Tag Archive for 'african americans'

On This Day: The Atlanta Race Riot

On September 22, 1906—106 years ago today—Atlanta, Georgia, dissolved into horrifying and unrestrained violence which after a few days would leave dozens of African Americans dead and many more wounded.

Although Atlanta had developed a reputation for relative racial harmony, extensive population growth over the previous two decades led to competition and tension between whites and African Americans. White supremacists instituted Jim Crow laws to keep the races segregated both in public accommodations and in residential neighborhoods.

As publicity abounded in the months leading up to the 1906 gubernatorial election, racial tensions flared between those advocating African American disfranchisement and those pushing for equality. White supremacists used the media as a vehicle of racial hatred, spreading lies about African Americans—especially rumors about African American violence against whites.

Thus it perhaps was not surprising that after rumors raged of four alleged sexual assaults by African American men on white women, white mobs hit the streets on the night of September 22, beating hundreds of African Americans and destroying their businesses.

State militia and police officers were called in, but were not immediately effective at quelling the violence. African Americans were forced to defend their homes and businesses, and many innocent African American individuals were killed.

On September 24, when police officers learned of a meeting of African Americans in a town just outside Atlanta, they raided the meeting, claiming fear of a counterattack. A shootout resulted in the death of one police officer; heavily armed militia arrested hundreds of African Americans.

Fearing the destruction of the city’s formerly positive reputation, local officials and public figures called for an end to the riot, beginning a dialogue with African American elites.

Estimates show that as many as 10,000 whites rioted against African Americans, leaving at least 25 African Americans dead—but most likely many more than that. The biracial meetings that developed as a result of the riot served as a model for white-African American relations.

Discussed in middle and high schools, the riot stands today—more than a century later—as a bitter reminder of the racial hostility and violence African Americans faced for decades.

To learn more, check out this summary from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, this page from PBS, and this article from NPR.

This article from the Atlanta Constitution demonstrates the blame white supremacists placed on African Americans. This New York Times article discusses the aftermath of the riot, stating that militia disarmed African Americans (most of whom, presumably, were armed simply to protect themselves and their families from white mob violence).

To learn more, check out David Godshalk’s Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations (UNC Press 2005), Gregory Mixon’s The Atlanta Riot: Race, Class, and Violence in a New South City (University Press of Florida 2005), and Rebecca Burns’ Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot (University of Georgia Press 2009).

To learn more about Atlanta’s race relations, check out Ronald Bayor’s Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta (UNC Press 1996).

Walter White, who would serve as NAACP secretary for more than two decades, witnessed the riot as a 13-year-old child. He described the riot in his autobiography, A Man Called White. To learn more about White, check out Kenneth Janken’s Walter White: Mr. NAACP (UNC Press 2006).

On This Day: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

On August 25, 1925—87 years ago today—the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters held its first large meeting.

In the early twentieth century, the Pullman Company employed African Americans as porters and maids on trains, simultaneously promoting the jobs as preferable to others available to African Americans while barring them from whites-only jobs with the Company and forcing them into subservient positions to whites.

Dissatisfied after years of working long hours for little pay, a group of porters employed by the Chicago-based Pullman Company asked A. Philip Randolph—a prominent African American labor activist—to form an independent union. Randolph agreed, and the group took shape in 1925.

The union immediately met strong resistance. The Pullman Company denounced Randolph as a communist and used public opinion and the media to garner support from middle-class African Americans. This was surprisingly successful, due in part to the poor image many African Americans had of labor unions.

Before the union could be destroyed, Congress passed legislation guaranteeing employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.”

It was a turning point for the Brotherhood, which became the first labor union led by African Americans to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Finally, in 1937, the Pullman Company signed a labor agreement with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, agreeing to wage increases.

Members of the Brotherhood became important actors in the civil rights movement, spreading information and creating networks. In fact, after the Chicago Defender was banned from distribution in many states throughout the South, porters used their access to circulate it to individuals who would then share it with other individuals.

The Brotherhood eventually merged with the larger Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express, and Station Employees.

For more information, check out the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

To learn more, check out this page from PBS, and this page from the Encyclopedia of Chicago. The U.S. Department of Transportation also provides a great summary of A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood.

For more information on the early organization and activities of the Brotherhood, check out Beth Tompkins Bates’ Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945 (UNC Press, 2001), Larry Tye’s Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class (Macmillan, 2005), and William Harris’ Keeping the Faith: A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1925-37 (University of Illinois Press).

Members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary were instrumental in the union’s work. For more information, check out Melinda Chateauvert’s Marching Together: Women of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (University of Illinois Press, 1998).

For more about the porters, check out Jack Santino’s Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle: Stories of Black Pullman Porters (University of Illinois Press, 1991).

To learn about the Pullman Company’s history, check out David Ray Papke’s The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America (University Press of Kansas, 1999).

On This Day: The Watts Riot Begins

On August 11, 1965—47 years ago today—Los Angeles dissolved into what is perhaps the most famous display of racial hatred and violence in America’s history.

Only 13 months earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had greatly expanded the rights and protections of all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Tensions remained high, though, as segregationists sought ways around this law (and other similar legislation). In California, Proposition 14 nullified the state’s 1963 fair housing law, amending the state constitution to allow individuals to decline to sell, lease, or rent property pursuant to their preferences.

On August 11, a police officer arrested Marquette Frye for drunk driving. While the officer was questioning him, Frye’s brother Ronald (who had been in the car at the time) led his mother to the scene. Alarmed by her son’s forcible arrest, Mrs. Rena Frye put up a fight, tearing one officer’s shirt. Both the mother and the two sons were arrested—and police hit them with their batons.

A growing (and angry) crowd of hundreds of onlookers dissolved into violence after the police officers left, stoning cars, beating people, and looting stores.

The National Guard was called in and a curfew was ordered, but the chaos lasted several days, finally ending on August 17—for the most part. (The next night, police entered a Nation of Islam mosque and fired extensively into the building, causing many injuries.)

By the time the violence was quelled, at least 34 people lay dead, 1000 had been wounded, and more than 600 buildings had been damaged or destroyed through looting and arson.

When peace was finally restored, California Governor Pat Brown created a commission to study the riots; the McCone Commission’s report ultimately stated that the riots had been caused by deep and engrained social problems: poverty, inequality, racial discrimination, and the passage of Proposition 14.

Despite this report, little was done to remedy the poor conditions under which Los Angeles’ African American residents lived. The riot lives on today in American history as a horrifying reminder of the violence such treatment can lead to. It was neither the first nor the last race riot in Los Angeles—a fact which illustrates all too well that the path to equality and justice is long.

To learn more, and to view news footage, check out this page from PBS. The Civil Rights Digital Library includes a synopsis and archival material.

To read the summary from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, click here.

For a comprehensive study of the riot and its aftermath, check out Gerald Horne’s Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s (Da Capo Press, 1997).

To view the August 12, 1965, article in the New York Times, click here.

The August 27, 1965 edition of LIFE Magazine focused heavily on the Watts Riots.

To read the McCone Commission’s report, click here.

In this 2005 Los Angeles Times article, reporters Valerie Reitman and Mitchell Landsberg interview nine survivors.

To learn more about urban race riots, check out Janet Abu-Lughod’s Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2012). Readers will also be interested in John Charles Boger and Judith Welch Wegner’s edited collection, Race, Poverty, and American Cities (UNC Press 1996).

This was not the first time Los Angeles had faced rioting, nor would it be the last. The 1943 zoot suit riots involved violence by white sailors and Marines against Latino youths. And in 1992, 58 individuals were killed after the controversial beating of Rodney King sparked a week-long riot.

To learn more about the 1943 riot, check out Eduardo Obregon Pagan’s Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A. (UNC Press, 2003). Rodney King, in conjunction with Lawrence Spagnola, recently published a memoir about the 1992 riot: The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.

On This Day: The Detroit Riot of 1967

On July 23, 1967—45 years ago today—Detroit, Michigan, erupted into bloody violence. The Detroit Riot of 1967, one of the most violent race riots in American history, would continue for five days and would ultimately leave more than 40 individuals dead.

Racial tensions were already high in Detroit; although white residents had benefited from expanded economic opportunities and increased quality of life, conditions for African Americans remained poor, and police abuse was common. Detroit was no stranger to racial violence; 24 years earlier another riot had left 34 individuals dead.

On the night of July 23, police officers raided a drinking club where a large group of African Americans were celebrating the homecoming of two Vietnam veterans. After police arrested 82 people, a small group of onlookers who had been kicked out of the club broke the windows of a nearby clothing store. Looting and fires quickly spread across the city; within 48 hours the National Guard had been mobilized, and soon after, U.S. Army troops joined them.

It took five days and 17,000 law enforcement officers and federal troops to quell the violence. Ultimately, more than 40 people, mostly African Americans, died during the riot—many at the hands of police and National Guardsmen. Hundreds more were injured, and property damage was valued at $50 million.

The Detroit Riot was characterized by the same shocking and indiscriminate violence as the Newark Riot, which had ended less than a week before the Detroit Riot began. As in Newark, most of those killed were shot by police and National Guardsmen. And, also as in Newark, residents were killed in their own homes—a four-year-old girl was killed by National Guard gunfire when her father lit a cigarette near the window and a 23-year-old man was shot while sitting in his own yard.

As the violence was settling down in Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the 11-member Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of that summer’s riots and provide recommendations for the future. Seven months later, the Commission released its report, stating that the riots resulted from frustration over the lack of economic opportunity. Citing governmental failure to provide housing, education, and social services, the Commission became known for its warning that “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

To learn more, and to view video footage, photographs, and newspaper excerpts, check out this page from PBS. Rutgers University also provides a thorough summary, as well as biographies of the victims and videotaped interviews with witnesses.

Sidney Fine’s Violence in the Model City: The Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967 (Michigan State University Press) provides a detailed study of this event.

Toward the end of the riot, three teenage men (ages 17, 18, and 19) were killed by police in a hotel. To learn more, check out John Hersey’s The Algiers Motel Incident (Johns Hopkins University Press).

To learn more about race relations in Detroit, check out Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press).

For a study of urban poverty from the 1960s onwards, check out John Boger and Judith Wegner’s edited volume Race, Poverty, and American Cities (UNC Press, 1996).

Remembering the Port Chicago Mutiny

On July 17, 1944—68 years ago today—the segregated Port Chicago naval munitions base off San Francisco Bay suffered a massive explosion which killed 320 men and led to the largest mutiny trial in American naval history—a trial with strong civil rights implications.

African Americans had long been segregated in the U.S. armed forces, forced into menial positions and excluded from officer status. At Port Chicago, 1,400 enlisted African Americans—who had not received any training in handling ammunition—loaded bullets, bombs, and depth charges onto ships. Forced to work at great speed by the white officers, the men were in constant danger.

On July 17th, a ship holding thousands of tons of ammunition exploded. Two hundred and two African Americans and 118 white men died that day, and many more were injured.

Following the disaster, the white officers were honored as heroes and given leave, while hundreds of surviving African Americans were sent back to the dangerous work loading ammunition on another ship. They refused, but, in a blatant display of racial discrimination, fifty were charged and convicted of mutiny and sentenced to long prison terms.

Attorney Thurgood Marshall, who was present during the trial, appealed the case; however, the convictions held.

It became increasingly difficult for the Navy to justify these severe sentences, and ultimately the men were released after serving reduced sentences; however, the convictions were not overturned. One of the three surviving men was pardoned in 1999, but to this day efforts to posthumously exonerate the other 49 have not been successful.

The mutiny trial made the Navy’s deeply ingrained racial inequality starkly apparent, highlighting the exclusion of African Americans from officer status and the hostility and danger they faced. It came at a time when the “Double V” campaign began to call for victory not only over enemies abroad but also over racial prejudice on the home front.

By the summer of 1945, the Navy had begun to desegregate; in 1948, the armed services were formally integrated when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981.

To learn more about the Port Chicago mutiny—and to view pictures and read a list of the men killed during the explosion—check out this summary from the American Merchant Marine at War site. The Equal Justice Society also provides a summary, as does the National Park Service.

Today, Port Chicago is a designated National Memorial, established as part of the National Park Service in 2009.  The 68th annual commemoration will be held on Saturday, July 21st.

To learn more, check out Robert L. Allen’s The Port Chicago Mutiny: The Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in U.S. Naval History (Heyday, 2006; first published in 1989).

To learn more about the integration of the armed forces, check out this page from Digital History, hosted by the University of Houston.

To learn more about African Americans’ service in the U.S. armed forces, check out Kimberley Phillips’ War! What Is It Good for?: Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq (UNC Press, 2011).

On This Day: The Newark Riot

On July 12, 1967—45 years ago today—Newark, New Jersey, dissolved into a bloody riot that would, over the next six days, leave 26 individuals dead, hundreds injured, and between $10 and $15 million in property damage.

Newark was already home to a great deal of racial tension. Neighborhood composition had changed quickly, and unemployment and poverty plagued residents. African Americans were politically marginalized and suffered police brutality on a regular basis.

Within this climate, violence erupted after a cab driver who was arrested for allegedly driving around a double-parked police car was severely beaten by police officers. When rumor spread that the cab driver had died in police custody, an angry crowd threw bricks and bottles at the precinct. Police reacted with speed, force, and brutality.

The riot was characterized by shocking and indiscriminate violence; for instance, a woman named Eloise Spellman was shot while peering out of an apartment window ten stories up. (Click here to learn more about the victims.) Excessive looting and arson led to millions of dollars in property damage.

Three nights into the riot, New Jersey Governor Richard Hughes declared a state of emergency.

The violence settled down on July 17th, after which National Guardsmen and state troopers moved out of Newark. In the end, 24 African Americans, one white police detective, and one white fireman were killed—most of them by police or National Guard troops aiming at suspected snipers. More than 1,500 individuals were arrested.

Coming two years after the infamous Watts Riot of 1965, the Newark riot was followed by more violence as racial tension led to additional riots in other cities—including in Detroit less than two weeks later.

To learn more, check out this detailed summary from Rutgers University. This site also includes video clips of oral history interviews with people who witnessed the violence.

Another website contains day-by-day summaries of the riot, excerpted from Tom Hayden’s 1967 publication Rebellion in Newark.

To read a collection of Newark Evening News articles printed between July 13 and July 16, check out this page from the Newark Public Library.

This 2006 USA Today article about a museum exhibition about the event includes interviews with survivors of the riot.

Four years after the riot, journalist Ronald Porambo, who was in Newark during the violence, published No Cause for Indictment: An Autopsy of Newark.

To learn more about Newark’s racial history, check out Kevin Mumford’s Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America (NYU Press, 2008).

On This Day: The Hamburg Massacre

On July 8th, 1876—136 years ago today—six African American men and one white man in Hamburg, South Carolina, were killed in a violent confrontation between a white mob and an African American militia.

A decade after the close of the Civil War, Reconstruction Era South Carolina was the scene of strong racial hostility and political and cultural tension.

After a group of African American militia members gathered in Hamburg on July 4th to celebrate the nation’s centennial, white farmers ordered them to move aside for their carriage. Exactly what transpired during this confrontation is unknown, but the next day a white farmer requested that a state justice arrest the leader of the militia for obstructing “my road.”

When the African American militia once again gathered on July 8th, a larger group of white men met the group, demanding that its members disband and hand over their guns. Outnumbered, the African Americans tried to escape, but two dozen were captured and six were killed. One white man was also killed. As was the case with many such riots, looting and property damage also added to the destruction.

The riot was covered in major media outlets, capturing nationwide attention. (Click here to see a political cartoon published in Harpers Weekly in August 1876.) Although several white men were indicted, no one was ever convicted for involvement in the violence or murders.

The event also broadened divisions between South Carolina’s political parties; in the gubernatorial election that year, both parties claimed victory, and two legislatures functioned within the state for some time. The South Carolina Supreme Court declared democratic candidate Wade Hampton III the winner, and the removal of federal troops in 1877 by President Rutherford Hayes (signaling the end of Reconstruction) allowed the Democrats to seize power from former governor Daniel Chamberlain. To learn more about Hampton, check out Rod Andrew, Jr.’s Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer (UNC Press, 2008).

In 1916, a monument was dedicated honoring Thomas McKie Meriwether, the lone white man killed in the confrontation. However, the murdered African Americans were only recently recognized in such a way (click here to read a newspaper story about the commemorative marker unveiled in 2011).

To learn more about the Hamburg Massacre, check out this summary from the University of Richmond’s History Engine. The New York Times also provides a good summary on the same page as the reprinted political cartoon from Harper’s Weekly.

To read Governor Chamberlain’s August 6th letter regarding the conditions that led to the violence—and suggested measures to prevent similar occurrences—check out this article from the New York Times.

This 2008 article from the Aiken Standard notes the injustice of dedicating a monument to the lone white man killed but not to the African Americans killed that day. Eventually, a marker was produced by a committee formed by the North Augusta Heritage Council.

For more on violence during this era, check out Stephen Budiansky’s The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War (Plume, 2008).

To learn more about this Era in South Carolina, check out Walter Allen’s 1888 publication Governor Chamberlain’s Administration in South Carolina: a Chapter of Reconstruction in the Southern States, which is available digitally through Google Books.

To learn more about Reconstruction, check out John Hope Franklin’s Reconstruction after the Civil War (University of Chicago Press, 1994) and Mark Summers’ A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction (UNC Press, 2009).

On This Day: The Tuskegee Institute Opens Its Doors

On July 4, 1881—131 years ago today—Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute—an educational institution which continues to thrive today as Tuskegee University.

Invited to start a school for African Americans, Washington arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama, to find only a one-room building with a leaky roof. But he also found many individuals eager to learn whatever he could teach them.

When he opened Tuskegee on July 4th, Washington was the sole teacher for a class of 30 students. Soon, though, other students and teachers arrived at the institute, and Washington’s talent for securing loans and credit allowed him to expand facilities. The school grew quickly, hosting 200 faculty members, 100 buildings, and 1,500 students by 1915.

Washington aimed to train students to become teachers themselves—to move to rural areas where they could teach children moral values, improve intellectual and religious life, and instill a belief in the importance of hard work. He became well known for advocating vocational training.

Washington remained principal of the school until his death in 1915, by which time Tuskegee had gained national prominence. It has, over the years, attracted some of the foremost African American figures, hosting teachers such as George Washington Carver and students like Ralph Ellison.

During World War II, the school hosted the Tuskegee Airmen flight training program, from which the first African American pilots graduated.

What began as a one-room, 30-student institution is now home to more than 3,000 students. It is also now a national historic site.

To learn more, check out this information from PBS, and also this summary on Tuskegee University’s website.

The National Park Service website also provides information, as well as discussions about Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Click here to read Booker T. Washington’s The Educational Outlook in the South, in which he discusses education for African Americans. As Susan Reverby states in Examining Tuskegee, “The need to carefully gauge the appropriate balance of the needs of blacks and whites and meet the financing of the institute continually haunted Washington’s efforts.”

To learn more about African American education during this time period, check out James Anderson’s The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (UNC Press, 1988).

To learn more about civil rights in this Southern town, check out Robert Norrell’s Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee (UNC Press, 1998).

To learn about Robert Moton, Washington’s successor at Tuskegee, check out William Hughes and Frederick Patterson’s Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

Tuskegee, Alabama, is, however, infamous for its forty-year syphilis study, which involved hundreds of African American men and has today become known as a prime example of medical racism. To learn more, check out Susan Reverby’s Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (UNC Press, 2009).

Remembering Guinn v. United States

On June 21, 1915—97 years ago today—in the landmark Guinn v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down Oklahoma’s grandfather clause, marking an important step in the fight for suffrage for all citizens, regardless of race.

The clause, part of the Voter Registration Act of 1910, required voters to pass a literacy test; however, it exempted citizens who were entitled to vote on January 1, 1866 (before African Americans gained suffrage through the Fifteenth Amendment), and those whose ancestors (“grandfathers”) were entitled to vote at that time.

Unsurprisingly, given the racial discrimination prevalent at the time, local voter registration officials applied the law in different ways. Often, they imposed unreasonable literacy tests on African American applicants—or refused to administer the test at all.

Finally, in 1915, the federal government prosecuted voter registration officials for denying African American citizens of Oklahoma the right to vote, as a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Also in question was a piece of Maryland’s constitution, which carried similar restrictions.

In a unanimous ruling (one justice sat out), the Supreme Court struck down the restrictions as unconstitutional. The decision read, in part:

. . . how can there be room for any serious dispute concerning the repugnancy of the standard based upon January 1, 1866 (a date which preceded the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment), if the suffrage provision fixing that standard is susceptible of the significance with which the Government attributes to it? Indeed, there seems no escape from the conclusion that to hold that there was even possibility for dispute on the subject would be but to declare that the Fifteenth Amendment not only had not the self-executing power which it has been recognized to have from the beginning, but that its previous provisions were wholly inoperative, because susceptible of being rendered inapplicable by more forms of expression embodying no exercise of judgment and resting upon no discernible reason other than the purpose to disregard the prohibitions of the Amendment by creating a standard of voting which on its face was, in substance, but a revitalization of conditions which, when they prevailed in the past, had been destroyed by the self-operative force of the Amendment.

Although the ruling had little short-term effect (Oklahoma quickly passed new voter registration restrictions), it led to the dismantling of similar restrictions in other southern states, such as Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, and Georgia. The battle for suffrage continued for many more decades, but the ruling marked an important step toward the eventual banning of voting restrictions seen in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To read the full text of the Supreme Court decision, click here.

For more information, click here, and check out this entry from the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture.

For more on disfranchisement, click here, or check out Michael Perman’s Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908 (UNC Press, 2001).

For more on suffrage, check out J. Morgan Kousser’s Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction (UNC Press, 1999) and Charles S. Bullock III and Ronald Keith Gaddie’s The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).

Gay Rights and the Black Community

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held its first ever town hall meeting on LGBT issues at its 102nd annual meeting this week in Los Angeles. Moderated by Don Lemon, who recently came out publicly as gay, the discussion addressed the history of tension between the gay community and the black community. Lemon himself had this to say on the subject:

“[Being gay is] quite different for an African-American male,” he said. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.” [Lemon] said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.

Julian Bond, the hugely influential civil rights leader, concurred, adding that the discrimination felt by gay African Americans is orders of magnitude worse than that experienced by their straight peers.

Read more and watch some video from the town hall here.