We welcome to the blog today a guest post by Luther Adams, author of Way Up North in Louisville: African American Migration in the Urban South, 1930-1970. In the wake of World War II, when roughly half the black population left the South seeking greater opportunity and freedom in the North and West, the same desire often anchored African Americans to the South. Adams offers a powerful reinterpretation of the modern civil rights movement and of the transformations in black urban life within the contexts of migration, work, and urban renewal. While acknowledging the destructive downside of emerging post-industrialism for African Americans in the Jim Crow South, Adams concludes that persistent patterns of economic and racial inequality did not rob black people of their capacity to act in their own interests.
In a previous post, Adams considered how African Americans have claimed the South as Home, but on their own terms. In today’s post, Adams shares a speech he gave to the newly formed Black Student Union at the University of Washington Tacoma in which he explores the history of guns and gun violence and the effects of both on the African American community.
Upon his death, W. E. B. Du Bois left this final message to the world:
One thing alone I charge you. As you live believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life. The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long.
At the University of Washington Tacoma there is a group of dedicated students that revived the Black Student Union. Dismissive of postracialism, they remain convinced of the need for a black student organization. They organized out of a sense of need and desire for community and family on campus, but also to have fun while making a difference in the lives of people in their neighborhoods and communities. BSU students are parents, workers, veterans, and some of the first in their families to attend college. Wherever you encounter students like those in BSU: mentor them and nurture them. They are among a growing number of people, young and old, who are acting on the beliefs expressed in W. E. B. Du Bois’ final words.
In the Spring 2014 quarter, dismayed by the violence growing in the black communities they live in and care about, BSU organized an event on gun violence called “Stop the Chalk.” They invited me to speak with them, and below is what I said, and what I wish I had said. I don’t pretend that this is new information, but until we heed its call, it bears repeating. BSU students and those who attended said these words were helpful. Perhaps you and your students will find them helpful too. I have included a list of websites I wish I had given those in attendance—the numbers and statistics are important, but in the end it is not a question of numbers.
Today we live in a culture of death. In the United States and across the globe there is violence and war. Everywhere is war and the rumor of war. The rising black murder rate is not limited to Chicago; it is a national issue for anyone concerned about violence, and violence in black communities. The violence in cities like Chicago is not an anomaly—gun violence is everywhere. In the United States there are more than 300 million guns and just under 400 million people. Continue reading ‘Luther Adams: W. E. B. Du Bois’ One Charge’ »