and the most dangerous negro award goes to…

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Every January, Martin Luther King, Jr. is universally honored as a national hero who preached a peaceful fight against racial injustice. This saintly image is quite a departure from the kind of attacks the reverend endured over his lifetime. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover famously called King “the most dangerous Negro” and “the most notorious liar in the country” while keeping him under close surveillance. Over the years, Dr. King’s more controversial edges have been smoothed over, burying his more radical teachings….

Read More of the  4 Ways Martin Luther King Was More Radical Than You Thought

I mean, that is quite an accomplishment, MLK.  The most dangerous negro!? Everyone knows all negroes are dangerous, so…

Why else would it be socially acceptable to make post-game interview commentary like these comments below?  Admitedly, the anger unleashed in Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman’s post-win interview falls into the category of unsavory.  But must we wonder why he might be so sensitive?  I know haters gone hate and all, but you try to let comments like these roll off your back. It’s not for the faint of heart and could understandably lead to a kind of hypervigilance pertaining to perceived disrespect.  I highly doubt this is the first time Mr. Sherman has been on the receiving end of jabs such as these.  Even without an angry interview as catalyst.  This happened yesterday. So very post-racial…note #noracismintended.

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Lol don’t mess with Richard Sherman, he will go bananas. Guys a fricken jungle monkey.

— Zack Grenon (@g_g_g_grenon71) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman’s an ignorant ape

— GC (@TropicanaCEO_15) January 20, 2014

Someone put Richard Sherman in an animal hospital because he is a fucking gorilla #noracismintented

— Michael Mortellito (@mmortellito) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman is a nigger, fuck that.

— Rob Falotico (@Robadob561) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman deserves to get shot in the fucking head. Disrespectful nigger.

— Adam Costello (@AdamCostello128) January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman is a straight irrogant nigger. Manning is going to rip him apart

— Christian Parafati (@C_parafati_one3) January 20, 2014

You can read many more comments like this HERE

hatepotate

Happy Most Dangerous Negro Day to you!

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85

Guess who would have celebrated 85 years today….

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for doing work to end racial segregation and discrimination in 1964.

That was 50 years ago!! Imagine what he would have done if he had lived to be 85!

haven't learned to wald as brothers and sisters mlk

mlk-peace represents

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…and then

It happens to be Loving Day which is what prompted me to finally get around to posting about the Cheerios.  Happy Loving Day! Interracial Marriage (black/white) has been legal for a grand total of….46 years!  That’s only ten more years than I have existed!  So in the grand scheme, if there is still a small to medium segment of the population who simply has not taken advantage of any opportunity to grow out of this debilitating mindset, well, that’s only to be expected… and it’s too bad for them… and absolutely ok with me actually.  Love people where they are, right?

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.32 PM #5 (compiled)

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.26 PM #5 (compiled)

Here’s a nice article that brings together the Cheerios and the Lovings.

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor’s note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day’.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples – or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong.

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high:

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.”  In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech approaches.

On June 15th, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children’s spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing, April, 1965

 Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing April 1965

peaceful changemakers

Basically, I think that Madeleine Rogin is a genius and I hope this curriculum (and others like it) spreads like wildfire.  To know that there are people working so diligently to affect positive change at a core and fundamental level is truly invigorating to me.  It makes me enthusiastic about life. That children are being thoughtfully led to consider social justice, peace, and change and to recognize, then interrupt bias…well, that opens up more space in my heart.  For real.

I only wish I had experienced first-hand the benefit of this kind of education.  As a student, I mean.  I am totally looking forward to experiencing the benefit of communing with citizens who are a product of this type of conscientious education.  But even more selfishly, I cannot help but feel a twinge of envy when contemplating the vast difference between how it felt to be a speck of color in a classroom where exclusivity was a priority (as were the classrooms of my youth), and how I imagine it feels to be in a millennial classroom where inclusivity is a priority.  It gives me hope that this is concrete evidence that we are indeed moving from a country where exclusivity is a priority to a country that takes more pride in inclusivity.  At high levels.  Where it counts.

So, on this 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, I contemplate:

What was the problem he faced?

Who was involved or affected?

Why was it hard to solve this problem?

And was it solved?

How to Teach Kids about Race and Social Justice: One Teacher’s Approach

By    via

Kindergarten

When it came time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. to my Kindergarten students, I found myself struggling to communicate who he was. I wanted to convey the themes that stood out to me the most about Dr. King: courage, standing up for a community, and using peaceful means to bring about big, important social changes. But I didn’t know what was developmentally appropriate for five and six year olds. Should I tell them about his assassination?  Should I talk to them about race and racism? Would learning the truth about racism and segregation be too much for them to handle and create divisions in my diverse classroom? Would my students feel burdened or overwhelmed with this information?

For years, I tried to talk about Dr. King without talking about racism. I thought my students would understand the themes of courage, social justice and empathy by talking in general terms about Dr. King’s dream of an inclusive world. But our conversations in class did not convey these themes and my students did not seem to understand the significance of who Dr. King was and what he did. And, inevitably, some of the truth would come out—through a comment from a student who had prior knowledge about the story, or a conversation on the playground between a kindergartener and an older child. I realized that it was my responsibility to tell this story in a way that would effectively communicate the themes I most wanted my students to understand and, in order to do that, I would have to look deeper into our curriculum and face my own discomfort around talking about racism with my students.

I met with my kindergarten team and began an inquiry into our curriculum.  We asked ourselves:  how can we teach the themes of courage, justice, inclusivity and making change through peaceful means to our young students? And how can we do this in a way that is developmentally appropriate and includes all the voices in our classrooms?

The result of this inquiry has led to the “Peaceful Changemakers” curriculum in kindergarten, and, now, influencing the way that first through fourth grade teachers talk about issues of environmentalism, civil and human rights. Through this curriculum, students learn about many people who work toward making the world a better place through peaceful means.  We realized that in order for our students to have a deeper understanding of Dr. King we would need to integrate the ideas around making big, important changes into our curriculum. We would need to start talking about these themes months before Dr. King’s birthday, so that our students could practice exploring the ideas and having conversations about what it means to stand up for a community and make change before they learned about Dr. King.

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We start by studying Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax, and we call the Lorax a “changemaker” because he spoke for the trees. Students answer the following questions about the Lorax: What was the problem he faced? Who was involved or affected? Why was it hard to solve this problem? And was it solved? From there, we learn about Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees in Kenya. As we learn about these changemakers, students take action to solve problems in their local community.  We work to restore the watershed by planting native trees at a nearby creek and go on trash walks through the local parks. We hang signs around their school educating our school community about how trash on the ground eventually makes its way into the ocean.

Students also honor changemakers from their own families and communities, and family members come into the classroom to present their changemakers. Some of these changemakers are tutors in schools, work in orphanages in other countries, educate others about the importance of reusing and recycling, or turn parking lots into neighborhood parks.

There were also important changes we made to the discussion of Dr. King himself. Through our research, we discovered that it is developmentally appropriate to skip the part of the story around Dr. King’s death; students do not need to know that he was assassinated in order to appreciate his work. I had noticed that when my students learned he was killed, they would often focus on this violent image more than on any other aspect of his life work. And, without the larger unit in which we explore many people who work for change, students would feel burdened and overwhelmed with this information. Now, if my students learn about the assassination from an older sibling or from an outside conversation, I can point to our Changemaker Wall on which we display all the changemakers we have learned about, both famous and not, and remind them that there are so many people working, as Dr. King did, to make a difference.

We also learned it was important not to skip the part about racism and segregation. Using our changemakers framework, where we ask specific questions of each of our changemakers, our students need to know what the problem was in order to think about how to solve it. There is a universality among all the changemakers in that they all work to make a difference and solve big problems, but in order for our students to grasp the significance of this universality they also have to understand the specific problems. Otherwise, they cannot appreciate the courage it takes to solve the problems we face.

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We also discovered that our students needed support in developing a basic understanding of skin color differences and language they can use to be inclusive with one another. To this end, students mix paint to find their skin tones, write poems about their skin, and listen to many stories about the different shades of our skin. Talking openly about race and racism with our students is also important so that they can recognize and interrupt bias when they see it. They can also more fully appreciate the work of Dr. King and other changemakers in fighting against segregation and racism.

Now, when it comes time to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten, the students are able to focus on the big ideas around courage, social justice and making peaceful change. They have a deeper understanding of their similarities and differences and a greater appreciation for the importance of standing up for a community and working toward inclusivity and equality.   They recognize they can be changemakers too.

inter-related

universe of souls

In a real sense all life is inter-related.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the inter-related structure of reality.“- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

responsible?

So, I’m sitting here completely stunned by this and unsure how to process it.  It’s not the “possibility” that the government was involved in the assassination that has me floored, but that I have never heard of this trial before.  I wasn’t sure I could believe that the trial even happened.  I came across this on April Fool’s Day after all.  But it seems to be no joke.  The King Center seems to be legit.  The NYTimes made some brief mention of the trial.  However this is not common knowledge.  At least, not to the best of my knowledge.  I can only say that I am truly befuddled.  Yep, befuddled.  The 45th anniversary of the assassination is days away: 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, 1968.

mlk assassination suit

Assassination Conspiracy Trial

Martin King’s family: share civil trial case that US govt assassinated Martin

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Coretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.” – King Family Press Conference, Dec. 9, 1999.

From the King Center on the  family’s civil trial that found the US government guilty in Martin’s assassination:

After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict, saying , “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law… My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”

mlk w:father and son 1963

1963

TRANSCRIPTS

View Full Trial Transcript>

View Transcript of King Family Press Conference on the Verdict>

KING FAMILY STATEMENT ON MEDIA REQUESTS REGARDING THE MEMPHIS VERDICT

The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict reached by twelve jurors in the Memphis, Tennessee courtroom on December 8, 1999.

An excerpt from remarks made by Mr. Dexter Scott King, Chairman, President, and CEO of The King Center, during the December 9, 1999 press conference regarding the verdict that may be used in support of this family decision:

“We can say that because of the evidence and information obtained in Memphis we believe that this case is over. This is a period in the chapter. We constantly hear reports, which trouble me, that this verdict creates more questions than answers. That is totally false. Anyone who sat in on almost four weeks of testimony, with over seventy witnesses, credible witnesses I might add, from several judges to other very credible witnesses, would know that the truth is here.”

The question now is, “What will you do with that?” We as a family have done our part. We have carried this mantle for as long as we can carry it. We know what happened. It is on public record. The transcripts will be available; we will make them available on the Web at some point. Any serious researcher who wants to know what happened can find out.”

The King family feels that the jury’s verdict, the transcripts of the conspiracy trial, and the transcripts of the King family’s press conference following the trial — all of which can be found on The King Center’s website — include everything that that family members have to say about the assassination.

Therefore, the King family shares the conviction that there is nothing more to add to their comments on record and will respectfully decline all further requests for comment.

destined to repeat history

Memphis Jury Sees Conspiracy in Martin Luther King’s Killing

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By EMILY YELLIN
Published: December 09, 1999

A jury in a civil suit brought by the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decided today that a retired Memphis cafe owner was part of a conspiracy in the 1968 killing of Dr. King.

The jury’s decision means it did not believe that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the crime, fired the shot that killed Dr. King.

After four weeks of testimony and one hour of deliberation, the jury in the wrongful-death case found that Loyd Jowers as well as ”others, including governmental agencies” had been part of a conspiracy. The jury awarded the King family the damages they had sought: $100, which the family says it will donate to charity.

The family has long questioned Mr. Ray’s conviction and hoped the suit would change the legal and historical record of the assassination.

”This is a vindication for us,” said Dexter King, the youngest son of Dr. King.

He said he hoped history books would be rewritten to reflect this version of the assassination.

Mr. Jowers, 73 and in failing health, owned Jim’s Grill in 1968, a restaurant opposite the motel where Dr. King was shot and just below the second-floor rooming house from which, according to James Earl Ray’s confession in 1969, Mr. Ray fired the single shot that killed Dr. King. Mr. Ray, who recanted his confession, hinted at a conspiracy. He died in prison last year while serving a 99-year sentence.

Mr. Jowers, in a 1993 television interview, said that he had hired a Memphis police officer to kill Dr. King from the bushes behind his restaurant. Mr. Jowers said he had been paid to do so by a Memphis grocery store owner with Mafia connections.

In an unlikely alliance, the King family was represented in the case by William Pepper, who had been Mr. Ray’s lawyer. The King family maintains that Mr. Pepper’s version of the assassination is the one that gets at the real truth behind Dr. King’s death, not the official version with Mr. Ray as the gunman.

Mr. Pepper said federal, state and Memphis governmental agencies, as well as the news media conspired in the assassination.

Mr. Jowers’s lawyer, Lewis Garrison, had said since the trial began that he agreed with 80 percent of Mr. Pepper’s conspiracy theories and disagreed only on the extent of his client’s involvement. In his closing argument today, Mr. Garrison repeated what he had said through the trial that his client participated in the conspiracy but did not know that it was a plot to kill Dr. King.

One juror, David Morphy, said after the trial, ”We all thought it was a cut and dried case with the evidence that Mr. Pepper brought to us, that there were a lot of people involved, everyone from the C.I.A., military involvement, and Jowers was involved.”

John Campbell, an assistant district attorney in Memphis, who was not part of the civil proceedings but was part of the criminal case against Mr. Ray, said, ”I’m not surprised by the verdict. This case overlooked so much contradictory evidence that never was presented, what other option did the jury have but to accept Mr. Pepper’s version?”

And Gerald Posner, whose recent book, ”Killing the Dream” made the case that Mr. Ray was the killer, said, ”It distresses me greatly that the legal system was used in such a callous and farcical manner in Memphis. If the King family wanted a rubber stamp of their own view of the facts, they got it.”

the greatest negro?

I immediately thought of Obama while reading this article and am quite, quite certain that most agree that he is indeed a “Negro.”  That there was debate around Douglass’ negrocity ( I like to make up words sometimes) is of interest to me because I’m fascinated by the fact that mulatto was a valid and recognized identity in America before 1920.  Then it wasn’t anymore.  The ranking of Negroes from greatest to least strikes me as ludicrous.  That being said, the question, “Will Obama go down in history as the greatest Negro who ever lived?” popped into my head.  And then I thought that seeing as he isn’t one “in the full sense of the term,”  MLK probably outranks him.  How quickly I went from judging the system of rankings to ordering some myself!

Knoxville’s farewell to a civil-rights icon

By Robert Booker

SOURCE

A large crowd packed into Logan Temple A.M.E. Zion Church to honor the memory of the country’s best known civil-rights advocate. Among them were Knoxville’s black elite.

It was Feb. 25, 1895, and they had come to say farewell to Frederick Douglass, who had been born into slavery and died six days earlier.

Two days before the memorial, The Knoxville Tribune had its say about Douglass and wondered if he was a true Negro: “If we consider Douglass as a Negro, he was the brightest of his race in America. But he was not a Negro in the full sense of the term. Although born a slave, his father was a white man and his mother was a mulatto. Born a bastard and a slave, he rose to distinction and influences, and there were those among a class of white people who delighted to honor him.

“There are those who class him as the greatest Negro. This estimate of him is extravagant and unwarranted. In the first place he was not a Negro, and in the next place he is outranked by other Negroes. The greatest Negro who ever lived was Toussaint L’Ouverture the Haitian general, whose death was and will always be a dishonor to France. No Negro in this country ever approached L’Ouverture in intellect.”

L’Ouverture (1744-1803) was the Haitian independence leader who took part in the slave revolt in that country in 1790. He joined the Spaniards when they attacked the French in 1793, but fought for the French when they agreed to abolish slavery. By 1801 he had virtual control over Hispaniola, but was arrested and died in a French prison.

The blacks who spoke at the Douglass memorial took issue with the Tribunes’s assessment of him.

Attorney Samuel R. Maples said he wanted “to correct a statement in one of the local papers that Douglass boasted of his white blood and denied being a Negro. This was not true. Douglass never denied being a Negro. He was very proud of his race.”

Attorney William F. Yardley, who had introduced Douglass when he spoke here at Staub’s Opera House Nov. 21, 1881, said Douglass “Was the victim of the great American curse – slavery. He slept with dogs and ate the crumbs from his master’s table, but his great mind and energy lifted him to the loftiest heights of fame. He was not a creature of circumstance but of force. He was tireless and had been the greatest blessing to his race.”

Charles W. Cansler spoke of Douglass as “An anti-slavery agitator who represented a great moral principle and not a minister of malice. He was seventy-eight years old when he died and spent his life earnestly in the extension of freedom and in establishing justice among men. He was the Moses of his race, and it is hard to tell what his heath means to us.”

Rev. J.R. Riley, pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church, spoke of Douglass as a leader: “He was carved by the hand of deity to be a great leader, though cradled in the most iniquitous institution – American slavery – and schooled in dire adversity, his power of mind and greatness of spirit had surmounted all, and he stood out boldly as the greatest man of his race and the peer of all great men.”

It seems that Riley, who was pastor of Shiloh from 1891 to 1913, knew Douglass personally and they had many experiences together. He said his friend had “great personal magnetism. His quick wit and ability to read men made him irresistible in his influence among men.”

the cover of the sheet music for Frederick Douglass's funeral march

This image shows the front cover of “Frederick Douglass Funeral March.”  At each corner of his portrait are pen and ink drawings in circular frames that depict the slave trade, bondage, auction block, and freedom.

dumas disappointment

FRANCE: Race row in France after white actor used to play mixed race French national hero

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FURIOUS BLACK campaigners in France have protested after filmmakers used a white actor to play legendary mixed race French writer and national hero, Alexandre Dumas.

In a film called L’Autre Dumas, Gerard Depardieu, who is blond and blue-eyed, was given darker skin and curly hair to play Dumas.

FRANCE: Race row in France after white actor used to play mixed race French national hero

Dumas, the grandson of a Haitian slave and the son of a Napoleonic general, was mocked for his African features even as he created well-loved books such as the Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Musketeers. They are also high grossing hit films.

Patrick Lozès, the president of the Council of Black Associations of France (CRAN) told the Times: “In 150 years time could the role of Barack Obama be played in a film by a white actor with a fuzzy wig? Can Martin Luther King be played by a white?”The filmmakers also reportedly credited a fictional white assistant with creating some of Dumas’ well-loved books, The Times newspaper reported.

The campaigners said they are furious because the film not only uses a white actor, but seems to attempt to discredit Dumas’ genius, further bury his black origins and keep black actors off the screen.

“Possibly for commercial reasons they are whitewashing Dumas in order to blacken him further,” the Council said on its website.

sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree

Thank God!  This is such an amazing story.  I’m so fascinated.  Not only by the bravery of a little white girl who crossed KKK, but also the shades of “mulatto” history sprinkled throughout.  Coon-hunting based on the supposed threat that black males posed to white women.  The “black” member of the Klan.  Passing.  Male chauvinism.  Homophobia. This is our sordid past.  And it is still haunting us.

Taking on the Klan

One summer night in 1965, 12-year-old Carolyn Wagner watched as Klansmen bound a young black man to a tree in her father’s field, accused him of violating the “sundown” rules in nearby Booneville, Ark., that forbade blacks from staying in town after dark, and lashed him a few times with a bullwhip as he cried out in pain and fear.

It was no different from beatings at other Klan gatherings her father had attended, but what happened next remains vivid in her memory: the Klansmen decided to tie the man to the railroad tracks below the pasture. When they were done, they ambled back to the field to discuss crops and politics. Wagner, a reluctant witness to her father’s Klan meetings, couldn’t stand it anymore. She stole down to the tracks, used a knife she kept in her boot to slash the rope that bound the man, and told him he could follow the tracks to Fort Smith, the nearest large town.

“That was a turning point,” recalled Wagner, now 56 and living in Tulsa, Okla. “I felt like I had made a difference when I was able to cut that man free. I realized I can make a choice to be a passive observer or I can become involved to diminish the harm that they’re doing. And that’s what I did from that night on, and that’s what I’m still doing.”

After years working for civil rights and children’s organizations, Wagner co-founded Families United Against Hate, a nonprofit group that helps people affected by bias incidents. Her experience growing up with a father in the Klan made her determined and fearless in her fight against hate. “That image of my dad and those men, and even the smells, are still with me, and they’ll always be with me. And it was very important that my children never know the world I knew when I was growing up.”

It was a world where Wagner’s father, Edward Greenwood, and his acquaintances gathered at least once a month at each other’s farms for Klan meetings, often bringing their children and grandkids. Because her father, then in his late 50s, couldn’t see well enough to drive at night, Wagner ferried him to meetings in a 1951 Chevy pickup. (Back then in rural Arkansas, it wasn’t unusual for children as young as 12 to drive on country roads.) The men — including lawyers, judges, cops and pastors — would begin their gatherings with a prayer and eschew alcohol. “They felt like they were doing God’s work,” Wagner said.

Sometimes, the gatherings would feature a beating like the one Wagner witnessed at her family’s farm. The victims were usually young men who’d been picked up on a pretext, such as paying too much attention to a white woman. “We would hear terms like ‘coon’ hunting,” she said. “My father would say, ‘I’m going ‘coon’ hunting.'”

But more often, the men would talk big, complaining about Presidents John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson or even threatening to blow up the Supreme Court building. They’d eat bologna sandwiches that Wagner had prepared. Campfire smoke would mingle with the sweet-sour odor of Brylcreem, sweat and Old Spice. It was the one place where her father seemed happy. “I don’t remember seeing him smile or laugh unless he was with those goons,” she said.

…But her father probably would not have found a home in the Klan if his comrades had known about his heritage. “We knew there was this dirty secret in the family,” Wagner said.

In fact, her father’s great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Greenwood, was part Cherokee and part black, a former slave who’d settled in Arkansas when it was still part of France’s Louisiana Territory, according to family lore. Her father had cousins who identified as black, though he would have nothing to do with them. Wagner believes part of his racism stemmed from shame about his origins.

Wagner’s mother didn’t share her husband’s views about race, but she felt powerless to oppose him. Divorce was taboo in her family; resources for victims of domestic abuse were nearly nonexistent. “Mother never asked what he did [at Klan meetings],” Wagner said. “It was like she couldn’t bear to know.”

Wagner did receive support from her maternal grandparents, who passionately disliked her father. After Wagner secretly untied the black man from the railroad tracks, her maternal grandfather taught her how to use a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun. She cut away the springs in the seat of the pickup to create a compartment where she hid the weapon, loaded and wrapped in a blanket. Though she never used it, she says she would have done so to defend herself or to help a potential Klan victim.

It wasn’t the last time she would defy all that her father represented. In April 1968, Wagner drove him to Memphis to take part in a Klan protest during the sanitation workers strike made famous by the appearance of Martin Luther King Jr. She was there when the civil rights leader was assassinated. In a Memphis newspaper, she read that the Department of Justice was planning a crackdown on the perpetrators of civil-rights era violence. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy two months later, Wagner, then 15, wrote a letter to the FBI accompanied by a list of names and addresses she’d copied from her father’s Klan directory. She wanted to get them all arrested. “I included my dad on that list,” she said.

Wagner, who used her maternal grandparents’ home as the return address, never heard back from the FBI.

She left home the day she finished high school and at 19 eloped with Bill Wagner, now her husband of 37 years. Her father died in 1980 when she was pregnant with her younger child, William. “I am so grateful that my children will have no memory of him or his politics,” she said.

But her own memories of her father came back strongly on William’s 14th birthday, the day he told his parents that he was gay. That day she and her husband’s biggest concern was for their son’s safety. “I had a very clear understanding of who the hatemongers were,” she said. They decided to move from their farm in tiny Booneville, a conservative town where homosexuality was widely condemned, to the more liberal university town of Fayetteville, some 120 miles away.

Still, they couldn’t protect their son from hate. Harassment at school culminated in a brutal assault in 1996. William, then 16, left school with friends to get lunch at a nearby convenience store when six teenagers shouted anti-gay slurs. They knocked him off his feet, then kicked him as he lay bleeding on the ground. “I thought about how easily that could have been my father’s group,” Wagner recalled. “And I wasn’t there.”

Two of the attackers were convicted of assault. After the Wagners filed a complaint on behalf of their son under Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law, Fayetteville became the first public school district in the nation to enter into an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that required it to protect all students, including gays and lesbians, from harassment. The Wagners continue to advocate for young people who are targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Looking back on her childhood, Wagner remembers reading novels by Pearl S. Buck and biographies about women such as Harriet Tubman and Florence Nightingale. She wanted to learn about people who had survived difficult circumstances to help others, because she was determined to do the same.

“I found ways to survive,” she said. “I found ways to more than survive — to endure, to become stronger and to make our little corner of the world in the South a little better.”