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Political Gumbo: Commitment to Black Students Must Include Opposition to Racist Past

Published on Monday, June 29, 2020 | 3:00 am

If the PUSD is serious about its so-called commitment to Black students, they should start with teaching some real Black history, and I am not just talking about Dr. King and the oft-told tale that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves.

Lincoln freed the slaves in confederate states. Nearly 500,000 slaves in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri — Union states remained in bondage after the Emancipation Proclamation.

That history would also include the truth about some of the folks our schools are named after including Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson.

Wilson was an unabashed racist who segregated federal employees in Washington, D.C. He even went so far as hosting screenings of one of the most racist films ever made “A Birth of a Nation” in the first screening of a film at the White House. He reportedly said “It’s like writing history with lighting” while watching the film.

Wilson also opposed a proposal to include racial equality as a founding principle in the League of Nations.

Jackson helped steal land from indigenous tribes under the Indian Removal Act, which was an act of genocide that led to the death of 5,000 Cherokee people.

Yes, I know Wilson Middle School is closed.

Still, the PUSD is the first district west of the Mississippi to implement busing under a court order.

Maybe they can take a strong stance against segregation this time without a court order.

No, I don’t consider it erasing history or attempting to change it by removing the names of racists and bigots.

Quite the opposite, it is actually a factual telling of exactly who these men were and it shines a spotlight on their policies that co-signed or led to the deaths of people of color.

And more than anything, removing their names would be a strong stance against the nation’s original sin — racism.

So whose name goes on Jackson Middle School after we get the racist clown’s name off there?

Some folks in Altadena think it should be Mary W. Jackson, the first Black female engineer to work for NASA.

I have no issue with that.

I also like the idea of honoring Owen Brown.

Brown participated in a raid led by his father, John Brown, on the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859, but evaded capture. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and came to Altadena in 1884. The last surviving member of the raiding party, he died of pneumonia on Jan. 8, 1889, at the age of 64. Mourners totaling more than 2,000, equaling the population of Pasadena, marched in the funeral procession to Brown’s resting place on Little Roundtop Hill on Brown’s Mountain in Altadena.

John Brown thought if he freed slaves they would join an expanding army which would march through the South and forcibly end slavery. The plan failed when slaves freed by Brown from nearby plantations did not join in the fighting and instead fled in hopes of securing freedom. The elder Brown and several others from the raiding party were captured and hanged.

Two of Brown’s sons were killed during the raid.

The incident is considered by some to be the first shots fired in the Civil War, which started a year and a half later.

Both are worthy of recognition and deserve to be recognized in the area.

Barack Obama also has ties to the area.

Harriet Tubman works also, but there are locals who stood tall and fought for desegregation including Elbie Hickambottom, and the Spangler, Rostker, Clarke families that joined together and filed a federal lawsuit against the school district to force it to desegregate.

There are options.

Since I wrote my Capital B column several weeks ago, I have seen more and more newspapers embracing the Big B. That’s a good thing, but sorry it’s not enough.

It doesn’t excuse the years of under-reporting Black stories and communities. By the way, you know how many Capital B Black people are making management level decisions at these same newspapers?

Maybe they ought to start capitalizing Diversity, as well.

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