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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Discrimination In The Heights: The Uphill Battle Of African-American, Jewish Families In Early 20th Century

Where we live is bedrock to our identities.  For half of the 20th century, racial covenants embedded in the property deeds of homes in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and nearby Forest Hills “deferred but did not defeat the suburban dreams of Jews and African Americans,” reports historian Marian Morton. An emeritus professor of John Carroll University, Morton gave a lively, standing-room-only talk at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, Ohio. She showed a 1930 advertisement for new homes in Forest Hills, a neighborhood straddling Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, which promised “surroundings . . . where your neighbors are inevitably people of tastes in common with yours . . . The careful restrictions placed on Forest Hills today will not be lowered.” Racial covenants... Read More →

What Has The Obama Administration Done For Women of Color?

Not enough, says a group of concerned women and girls, who have signed a letter to the president, calling for inclusion in his private-public initiative, "My Brother's Keeper."    The initiative, which the Obama Administration announced in February, brings together foundations, nonprofits, and businesses to address the social, economic, and judicial challenges facing young men of color. Inequalities within schools and the criminal justice system are its urgent focus, alongside increasing mentoring and strengthening families in minority communities.  But for the 1,200 women who signed the letter—including activists Angela Davis, Rosie Perez, Alice Walker, and Janet Mock—this approach leaves young women of color "waiting for the next train."  Some 200 black men signed a... Read More →

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis’ Grandson To Pay Tribute To Legendary Actors In New Documentary

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in the play, "Jeb," in 1946. Actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis met in 1946 in New York City when they were both cast in "Jeb," a play by Herman Shumlin about racial intolerance.  Davis stopped to fix his tie during rehearsal and in an instant, Dee was captivated. "My attraction to him was the one miracle of my life," Dee would say later. Their love for one another is the basis of the upcoming documentary, "Life's Essentials with Ruby Dee," produced and directed by their grandson, filmmaker Muta'Ali Muhammad. Dee died June 11, mere days before its world premiere June 22 at the American Black Film Festival in Manhattan.  Born Ruby Ann Wallace in 1924, Dee moved with her parents from Cleveland to Harlem as an infant. There she grew up amongst the lush backdrop... Read More →

How To Teach College Students About Race And Identity: Let Them Lead The Way

By Lisa Nielson, Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow Lisa Nielson is the Anisfield-Wolf SAGES Fellow at Case Western Reserve University. She has a PhD in historical musicology, with a specialization in Women’s Studes, and teaches seminars on the harem, slavery and courtesans. In the fall of 2013, during the first week of my first-year college seminar, “Reading Social Justice: The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards,” the students and I read Rita Dove’s haunting poem Trayvon, Redux. As we discussed the poem and the killing of Trayvon Martin,one of the students stated, “Everyone is racist.” There was an immediate uproar. Perhaps I should have intervened, but I wanted to hear what the group had to say. Several students related startling stories of racial and gender discrimination, told... Read More →

When Maya Met Toni: The 40-Year-Friendship Between Two Literary Giants

 Anisfield-Wolf winner Toni Morrison found herself on stage at the Hay Festival in Wales May 28, the same day her friend Maya Angelou died in North Carolina at the age of 86. The obvious question—"Do you have any words to say about her life and legacy?"—was coming.    "She launched African-American women writing in the United States," Morrison said, choosing her words carefully. "She was generous to a fault. She had 19 talents...used 10. She was a real original. There's no duplicate." The friendship between Morrison and Angelou spanned more than 40 years. In 1973, Angelou wrote to Morrison after she finished reading Sula, telling her, "This is one of the most important books I've ever read." Their friendship deepened as they continued to cross paths and support one another's... Read More →

Final Fundraising Push For First Full-Length Lorraine Hansberry Documentary

The world almost lost Lorraine Hansberry's most famous work, A Raisin in the Sun, before it ripened.  In a moment of frustration, Hansberry threw the script in the trash. Luckily for us, her husband retrieved it from the wastebasket in their New York City apartment and set it aside for her to complete. She did.  Two years later, on March 11, 1959, it debuted on Broadway, earning Hansberry the distinction of being the youngest dramatist and the first African-American to win the Best Play award from the New York Drama Critics Circle. The story focuses on the Younger clan, a hard-working Black family in Chicago dreaming of moving up in the world after their patriarch's passing.  After several revivals, the play continues to speak to the nation’s racial turmoil and inequality. The... Read More →
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