By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter was born in Los Angeles, California in 1942. In his earlier days, Carter was a member the Slauson street gang, he was so well-respected, he was nicknamed the “Mayor of the Ghetto” and was also a member of that gang’s extremely tough inner circle called the “Renegades”.
Carter would later be convicted of armed robbery and would be incarcerated at Soledad prison for four years. While in prison he was influenced by the teachings of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X and would eventually convert to Islam.
He would later renounce Islam and focus his time and energy on the black Liberation movement.
After being released from prison, Carter would meet Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and would join the organization.
In the early part of 1968, Carter would form the Southern California chapter of the B.P.P and would be that chapter’s leader, like all chapters of the group, they studied politics, trained firearms, first aid and read party literature. They also had a free breakfast program for poor, economically-disenfranchised black youths. By April of that same year, the chapter was becoming so popular it was gaining between fifty to a hundred new members a week.
As the B.P.P continued to grow and popularity, they would become targets of Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI ) and it’s director J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI’s secret division known as the Counter Intelligence program ( cointelpro ) it would later be revealed in Senate Testimony, that they worked with local police to sabotage, intimidate and harass members of the party.
During the time between 1968-69, many warrantless searches, false arrests occurred and several members of the black organization would be killed.
Towards the end of 1969, J. Edgar Hoover sent out orders to FBI field offices to : “exploit all avenues of creating dissension within the ranks of the BPP”, and “submit imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP” . In Southern California, the FBI would also work hard to exploit the rivalry between the BPP and the black nationalist organization called “US”, which was founded by Ron Karenga. The two groups had very different approaches about how they battled systematic white supremacy, and often times found themselves completing over the same potential recruits.
On January 17, 1969, Carter and fellow Black Panther named John Huggins were allegedly heard making uncomplimentary statements about the head of US, Ron Karenga. An altercation would ensued , which would lead to the murders of Carter and Huggins.
The Panthers would claim that it was an assassination on their leadership, while the US organization would claim that it was a spontaneous event. Claude Hubert, the man who allegedly killed Carter and Huggins would never be captured.
In 1975, during the Church Committee hearings, evidence was revealed that proved that the FBI’s Counter intelligence program, under the direction of Hoover, covertly sent out disinformation, fake death threats and humiliating cartoons to the Panthers and US organization, pretending they were from the other group with the hope of causing conflict and inciting violence between the two black Liberation groups.
Bunchy Carter tribute
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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Bobby Hutton (Robert James Hutton) was born on April 21, 1950, in Jefferson County, Arkansas. He was the son of John D. Hutton and Dolly Mae Mitchner-Hutton. At the age of three, Bobby and his family moved to Oakland, California after his family was visited by a group of white supremacists, threatening to harm his family.
As an adolescent, Hutton would meet Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the two founders of the Black Panther Party in North Oakland, at the government funded Neighborhood Anti-Poverty Center, a program dedicated to the employment of local youths for service projects.
In 1966, at the age of 16, Hutton would become the first recruited member and also the first treasurer of the Black Panther Party.
In May of 1967, Hutton with thirty Black Panther Party members traveled to Sacramento, California to protest the Mulford Act at the state Capital , a bill that would make it illegal to carry loaded firearms while in public, when Hutton and others walked into the state assembly, he and four other panthers were arrested.
On April 6, 1968, during a failed ambush attempt on Oakland police, which was led by Elridge Cleaver, and was supposed to be blacklash for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. , who was killed 2 days early, Hutton was killled during the shootout with the cops. Cleaver claimed that OPD shot Hutton more than a dozen times after he had already surrendered . Cleaver would later say ” What they did was first degree murder.”
Hutton’s funeral was held on April 12, at Ephesians Church of God in Berkeley, several famous people attended, including activist and author James Baldwin and actor Marlon Brando. At the time of his death, Bobby Hutton was only 17 years old.
Short artistic video on the legacy of Bobby Hutton
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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was raised with her parents Georgiana and Blake Baker. At the age of 7, her family moved to her grandmother’s hometown of Littleton, North Carolina, a Small rural town. There she would hear great historic tales of courageous slave revolts, including the story of her maternal grandmother, Josephine Elizabeth “Bet” Ross, who was whipped by her master for refusing to marry a man, her master had chosen for her.
Baker would attend Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she would graduate as class valedictorian in 1927, during her college days, she also built a reputation for standing up against school policies that she believed to be unjust. After college she moved to New York City.
In 1931, Baker would join the young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL) which was a group dedicated to black economic empowerment, she would soon raise to the rank of national director of the organization.
During the 1930’s Baker worked with the Worker’s Education Project of the Works Progress Administration , there taught classes in labor history, African history and consumer education. She would also immerse herself into the political atmosphere of the time, by protesting Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and supporting the campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants in Alabama, a group of black youths, she believed were falsely accused of raping two white women. At around this time, Baker began to advocate for nationwide, local activism as a means of achieving political change.
Baker believed grassroots activism did not need charismatic leaders with a messiah complex, instead she believed and taught that the struggle should be fought by we the people in the streets, on a grassroots level.
In late 1940, Baker began working for the National Association for the Advancement of colored people (NAACP), where she first worked as a secretary, then soon began recruiting new members locally, raising money and organizing local events. She rose fast in the organization, and in 1945 was named Director of Branches.
In 1946 Baker returned to New York, to take care of her niece, which forced her to leave her leadership role in the NAACP. She would still continue to volunteer for the organization on a local level. She would soon join the New York chapter of the NAACP, where she worked hard to end segregation in public schools and police brutality against black people. In 1952 she would become president of the New York chapter.
Baker would resign from the organization in 1953 to run for New York City, city council as a member of the Liberal Party, she was unsuccessful in her bid for city office.
In 1957 Baker traved to Atlanta, Georgia to take part in a conference that was supposed to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in February of that same year, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed.
The organization’s aim was to unite black churches and their leaders, who fought against systematic white supremacy in the south, as they used nonviolent protests to fight against systematic white supremacy oppression. Baker was the organization’s first staff member, she soon began to organize voter registration, assist local activists with their local grievances, helping local civil rights activists in states like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
In 1960, Baker insisted the SCLC invite southern student protestors, who were having desegregation
sit-ins to Shaw University, for a youth civil rights conference, to discuss their struggles and go over possible solutions with the young activsts in attendance. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created. SNCC would become the most active civil rights organization in the Delta region of the United States. After the conference, Baker would resign from the SCLC and would become an advisor to the SNCC activsts.
In 1964 Baker would help organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party ( MFDP) which was to be an alternative to the racist and all-white Mississippi party.
From 1962-1967 Baker worked as staff for the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) , which was an interracial organization, that fought for social justice issues, human rights and fought against segregation.
In 1972 Baker Traveled the nation to give her support in the “Free Angela” campaign, the objective was to get justice for civil rights activist Angela Davis, whose supporters believed was targeted unlawfully by law enforcement for her political and activism activities.
Towards the end of her life, she still continued to support many causes including the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, she supported many women’s groups and spoke out against the brutally racist South African apartheid regime.
In 1986, on her 83rd birthday she died.
Cornel West thoughts on the great civil rights activist Ella Baker.
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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Robert Smalls was born into the harsh and inhuman system of slavery on april 5, 1839, owned by Henry Mckee. He grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina and was heavily influenced by his mother, Lydia Polite’s Gullah culture and heritage.
As an adolescent, Smalls’ master had him hired out as a laborer, hotel worker and lamplighter for the streets of Charleston.
Smalls would go on to perform work as a dockworker, sailmaker, and wheelman, (pretty much a pilot ) but slaves were not allowed to be given the honored title of pilot.
On December 24, 1856, while still a teenager, Robert smalls married Hannah Jones, when he was 17, she was 23 and was a slave working as a maid at a hotel. She already had two kids and would go on to have two more kids with Smalls, unfortunately for the couple, Robert Jr., the second of their children together would die at age 2.
In the fall of 1861, Smalls was assigned to steer the css planter. A confederate military transport, that was under the command of Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley. Their duties were to deliver troops and supplies, and to survey waterways and lay mines.
On May 12, 1862, the Planter was docked at a wharf below General Ripley’s headquarters. When the white officers left to have a night on the town, smalls and the rest of the slave crew escape to find their families, in the case of Smalls and to make their planned escape to union blockade ships.
Smalls would steer the planter safely through five Confederate harbor forts, as he gave the correct signals at the correct check points. Smalls would then head for the Union Navy Fleet, flying a white bed sheet as a surrender flag. He would surrender her cargo to the United States Navy, after escaping from slavery with his black crew.
Smalls at only 23, soon became known in the North as a hero. Newspapers reported on his exploits and the Congress passed a bill awarding Smalls and his crew prize money for the planter ship. Two weeks later Smalls would meet President Lincoln, where he would tell the president his amazing life story.
The courage of Smalls was an example that blacks were capable of fighting in the military. In August 1862, Smalls visited Washington D.C to convince President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to allow black men to fight for the Union Army. He was successful and Stanton signed an order permitting up to 5,000 African-Americans to enlist in the Union Forces at Port Royal, Smalls would go on to serve as a pilot for the Union Navy.
In 1863, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel of the United States. On December 1, the Planter (now part of the Union Navy) was caught in heavy confederate fire, the ship’s Commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender to enemy forces, but Smalls refused to give up, fearing that escape slaves would be killed. Smalls would take control of the ship from Nickerson and pilot the planter out of Confederate gun range. For displaying such valor, smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s Captain.
Soon after the war, Smalls returned to his hometown of Beaufort, where he would buy the home of his former master, his mother would live with him the remainder of his life.
In 1866, Smalls went into business with Richard Howell Gleaves, a businessman from Philadelphia, they opened a store to serve the needs of former slaves.
In 1868, Smalls served as a delegate in the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, where he took part in an effort to make compulsory school free for all children.
During the reconstruction era, Smalls served as the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, later he would serve in the South Carolina State Senate between 1871 and 1874, Smalls would also bravely in the South Carolina militia until 1877, where he served a brief stint as its commander with the rank of Major General.
Smalls would be elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms from 1875 to 1879 and from 1882 to 1883 he represented South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district in the house.
After the compromise of 1877, the U.S. government withdrew its remaining forces from South Carolina and other southern states. White conservatives who called themselves the “Redeemers” resorted to violent tactics and election fraud to regain control of the state legislature, as an effort to reduce the power of the African-American community, Smalls was arrested and convicted on bribery, he was pardoned as part of an agreement by which charges would be dropped for Democrats accused of election fraud.
After his pardon, Smalls would get back into politics, he became a delegate to the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention, with five other African-American politicians, he strongly opposed white Democrat efforts that year to disenfranchise black citizens.
Smalls would go on to serve as the U.S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort, serving from 1889 to 1911, after being appointed by the Republican National administration.
Smalls would die of malaria and diabetes in 1915, he was 75.
The legacy of Robert Smalls :
Fort Robert Smalls was named in his honor; it was built by free blacks in 1863 on McGuire’s Hill on the South Side of Pittsburgh during the American Civil War. It survived until the 1940s.
The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort, SC, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
A monument and statue are dedicated to his memory where he is interred at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.
During World War II, Camp Robert Smalls was established as a sub-facility of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center to train black sailors (the Navy was segregated in those years).
The desk that Smalls used as Collector of Customs is on display at the Verdier House museum in Beaufort.
In 2004, the U.S. named a ship for Robert Smalls. It is USAV Major General Robert Smalls (LSV-8), a Kuroda class logistics support vessel operated by the U.S. Army. It is the first Army ship named after an African American.
An exhibit at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum is dedicated to Robert Smalls’ contribution to the US Army.
Charleston held commemorative ceremonies in 2012 on the 150th anniversary of Robert Smalls’ escape on the Planter, with special programs on May 12 and 13.
The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial presented a special 150th Anniversary program on May 16, 2012 at the Kenton Public Library branch in Portland, honoring Robert Smalls’ epic voyage to freedom and his contributions to society.
Robert Smalls Parkway is a five-mile section of South Carolina Highway 170 that crosses Port Royal Island and leads into Beaufort.
Notes from Wikipedia.
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