‘A Greater Chance For Glory’

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Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave said “On the line!” The Reconstruction said “Get set!” and the generation before said “Go!” I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep. Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory.

Do young people today, black or white, know about Marian Anderson, the glorious contralto who, after being denied permission in 1939 to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington by the Daughters of the American Revolution, was invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to sing instead at the Lincoln Memorial before a radio audience of millions – and who went on to become the first black performer at the Metropolitan Opera and to perform at the March on Washington?  Do they know about Jackie Robinson, who broke the baseball color line in the major leagues in 1947 and whose quietly bold endurance in the face of racist abuse by other players did a great deal to ease the way for other black players?

Do they know about Nat King Cole, who despite his heartbreakingly gentle singing voice was a man of steel, refusing, out of a profound sense of principled resistance, to move his family from their house in previously all-white Hancock Park, Los Angeles, even though bigots harassed them mercilessly and even burned a cross on their lawn?  Do they know about Louis Armstrong, whom some unjustly branded an Uncle Tom but whose livid challenge to President Eisenhower to take a stand on school desegregation in Little Rock was widely credited with forcing Ike to act – and who was effective precisely because he was perceived not as a radical firebrand but as the very personification of decency, responsibility, and good citizenship?  (If you want to be ennobled by the inspiring life of a great American, buy Terry Teachout’s wonderful biography of Armstrong.)

One could list many, many other names – ranging from Joe Louis to General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., and the Tuskegee Airmen.  And Bill Cosby, who in recent years has been a brave and eloquent spokesman for individual responsibility.

The men and women I’ve mentioned represent an extremely wide range of black Americans.  But what they all have, or had, in common is the selflessness and self-discipline to rein in their thoroughly legitimate rage over ugly, monstrous, and indefensible bigotry and to become men and women whose excellence and dignity helped to shame millions of white Americans into giving them – and all black Americans – their due.  For this, they deserve our undying respect – not only in the month of February, but throughout the year.

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  • Grantmann

    Good post, Bruce, but if you're thinking you can change a Howard Zinn mindset let me introduce you to my good friend, Sisyphus.

  • mrbean

    No people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants. Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

    We heard the black's grievances. Where is the black 's gratitude?

    • Dennis X

      Four hundred years of slavery, followed by ax. 100 years of jim crow and you can't handle a couple of extra points on some entrance exam. All the programs you mention are not for Black People, they are for everyone. Affirmative action was just giving someone a chance that should have afforded to them anyway but wasn't under white privilege. mcbutt you couldn't handle being Black for one day. now come on with your ebonic response.

      • intrcptr2

        "you can't handle a couple of extra points on some entrance exam"

        And I suppose Dr King wanted this?

        • Dennis X

          The points are an insult.

  • Martel64

    "A Greater Chance For Glory"……..at Whitey's expense – no matter how poor and underprivileged YOU are,White Man….

    • intrcptr2

      And that is the problem, init it?

      SInce when is this a zero-sum game? Did McCoy's inventions lessen opportunities for railroaders of any color?

  • intrcptr2

    Bruce, let us not forget also the long-running debate between DuBois and Washington; one a German PhD the other the founder of the Tuskegee Institute.

    Oh, to have such thinkers today, rather than Obama or Cornel West.

    • Linda

      WE DO! Thomas Sowell. Senior Fellow at Stanford.

      • Jim_C

        All one of him!

  • kblink45

    Black History Month is implicitly racist. What are the other eleven months? White History Celebration Time? The hard truth is that Western Civilization isn't singular because of the race of its majority. It is singular because some white people who were smarter and harder working than other white people propogated a culture of personal responsibility and liberty. This culture, borne of the Protestant Ethic and nurtured by the rule of law, was economic rocket fuel. Incidentally, it also expanded moral agency and fueled the abolitionist movement in England and America. Most of those who wish to destroy this culture in America are white. ____There is only one race, the human race.

    • Dennis X

      washington's birthday, lincoln's birthday, xmas, thanksgiving, memorial day, independence day, veteran's day, labor day, president's day, new years day( rose bowl), columbus day……………………….

  • tanstaafl

    Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglas, Arthur Ashe, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Danbridge, Willie Mays, William Jefferson Russell…………… That's just off the top of my head and the list goes on and on.

  • Linda

    In th end, Obama will have set back black society's progress by a 100 years.

    • Dennis X

      President Obama is the Jackie Robinson on the presidency and has had to act accordingly. In the future you can look back and count yourself along with all the other racist who did everything they could to obstruct all he has attempted to accomplish. Just like the white ball players who spit, punched and did other things to Mr. Robertson. Attacking the President for a paper clip or for having the nerve to actually invite Black people to his birthday party. Time will tell. I love your group thought , did bush set white back a hundred years?

      • Jim_C

        Linda's post is so bone-rattlingly dumb I'm surprised you bothered to respond.

        None of these bozos' inane "predictions" about Obama have come true…but they'll keep making fools of themselves, like ol' Linda, here. Cheer them on!

  • Whatsinaname

    A name left out of the article but who is surely one of the great minds of the past century is Thomas Sowell, who, thankfully is still alive.

    "Black History Month" does little more than foster condescension, resentment and overall annoyance among other groups. It keeps alive a separation that is very unproductive. The heavy emphasis on race which is constantly fed to Americans — particularly black Americans does so much harm.