder  
Forde reportedly planned elaborate heists in order to fund her anti-immigration activism.

Shirley Sherrod Finally Sues Andrew Breitbart Over Shady Video
Meanwhile, he attacks the former Agriculture Department employee for what he calls a “reparations” pay out.

Report: Blacks and Latinos Make Up 86 Percent of Pot Arrests in NYC
If ever a person needed more salient proof of systemic inequities in the criminal justice system, these numbers seem to provide it.

DREAM Act Supporters Send John Boehner Valentine’s Day Love
Maybe you’ve got a honey this year. Maybe you don’t. For supporters of the DREAM Act, either’s okay.

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