Saturday, February 19, 2011

Charlotta A. Bass Newspaper Publisher-Editor, Civil Rights Activist


Bass was born in Sumter, South Carolina on February 14, 1874. She relocated to California in 1910 for health reasons. Charlotta Bass took over control of The California Eagle, upon the death of the paper's founder, John James Neimore, in 1912 and served as its publisher until 1951.

She and her husband Joseph Bass, who had served as editor of the Topeka Plain Dealer and the Montana Plain Dealer used The Eagle to push for reforms. They combatted such issues as the derogatory images rampant in D.W. Griffith's film, Birth of A Nation; Los Angeles' discriminatory hiring practices; the Klu Klux Klan; police brutality; and restrictive housing covenants.

Bass' uncompromising stance against racial injustice resulted in her life being threatened on numerous occasions. She was branded a communist, and the FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that her paper was seditious. However, this never deterred her or her paper from seeking civil and political rights for African Americans and the disadvantaged.

Charlotta Bass and Paul Robeson, Los Angeles, 1949

Bass retired from the newspaper business in 1951. Her later years were devoted to politics. In 1952 she became the first African-American woman to run for national office as the Vice Presidential candidate on the Progressive Party ticket.

She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12,1969.


Bass, Charlotta. Forty Years: Memoirs from the Pages of A Newspaper: 1960. (Unpublished Manuscript Available at Southern California Research Library and Schomburg)

Jeter, James Phillip, Ph.D. Rough Flying: The California Eagle - (1879-1965) (AJHA Convention Paper)


Activist Newspapers

The first Black newspaper in the U.S. Freedom's Journal, laid the foundation for a long and distinguished line of pionerring Black newspapers.


These newspapers were dedicated to the same ideas the Freedom Journal championed. Educating and Informing the Black communities, supporting their goals of equality and justice, and making their achievements visible to the world.

Here's a look at several of them:


The New Orleans Tribune was the first Black daily newspaper. It was the offshot of L 'Union (THE UNION), was the first Black newspaper published in both French and English. It began in 1862, during the Civil War, and ceased publication in 1864. Dr. Louis Roudanez was a healthy Black doctor and vice president of New Orleans Freedom's Aid Association. He bought L' Union printing equipment and started The Tribune.

The newspaper fought for equal treatment for Black and White soldiers, Black children acceptance into the common schools and the vote for Black people.



John James Neimore established The California Eagle Owl in Los Angeles in 1870 to help African Americans who were moving into the west. Charlotta Spears Bass assumed control over the Owl after Neimore died in 1912, renaming it The California Eagle.


The Eagle fought racial discrimination and segrgation in Los Angeles and California. It published editorials opposing D.W. Griffith film, "Birth of a Nation", whiched featured derogatory portrayals of Black people.


In 1951, Bass sold the newspaper to Loren Miller, a former Eagle reporter.

In 1952, Bass became the first Black woman to run for national office as a Progressive Party Presidential candidate.

The Eagle ceased publication in 1964.


The Afro-American in Baltimore was founded by John Henry Murphy Sr. in 1892. He merged his church publication,The Sunday School Helper, with two other churches publications. The Ledger and the Afro-American.

The newspaper crusaded for racial equality in Maryland. It pushed Baltimore police department to hire black police officers, it fought to obtain equal pay for Maryland's Black school teachers and was instrumental in helping Black students get into schools, like the University of Maryland school and Maryland Art Institute.

It's "Clean Block" campaign aimed to reduce crime and improve the appearance of inner-city neighborhoods.



The Chicago Defender was founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott.

Who also became one of the self-made Black millionaires in America.


The Defender encouraged Black migration from the South. It also mimicked the sensationalist "yellow journalist" techiniques of publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Publitzer attract readers and boost sales.

The Defender did not use the word "Black or Negro", it referred to Black people as "THE RACE".


Edwin Haeleston established The Pittsburgh Courier in 1907. Attorney Robert Lee Vann started out as the newspaper's legal counsel and eventuslly became editor-publisher.

The Courier fought for improvements in housing and education for African Americans. It sought more Black physicians in the Pittsburg area and pushed for a hospital that would treat Black people.

Vann influenced Black voters to shift their political alleigance away from Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

Four boys infront of the Pittsburg Courier.

The Pittsburgh Courier was an American newspaper published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was published from 1907 to 1965. Once the country's most widely circulated Black newspaper, the legacy and influence of the Pittsburgh Courier is unparalleled.

A pillar of the Black Press, it rose alongside the civil rights movement and was among its most forceful voices.

At its peak, the paper boasted a national circulation of almost 250,000 with over 400 employees in 14 cities. Widely read, the Pittsburgh Courier set the tone on major issues impacting the African-American community and people paid attention.

In the 1930s, the Courier urged Black voters to "turn Lincoln's picture to the wall" and vote Democrat, creating a political alliance that endures to this day.

Some famous contributors to the Courier were Joel Augustus Rogers, who worked as a journalist for the Courier in the 1920s, and Sam Milai, editorial cartoonist for the Courier for 33 years.

In 1965, the Courier went into bankruptcy and ceased publishing.

Marcus Garvey, W.E.B.Dubios, James Weldon Johnson, Elijah Muhammad and Zora Neale Hurston wrote for the Courier.

Weldon Smith, The Courier sports writer, used his column to denounce segregation in baseball major leagues. His efforts contributed to Jackie Robinson's signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.



This history is unlocked.....this is a time that people from African descent felt the need to make change and spoke out utilizing as many venues as possible.

The newspapers of today, that are in representation of the Black community need a snapshot of our history in journalism, to better serve the community and print stories that will better inform, educate, encourage as well as support our goals of equality.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


Patrice Emery Lumumba

Historical Biography *

Patrice Emery Lumumba
July 2, 1925, Onalua, Belgian Congo [now Congo (Kinshasa)]
January 1961, Katanga province

African nationalist leader, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (June-September 1960). Forced out of office during a political crisis, he was assassinated a short time later.

Lumumba was born in the village of Onalua in Kasai province, Belgian Congo. He was a member of the small Batetela tribe, a fact that was to become significant in his later political life. His two principal rivals, Moise Tshombe, who led the breakaway of the Katanga province, and Joseph Kasavubu, who later became the nation's president, both came from large, powerful tribes from which they derived their major support, giving their political movements a regional character. In contrast, Lumumba's movement emphasized its all-Congolese nature.

After attending a Protestant mission school, Lumumba went to work in Kindu-Port-Empain, where he became active in the club of the évolués (educated Africans). He began to write essays and poems for Congolese journals. Lumumba next moved to Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) to become a postal clerk and went on to become an accountant in the post office in Stanleyville (now Kisangani). There he continued to contribute to the Congolese press.

In 1955 Lumumba became regional president of a purely Congolese trade union of government employees that was not affiliated, as were other unions, to either of the two Belgian trade-union federations (socialist and Roman Catholic). He also became active in the Belgian Liberal Party in the Congo. Although conservative in many ways, the party was not linked to either of the trade-union federations, which were hostile to it. In 1956 Lumumba was invited with others to make a study tour of Belgium under the auspices of the Minister of Colonies. On his return he was arrested on a charge of embezzlement from the post office. He was convicted and condemned one year later, after various reductions of sentence, to 12 months' imprisonment and a fine.

When Lumumba got out of prison, he grew even more active in politics. In October 1958 he founded the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais; MNC), the first nationwide Congolese political party. In December he attended the first All-African People's Conference in Accra, Ghana, where he met nationalists from across the African continent and was made a member of the permanent organization set up by the conference. His outlook and terminology, inspired by pan-African goals, now took on the tenor of militant nationalism.

In 1959 the Belgian government announced a program intended to lead in five years to independence, starting with local elections in December 1959. The nationalists regarded this program as a scheme to install puppets before independence and announced a boycott of the elections. The Belgian authorities responded with repression. On October 30 there was a clash in Stanleyville that resulted in 30 deaths. Lumumba was imprisoned on a charge of inciting to riot.

The MNC decided to shift tactics, entered the elections, and won a sweeping victory in Stanleyville (90 percent of the votes). In January 1960 the Belgian government convened a Round Table Conference in Brussels of all Congolese parties to discuss political change, but the MNC refused to participate without Lumumba. Lumumba was thereupon released from prison and flown to Brussels. The conference agreed on a date for independence, June 30, with national elections in May. Although there was a multiplicity of parties, the MNC came out far ahead in the elections, and Lumumba emerged as the leading nationalist politician of the Congo. Maneuvers to prevent his assumption of authority failed, and he was asked to form the first government, which he succeeded in doing on June 23, 1960.

A few days after independence, some units of the army rebelled, largely because of objections to their Belgian commander. In the confusion, the mineral-rich province of Katanga proclaimed secession. Belgium sent in troops, ostensibly to protect Belgian nationals in the disorder. But the Belgian troops landed principally in Katanga, where they sustained the secessionist regime of Moise Tshombe.

The Congo appealed to the United Nations to expel the Belgians and help them restore internal order. As prime minister, Lumumba did what little he could to redress the situation. His army was an uncertain instrument of power, his civilian administration untrained and untried; the United Nations forces (whose presence he had requested) were condescending and assertive, and the political alliances underlying his regime very shaky. The Belgian troops did not evacuate, and the Katanga secession continued.

Since the United Nations forces refused to help suppress the Katangese revolt, Lumumba appealed to the Soviet Union for planes to assist in transporting his troops to Katanga. He asked the independent African states to meet in Léopoldville in August to unite their efforts behind him. His moves alarmed many, particularly the Western powers and the supporters of President Kasavubu, who pursued a moderate course in the coalition government and favoured some local autonomy in the provinces.

On September 5 President Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba. The legalities of the move were immediately contested by Lumumba. There were thus two groups now claiming to be the legal central government. On September 14 power was seized by the Congolese army leader Colonel Joseph Mobutu (president of Zaire as Mobutu Sese Seko), who later reached a working agreement with Kasavubu. In October the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the credentials of Kasavubu's government. The independent African states split sharply over the issue.

In November Lumumba sought to travel from Leopoldville, where the United Nations had provided him with provisory protection, to Stanleyville, where his supporters had control. With the active complicity of foreign intelligence sources, Joseph Mobutu sent his soldiers after Lumumba. He was caught after several days of pursuit and spent three months in prison, while his adversaries were trying in vain to consolidate their power. Finally, aware that an imprisoned Lumumba was more dangerous than a dead Prime Minister, he was delivered on January 17, 1961, to the Katanga secessionist regime, where he was executed the same night of his arrival, along with his comrades Mpolo and Okito. His death caused a national scandal throughout the world, and, retrospectively, Mobutu proclaimed him a "national hero."

The reasons that Lumumba provoked such intense emotion are not immediately evident. His viewpoint was not exceptional. He was for a unitary Congo and against division of the country along tribal or regional lines. Like many other African leaders, he supported pan-Africanism and the liberation of colonial territories. He proclaimed his regime one of "positive neutralism," which he defined as a return to African values and rejection of any imported ideology, including that of the Soviet Union.

Lumumba was, however, a man of strong character who intended to pursue his policies, regardless of the enemies he made within his country or abroad. The Congo, furthermore, was a key area in terms of the geopolitics of Africa, and because of its wealth, its size, and its contiguity to white-dominated southern Africa, Lumumba's opponents had reason to fear the consequences of a radical or radicalized Congo regime. Moreover, in the context of the Cold War, the Soviet Union's support for Lumumba appeared at the time as a threat to many in the West.

These popular depictions of Patrice Lumumba exemplify the Congolese tradition of venerating mythic or cultural heroes.

Just as classical African sculptures portrayed cultural innovators, urban art helped transform Lumumba into a powerful symbol. Made to be within the buying power of the urban middle classes, these paintings could be reproduced, hung in homes, and have major political effect in a country where many people did not read or have access to mass media.

Through these paintings, the viewer gains insight into the popular issues of the era and understands how visual arts can shape national consciousness.

Congolese urban art, or popular painting, is a primary medium of urban cultural memory in the Congo. The popular paintings in A Congo Chronicle trace Lumumba’s story from his winning the national elections during the period preceding the Congo’s accession to independence, his daring independence tirade, and his subsequent removal from power and execution.
A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York.

A 110-page full-color catalogue by guest curator Bogumil Jewsiewicki of Laval University, Quebec, with essays by contributing scholars Jean Omasombo Tshonda, Nyunda ya Rubango, Dibwe dia Mwembu, and Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts accompanies the exhibition.

Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art

Through the prism of America's most enduring African-inspired art form, the Lowcountry basket, Grass Roots guides readers across 300 years of American and African history.

In scholarly essays and beautiful photographs, Grass Roots follows the coiled basket along its transformation on two continents from a simple farm tool once used for processing grain to a work of art and a central symbol of African and African American identity.

Featuring images of the stunning work of contemporary basket makers from South Carolina to South Africa, as well as historic photographs that document the artistic heritage of the southern United States, Grass Roots appears at a moment when public recognition of the Gullah/Geechee heritage is encouraging a reexamination of Africa's contribution to American civilization.

Working with basket makers from Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, historian Dale Rosengarten has been studying African American baskets for over 20 years and brings her research up-to-date with interviews of artists and the results of recent historical inquiry.

Anthropologist Enid Schildkrout draws on her research in West Africa and museum collections around the world to explore the African antecedents of Lowcountry basketry.

Geographer Judith A. Carney discusses the origins of rice in Africa and reveals how enslaved African brought to America not only rice seeds but, just as important, the technical know-how that turned southern coastal forests and swamps into incredibly profitable rice plantations.

Historian Peter H. Wood discusses the many skills that enslaved Africans contributed to the settlement of the Old South and at the same time used to resist the conditions of their servitude.

John Michael Vlach, a leading authority on African American folk art, discusses the history of visual depictions of plantation life.

Fath Davis Ruffins, a specialist on the imagery of popular culture, sheds light on the history embedded in old photographs of African Americans in the Charleston area. Cultural historian Jessica B. Harris explores the tradition of rice in American cooking and the enduring African influences in the southern kitchen.

Anthropologist and art historian Sandra Klopper sketches the history of coiled basketry in South Africa, illuminating its evolution from utilitarian craft to fine art, parallel to developments in America.

Anthropologist J. Lorand Matory traces the changing meanings of Gullah/Geechee identity and discusses its appearance as a significant force on the American cultural scene today.

Exhibition Catalogue by Dale Rosengarten, Theodore Rosengarten, and Enid Schildkrout. Dale Rosengarten is curator of special collections at the College of Charleston library.

Theodore Rosengarten teaches history at the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina. Enid Schildkrout is chief curator and director of exhibitions and publications at the Museum for African Art, New York.

Published by the Museum for African Art, New York, 2008. 270 pp.

Family Craft Friday: Adinkra Stamps

UP COMING EVENTS AT the Museum OF African Art in NYC

Family Craft Friday: Adinkra Stamps

Location: Charles A. Dana Discovery Center inside Central Park on 110th St between Fifth and Lenox Aves

Museum for African Art educators will guide participants in using Adinkra symbols from Ghana to create their own printed cloth.

The Ashante people in Ghana use these visual symbols to express concepts and meanings on clothing and other textiles, walls, pottery, and woodcarvings.

This event is the second of three special Family Fridays co-presented by The Central Park Conservancy that features art making activities inspired by nature and African art.

Join us on Friday, March 18 from 2:00-4:00 pm for the last program.

FREE. No advance registration. All ages welcome. Space is limited, no afterschool groups please. For more information, call 212-860-1370.

Museum for African Art education programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.

Black Women in White Johannesburg

Black Women in White Johannesburg: Domestic Workers' Spatial Strategies under Apartheid.


In mid-twentieth-century South Africa, thousands of black women left rural areas to find work in the households of suburban white families. Many headed to Johannesburg, South AfricaÂ's largest city and industrial powerhouse, which was a racially and ethnically divided space.

Professor Rebecca Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Educational Justice Project at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will share the ways in which domestic workers responded to and overcame the severe restrictions on mobility imposed upon them by Apartheid-era legislation.

Dr. Ginsburg, who lived for several years in South Africa, teaches courses on historic African cities and the Atlantic slave trade, among other subjects.

Her current research interests include fugitive landscapes and geographies of the Atlantic slave trade. Dr. Ginsburg's previous publications include The Landscapes of North American Slavery; Historical Geography, and Landscape Journals, among other titles.

This program is a part of a series entitled Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism.

In this series the Museum for African Art and Columbia’s Institute for African Studies have partnered to explore the social, physical and emotional contours of Africa’s many cities and changing urban environments.

The featured speakers will share about their perspectives on architecture, urban planning and architectural theory as it relates to both African contexts and larger global relevance.

Museum for African Art education programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.

Columbia University, International Affairs Building Room 1512, 420 West 118th Street