Black History

December 2020

1955 1956 1963 1964 1969 1984

Rosa Parks' Sitdown

100 days after Emmett Till was murdered, Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a bus, in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white man. Parks said, "I thought of Emmett Till, and when the bus driver ordered me to move to the back (of the bus), I just couldn't move.

Rosa Parks was arrested by the police, for refusing to leave her seat, and it sparked the Montgomery bus boycott.

"Chickens coming home to roost"

With respect to the chickens coming home to roost, Malcolm X’s full statement on this has never appeared in print. He was responding on December 1, 1963 to an audience member who had attended a talk titled God’s Judgment of White America.

The next day the N.Y. Times reported on the exchange in an article titled “Malcolm X Scores U.S. and Kennedy”. Malcolm is quoted as saying that Kennedy twiddled his thumbs at the killing of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, adding that JFK “never foresaw that the chickens would come to roost so soon.”

Certainly JFK’s CIA did more than just twiddle its thumbs when it came to foreign leaders it found inconvenient. The White House had lined up mafia hit men to kill Fidel Castro, as well as taken part in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm´s rather uncontroversial statement simply pointed out that if you were going to kill people overseas in such a fashion you invited being killed in the same way.

Ambush and Murder of Fred Hampton

On the evening of December 3, Hampton taught a political education course at a local church, which was attended by most members. Afterward, as was typical, several Panthers went to his Monroe Street apartment to spend the night, including Hampton and Deborah Johnson, Blair Anderson, James Grady, Ronald "Doc" Satchell, Harold Bell, Verlina Brewer, Louis Truelock, Brenda Harris, and Mark Clark. There they were met by O'Neal, who had prepared a late dinner, which the group ate around midnight. O'Neal had slipped the barbiturate sleep agent secobarbitol into a drink that Hampton consumed during the dinner, in order to sedate Hampton so he would not awaken during the subsequent raid. O'Neal left at this point, and, at about 1:30 a.m., December 4, Hampton fell asleep mid-sentence talking to his mother on the telephone.

Although Hampton was not known to take drugs, Cook County chemist Eleanor Berman would report that she ran two separate tests which each showed evidence of barbiturates in Hampton's blood.

Montgomery Bus Boycott Begins

Rosa Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. The trial lasted 30 minutes. Parks was found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs (combined total equivalent to $134 in 2019). Parks appealed her conviction and formally challenged the legality of racial segregation. In a 1992 interview with National Public Radio's Lynn Neary, Parks recalled:

I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time ... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.

On the day of Parks' trial—December 5, 1955—the WPC distributed the 35,000 leaflets. The handbill read,

We are ... asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial ... You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don't ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday.

13th Amendment Ratified

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Martin Luther King receives Nobel Peace Prize

In the auditorium of the University of Oslo, on December 10th, 1964, Mr Jahn, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, presents the Nobel Peace Prize to Martin Luther King.

Montgomery Bus Boycott Ends

1 year and 2 weeks after Rosa Parks was arrested, on a Montgomery bus, for refusing to surrender her seat to a white man, the Montgomery Bus Boycott ends.

Martin Luther King reads a prepared statement before 2,500 persons attending mass meetings at Holt Street and First Baptist Churches.

King urges “the Negro citizens of Montgomery to return to the busses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” As to a question from the audience about segregated benches downtown, King acknowledged that the Supreme Court ruling applied only on city buses.

A Birmingham News account reported King said “it is true we got more out of this (boycott) than we went in for. We started out to get modified segregation (on buses) but we got total integration.”

At 6 A.M., December 21, 1956, King joined E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy, and Glenn Smiley on one of the first integrated buses. On the first day of desegregated bus seating, only a few instances of verbal abuse and occasional violence occurred.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported: “The calm but cautious acceptance of this significant change in Montgomery’s way of life came without any major disturbances.”

Fighting to End Slavery: Massachusetts 54th

Charleston, South Carolina - It was cold and windy for the men of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, this Christmas day. Many were in a sour mood to be in combat and away from their families, friends, and sweethearts.

Encamped on Morris Island, on the outskirts of Charleston, the men watched the Union shelling of the besieged city.

"Our rifles had sounded their fearful Christmas chimes by throwing shells into the city for three hours after one o'clock that morning," recalled Capt. Luis F. Emilio. "About 3 a.m. a fire broke out in Charleston which illumined the whole sky and destroyed twelve buildings before it was subdued, the falling walls injuring many firemen."

Emilio, a white Salem, Mass., native, who had just turned 19 three days earlier, had been the acting commander of the regiment for some time following the famed attack on Fort Wagner that July. Among those killed during the storming of the fort on July 18 was Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment's first commander. Two Berkshire County men would also be killed in the failed attack, Henry Burghardt, of Lee, and Pittsfield native Eli Franklin. Burghardt was killed in action, while Franklin died from his battle wounds two days later.

In September, the 54th received its new commander, Edward Needles Hallowell, who had himself been wounded during the battle while serving as Shaw's second in command.

That same month, the Confederates abandoned Fort Wagner, helping to open the way for the siege of Charleston.

For months after the attack, the soldiers' spirits were high, knowing they had proved their valor, and in essence the fighting ability of all their black brothers, but by Christmas, after months of seeing no real action, they were feeling low.

"The whole face of nature now presents a drear and gloomy appearance, and the thousands who a month or two ago were full of hope and expectation have gradually come down to that frame of mind so well adapted to wait till something turns up," commented Cpl. James Henry Gooding, a black soldier from the 54th, in a December 1863 letter to the New Bedford (Conn.) Mercury.

The entire month, both the weather and the men's spirits, had been overcast and dreary. There was the shooting of a white deserter from a New Hampshire regiment that the men were required to watch. The same month there was an explosion that killed several soldiers.

While the Confederates kept up a steady attack against their enemy, it was unusual for a shell to make it into the Union fortifications, but on this occasion, a magazine was being repaired by engineers, making it vulnerable. The shell fell among munitions that went off, killing four and seriously wounding 11, according to Gooding.

Added to these events were the continued problems with the men's pay.

The enlisted men of the 54th and its brother regiment, the 55th, were in the midst of a fight to get the $13 a month they were due, but government paymasters, citing an 1862 law, would only pay them $7.

Christmas was a subdued affair compared with Thanksgiving, when the men attended a rousing church service and enjoyed a festive meal. It was followed by an afternoon filled with games, including sack races and money for the first man to make it to the top of a greased pole.

In contrast, the highlight of Christmas Day was the arrival of letters from home.

NBA Basketball Player

He was born in 1881 (probably in the spring) in Salonica, then an Ottoman city, now inGreece. His father Ali Riza, a customs official turned lumber merchant, died when Mustafawas still a boy. His mother Zubeyde, adevout and strong-willed woman, raised him and his sister.