What do these people have in common? Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell. The answer is all too obvious, isn’t it? Each person listed is an African American who has accomplished wonders in his or her chosen field. Each stands out in enjoying tremendous respect from the general American population. There is no doubt about it. The black community has made tremendous strides over the last fifty years. The passage of the basic Civil Rights Bill in 1965 and other structural changes in American society have opened doors and windows and highways to improvement and betterment for the African American community.
Are black Americans satisfied? Of course not and they should not be. While it is wonderful that talented individuals have soared to the top of their field, and it is wonderful that there are so many of them, the fact remains that black communities across the United States are still marked by poverty, inadequate education and leading to limited upward mobility. Education is the key and when good education is tied in with fair and open employment, there is no limit to what this community can do in the next fifty years. But don’t expect them to be patient. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 nearly 150 years ago.
The United States must keep pushing to achieve its full potential – equal education and equal opportunity for all of its people.
Share on Facebook
Today is the feast of St. Katharine Drexel. Catherine was born to a wealthy Philadelphia banking family just before the Civil War. She was truly an extraordinary woman. Although raised amidst the wealth and luxury of Philadelphia, she saw beyond the confines of her own family. At an early age, she became very conscious of the tragic amount of suffering in this country among Native Americans and African Americans, most of whom were struggling with abject poverty.
Katharine felt called to the religious life and in the process of serving the poor formed a new religious community called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. Sister Katharine transferred her entire personal fortune to her new community and, over the course of time, financed more than sixty missions and schools around the United States.
Xavier University in New Orleans was also established by Sister Katharine and is the only historically black Catholic university in our country. This holy and extraordinarily generous woman was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 becoming the second canonized American born saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton got there first!
Share on Facebook
In the second half of the 20th century, we saw so many mass movements of people that our sensibilities to the subject have been dulled. You know how inconvenient it is when you suddenly take a quick three-day trip and on the road realize that you forgot this and forgot that. Imagine pulling up stakes and leaving everything behind and going into a new situation – no resources, frequently alone and badly battered by the causes that caused you to move.
While we usually associate such mass movement of peoples with Asia and Africa, there was a major migration here in the United States but most of the country paid very little if any attention to it. Between 1920 and the mid-1970’s about six billion black Americans partook in a mass movement out of the South and move into areas of the North and Midwest parts of the country where they would be closer to the freedom promised them by the Declaration of Independence. Isabel Wilkerson, a professor of journalism at Boston University, has just written a much-needed book on the subject. It is entitled, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” The book is painful reading. It documents not only the daily humiliations of African Americans in the South, but also the continuation of agonizing violence. Someone was hanged or burned alive on average every four days in the first quarter of the 20th century. Upcoming lynches were publicized in the newspapers and were festive events where thousands of white citizens would gather to watch and celebrate. May God forgive us. The author lists a number of well-known Americans whose lives would have been very different if their parents and grandparents had not left the oppression of the South. This list includes Michelle Obama, Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey.
The unimaginable horror of slavery went on in this country for two hundred years and massive oppression of black Americans continued from the end of the Civil War until the early 1960’s. Let’s not kid ourselves, however. The results of those sinful years are very much with us, and people of good will should do everything possible to improve race relations today and to atone for our sins of the past.
Share on Facebook