Tag Archives: Martin Luther King
- Photos: Actress to Play Coretta Scott King (abcnews.go.com)
- HBO’s ‘Ethel’ turns loving lens on RFK’s widow (miamiherald.com)
- Martin Luther King Jr. interview found in Tennessee attic (cnn.com)
Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father of Gospel Music,” was born in Villa Rica, GA, on this date in 1899.
Dorsey wrote over 2,000 blues and gospel songs including, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” sung at Dr. Martin Luther King‘s funeral.
During the early 1930s, Thomas Dorsey created gospel music — the African American religious music which married secular blues to a sacred text. Under the name “Georgia Tom” he performed with blues artist Ma Rainey and her Wild Cats Jazz Band. He wrote over 400 compositions, but it is for “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” that he is best known.
Dorsey was the son of a Baptist preacher; his mother was the church organist. Throughout his early years he felt torn between the sacred and the secular.
Young Thomas Dorsey describes feeling alienated from school and church during his first years in Atlanta. He was demoted a grade and ostracized by the other children. With church no longer the focal point of his parents’ lives, his connection to organized religion waned.
Dorsey found refuge in downtown Atlanta’s black community. He spent his afternoons and evenings watching vaudeville performances. There he first saw Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. He became enthralled with them, and set out to learn as much about music (primarily the blues) as he could. He began studying piano and organ. In 1916, he left Atlanta for good.
In Chicago, Dorsey adopted the name Georgia Tom and found work as a session musician. He landed his first big break in 1924, playing with Ma Gertrude Rainey and Her Wild Cats Jazz Band. In 1925, rural, or so-called “downhome,” or “moanin’” blues was popular, and Ma Rainey, a master of the form, became an all-out success. Ma Rainey’s listeners swayed, rocked, moaned and groaned with her. Women swooned who had lost their men. Men groaned who had given their week’s pay to a woman who betrayed her promises. By the time Ma Rainey finished her song, she was “in her sins” – and Georgia Tom was right there with her, his rhythmic piano filling the grooves.
One night, onstage, Dorsey noticed an “unsteadiness” in his playing. The unsteadiness grew worse, leaving him unable to practice, write or perform.
It persisted for two years.
Dorsey visited doctors, sought treatment, took time off. Nothing worked. He considered suicide. Then, he began to think more seriously about his faith. He visited a faith healer, Bishop H.H. Haley.
Dorsey described to his biographer, Michael Harris, how Haley pulled a “live serpent” out of his throat. “Brother Dorsey,” Bishop Haley reportedly said, “there is no reason for you to be looking so poorly and feeling so badly. The Lord has too much work for you to let you die.”
From then on, Dorsey vowed to do the Lord’s work.
Dorsey began developing a sacred music based on the secular blues. It featured syncopated notes in an eight-bar blues structure; but instead of themes of defiance in the face of despair – the theme most common in the blues – this new music told stories of hope and affirmation. Dorsey described it as “good news on either side.” His first gospel song, “If You See my Savior Tell Him That You Saw Me” was published in 1932.
Less than a year later, however, Dorsey was back in the secular blues business full-time. His “gospel music” met so much resistance from pastors who considered it “devil’s music,” that he found it easier to play the blues straight.
Dorsey based the music of his most popular and widely performed gospel song on and old hymn called “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” by George Allen. The lyrics, however, were written by Dorsey. Dorsey described it as serving as a channel through which God spoke.
Many well-known and accomplished musicians have spoke of writing experiences that were similar to Thomas Dorsey’s. Lamont Dozier, along with partners Eddie and Brian Holland was a main architect of the Motown sound, creating a stunning body of work in the sixties most notably for the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and The Temptations. When asked about the inspiration for his ideas, Dozier replied:
“I can’t take credit for this stuff…I’m only human and these things are the makings of God. I feel I’ve thoroughly blessed over the years with an abundance of songs and material…There is definitely God behind this thing that I do. Everything I do – that’s good, at least – is a reflection of His hand.”
At eleven, he left school to take a job at a local vaudeville theater. Six years later, Dorsey left Atlanta for Chicago. He was part of the Great Migration north. In Chicago, Dorsey found success almost immediately. He was known as the “whispering piano player,” called to perform at after-hours parties where the pianist had to play quietly enough to avoid drawing police attention.
At twenty-one, his hectic and unhealthy schedule led to a nervous breakdown. He convalesced back home in Atlanta. There, his mother admonished him to stop playing the blues and “ serve the Lord.” He ignored her and returned to Chicago, playing with Ma Rainey. He married his sweetheart, Nettie Harper. But in 1925, a second breakdown left Dorsey unable to play music.
After his recovery three years later, Dorsey committed himself to composing sacred music. However, mainstream churches rejected his songs. Then, in August 1932, Dorsey’s life was thrown into crisis when his wife and son died during childbirth. In his grief, he turned to the piano for comfort. The tune he wrote, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” came, he says, direct from God. Dorsey co-founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in 1933. Six years later, he teamed with Mahalia Jackson, and the team ushered in what was known as the “Golden Age of Gospel Music.” Dorsey himself became known as the father of gospel music.
He died in 1993.
- Black Gospel Music (mademan.com)
- book review: Make A Joyful Noise (susandelano.wordpress.com)
- The Birth of the hymn “Precious Lord” (revmichaelslifejournal.wordpress.com)
- Ma Rainey Continues (stlouismatinee.com)
- Backtracking the Blues: Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Washington Phillips (annareith.wordpress.com)
- Famous Gospel Singers (mademan.com)
On this date in 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded his doctorate from Boston University.
King was born on 15 January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a Baptist minister, his mother a schoolteacher. Originally named Michael, he was later renamed Martin. He entered Morehouse College in 1944 and then went to Crozer Religious Seminary to undertake postgraduate study, receiving his doctorate in 1955.
Returning to the South to become pastor of a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King first achieved national renown when he helped mobilise the black boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955. This was organised after Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man – in the segregated south, black people could only sit at the back of the bus. The 382-day boycott led the bus company to change its regulations, and the supreme court declared such segregation unconstitutional.
In 1957, King was active in the organisation of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SCLC), formed to co-ordinate protests against discrimination. He advocated non-violent direct action based on the methods of Gandhi, who led protests against British rule in India culminating in India’s independence in 1947.
In 1963, King led mass protests against discriminatory practices in Birmingham, Alabama where the white population were violently resisting desegregation. The city was dubbed ‘Bombingham’ as attacks against civil rights protesters increased, and King was arrested and jailed for his part in the protests.
After his release, King participated in the enormous civil rights march on Washington in August 1963, and delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, predicting a day when the promise of freedom and equality for all would become a reality in America. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1965, he led a campaign to register blacks to vote. The same year the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing the discriminatory practices that had barred blacks from voting in the south.
As the civil rights movement became increasingly radicalised, King found that his message of peaceful protest was not shared by many in the younger generation. King began to protest against the Vietnam war and poverty levels in the US. He was assassinated on 4 April 1968 during a visit to Memphis, Tennessee.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated (oup.com)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson Together at Howard University (ghostsofdc.org)
- Paying homage to civil rights pioneers: Remembering Rosa Parks’ courage (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Biodata Martin Luther King Jr (nurazwaniishak.wordpress.com)
- Leading King Scholar Expands Britannica Coverage of Civil Rights Leader; Stanford’s Clayborne Carson Writes on King Legacy (prweb.com)
- African-American Students at Florida A&M Boycott the Buses: A Proud Heritage: Photos From the Civil Rights Movement (waldina.com)
- The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr (iconicphotos.wordpress.com)
The Birmingham Children’s March started on May 2, 1963.
Flyers had been distributed in black schools and neighborhoods that said, “Fight for freedom first then go to school” and “It’s up to you to free our teachers, our parents, yourself, and our country.” On May 2, more than a thousand students skipped school and gathered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Demonstrators marched to the downtown area, to meet with the Mayor, and integrate the chosen buildings. More than 1,200 children were arrested the first day in a demonstration that received national attention.
Teachers can request a free copy of the excellent film, The Children’s March, from Teaching Tolerance: http://zinnedproject.org/posts/832.
More about the march on the King Papers Project website: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_childrens_crusade/
- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to visit Birmingham City Hall in support of 1963 commemoration (al.com)
- The Power of Children (candidobservation.wordpress.com)
- Commenters keep close watch over squabble between Birmingham schools, Alabama school chief (poll) (al.com)
- Fundraising for Birmingham Childrens Hospital by JacobsJourney (bobsplaceuk.wordpress.com)
- We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson (kid-lit-reviews.com)
- Phillips Academy 8th grader places second nationally in C-Span documentary contest (slideshow, video) (al.com)
- 4 Questions With Freeman Hrabowski III (theroot.com)
- Dead Birmingham 13-year-old, his mother receive limited commenter sympathy (al.com)
- Angela Davis: The Four Little Girls (africanamericanlitcsu.wordpress.com)
- Trayvon Martin’s parents will lead Kelly Ingram Park march, raise funds for foundation (al.com)
- As a journalist and television producer, Gil Noble worked to dispel negative images of African Americans in media. The notable host of the long-running public-affairs program Like It Is also pushed for clear ethics and objectivity in journalism. According to WABC-TV, he “passed away peacefully after a long illness,” this morning, at the age of 80. Noble had suffered a stroke in July 2011.
Read rest of Story on THE ROOT
- theGrio wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Gil Noble (thegrio.com)
- Gil Noble, pioneering black journalist, dies. @wcntv remembers. (wcntransmedia.wordpress.com)
- Groundbreaking black NY journalist Gil Noble dies (news.yahoo.com)
- Harlemite Gil Noble Passes (harlemworldmag.com)
- This Week’s Headlines: Obama Addresses AP Lunch, Local Online Ads Increasing (ebyline.biz)
Women’s History Month Salute to Grace “Nichelle” Nichols
I try to stay away from celebrities when it comes to talking about women in history and the reason is clear to me. Celebrities receive sensory overload in the media.
They are the preferred “media darlings” and faces for the whole world to see while many “unsung heroes” are left behind–doing the magnificent, yet living out their lives in total or near-obscurity, mainly because they like it that way. They do what they do because they love it, not to get attention. However, there is a very special reason why this particular woman of the month is near and dear to my heart.
Her name is Grace Dell “Nichelle” Nichols, and this Women’s History Month, I choose to celebrate her; not because of her celebrity, but because she played a very difficult role as a black woman on television. During a time in America’s history when black people on television were few and far between; when black women, in particular, were highly stereotyped (not that that has changed much); and when the unthinkable happened, and she (her character, that is) “kissed” Captain James T. Kirk on then-popular TV show, Star Trek.
The whole nation went into an uproar over that infamous kiss, and it was said that Ms Nichols actually received quite a few death threats because of it.
The story goes that she (Lt. Comdr Nyota Uhura) and Capt. Kirk were actually “possessed” by some aliens who forced them to dance and kiss, but the backstory is that Hollywood was trying American audiences to see how far they could stretch the truth – that some white men actually fall in love with black women.
In real life, however, it was a different story altogether. Ms Nichols was not the only cast member of Star Trek who actually had no personal like of leading man, William “Bill” Shatner. It was a well-known fact that none of his co-stars cared for him very much off screen, and as Maya Angelou tells us in her book “A Song Flung Up to Heaven,” Ms Nichols almost quit the show because of Shatner’s constant superstar-diva-type rantings.
Ms Nichols’ place in history is not only written in stone because she was one of only a hand full of women on television playing a non-stereotypical role that marked her as confident, capable, mature, and smart; but because when Martin Luther King, Jr. heard that she was going to quit the show, he phoned her, personally, and asked her to please stay. His words to her, paraphrased, was that she was a very important role model, and that her leaving the show would mean the loss of something very important to young black girls … that of seeing someone who looked like them depicted in a positive and professional light on television, a rarity back then, as it is now. As a matter of fact, she was not the “typical” female starlet, period.
For that reason, this Women’s History Month, I choose to salute Ms Nichelle Nichols. And to thank her for staying on the show, for keeping it positive for black women, and for all women, everywhere.
She represented all the way around. Visit the Uhura Official Website
- Nyota Uhura, I Salute You (bahafis.wordpress.com)
- Nichelle Nichols on Having First Televised Interacial Kiss on Star Trek [Video] (inquisitr.com)
- For MLK Day: Watch Nichelle Nichols Talk About the Dr. King/Star Trek Connection (tor.com)
- Nichelle Nichols reveals that the original Spock was a woman (io9.com)
- Nichelle Nichols on TV’s first interracial kiss on ‘Star Trek’ (thegrio.com)
- Bella Donna: Nichelle Nichols (bellasugar.com)