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The blog of The Andrew Goodman Foundation

Rights in Review

President Obama commemorated the 50th anniversary of MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the same steps the civil rights leader spoke from half a century ago. See CNN.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., took a leap Monday and called for Congress to update the Voting Rights Act. See US News & World Report.

Thousands of participants in Wednesday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington said the work of the civil rights movement remains unfinished. See USA Today.

An Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassador was interviewed and featured on NBC News coverage of Wednesday’s March on Washington.


Andrew Goodman

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By Henry Anderson, a 5th grade student who, while studying the civil rights movement, wrote a report about Andrew Goodman. Says Henry, “Andrew made a difference, and I want to too.”

The civil rights movement was a time when whites always thought they were better than blacks. They had different water fountains and different bathrooms and they had to sit in the back of all buses. There was tons of laws that were bad for blacks and good for whites. So blacks had a much harder life. In the United States there was a lot of segregation, black people weren’t treated with respect and were sometimes even hit by hoses, beaten up, and not even being allowed to vote. Andrew Goodman was one of the people that helped stop all of the bad laws for blacks and it helped a lot.

Andrew Goodman helped people when they were having a hard time. Andrew Goodman was one of those people that helped others more than himself. In this time there was a lot of problems with the civil rights movement. He lived in New York and he moved to the south to help other people having some problems. He worked with two people, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. James’s skin color was black and Michael’s skin color was white.

On June 21, 1964, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner went to jail for trying to help the civil rights movement. The police kept them in jail so they could tell people who were against the civil rights movement. When those people were ready with an evil plan, the police let Andrew and his friends go home. But that was all part of the plan. The bad people knew which way Andrew and his friends would drive home so they trapped them on the road. Andrew and his friends were shot and killed and the bad guys hid their bodies in a ditch.

Andrew Goodman wrote a letter to his mom and dad. The letter said that people in Mississippi were so nice to him and he was having a wonderful day. In the morning everything was going his way, he was happy as a man can be. That is really the worst part, that he was having such a good day that he wanted to tell his Mom and Dad about it and later that same day he died. It was terrible.

Andrew Goodman helped the civil rights movement a lot even though he had a very short life. It would have been a lot different if he did not get killed. I think the civil rights wouldn’t have come so fast because Andrew’s death brought a lot of attention to what was going on in the south. Also, if Andrew was still alive I think he would have still made civil rights better because I think he would have kept fighting to make things better for everyone. A few years later, after Andrew Goodman’s death, bad laws were over and so now there is no law that blacks can’t be with whites and whites can’t be with blacks.


Keeping the Dream Alive

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Pictured (left to right): David Goodman, Rep. John Lewis, Majora Carter, Sylvia Golbin-Goodman, James Chase.

By Sylvia Golbin-Goodman, Executive Director, and David Goodman, President, The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Many people are gathering today to stand on the spot where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.  They are in Washington, DC to reflect on how far we have come and to attempt to make his words relevant to our continued struggle for freedom and Democracy.

We, who are both Jews and Americans, have a special place and a special connection to this struggle.  We have been on the receiving end of a lot of the same injustices that have plagued African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Gays and so many others today and throughout history.  Racism, discrimination, lynchings (pogroms), genocide - even slavery - these are things Jews have suffered. 

Most people think of the Holocaust in Germany when they think of the Jewish people.  As Jews, we like to point to our resiliency and our ability to survive and prosper.  For many Jews, this is as far as their hearts and minds can take them.  For others, the words “never again” take on a greater meaning.  They understand that no man is an island and that for each of us to be safe and free - all of us must be included in the dream.

Andy Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were Jews.  They, along with millions of other Jewish Americans, believed that the same freedoms that they sought and won should be available to all.  They put their Jewish values into action by joining with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in pursuing a dream of freedom for all. Just as Andy and Mickey stood with James Chaney in their final hour, Jews stood shoulder to shoulder with people from all faiths, races, and political and educational backgrounds to support our African-American brothers and sisters during the struggle for Civil Rights.

Martin put the dream into words so memorably that his words have become familiar to people all over the world.  As so many have pointed out this past week, we are still struggling to make the dream a reality.  How that happens and, even, whether it happens is up to us and to generations to come. 

Today, we can still open the paper and see the visible results of man’s inhumanity to man.  We can see power and military might twisted from it’s role as protector of the people and keeper of the peace to become the agent of oppression, terror and death.  In our own country today, there are people who think only of their own personal gain and only consider the present moment - rather than building a world that their children and grandchildren will want to inherit and populate. 

To keep that dream alive, to dream it into being, each and every citizen of this great nation must take responsibility for taking action to create a peaceful, just and sustainable world.  Vote.  Act.  Do something - just one thing - to create a world that you want to leave as a legacy to future generations.  Let us dream a world where kindness, compassion and love guide the actions of leaders and followers alike.


Fiction: A Tool for Combating Racism and Sexism

By Susan Follett*

Racism and sexism—“isms” against which we need challenge ourselves to effect meaningful change. If we label these isms as “bad,” how might we label populism and activism? As good, or at least having positive intent? Rev. William Barber, President of North Carolina NAACP spoke with Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday during MSNBC coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington about his “Moral Mondays” project in which mountain populists and civil rights activists have found themselves to be not that different when they sit down together to talk. What might social justice activists learn from the Moral Mondays collaboration about combating racism and sexism? One key to working together across constituencies might be seeking out commonality. In this, educating our children is critical.

Education was on more than one speaker’s mind at the anniversary march. Nine-year-old Chicago public school activist Asean Johnson, who followed Rep. John Lewis and proclaimed himself the youngest person to speak at this march, said, “Every child deserves a great education.” Riffing in freedom song tradition, “We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around. We’re gonna keep on educating,” Martin Luther King III called for “schools that teach our children and do not defeat our children.”

Indeed, the connection between race relations and education has been popping up ever since the Southern Poverty Law Center issued its dismal report in 2011 on the state of civil rights education in America’s schools. Perhaps most recently by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, who asked in his 08/12/13 article in The Root: “How could integrating information about the fight for civil rights into K-12 curricula better educate our children and foster a real conversation on race?”

Extending this question to human rights along racial and gender lines, let us first consider: why educate our children on civil rights? Monita Bell, associate editor for Teaching Tolerance, recently interviewed Gary Younge, author of The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream. Younge wants young people to “understand that they are themselves historical figures and can make history depending on what they choose to do.” Bell titled her 8/22/13 post “Seeing Our Heroes as Human.” Seeking out commonality might be said to be nothing more than trying to see our heroes and our enemies as human.

But, Asean Johnson aside, students tend to tune out when their history teachers fail to make the past relevant. Vickie Malone, who teaches high school social studies in my home state of Mississippi—in McComb, which erupted with violence during Freedom Summer 1964—has hit on a powerful way to engage. Her Local Cultures class, a mix of oral history gathering, critical thinking skills building, and tolerance-enhancing roundtable discussions, has served as a model for Mississippi’s K-12 public school mandated civil rights education curriculum. She stocks her classroom with ample non-fiction about civil rights. Yet her students clamor for the single fiction title, Mississippi Trial, 1955, about the murder of Emmett Till. Malone insists it’s fiction she needs to reach them, saying that fiction “offers young adult readers a way to understand the world and history through relationships—the way they learn best.”    

Author Barbara Kingsolver has said that fiction has the power to create “empathy for the theoretical stranger.” If, as the subtitle of Jason Silverstein’s 6/27/13 article in Slate asserts, a failure of empathy perpetuates racial disparities, therein lies the power and opportunity of fiction, to offer a guided walk in another person’s shoes—especially a person we perceive as significantly different than ourselves—and to dispel the isms that separate us.

* Follett grew up in Meridian, MS, home in 1964 of the largest freedom school and the COFO office where Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner, and James Chaney were last seen alive. Her debut historical novel Out from the Fog spans the civil rights movement from 1954-1964 and has Freedom Summer as its centerpiece.


Rights in Review

The DOJ is suing Texas over its Voter I.D. law.

A lesser-known fact of the March on Washington is that there were two lines of civil rights leaders marching on separate streets on Aug. 28, 1963: one for male civil rights leaders and one for their female counterparts. See USA Today.

Operatives tied to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee launched a 50-state initiative to promote voting reforms that would make it easier to cast a ballot. See Washington Post.

Mere days after a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” program is unconstitutional, the city of Detroit is developing its own version of the policy. See MSNBC.

Next week, President Obama will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. See New York Times.

Kansas and Arizona filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Topeka against the federal government, seeking court approval for states to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote. See Reuters.


Where Identities and Equality Intersect

"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less." - Susan B. Anthony

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” - MLK, Jr. 
 

Although Women’s Suffrage and The Civil Rights Movement occurred years apart from each other and focused on different constituencies, they did not — and do not — exist in a vacuum. 

 

African-American abolitionists, like Frederick Douglass, were supporters of the suffrage movement and women were among the most vocal civil rights activists. Both factions fought desperately for equal rights, as do their 2.0 iterations today.

 

The difference now is the heightened awareness that individuals embrace multiple identities and, as such, experience multiple forms of discrimination. We also have an unprecedented opportunity to share our hopes and dreams and to work together to achieve common goals. 

 

Where identities intersect, opportunities are created for mutual understanding and for coordinated action to empower a more just social contract.

 

Social justice movements must reflect this reality. There is no racial equality and no gender equality without equality for all.  

 

In this vein, please join us on Monday, August 26 at 12p for a tweetchat discussing these shared “-isms” and how we can collaborate to affect change for everyone!

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