In these extraordinary times, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History recognizes that we need each other now more than ever. With the limitations of the worldwide pandemic in mind, we have decided to move our 106th Conference to a virtual platform. In order to maintain the spirit of community that we each enjoy during the physical conference, we have decided to modify our format to best suit our needs.
ASALH will convene every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in September beginning on September 14 through September 30. The final plenary session and Annual Members Business Meeting will be held Wednesday, September 30, 2021, with activities broadcast via Zoom and ASALH TV.
July 6, 2021: In a surprise move, Nikole Hannah-Jones declines UNC’s tenure offer for position at Howard University. “Award-winning journalist @nhannahjones reveals on @CBSThisMorning she has declined the University of North Carolina’s offer for tenure and will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at @HowardU.”
“Every other chair before me, who also happened to be white, received that position with tenure,” she said. “And so, to be denied it, and to only have that vote occur on the last possible day, at the last possible moment, after threat of legal action, after weeks of protests, after it became a national scandal — it’s just not something that I want anymore.” —Nikole Hannah-Jones
Hannah-Jones will lead Howard University’s newly created Center for Journalism and Democracy. This is exciting news as the country grapples with the reality of its historical past and present riddled with racism, discrimination, and hypocrisy. The move is a testimony to the true power of nurturing, growing and empowering our community from within.
We stand on the collective backs of millions of Black minds and Black bodies that traversed the middle passage, enduring dehumanization, Jim Crow, lychings, and massacres across generations.
We are gifted and talented, possessing the innate ability to make incredible progress despite the structural, systemic, and institutional forces designed to limit the progress and pursuits of African Americans going all the way back to 1619.
Bravo to Howard University and Nikole Hannah-Jones for this monumental move!
Derek Chauvin’s conviction and sentencing for George Floyd’s murder was an outlier; most civilian deaths at the hands of police do not have a similar outcome, says Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Prosecutorial conduct is an obstacle to justice in cases of police brutality, and criminal justice reform must require prosecutors to disclose data on police-civilian deaths, she says.
There were cheers in the aftermath of the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder, but his prison sentence on June 25 speaks less about progress in racial justice and more about the flaws in America’s criminal justice system.
It is a system in which most prosecutors fail to do their jobs, which allows police to kill with impunity. Without reforms directed at the role of prosecutors, Chauvin’s conviction in the asphyxiation of George Floyd will be an anomaly.
On May 25, 2020, Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd, 46, until he died. For this, Chauvin, 45, received a prison sentence of 22 years and six months by Judge Peter Cahill. Officers J. Alexander Kueng, 27; Thomas Lane, 38; and Tou Thao, 35, stood by and watched. Their trial is postponed until March 2022. Kueng is Black, Lane is White, and Thao is Asian American.
Their case is not the norm. This year alone, hundreds of other victims of police brutality will go without justice because prosecutors have refused to do their sworn duty when the suspect is a police officer. This prosecutorial failure is a bitter truth formed during slavery and still pungently virulent today.
Remember this: Michael O. Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor, initially had dismissed Floyd’s death as one due to natural causes. Only after a brave young woman’s video led to uprisings capturing international attention was Floyd’s death taken seriously.
Even then, Freeman and his three assistants moved to protect police officers. Their interview, alone, with the medical examiner—someone certainly to be called as a witness in a criminal case— was rebuked by Cahill as “sloppy” work and possibly violated the ethical rules of professional conduct lawyers must follow.
Police and Prosecutors Work Closely
Nationwide, police and prosecutors work together, daily. Police gather evidence for prosecutors, conduct tests, and testify in court in civilian-on-civilian cases. When the officer becomes the suspect in a crime, prosecutors become neutral at best and at worst, a shield for police who may have maimed or killed a civilian.
Prosecutors are government employees with full discretion over what cases go to trial. They enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability and are not required to disclose the rationale behind failing to seek an indictment or refusing to bring criminal charges.
Consider the thousands of murders and tens of thousands of assaults by White civilians and law officers against African Americans, ignored by prosecutors, over the last century and the nearly 5,000 men, women, and children lynched in America between 1882 and 1968, who never received even a government investigation although witnesses stood smiling for photographs under hanging bodies.
Chauvin’s Trial Was Exceptional
Chauvin’s trial was unusual in many ways. People took to the streets, around the world, to get justice for one man. The Black community’s vocal distrust of Freeman and his Hennepin County prosecutors led Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) to select Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison as Special Prosecutor.
Ellison, in turn, hired outside attorneys Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher to prosecute the case. Expert witnesses testified on behalf of the prosecution, free of charge.
Note that experts traditionally come from within the ranks of state government. In other words, Chauvin was convicted in George Floyd’s murder because this case did not follow the biased pattern and practice employed by most prosecutors in police-involved civilian cases.
Justice cannot be an outlier. Any criminal justice reform that does not include prosecutors falls short. The George Floyd Justice in Policing bill now being considered in Congress is a great step forward. But there is nothing in the bill that challenges prosecutors who can be brilliant in civilian cases and derelict in their sworn duty in police-involved civilian cases.
Prosecutors Must Report Police-Civilian Deaths
Disclosure and data go a long way to reform. Currently, Americans rely on media and citizen videos to find out about police brutality. Prosecutors must be compelled to provide the Justice Department with detailed data on police-involved civilian injuries under penalty of perjury; not an incentive-based justice system as the bill currently depicts. Perhaps George Floyd would be alive today if it had been reported that Chauvin had committed a similar non-fatal act in September 2017.
Every prosecutor’s office should have to report police-involved civilian deaths. If there has been no injury to civilians, then a document signed by the district attorney would state this fact. Data from all 18,000 police departments around the country would be placed with the Justice Department.
The conviction of Chauvin must be applauded. But this is one prosecution among thousands of such deaths. Only national criminal justice reform that includes prosecutors can stop the slaughter. New laws mean nothing if police who break them are not prosecuted. If prosecutors fail to prosecute them, police officers will continue to kill civilians with impunity.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a professor of constitutional law at John Jay College, author of “She Took Justice: The Black Woman, Law, and Power,” civil rights attorney and playwright whose most recent stage-play titled “SHOT: Caught a Soul” is about a police-involved civilian shooting.
The Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch was on the right side of history in advocating and supporting Dr. Nikole Hannah Jones in her battle for tenure. It appears that the Black community did not stand up and protest when the distinguished Dr. Julian Lewis was denied tenure and was forced to leave the University of Chicago. However, in 2021 we do have the capacity, resources, determination and fortitude to address the denial of tenure to the highly gifted scholar, Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Dr. Lutitia Clipper: An ASALH Member’s Reflection on the UNC at Chapel Hill Decision to Deny Tenure to Dr Nikole Hannah Jones
The Dr Edna B McKenzie Branch of ASALH has had a banner year, even during these extraordinary times of the pandemic, with stimulating discussions, conducted virtually, by educators, researchers, some ASALH members informing fellow members via their research, to expand the knowledge of our own rich history and heritage. Korey Brown ASALH’s online organization history, summarizes Carter G Woodson’s purpose for founding ASALH, to advance the evolving awareness of the true place of blacks in history.
106 years later researchers and educators continue to combat the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks and also to battle the prejudices of those unwilling to allow the accurate historical accounts to be taught.
Motivated by the review of the outstanding work of ASALH colleagues at the Dr Edna B McKenzie Pittsburgh Branch Book Festival, May 2021, in celebration and observance of the birthday of Malcolm X, I was compelled to solicit reaction of the authors to the University of North Carolina’s rejection of tenure to Nikole Hannah Jones, a renown, qualified professor and inquire if there was any way that ASALH, an organization whose mission is to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community, could act as an advocate .
Nikole Hannah Jones becomes another of recent examples of the impact of racist belief systems and behaviors encouraging systemic racism through the institutional strongholds of oppression. Following the UNC announcement that she was offered a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, it became known that Dr Jones had not been offered a tenured position as have been the previous appointees to date, according to the school’s dean, Susan King. Dean King stated support for Dr Jones’ tenure.
Dr Nikole Hannah-Jones’ credentials are outstanding; she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship ‘Genius Grant’. She has covered civil rights and racial injustice for the New York Times Magazine, is renown for her extraordinary research on the 1619 Project and was just elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. As part of the tenure process, typically accompanying the appointment, Hannah-Jones work was sent out for review to comparable institutions’ experts in the field. Dr Jones’ work received unanimous glowing reviews.
The Knight Chairs are professional journalists around the country who hold professorships endowed by the Knight Foundation. Their purpose is to bring our years of industry knowledge and experience into the classroom, foster innovation and contribute thought leadership to the academy. They have publicly noted their opposition in a statement to the decision of the Board of Trustee to deny tenure Dr Nikole Hannah-Jones. Excerpts from the Statement of the Community of Knight Chairs are as follows:
“The fact that UNC’s trustees chose to withhold tenure from Hannah-Jones speaks volumes about the pettiness of those who would try to diminish her 20-year track record of award-winning journalism. We believe independence is at the heart of journalism in a free society, and freedom of inquiry the heart of a research university. These principles allow citizens and scholars to ask questions that move society closer to the truth. Without them, journalists and researchers become tools of the government. Tenure is designed specifically to protect those rights for faculty members. That is why the signatories below are concerned. In denying tenure to Hannah-Jones, UNC’s Board of Trustees is putting politics before academic integrity ”.
The Statement continues, “The Board of Trustees appear to be uncomfortable with Hannah-Jones’ body of work, including the view of American history she painstakingly documented and beautifully presented in the 1619 Project. You can agree or disagree with honestly held interpretations of history, but to sanction someone for her point of view is the opposite of freedom of speech.”
Join us for our project launch on June 26th with insightful presentations by Tracey Artis from Black Family Reunion and Therese Nelson of Black Culinary History. Through this launch event, we hope to inspire families to reconnect and reemerge whole through archiving, storytelling, and breaking bread guided by both our live and pre-recorded sessions.
Letter from the Ronald Saunders, President of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH
On June 14, I was a panelist along with Martha Conley, Esq., and University of Pittsburgh Law Professor, Jerry Dickinson, to give commentary and a critique of the film. The panel was moderated by Sam Black, Director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
The film pointed out that 30% of the adult Black males in the State of Alabama are ineligible to vote because of felonies. The Exception Clause was put into the Thirteenth Amendment to appease the planter class, thus giving the United States the distinction of being the only country in the world to have slavery written into its Constitution.
Any serious Juneteenth commemorations must be coupled with an in-depth discussion of the following topics:
The Exception Clause to the Thirteenth Amendment and continued inequality: a) Womb to School Prison Pipeline b) Mass Incarceration c) Health Disparities d) Achievement Gap e) Gentrification f) Escalating Wealth Gap
Voter Suppression Laws
Police Accountability and Police Reform
Internal Black Violence a) Self Defense Training and building self defense alliances b) Safety contingency plans for Black churches and institutions
Advocacy for public school students to complete Black History as a requirement for graduation from High School. Black history is often downplayed or distorted when rolled into controlled versions of multicultural studies.
Conversations centered around a National Black Educational Fund and National Black Business Development Fund.
Thorough examination of the Kerner Commission Report which analyzed the root causes of the Black Revolts in 1967 and 1968 respectively. The Kerner Commission Report concluded correctly that the main cause of the urban unrest was ongoing and pernicious white racism. However, many of the recommendations from the report were never implemented, particularly in critical areas of employment, education, the welfare system, housing, and police/community. Let us revisit and analyze the Kerner Commission Report and the recommendations from that report.
Lack of affordable housing coupled with gentrification in cities where the Democrats are the power brokers must be exposed and addressed.
Have an enlightening day. Ronald Saunders
The abrasive relationship between the police and the minority communities has been a major-and explosive-source of grievance, tension and disorder. The blame must be shared by the total society.
“The hallmark of South Africa’s apartheid cities was not simply segregation. It was the racial inequalities exacerbated by the segregation. Likewise, for decades, Pittsburgh sowed a divided urban landscape that contributed to the city producing some of the nation’s starkest racial disparities,”
A Provocative and Informative Discussion.Professor Dickinson sets forth a moral vision that we can identify with and attach ourselves to. That collective moral imperative is to end Pittsburgh’s apartheid and to become a world-class city of racial equality.
Professor Dickinson is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is a constitutional law professor, human rights activist and former Fulbright Scholar to South Africa. He conducts legal work on police accountability reform and represents tenants in eviction proceedings and fair housing discrimination cases in state court. Professor has submitted testimony to the U.S. Senate, and his legal opinions have been published in the Washington Post, The Atlantic and The Hill. He is also the author of the recent commentary, entitled “Pittsburgh is America’s Apartheid City” in Public Source.
The Pittsburgh Branch of ASALH is coming together for a dynamic Book Festival. Featuring storytelling and a power-packed Author Roundtable. Reflecting on the ASALH 2021 Theme: The Black Family—Representation, Identity, and Diversity
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), an award-winning author, and prolific playwright. She is the executive editor of “The Report on the Status of Black Women and Girls(R).” Professor Browne-Marshall is a syndicated columnist and legal commentator who covers the United States Supreme Court and major cases and provides nation-wide media commentary. Professor Browne-Marshall is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and a member of the board of ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Anita D Russell is life coach, speaker, and author who creates safe spaces for difficult conversations. She is the Founder/Principal of the Place to SOAR, a social enterprise dedicated to cultivating change through daily growth and personal transformation for the purpose of unleashing human potential. Anita is the Global Business Connector Pennsylvania for Women Speakers Association. She also serves as the Northeast Regional VP for the US Coalition of Black Women Businesses and VP of Media Relations for the Edna B. McKenzie Pittsburgh Branch of ASALH.
Cody McDevitt isan award-winning journalist, author, and historian. He is an investigative reporter based in western Pennsylvania. He has won a Golden Quill and awards from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Media Editors Organization. He co-authored Pittsburgh Drinks: A History of Cocktails, Nightlife and Bartending Tradition and Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania. He worked for the Somerset Daily American. His work has appeared in Pittsburgh Quarterly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Table Magazine, Mt. Lebanon Magazine, and on liquor.com.
C.R. Gibbs is the author/co-author of six books and a frequent national and international lecturer on an array of historical topics. He has appeared several times on the History Channel, French and Belgian television, and he wrote, researched, and narrated “Sketches In Color,” a 13-part companion series to the acclaimed PBS series, “The Civil War” for WHUT-TV, the Howard University television station. The Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum features Mr. Gibbs among its scholars at the museum’s Online Academy website. He is also a D.C. Humanities Council scholar. In 1989, he founded the African History & Culture Lecture Series whose scholars continue to provide free presentations at libraries, churches, and other locations in the Washington-Baltimore area.
“The history of forced sterilization and the American cultural agreement with this practice robbed women of color of control of their own bodies, destinies, and communities. Negative eugenics as genetic proof of low intelligence, low possibility, and low productivity fed the system of compulsory sterilization even though the science proved faulty and incorrect.”
Rev. B. De Neice Welch, PhD
Rev. Dr. B. De Neice Welch was born in West Virginia and grew up in New Jersey. She received a BA in business administration from Robert Morris College and a BS in Community Ministry from Geneva College. She earned her Masters of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2004. She was first ordained as a Presbyterian minister and installed as an Associate Pastor for Outreach for the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 2005. She accepted a call and was installed as Pastor of Bidwell Presbyterian Church in May, 2007.
She has preached, taught, and sung in churches all around the Western Pennsylvania areas and in various cities around the country. She has served as the President of PIIN (The Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network), a faith-based community organizing system out fo the Gamaliel Network. She also served as the Chair of Ntosake; the women’s leadership training development arm, also of the Gamaliel Network, serving over 500 women in 17 states.
Rev. Welch brings a number of gifts to Bidwell Church included a passion for prayer, praise, mission and evangelism. During her time at Shadyside Church, she coordinated a number of mission trips including outreach to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrinia and to the Presbyterian mission partners in Malawi, Africa. During her time as the Evangelism Ministry Chair of Bidwell Church, she launched a summer lunch and camp program for children in the Manchester neighborhood which is now in its 6th year. Her passions for teaching and studying God’s word led her to create a women’s Bible study group as a partnership between Bidwell and Shadyside churches that focused on the “Women at the Cross”.
Rev. Welch also serves as the Chaplain for the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Pittsburgh Branch of ASALH
Professor Gloria J. Browne-Marshallis a world renowned scholar, an award wining author, playwright and film producer. Professor Browne-Marshall’s new play, “Dreams of Emmett Till,” is produced by the Law and Policy Group. Please tell your family members and friends about this new play on Emmett Till.
In June 2020, the McKenzie Branch of ASALH featured Professor Browne-Marshall in a program, “A Snapshot of the Contributions of African American Women to the Women’s Suffrage Movement and Voting.” This program was greatly received by all of those in attendance.
Professor Browne-Marshall teaches classes in Constitutional Law, Race and the Law, Evidence, and Gender and Justice. She taught in the Africana Studies Program at Vassar College prior to John Jay. She is a civil rights attorney who litigated cases for Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.. She addresses audiences nationally and internationally. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall has spoken on issues of law and justice in Ghana, Rwanda, England, Wales, Canada, South Africa and before the United Nations in Geneva.