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Our Streets Will Not Be Silenced!

San Antonio Texas 

Our Streets Will Not Be Silenced!

¡Las Calles No Se Callan!

The Situation: The city of San Antonio, Texas charges some groups thousands of dollars for the right to march in the public streets while letting others march and rally for free. The San Antonio Free Speech Coalition is fighting to overturn this policy by mobilizing community members and suing the city for their right to assembly. This is one way activists are fighting to redefine and redistribute First Amendment rights. Fabiola Torralba explains:

It’s our First Amendment right; other than that, we already paid for street usage. We pay it in taxes. Our ancestors built these streets. Our blood, our sweat, its all here – We shouldn’t have to pay for it all again.”

Update: After their first attempt at a legal hearing in San Antonio was dismissed in June 2009, they appealed. Oral arguments were heard by the US Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. This court also found in favor of the City of San Antonio in Sept. 2010. To learn more about the case and hear attorney Amy Kastely’s oral arguments visit the Coalition’s website. To read an account of the hearing go here.

“The message that’s put out by the tourist industry here is that visiting San Antonio you get to experience Mexican culture without having to deal with any conflicts.”

~ Amy Kastely, attorney for the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition

MJHP interviewed Amy Kastely, attorney for the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition and Graciela Sanchéz, Executive Director of Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, one of the lead organizations in the case. Here are some excerpts:

MJHP: How did the city ordinance requiring large fees for marches come about?

Amy Kastely: We are discovering that for years the city of San Antonio has practiced a very discriminatory system of access to the streets. Essentially they have been charging exorbitant amounts for police services and traffic control barricades and telling anyone who would have a march that these costs will be imposed so what we’ve discovered is that the only marches that are conducted in San Antonio are those where the organizers are able to pay upwards of $6,000 to $20,000 dollars or those that have been approved or “sponsored” by the city. The reason this ordinance was passed was that the immigration marches in 2006 and the anti-war marches in 2005 challenged the cities ability to intimidate organizers so essentially in those marches, particulalry in the immigration marches tens of thousands of marchers turned out on the streets even though the organizers had been told that they would have to spend thousands of dollars for that privilege.

MJHP: Has it come to light that there are other groups that are not charged as much? Can you characterize discriminatory implementation of the ordinance?

Amy Kastely: We think there is discriminatory application of the ordinance because over the past five years the city has in fact waived fees for some 30-40 events each year and that’s roughly half of the events that take place in San Antonio each year. the events that are allowed access for free are: The Fiesta events, which are essentially tourist entertainment, the Veterans Day march, the mardi gras march which is a city run entertainment for elders in SA, and incidental marches like the 9/11 march, the American Armed Services march, and various marches that began as protest marches but have been taken over by city commissions. So for example San Antonio has a large MLK [Martin Luther King]march.

MJHP: Why is the city blocking some marches and parades but allowing others?

Amy Kastely: The City has as its principal purpose the promotion of the tourist industry in San Antonio. That’s one of its major goals. Some downtown marches are perceived by city officials to interfere with the tourist industy – either by blocking entrances and exits to hotels or by sending a message that San Antonio has disputes and conflicts and a large dissenting population. The message that’s put out by the tourist industry here is that visiting San Antonio you get to experience Mexican culture without having to deal with any conflicts.

MJHP:What else is going on there?

Amy Kastely: The city is also involved with another campaign to aggressively prosecute any postings on poles or other public places as well as the fact that we have only one newspaper which censors dissenting views and actually fired writers for their anti-war position and has refused to respond to challenges around their racist reporting of Muslims and other Arabic communities. Clearchannel radio is located in San Antonio but we still don’t have local programming. So on one level, this effort to prevent marches is connected to these efforts to silence dissent.

MJHP: Why did the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center get involved in this issue?

Graciela Sanchéz: In San Antonio where we have 5 military bases, where we’ve been a colonized community for hundreds if not thousands of years we were already fearful of going out into the streets. But we’ve always taken those risks, but post 911 we’ve seen swat teams following us, we were told that we have to march in groups of 20, we saw that less and less of our community was willing to go out and march for fear of being shot and hurt by the police.

MJHP: Do you really need access to the streets to express your perspectives? Can’t you use new technologies?

Graciela Sanchéz: Our people have limited access. We do now have the internet and other forms of expression and ability to get the word out through video and such, but again it’s limited to those who have financial access. But more importantly the streets are the public space where anyone and everyone can come and meet up with others of like mind. These other forms tend to be very individualistic and the public streets and the marches is the place where all of us come together. It is easy and accessible to make a sign and walk up and down the street also, it costs nothing but all these other new forms of technology cost. And I know for a fact in my neighborhood and families that I know, they don’t have the internet.

So the work we do in the Esperanza, we still do the person to person, the flyering the phone calls, technology that is much more accessible. Again…for us in San Antonio to get 2-3,000 people out in the streets is amazing in 2008. But to see those 2 and 3,000 people in a city again that is so conservative, the leadership that is, but not the hearts and minds of the gente pobre, we need to feel like we’re part of a larger groups. We can’t feel alone and being isolated is so damaging and so this is a way that we come together as a people as a community and continue to strengthen the energy to continue to fight against the injustices of this world.

Hello world!

Consiglio di scaricare questi. Microsoft Power Point è un programma con cui creare presentazioni. Il client ufficiale del protocollo BitTorrent.

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Southern Horrors Lynch Law in All Its Phases

by Ida B. Wells-Barnett

1892, 1893, 1894
[Transcriber’s Note: This pamphlet was first published in 1892 but was subsequently reprinted. It’s not apparent if the curiosities in spelling date back to the original or were introduced later; they have been retained as found, and the reader is left to decide. Please verify with another source before quoting this material.]


Dear Miss Wells:

Let me give you thanks for your faithful paper on the lynch abomination now generally practiced against colored people in the South. There has been no word equal to it in convincing power. I have spoken, but my word is feeble in comparison. You give us what you know and testify from actual knowledge. You have dealt with the facts with cool, painstaking fidelity and left those naked and uncontradicted facts to speak for themselves.

Brave woman! you have done your people and mine a service which can neither be weighed nor measured. If American conscience were only half alive, if the American church and clergy were only half christianized, if American moral sensibility were not hardened by persistent infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror, shame and indignation would rise to Heaven wherever your pamphlet shall be read.

But alas! even crime has power to reproduce itself and create conditions favorable to its own existence. It sometimes seems we are deserted by earth and Heaven yet we must still think, speak and work, and trust in the power of a merciful God for final deliverance.

Very truly and gratefully yours,
Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D.C., Oct. 25, 1892


The greater part of what is contained in these pages was published in the New York Age June 25, 1892, in explanation of the editorial which the Memphis whites considered sufficiently infamous to justify the destruction of my paper, the Free Speech.

Since the appearance of that statement, requests have come from all parts of the country that “Exiled” (the name under which it then appeared) be issued in pamphlet form. Some donations were made, but not enough for that purpose. The noble effort of the ladies of New York and Brooklyn Oct. 5 have enabled me to comply with this request and give the world a true, unvarnished account of the causes of lynch law in the South.

This statement is not a shield for the despoiler of virtue, nor altogether a defense for the poor blind Afro-American Sampsons who suffer themselves
to be betrayed by white Delilahs. It is a contribution to truth, an array of facts, the perusal of which it is hoped will stimulate this great American Republic to demand that justice be done though the heavens fall.

It is with no pleasure I have dipped my hands in the corruption here exposed. Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so. The awful death-roll that Judge Lynch is calling every week is appalling, not only because of the lives it takes, the rank cruelty and outrage to the victims, but because of the prejudice it fosters and the stain it places against the good name of a weak race.

The Afro-American is not a bestial race. If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service. Other considerations are of minor importance.

New York City, Oct. 26, 1892

To the Afro-American women of New York and Brooklyn, whose race love, earnest zeal and unselfish effort at Lyric Hall, in the City of New York, on the night of October 5, 1892–made possible its publication, this pamphlet is gratefully dedicated by the author.


Wednesday evening May 24, 1892, the city of Memphis was filled with excitement. Editorials in the daily papers of that date caused a meeting to be held in the Cotton Exchange Building; a committee was sent for the editors of the Free Speech an Afro-American journal published in that city, and the only reason the open threats of lynching that were made were not carried out was because they could not be found. The cause of all this commotion was the following editorial published in the Free Speech May 21, 1892, the Saturday previous.

Eight negroes lynched since last issue of the Free Speech one at Little Rock, Ark., last Saturday morning where the citizens broke(?) into the penitentiary and got their man; three near Anniston, Ala., one near New Orleans; and three at Clarksville, Ga., the last three for killing a white man, and five on the same old racket–the new alarm about raping white women. The same programme of hanging, then shooting bullets into the lifeless bodies was carried out to the letter.

Nobody in this section of the country believes the old thread-bare lie that Negro men rape white women. If Southern white men are not careful, they will overreach themselves and public sentiment will have a reaction; a conclusion will then be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.

The Daily Commercial of Wednesday following, May 25, contained the following leader:

Those negroes who are attempting to make the lynching of individuals of their race a means for arousing the worst passions of their kind are playing with a dangerous sentiment. The negroes may as well understand that there is no mercy for the negro rapist and little patience with his defenders. A negro organ printed in this city, in a recent issue publishes the following atrocious paragraph: “Nobody in this section of the country believes the old thread-bare lie that negro men rape white women. If Southern white men are not careful they will overreach themselves, and public sentiment will have a reaction; and a conclusion will be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.”

The fact that a black scoundrel is allowed to live and utter such loathsome and repulsive calumnies is a volume of evidence as to the wonderful patience of Southern whites. But we have had enough of it. There are some things that the Southern white man will not tolerate, and the obscene intimations of the foregoing have brought the writer to the very outermost limit of public patience. We hope we have said enough. The Evening Scimitar of same date, copied the Commercial’s editorial with these words of comment:

Patience under such circumstances is not a virtue. If the negroes themselves do not apply the remedy without delay it will be the duty of those whom he has attacked to tie the wretch who utters these calumnies to a stake at the intersection of Main and Madison Sts., brand him in the forehead with a hot iron and perform upon him a surgical operation with a pair of tailor’s shears.

Acting upon this advice, the leading citizens met in the Cotton Exchange Building the same evening, and threats of lynching were freely indulged, not by the lawless element upon which the deviltry of the South is usually saddled–but by the leading business men, in their leading business centre. Mr. Fleming, the business manager and owning a half interest the Free Speech, had to leave town to escape the mob, and was afterwards ordered not to return; letters and telegrams sent me in New York where I was spending my vacation advised me that bodily harm awaited my return. Creditors took possession of the office and sold the outfit, and the Free Speech was as if it had never been.

The editorial in question was prompted by the many inhuman and fiendish lynchings of Afro-Americans which have recently taken place and was meant as a warning. Eight lynched in one week and five of them charged with rape! The thinking public will not easily believe freedom and education more brutalizing than slavery, and the world knows that the crime of rape was unknown during four years of civil war, when the white women of the South were at the mercy of the race which is all at once charged with being a bestial one.

Since my business has been destroyed and I am an exile from home because of that editorial, the issue has been forced, and as the writer of it I feel that the race and the public generally should have a statement of the facts as they exist. They will serve at the same time as a defense for the Afro-Americans Sampsons who suffer themselves to be betrayed by white Delilahs.

The whites of Montgomery, Ala., knew J.C. Duke sounded the keynote of the situation–which they would gladly hide from the world, when he said in his paper, the Herald, five years ago: “Why is it that white women attract negro men now more than in former days? There was a time when such a thing was unheard of. There is a secret to this thing, and we greatly suspect it is the growing appreciation of white Juliets for colored Romeos.” Mr. Duke, like the Free Speech proprietors, was forced to leave the city for reflecting on the “honah” of white women and his paper suppressed; but the truth remains that Afro-American men do not always rape(?) white women without their consent.

Mr. Duke, before leaving Montgomery, signed a card disclaiming any intention of slandering Southern white women. The editor of the Free Speech has no disclaimer to enter, but asserts instead that there are many white women in the South who would marry colored men if such an act would not place them at once beyond the pale of society and within the clutches of the law. The miscegnation laws of the South only operate against the legitimate union of the races; they leave the white man free to seduce all the colored girls he can, but it is death to the colored man who yields to the force and advances of a similar attraction in white women. White men lynch the offending Afro-American, not because he is a despoiler of virtue, but because he succumbs to the smiles of white women.


The Cleveland Gazette of January 16, 1892, publishes a case in point. Mrs. J.S. Underwood, the wife of a minister of Elyria, Ohio, accused an Afro-American of rape. She told her husband that during his absence in 1888, stumping the State for the Prohibition Party, the man came to the kitchen door, forced his way in the house and insulted her. She tried to drive him out with a heavy poker, but he overpowered and chloroformed her, and when she revived her clothing was torn and she was in a horrible condition. She did not know the man but could identify him. She pointed out William Offett, a married man, who was arrested and, being in Ohio, was granted a trial.

The prisoner vehemently denied the charge of rape, but confessed he went to Mrs. Underwood’s residence at her invitation and was criminally intimate with her at her request. This availed him nothing against the sworn testimony of a ministers wife, a lady of the highest respectability. He was found guilty, and entered the penitentiary, December 14, 1888, for fifteen years. Some time afterwards the woman’s remorse led her to confess to her husband that the man was innocent.

These are her words:

I met Offett at the Post Office. It was raining. He was polite to me, and as I had several bundles in my arms he offered to carry them home for me, which he did. He had a strange fascination for me, and I invited him to call on me. He called, bringing chestnuts and candy for the children. By this means we got them to leave us alone in the room. Then I sat on his lap. He made a proposal to me and I readily consented. Why I did so, I do not know, but that I did is true. He visited me several times after that and each time I was indiscreet. I did not care after the first time. In fact I could not have resisted, and had no desire to resist.

When asked by her husband why she told him she had been outraged, she said: “I had several reasons for telling you. One was the neighbors saw the fellows here, another was, I was afraid I had contracted a loathsome disease, and still another was that I feared I might give birth to a Negro baby. I hoped to save my reputation by telling you a deliberate lie.” Her husband horrified by the confession had Offett, who had already served four years, released and secured a divorce.

There are thousands of such cases throughout the South, with the difference that the Southern white men in insatiate fury wreak their vengeance without intervention of law upon the Afro-Americans who consort with their women. A few instances to substantiate the assertion that some white women love the company of the Afro-American will not be out of place. Most of these cases were reported by the daily papers of the South.

In the winter of 1885-86 the wife of a practicing physician in Memphis, in good social standing whose name has escaped me, left home, husband and children, and ran away with her black coachman. She was with him a month before her husband found and brought her home. The coachman could not be found. The doctor moved his family away from Memphis, and is living in another city under an assumed name.

In the same city last year a white girl in the dusk of evening screamed at the approach of some parties that a Negro had assaulted her on the street. He was captured, tried by a white judge and jury, that acquitted him of the charge. It is needless to add if there had been a scrap of evidence on which to convict him of so grave a charge he would have been convicted.

Sarah Clark of Memphis loved a black man and lived openly with him. When she was indicted last spring for miscegenation, she swore in court that she was not a white woman. This she did to escape the penitentiary and continued her illicit relation undisturbed. That she is of the lower class of whites, does not disturb the fact that she is a white woman. “The leading citizens” of Memphis are defending the “honor” of all white women, demi-monde included.

Since the manager of the _Free Speech_ has been run away from Memphis by the guardians of the honor of Southern white women, a young girl living on Poplar St., who was discovered in intimate relations with a handsome mulatto young colored man, Will Morgan by name, stole her father’s money to send the young fellow away from that father’s wrath. She has since joined him in Chicago.

The Memphis Ledger for June 8 has the following:

If Lillie Bailey, a rather pretty white girl seventeen years of age, who is now at the City Hospital, would be somewhat less reserved about her disgrace there would be some very nauseating details in the story of her life. She is the mother of a little coon. The truth might reveal fearful depravity or it might reveal the evidence of a rank outrage. She will not divulge the name of the man who has left such black evidence of her disgrace, and, in fact, says it is a matter in which there can be no interest to the outside world. She came to Memphis nearly three months ago and was taken in at the Woman’s Refuge in the southern part of the city. She remained there until a few weeks ago, when the child was born. The ladies in charge of the Refuge were horified. The girl was at once sent to the City Hospital, where she has been since May 30. She is a country girl. She came to Memphis from her fathers farm, a short distance from Hernando, Miss. Just when she left there she would not say. In fact she says she came to Memphis from Arkansas, and says her home is in that State. She is rather good looking, has blue eyes, a low forehead and dark red hair. The ladies at the Woman’s Refuge do not know anything about the girl further than what they learned when she was an inmate of the institution; and she would not tell much. When the child was born an attempt was made to get the girl to reveal the name of the Negro who had disgraced her, she obstinately refused and it was impossible to elicit any information from her on the subject.

Note the wording. “The truth might reveal fearful depravity or rank outrage.” If it had been a white child or Lillie Bailey had told a pitiful story of Negro outrage, it would have been a case of woman’s weakness or assault and she could have remained at the Woman’s Refuge. But a Negro child and to withhold its father’s name and thus prevent the killing of another Negro “rapist.” A case of “fearful depravity.”

The very week the “leading citizens” of Memphis were making a spectacle of themselves in defense of all white women of every kind, an Afro-American, M. Stricklin, was found in a white woman’s room in that city. Although she made no outcry of rape, he was jailed and would have been lynched, but the woman stated she bought curtains of him (he was a furniture dealer) and his business in her room that night was to put them up. A white woman’s word was taken as absolutely in this case as when the cry of rape is made, and he was freed.

What is true of Memphis is true of the entire South. The daily papers last year reported a farmer’s wife in Alabama had given birth to a Negro child. When the Negro farm hand who was plowing in the field heard it he took the mule from the plow and fled. The dispatches also told of a woman in South Carolina who gave birth to a Negro child and charged three men with being its father, every one of whom has since disappeared. In Tuscumbia, Ala., the colored boy who was lynched there last year for assaulting a white girl told her before his accusers that he had met her there in the woods often before.

Frank Weems of Chattanooga who was not lynched in May only because the prominent citizens became his body guard until the doors of the penitentiary closed on him, had letters in his pocket from the white woman in the case, making the appointment with him. Edward Coy who was burned alive in Texarkana, January 1, 1892, died protesting his innocence. Investigation since as given by the Bystander in the Chicago Inter Ocean, October 1, proves:

1. The woman who was paraded as a victim of violence was of bad character; her husband was a drunkard and a gambler.

2. She was publicly reported and generally known to have been criminally intimate with Coy for more than a year previous.

3. She was compelled by threats, if not by violence, to make the charge against the victim.

4. When she came to apply the match Coy asked her if she would burn him after they had “been sweethearting” so long.

5. A large majority of the “superior” white men prominent in the affair are the reputed fathers of mulatto children.

These are not pleasant facts, but they are illustrative of the vital phase of the so-called race question, which should properly be designated an earnest inquiry as to the best methods by which religion, science, law and political power may be employed to excuse injustice, barbarity and crime done to a people because of race and color. There can be no possible belief that these people were inspired by any consuming zeal to vindicate God’s law against miscegnationists of the most practical sort. The woman was a willing partner in the victim’s guilt, and being of the “superior” race must naturally have been more guilty.

In Natchez, Miss., Mrs. Marshall, one of the creme de la creme of the city, created a tremendous sensation several years ago. She has a black coachman who was married, and had been in her employ several years. During this time she gave birth to a child whose color was remarked, but traced to some brunette ancestor, and one of the fashionable dames of the city was its godmother. Mrs. Marshall’s social position was unquestioned, and wealth showered every dainty on this child which was idolized with its brothers and sisters by its white papa. In course of time another child appeared on the scene, but it was unmistakably dark. All were alarmed, and “rush of blood, strangulation” were the conjectures, but the doctor, when asked the cause, grimly told them it was a Negro child. There was a family conclave, the coachman heard of it and leaving his own family went West, and has never returned. As soon as Mrs. Marshall was able to travel she was sent away in deep disgrace. Her husband died within the year of a broken heart.

Ebenzer Fowler, the wealthiest colored man in Issaquena County, Miss., was shot down on the street in Mayersville, January 30, 1885, just before dark by an armed body of white men who filled his body with bullets. They charged him with writing a note to a white woman of the place, which they intercepted and which proved there was an intimacy existing between them.

Hundreds of such cases might be cited, but enough have been given to prove the assertion that there are white women in the South who love the Afro-American’s company even as there are white men notorious for their preference for Afro-American women.

There is hardly a town in the South which has not an instance of the kind which is well known, and hence the assertion is reiterated that “nobody in the South believes the old thread bare lie that negro men rape white women.” Hence there is a growing demand among Afro-Americans that the guilt or innocence of parties accused of rape be fully established. They know the men of the section of the country who refuse this are not so desirous of punishing rapists as they pretend. The utterances of the leading white men show that with them it is not the crime but the class. Bishop Fitzgerald has become apologist for lynchers of the rapists of white women only. Governor Tillman, of South Carolina, in the month of June, standing under the tree in Barnwell, S.C., on which eight Afro-Americans were hung last year, declared that he would lead a mob to lynch a negro who raped a white woman. So say the pulpits, officials and newspapers of the South. But when the victim is a colored woman it is different.

Last winter in Baltimore, Md., three white ruffians assaulted a Miss Camphor, a young Afro-American girl, while out walking with a young man of her own race. They held her escort and outraged the girl. It was a deed dastardly enough to arouse Southern blood, which gives its horror of rape as excuse for lawlessness, but she was an Afro-American. The case went to the courts, an Afro-American lawyer defended the men and they were acquitted.

In Nashville, Tenn., there is a white man, Pat Hanifan, who outraged a little Afro-American girl, and, from the physical injuries received, she has been ruined for life. He was jailed for six months, discharged, and is now a detective in that city. In the same city, last May, a white man outraged an Afro-American girl in a drug store. He was arrested, and released on bail at the trial. It was rumored that five hundred Afro-Americans had organized to lynch him. Two hundred and fifty white citizens armed themselves with Winchesters and guarded him. A cannon was placed in front of his home, and the Buchanan Rifles (State Militia) ordered to the scene for his protection. The Afro-American mob did not materialize. Only two weeks before Eph. Grizzard, who had only been charged with rape upon a white woman, had been taken from the jail, with Governor Buchanan and the police and militia standing by, dragged through the streets in broad daylight, knives plunged into him at every step, and with every fiendish cruelty a frenzied mob could devise, he was at last swung out on the bridge with hands cut to pieces as he tried to climb up the stanchions. A naked, bloody example of the blood-thirstiness of the nineteenth-century civilization of the Athens of the South! No cannon or military was called out in his defense. He dared to visit a white woman.

At the very moment these civilized whites were announcing their determination “to protect their wives and daughters,” by murdering Grizzard, a white man was in the same jail for raping eight-year-old Maggie Reese, an Afro-American girl. He was not harmed. The “honor” of grown women who were glad enough to be supported by the Grizzard boys and Ed Coy, as long as the liaison was not known, needed protection; they were white. The outrage upon helpless childhood needed no avenging in this case; she was black.

A white man in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, two months ago inflicted such injuries upon another Afro-American child that she died. He was not punished, but an attempt was made in the same town in the month of June to lynch an Afro-American who visited a white woman.

In Memphis, Tenn., in the month of June, Ellerton L. Dorr, who is the husband of Russell Hancock’s widow, was arrested for attempted rape on Mattie Cole, a neighbors cook; he was only prevented from accomplishing his purpose, by the appearance of Mattie’s employer. Dorr’s friends say he was drunk and not responsible for his actions. The grand jury refused to indict him and he was discharged.


The appeal of Southern whites to Northern sympathy and sanction, the adroit, insiduous plea made by Bishop Fitzgerald for suspension of judgment because those “who condemn lynching express no sympathy for the white woman in the case,” falls to the ground in the light of the foregoing.

From this exposition of the race issue in lynch law, the whole matter is explained by the well-known opposition growing out of slavery to the progress of the race. This is crystalized in the oft-repeated slogan:”This is a white man’s country and the white man must rule.” The South resented giving the Afro-American his freedom, the ballot box and the Civil Rights Law. The raids of the Ku-Klux and White Liners to subvert reconstruction government, the Hamburg and Ellerton, S.C., the Copiah County, Miss., and the Layfayette Parish, La., massacres were excused as the natural resentment of intelligence against government by ignorance.

Honest white men practically conceded the necessity of intelligence murdering ignorance to correct the mistake of the general government, and the race was left to the tender mercies of the solid South. Thoughtful Afro-Americans with the strong arm of the government withdrawn and with the hope to stop such wholesale massacres urged the race to sacrifice its political rights for sake of peace. They honestly believed the race should fit itself for government, and when that should be done, the objection to race participation in politics would be removed.

But the sacrifice did not remove the trouble, nor move the South to justice. One by one the Southern States have legally(?) disfranchised the Afro-American, and since the repeal of the Civil Rights Bill nearly every Southern State has passed separate car laws with a penalty against their infringement. The race regardless of advancement is penned into filthy, stifling partitions cut off from smoking cars. All this while, although the political cause has been removed, the butcheries of black men at Barnwell, S.C., Carrolton, Miss., Waycross, Ga., and Memphis, Tenn., have gone on; also the flaying alive of a man in Kentucky, the burning of one in Arkansas, the hanging of a fifteen-year-old girl in Louisiana, a woman in Jackson, Tenn., and one in Hollendale, Miss., until the dark and bloody record of the South shows 728 Afro-Americans lynched during the past eight years. Not fifty of these were for political causes; the rest were for all manner of accusations from that of rape of white women, to the case of the boy Will Lewis who was hanged at Tullahoma, Tenn., last year for being drunk and “sassy” to white folks.

These statistics compiled by the Chicago Tribune were given the first of this year (1892). Since then, not less than one hundred and fifty have been known to have met violent death at the hands of cruel bloodthirsty mobs during the past nine months.

To palliate this record (which grows worse as the Afro-American becomes intelligent) and excuse some of the most heinous crimes that ever stained the history of a country, the South is shielding itself behind the plausible screen of defending the honor of its women. This, too, in the face of the fact that only one-third of the 728 victims to mobs have been charged with rape, to say nothing of those of that one-third who were innocent of the charge. A white correspondent of the Baltimore Sun declares that the Afro-American who was lynched in Chestertown, Md., in May for assault on a white girl was innocent; that the deed was done by a white man who had since disappeared. The girl herself maintained that her assailant was a white man. When that poor Afro-American was murdered, the whites excused their refusal of a trial on the ground that they wished to spare the white girl the mortification of having to testify in court.

This cry has had its effect. It has closed the heart, stifled the conscience, warped the judgment and hushed the voice of press and pulpit on the subject of lynch law throughout this “land of liberty.” Men who stand high in the esteem of the public for Christian character, for moral and physical courage, for devotion to the principles of equal and exact justice to all, and for great sagacity, stand as cowards who fear to open their mouths before this great outrage. They do not see that by their tacit encouragement, their silent acquiescence, the black shadow of lawlessness in the form of lynch law is spreading its wings over the whole country.

Men who, like Governor Tillman, start the ball of lynch law rolling for a certain crime, are powerless to stop it when drunken or criminal white toughs feel like hanging an Afro-American on any pretext.

Even to the better class of Afro-Americans the crime of rape is so revolting they have too often taken the white man’s word and given lynch law neither the investigation nor condemnation it deserved.

They forget that a concession of the right to lynch a man for a certain crime, not only concedes the right to lynch any person for any crime, but (so frequently is the cry of rape now raised) it is in a fair way to stamp us a race of rapists and desperadoes. They have gone on hoping and believing that general education and financial strength would solve the difficulty, and are devoting their energies to the accumulation of both.

The mob spirit has grown with the increasing intelligence of the Afro-American. It has left the out-of-the-way places where ignorance prevails, has thrown off the mask and with this new cry stalks in broad daylight in large cities, the centers of civilization, and is encouraged by the “leading citizens” and the press.


The Daily Commercial and Evening Scimitar of Memphis, Tenn., are owned by leading business men of that city, and yet, in spite of the fact that there had been no white woman in Memphis outraged by an Afro-American, and that Memphis possessed a thrifty law-abiding, property-owning class of Afro-Americans the Commercial of May 17, under the head of “More Rapes, More Lynchings” gave utterance to the following:

The lynching of three Negro scoundrels reported in our dispatches from Anniston, Ala., for a brutal outrage committed upon a white woman will be a text for much comment on “Southern barbarism” by Northern newspapers; but we fancy it will hardly prove effective for campaign purposes among intelligent people. The frequency of these lynchings calls attention to the frequency of the crimes which causes lynching. The “Southern barbarism” which deserves the serious attention of all people North and South, is the barbarism which preys upon weak and defenseless women. Nothing but the most prompt, speedy and extreme punishment can hold in check the horrible and beastial propensities of the Negro race. There is a strange similarity about a number of cases of this character which have lately occurred.

In each case the crime was deliberately planned and perpetrated by several Negroes. They watched for an opportunity when the women were left without a protector. It was not a sudden yielding to a fit of passion, but the consummation of a devilish purpose which has been seeking and waiting for the opportunity. This feature of the crime not only makes it the most fiendishly brutal, but it adds to the terror of the situation in the thinly settled country communities. No man can leave his family at night without the dread that some roving Negro ruffian is watching and waiting for this opportunity. The swift punishment which invariably follows these horrible crimes doubtless acts as a deterring effect upon the Negroes in that immediate neighborhood for a short time. But the lesson is not widely learned nor long remembered. Then such crimes, equally atrocious, have happened in quick succession, one in Tennessee, one in Arkansas, and one in Alabama. The facts of the crime appear to appeal more to the Negro’s lustful imagination than the facts of the punishment do to his fears. He sets
aside all fear of death in any form when opportunity is found for the gratification of his bestial desires.

There is small reason to hope for any change for the better. The commission of this crime grows more frequent every year. The generation of Negroes which have grown up since the war have lost in large measure the traditional and wholesome awe of the white race which kept the Negroes in subjection, even when their masters were in the army, and their families left unprotected except by the slaves themselves. There is no longer a restraint upon the brute passion of the Negro.

What is to be done? The crime of rape is always horrible, but the Southern man there is nothing which so fills the soul with horror, loathing and fury as the outraging of a white woman by a Negro. It is the race question in the ugliest, vilest, most dangerous aspect. The Negro as a political factor can be controlled. But neither laws nor lynchings can subdue his lusts. Sooner or later it will force a crisis. We do not know in what form it will come.

In its issue of June 4, the Memphis Evening Scimitar gives the following excuse for lynch law:

Aside from the violation of white women by Negroes, which is the outcropping of a bestial perversion of instinct, the chief cause of trouble between the races in the South is the Negro’s lack of manners. In the state of slavery he learned politeness from association with white people, who took pains to teach him. Since the emancipation came and the tie of mutual interest and regard between master and servant was broken, the Negro has drifted away into a state which is neither freedom nor bondage. Lacking the proper inspiration of the one and the restraining force of the other he has taken up the idea that boorish insolence is independence, and the exercise of a decent degree of breeding toward white people is identical with servile submission. In consequence of the prevalence of this notion there are many Negroes who use every opportunity to make themselves offensive, particularly when they think it can be done with impunity.

We have had too many instances right here in Memphis to doubt this, and our experience is not exceptional. The white people won’t stand this sort of thing, and whether they be insulted as individuals are as a race, the response will be prompt and effectual. The bloody riot of 1866, in which so many Negroes perished, was brought on principally by the outrageous conduct of the blacks toward the whites on the streets. It is also a remarkable and discouraging fact that the majority of such scoundrels are Negroes who have received educational advantages at the hands of the white taxpayers. They have got just enough of learning to make them realize how hopelessly their race is behind the other in everything that makes a great people, and they attempt to “get even” by insolence, which is ever the resentment of inferiors. There are well-bred Negroes among us, and it is truly unfortunate that they should have to pay, even in part, the penalty of the offenses committed by the baser sort, but this is the way of the world. The innocent must suffer for the guilty. If the Negroes as a people possessed a hundredth part of the self-respect which is evidenced by the courteous bearing of some that the Scimitar could name, the friction between the races would be reduced to a minimum. It will not do to beg the question by pleading that many white men are also stirring up strife. The Caucasian
blackguard simply obeys the promptings of a depraved disposition, and he is seldom deliberately rough or offensive toward strangers or unprotected women.

The Negro tough, on the contrary, is given to just that kind of offending, and he almost invariably singles out white people as his victims.

On March 9, 1892, there were lynched in this same city three of the best specimens of young since-the-war Afro-American manhood. They were peaceful, law-abiding citizens and energetic business men. They believed the problem was to be solved by eschewing politics and putting money in the purse. They owned a flourishing grocery business in a thickly populated suburb of Memphis, and a white man named Barrett had one on the opposite corner. After a personal difficulty which Barrett sought by going into the “People’s Grocery” drawing a pistol and was thrashed by Calvin McDowell, he (Barrett) threatened to “clean them out.” These men were a mile beyond the city limits and police protection; hearing that Barrett’s crowd was coming to attack them Saturday night, they mustered forces, and prepared to defend themselves against the attack.

When Barrett came he led a posse of officers, twelve in number, who afterward claimed to be hunting a man for whom they had a warrant. That twelve men in citizen’s clothes should think it necessary to go in the night to hunt one man who had never before been arrested, or made any record as a criminal has never been explained. When they entered the back door the young men thought the threatened attack was on, and fired into them. Three of the officers were wounded, and when the defending party found it was officers of the law upon whom they had fired, they ceased and got away.

Thirty-one men were arrested and thrown in jail as “conspirators,” although they all declared more than once they did not know they were firing on officers. Excitement was at fever beat until the morning papers, two days after, announced that the wounded deputy sheriffs were out of danger. This hindered rather than helped the plans of the whites. There was no law on the statute books which would execute an Afro-American for wounding a white man, but the “unwritten law” did. Three of these men, the president, the manager and clerk of the grocery–“the leaders of the conspiracy”–were secretly taken from jail and lynched in a shockingly brutal manner. “The Negroes are getting too independent,” they say, “we must teach them a lesson.”

What lesson? The lesson of subordination. “Kill the leaders and it will cow the Negro who dares to shoot a white man, even in self-defense.”

Although the race was wild over the outrage, the mockery of law and justice which disarmed men and locked them up in jails where they could be easily and safely reached by the mob— the Afro-American ministers, newspapers and leaders counselled obedience to the law which did not protect them.

Their counsel was heeded and not a hand was uplifted to resent the outrage; following the advice of the Free Speech, people left the city in great numbers.

The dailies and associated press reports heralded these men to the country as “toughs,” and “Negro desperadoes who kept a low dive.” This same press service printed that the Negro who was lynched at Indianola, Miss., in May, had outraged the sheriff’s eight-year-old daughter. The girl was more than eighteen years old, and was found by her father in this man’s room, who was a servant on the place.

Not content with misrepresenting the race, the mob-spirit was not to be satisfied until the paper which was doing all it could to counteract this impression was silenced. The colored people were resenting their bad treatment in a way to make itself felt, yet gave the mob no excuse for further murder, until the appearance of the editorial which is construed as a reflection on the “honor” of the Southern white women. It is not half so libelous as that of the Commercial which appeared four days before, and which has been given in these pages. They would have lynched the manager of the Free Speech for exercising the right of free speech if they had found him as quickly as they would have hung a rapist, and glad of the excuse to do so. The owners were ordered not to return, the Free Speech was suspended with as little compunction as the business of the “People’s Grocery” broken up and the proprietors murdered.


Henry W. Grady in his well-remembered speeches in New England and New York pictured the Afro-American as incapable of self-government. Through him
and other leading men the cry of the South to the country has been “Hands off! Leave us to solve our problem.” To the Afro-American the South says, “the white man must and will rule.” There is little difference between the Antebellum South and the New South.

Her white citizens are wedded to any method however revolting, any measure however extreme, for the subjugation of the young manhood of the race. They have cheated him out of his ballot, deprived him of civil rights or redress therefor in the civil courts, robbed him of the fruits of his labor, and are still murdering, burning and lynching him.

The result is a growing disregard of human life. Lynch law has spread its insiduous influence till men in New York State, Pennsylvania and on the free Western plains feel they can take the law in their own hands with impunity, especially where an Afro-American is concerned. The South is brutalized to a degree not realized by its own inhabitants, and the very foundation of government, law and order, are imperilled.

The pictures above show the front and back of a typical photo-souvenir of the era. A white man who opposed lynching received this card and shared it with Wells.  The message on the card reads: This S.O.B. was hung at Clanton, Ala. Friday Aug 21st/91 for murdering a little boy in cold blood for 35 cents cash. He is a good specimen of your “Black Christian hung by White Heathens.” With compliments of The Committee.

The pictures above show the front and back of a typical photo-souvenir of the era. A white man who opposed lynching received this card and shared it with Wells. The message on the card reads: This S.O.B. was hung at Clanton, Ala. Friday Aug 21st/91 for murdering a little boy in cold blood for 35 cents cash. He is a good specimen of your “Black Christian hung by White Heathens.” With compliments of The Committee.

Public sentiment has had a slight “reaction” though not sufficient to stop the crusade of lawlessness and lynching. The spirit of Christianity of the great M.E. Church was aroused to the frequent and revolting crimes against a weak people, enough to pass strong condemnatory resolutions at its General Conference in Omaha last May. The spirit of justice of the grand old party asserted itself sufficiently to secure a denunciation of the wrongs, and a feeble declaration of the belief in human rights in the Republican platform at Minneapolis, June 7. Some of the great dailies and weeklies have swung into line declaring that lynch law must go. The President of the United States issued a proclamation that it be not tolerated in the territories over which he has jurisdiction. Governor Northern and Chief Justice Bleckley of Georgia have proclaimed against it. The citizens of Chattanooga, Tenn., have set a worthy example in that they not only condemn lynch law, but her public men demanded a trial for Weems, the accused rapist, and guarded him while the trial was in progress. The trial only lasted ten minutes, and Weems chose to plead guilty and accept twenty-one years sentence, than invite the certain death which awaited him outside that cordon of police if he had told the truth and shown the letters he had from the white woman in the case.

Col. A.S. Colyar, of Nashville, Tenn., is so overcome with the horrible state of affairs that he addressed the following earnest letter to the Nashville American.

Nothing since I have been a reading man has so impressed me with the decay of manhood among the people of Tennessee as the dastardly submission to the mob reign. We have reached the unprecedented low level; the awful criminal depravity of substituting the mob for the court and jury, of giving up the jail keys to the mob whenever they are demanded. We do it in the largest cities and in the country towns; we do it in midday; we do it after full, not to say formal, notice, and so thoroughly and generally is it acquiesced in that the murderers have discarded the formula of masks. They go into the town where everybody knows them, sometimes under the gaze of the governor, in the presence of the courts, in the presence of the sheriff and his deputies, in the presence of the entire police force, take out the prisoner, take his life, often with fiendish glee, and often with acts of cruelty and barbarism which impress the reader with a degeneracy rapidly approaching savage life. That the State is disgraced but faintly expresses the humiliation which has settled upon the once proud people of Tennessee. The State, in its majesty, through its organized life, for which the people pay liberally, makes but one record, but one note, and that a criminal falsehood, “was hung by persons to the jury unknown.” The murder at Shelbyville is only a verification of what every intelligent man knew would come, because with a mob a rumor is as good as a proof.

These efforts brought forth apologies and a short halt, but the lynching mania was raged again through the past three months with unabated fury.

The strong arm of the law must be brought to bear upon lynchers in severe punishment, but this cannot and will not be done unless a healthy public sentiment demands and sustains such action.

The men and women in the South who disapprove of lynching and remain silent on the perpetration of such outrages, are particeps criminis, accomplices, accessories before and after the fact, equally guilty with the actual lawbreakers who would not persist if they did not know that neither the law nor militia would be employed against them.


In the creation of this healthier public sentiment, the Afro-American can do for himself what no one else can do for him. The world looks on with wonder that we have conceded so much and remain law-abiding under such great outrage and provocation.

To Northern capital and Afro-American labor the South owes its rehabilitation. If labor is withdrawn capital will not remain. The Afro-American is thus the backbone of the South. A thorough knowledge and judicious exercise of this power in lynching localities could many times effect a bloodless revolution. The white man’s dollar is his god, and to stop this will be to stop outrages in many localities.

The Afro-Americans of Memphis denounced the lynching of three of their best citizens, and urged and waited for the authorities to act in the matter and bring the lynchers to justice. No attempt was made to do so, and the black men left the city by thousands, bringing about great stagnation in every branch of business. Those who remained so injured the business of the street car company by staying off the cars, that the superintendent, manager and treasurer called personally on the editor of the Free Speech, asked them to urge our people to give them their patronage again. Other business men became alarmed over the situation and the Free Speech was run away that the colored people might be more easily controlled. A meeting of white citizens in June, three months after the lynching, passed resolutions for the first time, condemning it. But they did not punish the lynchers. Every one of them was known by name, because they had been selected to do the dirty work, by some of the very citizens who passed these resolutions. Memphis is fast losing her black population, who proclaim as they go that there is no protection for the life and property of any Afro-American citizen in Memphis who is not a slave.

The Afro-American citizens of Kentucky, whose intellectual and financial improvement has been phenomenal, have never had a separate car law until now. Delegations and petitions poured into the Legislature against it, yet the bill passed and the Jim Crow Car of Kentucky is a legalized institution. Will the great mass of Negroes continue to patronize the railroad? A special from Covington, Ky., says:

Covington, June 13.–The railroads of the State are beginning to feel very markedly, the effects of the separate coach bill recently passed by the Legislature. No class of people in the State have so many and so largely attended excursions as the blacks. All these have been abandoned, and regular travel is reduced to a minimum. A competent authority says the loss to the various roads will reach $1,000,000 this year.

A call to a State Conference in Lexington, Ky., last June had delegates from every county in the State. Those delegates, the ministers, teachers, heads of secret and others orders, and the head of every family should pass the word around for every member of the race in Kentucky to stay oil railroads unless obliged to ride. If they did so, and their advice was followed persistently the convention would not need to petition the Legislature to repeal the law or raise money to file a suit. The railroad corporations would be so effected they would in self-defense lobby to have the separate car law repealed. On the other hand, as long as the railroads can get Afro-American excursions they will always have plenty of money to fight all the suits brought against them. They will be aided in so doing by the same partisan public sentiment which passed the law. White men passed the law, and white judges and juries would pass upon the suits against the law, and render judgment in line with their prejudices and in deference to the greater financial power.

The appeal to the white man’s pocket has ever been more effectual than all the appeals ever made to his conscience. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is to be gained by a further sacrifice of manhood and self-respect. By the right exercise of his power as the industrial factor of the South, the Afro-American can demand and secure his rights, the punishment of lynchers, and a fair trial for accused rapists.

Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah, Ky, and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense.

The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.

The assertion has been substantiated throughout these pages that the press contains unreliable and doctored reports of lynchings, and one of the most necessary things for the race to do is to get these facts before the public. The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.

The Afro-American papers are the only ones which will print the truth, and they lack means to employ agents and detectives to get at the facts. The race must rally a mighty host to the support of their journals, and thus enable them to do much in the way of investigation.

A lynching occurred at Port Jarvis, N.Y., the first week in June. A white and colored man were implicated in the assault upon a white girl. It was charged that the white man paid the colored boy to make the assault, which he did on the public highway in broad day time, and was lynched. This, too was done by “parties unknown.” The white man in the case still lives. He was imprisoned and promises to fight the case on trial. At the preliminary examination, it developed that he had been a suitor of the girl’s. She had repulsed and refused him, yet had given him money, and he had sent threatening letters demanding more.

The day before this examination she was so wrought up, she left home and wandered miles away. When found she said she did so because she was afraid of the man’s testimony. Why should she be afraid of the prisoner! Why should she yield to his demands for money if not to prevent him exposing something he knew! It seems explainable only on the hypothesis that a liaison existed between the colored boy and the girl, and the white man knew of it. The press is singularly silent. Has it a motive? We owe it to ourselves to find out.

The story comes from Larned, Kansas, Oct. 1, that a young white lady held at bay until daylight, without alarming any one in the house, “a burly Negro” who entered her room and bed. The “burly Negro” was promptly lynched without investigation or examination of inconsistant stories.

A house was found burned down near Montgomery, Ala., in Monroe County, Oct. 13, a few weeks ago; also the burned bodies of the owners and melted piles of gold and silver.

These discoveries led to the conclusion that the awful crime was not prompted by motives of robbery. The suggestion of the whites was that “brutal lust was the incentive, and as there are nearly 200 Negroes living within a radius of five miles of the place the conclusion was inevitable that some of them were the perpetrators.”

Upon this “suggestion” probably made by the real criminal, the mob acted upon the “conclusion” and arrested ten Afro-Americans, four of whom, they tell the world, confessed to the deed of murdering Richard L. Johnson and outraging his daughter, Jeanette. These four men, Berrell Jones, Moses Johnson, Jim and John Packer, none of them twenty-five years of age, upon this conclusion, were taken from jail, hanged, shot, and burned while yet alive the night of Oct. 12. The same report says Mr. Johnson was on the best of terms with his Negro tenants.

The race thus outraged must find out the facts of this awful hurling of men into eternity on supposition, and give them to the indifferent and apathetic country. We feel this to be a garbled report, but how can we prove it?

Near Vicksburg, Miss., a murder was committed by a gang of burglars. Of course it must have been done by Negroes, and Negroes were arrested for it. It is believed that two men, Smith Tooley and John Adams belonged to a gang controlled by white men and, fearing exposure, on the night of July 4, they were hanged in the Court House yard by those interested in silencing them. Robberies since committed in the same vicinity have been known to be by white men who had their faces blackened. We strongly believe in the innocence of these murdered men, but we have no proof. No other news goes out to the world save that which stamps us as a race of cutthroats, robbers and lustful wild beasts. So great is Southern hate and prejudice, they legally(?) hung poor little thirteen-year-old Mildrey Brown at Columbia, S.C., Oct. 7, on the circumstantial evidence that she poisoned a white infant. If her guilt had been proven unmistakably, had she been white, Mildrey Brown would never have been hung.

The country would have been aroused and South Carolina disgraced forever for such a crime. The Afro-American himself did not know as he should have known as his journals should be in a position to have him know and act.

Nothing is more definitely settled than he must act for himself. I have shown how he may employ the boycott, emigration and the press, and I feel that by a combination of all these agencies can be effectually stamped out lynch law, that last relic of barbarism and slavery. “The gods help those who help themselves.”

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Responses to Hate Speech

In the past few years, electronic hate speech has increased due to the proliferation of shock jocks on network radio. This vitriol enters the homes of millions of Americans via the distribution networks of the highly consolidated radio industry.  Meanwhile, in communities across the nation, the targets of hate speech are bravely responding but their voices don’t get much play on mainstream airwaves. The Media Justice History Project started to document these responses in 2008 and hopes to continue sharing information about responses to hate speech in the future. Watch the clips below – then check out the resources in the side-bar to get ideas about how you can respond!

San Francisco Bay Area, California

The Hispanic / Latino Anti-Defamation Coalition formed in 2007 to protest comments made by shock jock Michael Savage on ClearChannel station, KNEW AM. These clips feature two of the coalition’s organizers, Marcos Gutierrez and Aurora Grajeda. Subsequent to this organizing Savage’s show was discontinued in San Francisco!

Los Angeles, CA

In 2006, elementary school, Academia Semillas del Pueblo, became the target of Disney KABC shock jock, Doug McIntyre. In these clips, parents and staff describe what happened and the status of the school’s court case. To learn more, watch Pathology of a Hate Crime.

Tucson, Arizona

Kathryn Rodriguez, the Coordinator of  the Coalición de Derechos Humanos explains “piñata-gate” and why hate speech should concern everybody.

New York City, New York

This clip features Leonard M. Baynes, Professor of Law and Director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. Johns University Law School. Baynes argues that indecency standards should be expanded to include certain forms of hate speech.

Biography: IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862 and rose to national prominence as a fearless campaigner against lynching and for the rights of African Americans. As a journalist, editor, publisher, founder and co-founder of numerous activist organizations, Wells pioneered investigative journalism and activist methods that are used today. Despite this, she is not as well-known as her contemporaries Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Washington Carver and Marcus Garvey.

Wells was inspired by her parents who were active in the Reconstruction struggle for Black political rights in Mississippi after the Civil War. Orphaned at 16, she became the caretaker and provider for five siblings. In 1884, seventy-two years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Wells defied Jim Crow on the railways by refusing to move from the first-class ladies coach into the smoking car. It took three men to remove Wells from the seat. Wells sued the railroad company and won $500 in damages. Her report on this suit marked the beginning of her career as a journalist.

In 1892 Wells published Southern Horrors: Lynching in all its Phases, a pamphlet that challenged the “thread-bare lie” of rape used to justify violence against Blacks. She documented cases in which Black men were accused of rape after having a consensual relationship with a white women. Making these arguments during the Victorian and racist era in which she lived, enraged many whites and even challenged the predjudices of some of her Black colleagues. The office of her newspaper in Memphis, the Free Speech, was destroyed after she published an editorial on the same subject.

Wells was not to be silenced. She travelled alone throughout the South to investigate violence against Blacks, taking statements from witnesses, studying newspaper accounts, records and photographs of lynchings and at times, hiring private investigators. She published A Red Record and Mob Rule in New Orleans and collaborated with Frederick Douglass on a pamphlet protesting the exclusion of Blacks from the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. She was invited to address audiences throughout the country and made two trips to England to gain the support of activists there in her campaign against lynching.

In 1895 Wells moved to Chicago where she married fellow activist, lawyer and newspaper publisher Ferdinand Barnett. She became the editor of the Chicago Conservator and co-founded many activist organizations including the National Equal Rights League and the National Association of Colored Women. She participated in the first meeting of the Niagara Movement and helped lay the groundwork for the NAACP but criticized the organization for its lack of militancy. She founded the Alpha Suffrage Club, the first suffrage organization for Black women in Illinois and challenged white suffrage organizations “neutrality” on Black suffrage for the sake of the “larger cause.” As the president of the Negro Fellowship League, she established the first kindergarten serving Black children in Chicago and a comprehensive service center for Black migrants from the South. She also worked as a probation officer and did legal advocacy for Black defendants. She visited people in prison, attended their parole hearings and opened her home to those recently released from jail.

In addition to her Chicago-based activities, Wells continued muckraking and organizing for justice in response to racial violence in other parts of the country. In 1917 she published The East St. Louis Massacre, The Greatest Outrage of the Century and though it took years, finally won the acquittal of the man who had been scapegoated for the riot. Later in 1917, soon after the US entered WW I, she protested the hanging of thirteen Black soldiers in Houston, TX, in the aftermath of a riot sparked by soldiers refusal to abide by segregation. Wells tried without success to find a church that would sponsor a memorial and then distributed buttons with the words, “In Memorial MARTYRED NEGRO SOLDIERS.” In 1927 she wrote exposes on the racism in relief efforts after a Mississippi River flood and demanded action from Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover.

In her final years, Ida B. Wells-Barnett worked on her autobiography, Crusade for Justice: the Autobiography of Ida. B. Wells. It was not until 40 years after her death that it was published, thanks to her daughter, Alfreda Duster’s persistence.

Committee Against Fort Apache *

The Bronx Mobilizes Against Multinational Media

by Richie Perez

On 1 MARCH 1980, Filming for the movie Fort Apache, the Bronx began in the South Bronx. Financed by Time-Life Films (a division of Time Incorporated), the movie was made by a team with impeccable liberal cre¬dentials: executive producer, David Susskind; producer¬in-the-street, Dan Petrie (who had also worked with Susskind on the widely-acclaimed 1961 movie version of A Raisin in the Sun); and stars Paul Newman and Ed Asner, both long associated with social causes. However, the film soon became the focus of a major controversy amid charges of racism made by a formidable community coalition.

By the time the film opened in February 1981, organizing efforts against it had spread around the country. Massive demonstrations and threatened protests forced one New York theater to close the movie and delayed its opening in Philadelphia and Jersey City. The film was also the target of protests in Hollywood, Rochester, Miami, Albuquerque, and Boston. To fully understand the events that occurred between March 1980 and February 1981, it is necessary to understand the historical and social context in which this situation developed.

The South Bronx

Over the years the South Bronx has become an international symbol for urban decay, evoking images of burned out and abandoned buildings and idle, bitter groups of unemployed blacks and Puerto Ricans. Although the rate and scope of devastation in this area are unmatched, it is not unique; its problems are repeated in declining urban centers around America. Solutions proposed for the South Bronx are clearly presented with one eye on the rest of America, and residents of urban ghettos throughout the U.S. watch closely knowing that for most of America and the world, there is little difference between the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Chicago’s South Side, and Watts.

Between 1969 and 1979, the South Bronx lost ten percent of its housing, with some districts losing as much as twenty-seven percent. Disinvestment by banks, landlord and industry abandonment, and the scorched-earth arson-for-profit schemes, coupled with white flight and “planned shrinkage” of essential government services, led to a forty-two percent drop in population and a forty percent drop in manufacturing jobs.

In 1972, the South Bronx Model Cities Neighborhood Office, a municipal agency, reported that housing was generally deteriorating and that infant mortality was fifty percent higher than the national rate.(1) In 1977, the New York Department of Health used areas of the South Bronx to make the point that communities with the most health problems had the fewest doctors and the fewest health facilities.(2) And in 1978, the American Friends Service Committee reported that conditions in the South Bronx paralleled those in the underdeveloped nations of the Third World: “Thirty percent of the eligible work force is unemployed. The infant mortality rate is higher than that of Hong Kong. Average life expectancy is lower than that of Panama. The average per capita income in 1974, according to HUD, was $2,340 or forty percent of the national average.'(3)

But this is only one side of the picture. With the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in New York, this area is also known for its long history of community organization and struggle. In the 1960s, it was one of the focal points for the struggle for community control of the schools. Both the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party had active branches in the area and often worked together, consciously striving to build black and Latin unity. In the early seventies it was the scene of the historic campaigns for better health care and the internationally recognized Lincoln Detox program, which pioneered the use of acupuncture to corn bat the heroin plague (and was subsequently closed by the city government). It was a community where residents successfully opposed the closing of a community college and where groups of black and Puerto Rican construction workers fought to break into the racially exclusive construction trades.

These and many other struggles left the area with not only an activist historical legacy but also with many highly politicized groups and individuals who would later become the core of the movement to stop the movie Fort Apache, the Bronx.

Police—Community Tensions

In the nine months preceding the first announcements that Fort Apache was going to be filmed in the South Bronx, twelve unarmed blacks and Puerto Ricans in New York City were shot or beaten to death by police, including:

—Peter Funches, a black Vietnam veteran who died on a Bronx street on 17 June 1979. Police said Funches ran through a red light, crashed into several parked cars, rammed a concrete wall, and then attacked them with a knife. Witnesses said six policemen pulled Funches from his car and beat him in the street. Two months later, the medical examiner superseded the original autopsy report and said Funches had died from a police beating that had inflicted “multiple blunt force injuries to the face, head and other extremities.”(4)

—Luis Rodriguez, who was arrested on July 17 after an argument with a Bronx grocer. Eyewitnesses testified that Rodriguez was unarmed when he was arrested. He died three hours later in a Bronx precinct. The medical examiner ruled that the blows Rodriguez suffered while being arrested “directly contributed to this death.” Ten policemen refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigation
of Rodriguez’s death.(5)

—Luis Baez, a recently released mental patient whose mother had called the policecinct on August 22 to take him back to the hospital because she thought he was suffering a relapse. When they arrived, Baez was cutting his mother’s carpet with a small scissors. The police chased him to a fire escape and knocked him down to the pavement below. During this scuffle, witnesses later testified, Baez dropped the scissors. Baez, who suffered from paranoia, tried to run. As Mrs. Baez and neighbors watched, the police opened fire. One policeman emptied his revolver, reloaded, and fired once more.

—Arturo Reyes, who, according to a Bronx policeman, was stealing two con-tainers of orange juice from a parked car. The officer said the seventeen-year-old attacked him with a knife, and he fired in self-defense. However, a doctor’s report revealed that Reyes had been shot in the back of the neck. Paralyzed from the neck down, he died three weeks later.

—Elizabeth Mangum, a black woman who was shot once through the heart inside her Brooklyn apartment. Police claimed she resisted an attempt to evict her and attacked them with a knife.

In none of these cases were any police officers even suspended.

The day after Baez was killed, black and Puerto Rican demonstrators clashed with police outside the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn. Two days later, over three thousand demonstrators rallied and marched through the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant in protest. Police drove cars into the crowd and beat dozens of demonstrators and community residents who were watching the demonstration. A week later, over four hundred people attended a community speak-out where victims of the police attack testified publicly.

Sparked by the Baez killing, the Black and Latino Coalition Against Police Brutality was formed by groups from around the city “to unite our communities to fight the rise of police brutality and killings.” This group linked the rise in police beatings and killings to the “poverty,unemploy-ment, slum housing, racist education, and deadly hospitals that we are forced to live with.” The police, said the coalition, exist to maintain the status quo and thus deserved to be categorized as “hitmen for the rich.”

The police of the 41st Precinct, or “Fort Apache” as it was named by the police who worked there, had a long reputation of racist abuse in the South Bronx. In 1978, it was identified by officials in the police department itself as a “problem precinct.” Police officials noted that it was one of the precincts that had a history of ‘nonacceptance’ of civilian complaints alleging that officers used excessive force, were discourteous, or abused their authority.” It also ‘flunked’ a department integrity test, according to the report.(6)

Selling the Movie to the Public:

The Community Responds

For Time Inc., Fort Apache was part of a much larger plan. The movie, according to an article in Varietv, was part of a three-film package that marked the entrance of Time-Life Films into the film production business and was linked to their plan to produce movies that could be recycled later on television through cable, network, public broadcasting, and station syndication. ‘Their ownership of both cable mid other television outlets, of course, made this feasible.

The film’s financers and producers began to utilize their vast media resources to prepare the public for Port Apache months before filming even began. As early as January 1980, gossip columnists were beginning to mention the upcoming film. During the first week in March, stories appeared in the New York Postswank about the search for the actress who would play opposite Newman. One col-umnist described how a young Puerto Rican actress got the part as “a Cinderella story.”(7) In the following days, numerous pictures of Newman in a police uniform appeared in gossip columns, feature stories, and in photo spreads. Newman’s co-star, Ed Asner, also popped up in a number of newspaper spots.

Much of this was the work of the publicist hired by Time-Life, Bobby Zarem. The New York Daily News, in a full-page feature, described Zarem as the “super-flack” responsible for the “I Love New York” campaign, which Zarem called “the most successful public relations campaign in history. It singlehandedly put New York back on its feet.”(8)

The Community Responds:

First Steps

Many community activists, especially those who had previously been involved in organizing against police brutality, had already heard of the book, Fort Apache. It was written in 1976 by Torn Walker, a fourth, generation New York cop who, after fourteen years on the force, was made a lieutenant and ” promoted” to the 41st Precinct in the South Bronx. ‘The book presented the South Bronx and its people as seen through the eyes of the police.

The Union of Patriotic Puerto Ricans, one of the groups that had formed the Black and Latino Coalition Against Police Brutality, did a ten-page analysis of the book and concluded that it was “anti Puerto Rican and anti-Black” and that the community had ample reason to be concerned about a film based on this book’s theme. They circulated a flyer that listed the objections to the book and called for the formation of a Committee Against Fort Apache (CAFA).

By the time CAFA was two weeks old, it had grown to include the Black United Front, the Black and Latino Coalition Against Police Brutality, the United Tremont Trades (construction workers), the United Bronx Parents, the Coalition in Defense of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Rights, and the Union of Patriotic Puerto Ricans, as well as many unaffiliated individuals. Many of CAFA’s members had been active in the 1973 protests that closed down the racist film Badge 373 and the more recent protests against anti Puerto Rican slurs that had appeared in and in the New York Post.

In its first meeting, CAFA agreed to send telegrams requesting an immediate meeting with Susskind, Newman and Time-Life officials. Recognizing the power of the mass media to reinforce existing stereotypes and prejudices, as well as to promote new ones, CAFA decided to set into motion a multipronged strategy. The group wanted to explore all possible avenues but believed that only a mass movement would have any effect. From the beginning then, community outreach and preparation for mass demonstrations were seen as a priority. The guiding principle was that only an educated and organized community could successfully fight this film or any other abuse.

CAFA set the following goals:

—to demand a temporary halt to filming while copies of the script were circulated to community groups, agencies, and churches for their input;

—to educate the community about the effects of media stereotyping and show the links to the overall situation we face, the deterioration of our living conditions, and the rise of racism and police brutality;

—to organize community resistance;

—to build higher levels of unity between the Puerto Rican and black communities through common struggle; and

—to develop our communities’ ability to use the media.

Selling the Film to the South Bronx Community

While we were getting organized, Time-Life was already moving into the South Bronx. They began contacting community agencies to ask for help in recruiting extras and gaining access to facilities for shooting and staging areas. At this time, no one had yet seen the actual screenplay. One of these community agencies, United Bronx Parents, a well-respected educational institution with a fifteen-year history of service, asked for a copy of the screenplay. When they received it, they turned it over to CAFA and requested a meeting with Time-Life on March 13.

CAFA’s preparations for the meeting included an in-depth analysis of the screenplay and a comparison with the book. Although Time-Life had denied any connection between the book and the screenplay, CAFA concluded that, although changes had been made, they were only “cosmetic surgery.” That cops break the law is justified “because they only do it with pimps and pushers—not with decent people. As a matter of fact, there are no decent people in the South Bronx according to this film.”(9) Every woman was portrayed as either a “loose woman,” a prostitute, a junkie, a homocidal maniac, or some combination of all these. All the Puerto Rican and black characters are portrayed as either criminals or victims. They are not characters per se but are caricatures of evil. They pimp their own sisters; sell heroin to their children or sit passively by and watch it happen. (After the protests began, a few “decent” bit roles were written, but they were insignificant.)

The movie shows drugs in the South Bronx coming through Lincoln Hospital (although it is given another name in the film, it is the only hospital in the area), and the doctors and the hospital workers themselves as heroin users. It portrays community activists as buffoons and misguided kids who “make a lot of hate cop noises, preach armed revolt and all but spend most of their time ballin’ chicks from Scarsdale.”‘(10)

Although CAFA was not trying to deny that there are serious problems in our communities, this film presented a one sided, biased picture—selecting consciously the most sensational things, dehumanizing and degrading us, and ignoring the causes of these problems: high unemployment, the heroin plague, overcrowded and under staffed hospitals, abandoned buildings. The CAFA analysis pointed out that this leaves “the viewer with the impression that the people themselves create the poverty of the South Bronx. Thus, rather than win people to support our continuing struggle to change our conditions, the film will turn other people against us.”

The movie romanticized the police: “Fort Apache is shown, not as a police station, but as a fort in hostile territory . . .[where] the police can do what they want because they’re dealing with savages. It excuses their brutality while at the same time denying our humanity.”(11)

“I Love Rice and Beans More than Spaghetti”

On March 13, fifteen representatives from CAFA (including myself) met with Tom Fiorello, associate producer of Fort Apache, and Kip Watkins, a Time-Life executive. The meeting was taped with the knowledge of everyone present; we insisted on this to protect ourselves against any phony charges that we were trying to extort money from the corporation. We presented our analysis of the screenplay and our demands: that production of the film be stopped for one month and that Time-Life provide copies of the screenplay for broad distribution and review by groups and individuals in the black and Puerto Rican communities. If they agreed to this demand, we would return in one month with comments and suggestions. Time-Life refused and argued that the movie was bringing jobs into the community.

Fiorello (who, as it turned out, had a hit role in the movie) told us not to get excited: “I have the same kind of feelings you guys have. I understand. We have to talk right to each other…I personally feel hurt. I would like to see the Bronx develop. I want to buy property here. I love rice and beans more so than I love spaghetti [sic].” When this appeal to interethnic solidarity failed, Watkins, a Kennedy-type liberal, took over. He couldn’t understand why we were protesting. True, he said, the book was racist, but the film had nothing to do with the book. It had to be seen not as something political, but as a “piece of art.” He said it was a benevolent act to let us see the script because “artists” rarely do that. Finally, he told us that if we didn’t think there were “tender and humane Puerto Ricans and blacks” in the film, we were “looking at the script through jaded eyes.”

After we answered that they were looking at our communities through racist eyes, they told us they would not postpone production. “It will never happen,” said Fiorello, “but maybe we could sit down and talk some more .. . . We’ll call.”

They never did call, and we never expected them to. On the same day we were meeting with them and they were telling us about all the positive images in the film, Time-Life ran a two-page ad in Variety describing Fort Apache as: “A chilling and tough movie about the South Bronx, a forty-block area with the highest crime rate in New York. Youth gangs, winos, junkies, pimps, hookers, maniacs, cop killers and the embattled 41st Precinct, just hanging in there.” We didn’t see the ad until the next day. It confirmed our fears and showed us that the representatives that were sent to meet with us were lying all along and were just trying to buy themselves time.

After this CAFA intensified its work. We circulated copies of the ad and a transcript of the meeting with Time-Life, prepared for the first demonstrations, called a press conference for March 22, and stepped up work on the lawsuit that we were going to use to break the press blackout of our movement.

Taking It to the Streets

To avoid demonstrations against the film, Time-Life did not publicize their shooting schedule in advance. Even reporters were unable to obtain this schedule. Without advance notice, community mobilizations became very difficult. However, the week after our meeting with Fiorello and Watkins, workers in stores along Third Avenue in the Bronx (a shopping center called “The Hub”) notified CAFA that the filmmakers had offered to pay store keepers $100 to keep their stores open until midnight that Friday, March 21.

With less than two days’ notice, we called people out for 7:00 P.M. There was no sign of any filming when we got there, although people who lived in the area reported seeing film crews earlier in the day, and extra security guards were patrolling the area. It was raining, and some people got tired of waiting and went home. Then at about nine-thirty, a caravan of cars and panel trucks with film equipment began to move down Third Avenue. A lone police car drove well ahead of the caravan and turned the corner at 149th Street.

Thirty CAFA members surrounded the first car in the caravan and blocked the street. We chanted “Fort Apache, Racist Movie” and carried posters that said “Fort Apache is Anti-Puerto Rican and Anti-Black,” “Paul Newman—From Liberal to Racist for $3 Million,” “Indians Are Not Savages—Neither Are We,” and “End Media Stereotyping of Black and Latino People.”

It wasn’t until after the demonstration had started that we realized that Paul Newman was the driver of the car that we had stopped. Rachel Ticotin, the young Puerto Rican woman who played the junkie-nurse, was with him. She sank down in her seat. As we blocked the windshield with posters and banged and rocked the car, Newman sat frozen at the wheel, looking straight ahead. Finally, the two policemen in the squad car realized what was happening and ran back towards us, swinging their clubs and pushing. They rushed Newman out, running along-side his car, with us running alongside and behind them, still chanting our opposition to the film.

Our prevention of filming partially cracked the press blackout. The Post called the confrontation “Uprising at Fort Apach,”(12) and our press conference the next day received considerable media coverage. We issued a statement summarising our meeting with Time-Life and our objections to the film; we also announced the filing of a $1 billion lawsuit against Time-Life Films for “group libel.” We knew that we would not win the lawsuit but also knew it would draw the film makers out for public debate and would receive considerable publicity.

Time-Life’s Dirty Tricks Offensive

Time-Life’s publicity campaign faltered temporarily as they were thrown on the defensive. Besides hiring a second law firm, one that specialized in First Amendment cases, they also responded by quietly withdrawing the ad campaign they had begun on March 12 in Variety.

Understanding the clout of Time Inc., we knew our challenge to Fort Apache would not go unanswered. The community grapevine had already produced numerous stories of individuals and poverty groups accepting money in return for helping to “sell” Fort Apache to the Puerto Rican and black communities. However, it was not until the day we filed our lawsuit in the state supreme court, when we also held a demonstration and press conference outside, that we had concrete evidence of Time-Life’s “dirty tricks offensive” against community opposition to their film.

While we were demonstrating, about sixty Puerto Rican and black high school students approached, carrying signs that read: “Pro-Fort Apache,” “Fort Apache Will Help the Community,” and “Don’t Mix Our People’s Progress with Communist Political Advancement.” It was obvious to us that a confrontation had been set up. We quickly sent representatives of CAFA to talk to the students and read them portions of the screenplay (which none of them had seen). The students told us they had been hired through members of a South Bronx store front church, headed by a white minister from Tennessee. They had been promised fifteen dollars an hour for three hours, plus five dollars for lunch—as well as roles in the movie—in return for demonstrating. They had also been told that CAFA members were “communists that were against the community.”

Before the day was over, CAFA’s lawyers (William Kuntsler and Anthony Roman) and reporters had the sworn testimony of the people who had hired the students for Time-Life, as well as those of the students themselves. They told of how, guided by Tom Fiorello, they signed phony press releases with the names of non-existent organizations, recruited the high school students, and wrote up the slogans for the picket signs and the press releases.

In an interview with El Diario-La Prensa and NBC-TV, Eddie Perez, a member of this storefront church, told of being sent to observe CAFA activities and meetings (Interestingly, NBC, which had conducted an exclusive television interview with Perez and other church members who acted as go-betweens for Time-Life, never aired the interview. Later it was an-nounced that NBC had purchased the television rights for Fort Apache.)

Before the day was over, the students had switched sides and joined the CAFA demonstration. Meanwhile, they spotted “superflack” Bobby Zarem, who said he had come to court to watch the demonstrations (although he couldn’t explain how he knew there would he more than one demonstration). After he was identified as working for Time-Life, the students confronted him and demanded that he pay them the money they had been promised. A heated exchange followed, Zarem’s cowboy hat was knocked off, and the angry students chased him Out of the courthouse. Zarem fled into a taxi as riot police were called to hold hack the angry crowd.

Time-Life’s plan had backfired badly. The exposure of their “dirty tricks” received wide coverage in the media. CAFA publicly denounced Time-Life’s attempt to manipulate the poverty of our youth and to set up a confrontation. Had they succeeded, seventy-five “pro-Fort Apache” demonstrators would have been trying to occupy the same space at the same time as fifty “stop Fort Apache” demonstrators. A clash between the two groups could have been interpreted as a split within the community over the merits of the film, and the CAFA demonstrators could more easily have been labeled an “isolated, violence-prone fringe group” which did not represent the community.

The Filmmakers Defend Themselves Publicly

After the fiasco at court, some of the people involved with the movie began to defend their motives. Susskind and Newman, defendants in the lawsuit, submitted affidavits arguing that the film would help the South Bronx. Both asserted their history of involvement in social causes. Both expressed outrage at being called “racists.”

At a carefully staged press conference in April—held on a small hill in an abandoned lot, against a backdrop of burned- out buildings—Newman accused the Post and The Village Voice of “irresponsible journalism.” He reiterated that “I have spent my whole life caring about what happened to the underprivileged,” adding, “This is a tough movie. It’s tough on whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans arid on lousy white cops.” He implied that the demonstrators were troublemakers and asked why we weren’t fighting for better health care instead of opposing the film.

However, the Time-Life public relations campaign to dust off the movie’s and Newman’s image was undercut at every turn. The Post ripped the script in a full- page article, “What Paul Didn’t Tell Us About Fort Apache.”(13) Newman’s press conference itself was disrupted by four CAFA protestors who received almost as much coverage as Newman himself. Finally, even the police attacked the film. The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (the police union) publicly called Newman a “money-hungry mongrel” and a “bigot” for referring to “lousy white cops” in his defense of the movie. Later, the Hispanic Society of city police officers, including some who were assigned to guard the film site and others who were sent undercover into CAFA, attacked the film publicly, saying it presented a “one-dimensional” and “slanted view” of Hispanics and blacks. Tom Walker, the author of the book Fort Apache, accused Time-Life of stealing the plot for their movie from his book, and he filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

But what set the context and gave all this real impact was the continuous opposition to the film in the streets of the Puerto Rican and black communities. Hundreds continued to march in “Stop Fort Apache” protests. Thousands signed petitions against the film. Tens of thousands of leaflets were distributed at beaches, community block parties, and at any activity where people gathered. Musicians and poets staged a “Stop Fort Apache Cultural Arts Festival,” attended by hundreds. Physical disruptions occurred whenever protestors were able to find out the shooting schedule in advance.

When a hospital scene was filmed in East Harlem (after Time-Life was refused access to Lincoln Hospital by outraged workers and administrators), eighty demonstrators crashed the film site, and filming was only able to continue after hundreds of police were called out. This confrontation was reported and shown on television news. Despite Time-Life’s continuous claims that there was no “real opposition” to the film, protests and growing opposition kept breaking into the news.

Moreover, while producers hinted (in a magazine article) that the problems were due to local gangs trying to extort money,(14) they were offering to buy off protestors by suggesting, through a well known figure in the Puerto Rican community, that CAFA should be realistic and try to get something out of all this that would “benefit the community”—such as a writers workshop funded by Time-Life. (This offer was angrily rejected by CAFA.)

Following this, Time-Life and its Fort Apache team seemed to have made a decision by the end of April to take a low profile. Time-Life, Susskind, and Newman all turned down offers to debate CAFA on Herman Badillo’s local TV program “Urban Journal.” They also refused to attend a city council hearing where the General Welfare Committee was considering a resolution to withdraw permits for the film. (The committee passed a resolution condemning the racism of the screenplay and calling on all New Yorkers to boycott the movie.) Although demonstrations and opposition continued, Time-Life was silent. By June, they had finished filming and left New York.

Some Reflections on the Media Battleground

From the beginning, we understood the necessity of dealing with the electronic and print media. We were very conscious of presenting CAFA as a broad, community-based coalition. In every press conference, for example, we chose representation that would reflect our composition: Puerto Rican and black, women and men, young and old. Although our membership included every sector within our communities—including workers, students, parents, professionals, clergy and politicians—we were described as “black and Puerto Rican militants.” In press conferences and interviews, many reporters became impatient with our explanation of how we saw the issues. They only wanted to know if we were going to use violence to stop the movie.

Besides a preoccupation with violence, we found that the structure of television news itself worked against us. In-depth analysis is, for the most part, absent on the nightly news. We could prepare a ten-minute press statement, explaining carefully why we opposed the film and answering the arguments of our opponents, but only a very small fragment would ever he televised. A sympathetic television reporter once told us, right before the cameras were turned on, “Say everything you have to say in sixty seconds because that’s the most you’re going to get on the air.” Other reporters told us that without any violence or any arrests, their assignment editors “just weren’t interested.”

Despite these and other difficulties, we were determined to, as much as possible, “use the media.” To keep our public statements consistent, CAFA chose specific people who would represent us to the media. Others were assigned to develop and cultivate contacts in the media and to stay abreast of moves by Time-Life in this area.

At the end of March, Time-Life hired a second public relations firm, Lisboa Associates, to offset the favorable coverage we had received from the Spanish-language press. They succeeded in getting two full-page articles of favorable coverage in El Diario; the exact process by which this came about became the source of considerable controversy in that newspaper. We later demanded and got “equal time.” In an important victory for us, El Diario eventually published an editorial condemning the movie.

The “Freedom of Speech” Controversy

CAFA came under attack from civil libertarians as our efforts to stop the movie mounted. Nat Hentoff, in The Village Voice, called us “thought police,” cormparing us to the Nazis. The ACLU filed a “friend of the court” brief to oppose our lawsuit—as if we had the power to deny Time-Life’s freedom of speech.

While we did not pretend to have all the answers to this complex question, we were not deterred by these attacks. We were fighting against the vilification and slander of our people. Fort Apache imposed on us, and most importantly on our children, negative racial stereotypes that incite hatred towards us, reinforce existing prejudices, and thus contribute to the denial of our civil and human rights.

To the absolutists who said freedom of speech means people can say anything, we raised a number of questions. Does freedom of speech mean that someone has the right to infringe on our rights? Does this mean our right to live free of libelous stereotyping and racial attacks is subordinate to the right of multinational corporations like Time-Life to make more money? Does freedom of speech mean that huge corporations that control the mass media have the right to portray us as less than human, thus denying our children positive role models and simultaneously “teaching” white children about “black and Puerto Rican inferiority”? Do those with a lot of money have more freedom of speech than those who are poor and cannot buy it?

The Movement Against Fort Apache Grows

The attacks on us by civil libertarians had no effect on our support within our own community. While grappling with this question in forums and in interviews, we continued the fundamental work upon which our campaign was built—educating, uniting, and mobilizing our people. CAFA members spent much of their time organizing on a one-to-one basis; literature tables were set up, and periodic community leafleting and door-to-door offensives were carried out. We had also selected certain groups for special outreach, including community planning boards, district school boards, parents associations, day care centers, educators groups, church groups, unions, rank-and-file groups within unions, student organizations, media and arts groups, and health workers.

On April 12, Bronx City Councilman Gerena Valentin conducted a public hearing on the movie attended by over 125 people, including more than thirty who spoke in opposition to the film. A week later, 350 people marched through the streets of the South Bronx in a concrete reflection of the growing opposition to the movie. At the rally that followed the march, Rev. Neil Connolly, the Roman Catholic Vicar representing twenty-four churches in the area, read a statement that condemned Fort Apache as “obsessed with scars only,” never mentioning “the thousands of church-going people, dedicated community workers, self-sacrificing parents…. We are outraged at the Time-Life Films for continuing to heat the drums of racism and classism for the price of a dollar.”

The next week, the state supreme court threw our case out of court. Without reading the screenplay upon which our complaint was based, the court dismissed our charges as “speculative connotation” and “ideological innuendo.” Because we had not expected the court to rule in our favor, we considered it a victory to have kept Time-Life in court for weeks and forced them to defend themselves publicly and hire a second law firm.

While the struggle against Fart Apache was sharpening in New York, links were being made with other groups across the country. Forty chapters of the Chicano student group MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aldan) passed a resolution against the film during a California-wide conference and vowed support in any boycott or other actions taken if it was produced and released. Representatives of CAFA also met with activists in San Francisco’s Chinatown who were protesting derogatory Asian stereotyping in a new “Charlie Chan” film. In New York, a representative of the black groups that had been protesting NBC’s “Beulah’s Land” addressed a meeting of CAFA and called for better communication and coordination among groups fighting media racism.

Preparing for the Opening

Opening After the filmmakers quietly left New York City in June, we prepared for the next phase of the struggle: consolidating the groups and individuals that had already become part of CAFA, broadening our outreach to bring in new forces, and preparing for the boycott itself.

We developed an internal newsletter, the CAFA bulletin, which kept people informed of new developments, provided analysis of Time Inc. and research on Time’s push into the movie and cable arenas (thus placing Fort Apache in a larger context), and mobilized people for pickets and call-in protests. We also made presentations and showed a slide show on media racism to as many organizations and groups as possible—each time enlisting further support for the planned boycott of the movie when it opened.

During the summer of 1980, we also emphasized setting up literature tables and poster-photo exhibits at large outdoor gatherings in the Puerto Rican community. We put out a special leaflet which answered common questions about our opposition to the movie and stressed the growing broad unity against it. Significantly, CAFA had grown by this time to include over twenty organizations, community agencies and institutions. In addition, the film had been condemned publicly by several public officials, media outlets, religious leaders, professional associations and other organizations. The momentum was growing.

The momentum was growing. In November 1980, there were signs of a new Time-Life publicity offensive. A sneak preview was held in St. Louis, Missouri, an area with few if any Puerto Ricans. Liz Smith, the Daily News gossip columnist, reported that Newman got “rave reviews.” A week later, she reported that he was “coming up strong as a contender” for an Academy Award for his role in the film.(15)

In December, New York magazine ran a feature story about the two policemen whose real-life exploits supposedly provided the basis for the movie. The thrust of the article was that the film’s story was a good, tough, and true one, and that Newman’s presence would guarantee its box office success. The article, quoting the cops, repeated the racist stereotypes of the South Bronx and generally trivialized protests against the film (although it flippantly mentioned that “There were so many protestors even the press agents had to have a bodyguard”).(16) In another interview with the National Star the two cops justified the “street justice” they had meted out in the South Bronx.(17)

CAFA recognized that it could not respond to every step in Time-Life’s extensive publicity campaign but called on supporters to seek ways to demand equal time. The November 1980 bulletin announced a demonstration at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, where David Susskind was to be honored by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for his “contributions to the revitalization of New York’s film industry;” two call-in protests to ABC and CBS opposing Newman’s appearance on the Barbara Walters and Mike Douglas shows; and the first press conference to be held by the newly formed Philadelphia CAFA.

In January 1981, Time-Life Films and Twentieth Century Fox (TCF), which was now handling the distribution of the movie, held a special screening of Fort Apache in Atlanta, Georgia, for reporters from around the country. As part of an all expenses-paid “press junket” to win favorable reviews, reporters were flown to the Atlanta Hilton where they were wined and dined by a TCF publicity team. Because CAFA did not have enough money to send a group, it was decided to send one person person and arrange for some local backup. A group of black activists in Atlanta command post outside the Hilton, and legal support if necessary. Despite pressing security concerns of their own—they had been targeted by local racists—they risked exposing themselves to further police “attention” and, by their actions, advanced the cause of black and Latino unity.

CAFA’s representative registered at the Atlanta Hilton for one night. Friendly reporters tipped him off to the publicity party’s schedule. After an extended “cocktail hour” the reporters were to hoard a bus that would take them to the screening itself. The CAFA rep, in suit and tie, stood outside the bus and distributed CAFA press packets which included press releases, newspaper clippings, statements of opposition to the film, and leaflets. Most of the reporters thought he was part of Twentieth Century Fox and gladly accepted the packets.

When the woman in charge for TCF finally realized what was happening, she threatened to have CAFA’s representative arrested. By the time hotel security arrived, however, the CAFA “publicity team” was back in his room, reporting in to the outside support group. On the bus, sympathetic reporters confirmed that there was a lot of discussion as the press people went through the CAFA material. After the screening, there was continued discussion and some debate among reporters over dinner.

The next day, a major press conference with Paul Newman was held in the hotel, half of which was taken up by questions about the protests and the extent of cornmunity opposition to the movie. CAFA’s representative was followed from the moment he left his room by a team of plainclothes detectives. When reporters left the press conference, he was waiting in the lobby with press packets. As the reporters recognized and moved toward him, their tape recorders ready, a squad of plainclothes Atlanta police surrounded him and used their massed bodies to strong-arm him away from the reporters. Threatened with arrest, despite his arguments that he was a registered guest in the hotel, he retreated after giving the room number to interested reporters. The CAFA representative got to talk with reporters from several newspapers, many of whom confided that they risked losing the privilege of these junkets to important screenings if they gave TCF a hard time.

The Opening

A month before the announced opening, CAFA began to focus on theaters that had announced they had hooked Fort Apache. After an unsatisfactory meeting with a representative from United Artists and the manager of U.A.’s Gemini theater in midtown Manhattan, we hit the Gemini with an unannounced pre-boycott demonstration. One hundred people participated in five-degree weather. Less than a dozen people crossed our militant picket line, and police were called in. During a tense confrontation inside the theater, we told the Gemini’s manager that he would have to surround his theater with police to show Fort Apache.

On 22 January 1981, Time-Life and TCF made their final attempt to divide the community by holding a screening at Lincoln Center for some South Bronx community groups and leaders. CAFA got hold of the invitations, reproduced them, and sent members to the screening. We distributed leaflets outside (and inside) the screening and held a community meeting immediately after in nearby offices of Channel 13.

The press had hinted that the screening would be an opportunity to have some community leaders endorse the film and attack CAFA as a “small, unrepresentative group.” Afterwards, however, more than forty representatives of community planning hoards and educational, media, religious, and civil rights groups angrily denounced the movie and its promoters. They publicly endorsed CAFA’s efforts and threw their support behind the boycott. This was a major victory for us and meant that when the movie opened, a united Puerto Rican community would respond.

In the final weeks before the opening, CAFA stepped up its efforts; thousands of “Boycott Fort Apache” stickers were printed and distributed; leafleting was carried on around the city; and we continued to get press coverage. During this period, committees to oppose the movie were also formed in Jersey City, Boston, and Albuquerque.

Fort Apache opened in 800 theaters across the country on 6 February 1981. In its first week:

—In New York, the Gemini theater cancelled the movie, and fourteen blocksaway, 350 people picketed the Orpheum on opening night. Hundreds of people marched in ten demonstrations over a three-day period, and extensive media coverage educated hundreds of thousands more about the protests.

—In Philadelphia, the opening was postponed for a week because of militant pickets. Philadelphia CAFA was so effective that eventually it was hit with an injunction that said we could only have four pickets 100 feet away from the theater.

—In Jersey City, the threat of demonstrations postponed the opening of the movie. When it did open, CAFA members from New York joined the Jersey City CAFA on the picket lines.

—In Hollywood, a demonstration was organized by the Chicano group MECHA on opening night.

—Organizing efforts and protests took place in other cities as well, including Rochester, Boston, Miami and Albuquerque; students at SUNY-Binghamton and SUNY-New Paltz also stopped showings of the film.


CAFA recognized that it was fighting, not only the giant media conglomerates which financed, produced and distributed Fort Apache, but also the growing right-wing sentiment in America. We were demanding respect and reaffirming the strength and beauty of our history and culture—at a time when our past gains were being eroded and we were increasingly being used as scapegoats for the nation’s economic and social failures, at a time when many American liberals were embracing the “solutions” of the reactionary Right.

Recognizing this reality, our goals were primarily educational and organizational: to educate our community about the effects of media stereotyping and show its links to the overall situation we face—the deterioration of our living conditions, the destruction of survival programs like bilingual education, the rise of racism and police repression—and to challenge with our presence and strength the movie’s racist messages that we were inferior peoples, incapable of organizing ourselves for change.

The secondary focus of the boycott organized by CAFA was economic. While we realized that we did not yet have a movement that could shut this movie down nationwide, we could have some impact at the box office—and we did! Fort Apache made $13 million in domestic rentals, but Variety reported that even this was “way below expectations for the costly, controversial picture.”(18) After this (and the failure of their other two films), Time-Life Films went out of the movie business.

The education conducted around Fort Apache was tremendous and invaluable. Hundreds of thousands of people were alerted to our charge that this movie was anti-Puerto Rican and anti-black, that racist films like it feed into the rising right-wing tide in America, and that these films have a detrimental effect on our people’s fight for survival and advancement.

The year-long struggle created a context within which Fort Apache had to be evaluated by the people who insisted on seeing it. Our community’s collective efforts turned it into an important social issue and made it easier for viewers to recognize the racism in the film. We also set the framework for movie reviewers—many of whom borrowed directly from CAFA’s analysis in writing their reviews—and had a strong impact on filmmakers. Another exploitation movie about heroin wars in the South Bronx was cancelled, and a television documentary about “cops fighting crime in the South Bronx” was shelved in what the Daily News called a reaction “to the backlash from the controversial movie ‘Fort Apache, the Bronx.’ “(19)

Beyond that, we are encouraged that some filmmakers have taken progressive positions. The producer of Ragtime told The New York Times that when he was filming on the Lower East Side, he consulted community groups because “I didn’t want another `Fort Apache.”(20) In a more critical statement, Constantin Costa Gavras, director of Missing, said in a Rolling Stone interview, “Recently I went to see Fort Apache, the Bronx and I was surprised to see two actors in there who are considered ideologically left. … I think Fort Apache was racist—anti-black, anti-Puerto Rican.”(21)

CAFA was a broad coalition which united different sectors of the community and different political perspectives around a single issue and utilized a wide range of tactics. We widely challenged the film’s racist explanations of poverty, unemployment, arson and police brutality. We publicized and defended the community’s justified concern about “street justice” at the hands of racist policemen. We challenged the movie’s degrading images of Puerto Rican and black women with the reality of proud and militant women of all ages in the movement.

The organizing against Fort Apache also contributed to the unity of Latin, black, Asian and white activists for social change. In addition, it helped us identify many progressive media activists, as well as people inside the establishment media, and formed important bonds of unity for future struggle. Finally, this struggle helped deepen our community’s understanding of the media and showed how we can deal with it effectively.

We believed that the best way to build on this movement was to deal with media racism on an even higher level. This included strengthening existing groups like the Puerto Rican Institute for Media Advocacy (PRIMA) and carrying out on going community education around this issue. CAFA officially dissolved itself in March 1981, after voting to work with the First National Puerto Rican Convention (held in the South Bronx on April 25-26, 1981). The National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, a permanent body formed at the convention, resolved to form a Mass Media Task Force to continue the struggle for change in the mass communications industry.

The campaign against Fort Apache was a genuine mass movement which understood that the fight against media racism is part of our overall struggle to change our conditions. It was a fighting movement which engaged the enemy on a number of fronts, added to the historical legacy of past battles, and advanced the starting point for the next struggles against media racism and for freedom.

The National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights can be contacted at: NCPRR, Post Office Box 453, Williamsburg Station, Brooklyn, New York 11211.

1. Neighborhood: The Journal fin- City Preservation-the South Bronx, August 1982.

2. Ronald Sullivan, “A Virtual Lack of Doctors Found in Some Slum Areas of New York,” The New York Times, 13 December 1977.

3. American Friends Service Committee, “The Third World Here at Home: The South Bronx,” Actionletter, April 1978.

4. Earl Caldwell, “Widows Have Grisly Pictures and Stories to Match,” New York Daily News, 9 November 1971.

5. “10 Cops Refuse to Testify in Fatal Beating of Rob Suspect,” New York Daily News, 16 November 1979; Daniel O’Grady and Don Gentile, “Quizzes 10 Cops with 1 Lawyer,” New York Daily News, 1 December 1979; Earl Caldwell, “It Matters That the Eyes of the Law Keep Justice in View,” New York Daily News, 24 November 1979.

6. Leonard Buder, “Police Find 7 Precincts Brush Forth Public Complaints About Officers,” The New York Times, 6 March 1978.

7. “Late Night with Martin Burden: Cinderella Story,” New York Post, 6 March 1980.

8. Jan Hodenfield, “A Life in the Day of Bobby Zarem,” New York Daily News, 25 September 1980.

9. Committee Against Fort Apache, “Analysis of the Screenplay ‘Fort Apache, The Bronx,’ ” 12 March 1980.

10. From the screenplay, quoted in CAFA, “Analysis.”

11. CAFA, “Analysis.”

12. Eli Teiber, “Uprising at Fort Apache: Angered Residents Demand Newman Film Be Stopped,” New York Post, 22 March 1980.

13. Joe Nicholson, “What Paul Didn’t Tell Us About Fort Apache,” New York Post, 28 March 1980.

14. “Intelligencer: All Quiet on the Newman Front,” New York, 31 March 1980, 6.

15. Liz Smith, New York Daily News, 4 December 1980.

16. Marie Brenner, “City Lights: Stardom in the South Bronx,” New York, 1 December 1980, 14.

17. ” ‘Fort Apache’ Cops Tell of Real Exploits in New York Jumble,” National Star, 3 February 1981, 17.

18. Lawrence Cohen, “40 Features Await Spring Debuts: Hope to Beat Poor ’81 Record,” Variety, 27 January 1982.

19. George Maksian and Brian Kates, “PBS Cancels ‘Bronx Detectives-Rap Program’s ‘Negative View,’ ” New York Daily News, 2 April 1981, 7.

20. Richard F. Shepard, “Filming of ‘Ragtime’ Restores 1906 to Block on E. 11th St.,” The New York Times, 28 July 1980.

21. Peter S. Greenberg, “Art, Lies and Reality: An Interview with Costa Gavras,” Rolling Stone, 13 May 1982, 15.

*This article was originally published in Cultures in Contention, copyright c. 1985 by The Real Comet Press, Seattle  WA.

Media Justice Resources

I. What is Media Justice?

Articles and essays express visions for Media Justice

Digital Justice Principles– brought to you by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition

Media Justice: An Affirmative Framework for Media Change by the Center for Media Justice

Media Matters: Media Literacy, Communities of Color and Challenging the Status Quo by Silja J.A. Talvi. Colors NW Oct. 2005

Media Reform? For What? Janine Jackson of FAIR and CounterSpin plenary address at the National Conference on Media Reform in 2005

Media Reform, Media Justice (video on-line) StreetLevel TV asks activists: What’s the difference between media reform and media justice? Shot at the 2005 National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, Missouri. Enter the title “Media Reform, Media Justice” in the search bar at the Internet Archive.

Pleading Our Own Cause by Makani Themba-Nixon (ColorLines, Winter 2003-2004)

Presente! a Radio Station Barn Raising by Hannah Sassaman, YES! Magazine, Spring 2005 Describes Radio Conciencia, the CIW/Coalition of Immokalee Workers community radio station in Florida

Speaking for Ourselves by Makani Themba-Nixon & Nan Rubin (The Nation, Nov 17 2003)

Voices from the Valley: Radio Cadena by Jonathan Lawson, YES! Magazine, Winter 2003

Where are the People in the ‘public interest’? U.S. Media Activism and the Search for Constituency by Aliza Dichter, 2004. Important discussion of activist campaigns in the new century – historic precedents and future possibilities

White Liberals and Glass Houses: A Reminder that Black Radical Journalism is a Tradition by Jared A. Ball, 2006. A discussion of the short-comings of left media and the media reform movement from a media justice perspective. Audio version also available

Why Are Civil Rights Groups Neglecting Media Policy? Seeta Peña Gangadharan. Alternet 2002

II. Reports/Research Documenting Media Injustice

Discrimination in employment and ownership, stereotypes and bias in media representation

Chicago Tonight: Elites, Affluence & Advertising Chicago Media Action’s report, released on July 19, 2004, provides an analysis, including race and gender, of Chicago Tonight, the flagship hour-long TV program of WTTW Channel 11, Chicago’s main PBS affiliate. Includes suggestions for action.

From Assimilation to Annihilation: Puerto Rican Images in U.S. Films by Richie Pérez, Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos Bulletin, Hunter College 1990.

Maynard Institute: On their website the institute offers a number of industry studies documenting the lack of diversity in news organizations and racism and bias in the media.

The Network Brownout Reports – 2001-2006: National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Although the U.S. Latino community has grown significantly since the inception of this report the amount of coverage devoted to Latinos does not reflect this reality.

Newsroom Diversity Has Passed its Peak at Most Newspapers 1990-2005 study shows. Knight Foundation report provides national overview and at the site, you can also find newspapers by state and view their track record in diversity.

Pictures of our Nobler Selves – A History of Native American Contributions to News Media by Mark N. Trahant.

Race and Media Diversity Database Searchable, annotated bibliography of publications and videos that focus on racial diversity in the media.

The Reading Red Report 2007: A content analysis of general-audience newspapers in circulation areas with high percentages of Native Americans. Cristina L. Azocar, San Francisco Journalist Association and the Native American Journalist Association.

Rethinking the Discourse on Race: A Symposium on How the Lack of Racial Diversity in the Media Affects Social Justice and Policy.

WIMN’s Field Guide to Media Research: Gateway to many reports measuring and analyzing representation, participation, production and impact.

III. Challenging Big Media!

Media Accountability Campaigns and Resources

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) 2003-2007 Report on Hate Crimes Against Arab Americans. See Chapter V: Defamation and Bias in the Media for a discussion of media bias since 911, (p. 75) Also, A Bibliography of Anti-Arab Discrimination, Stereotyping, and Media Bia

American Indian Sports Team Mascots This site tracks past and current efforts to stop the use of Indian mascots, symbols and imagery in school-related activities. Useful links and resources for educators and activists.

The Audience Strikes Back This Jump Cut article provides a glimpse of media accountability activism in response to Hollywood Film circa 1980. – A project of to hold CNN accountable for the hateful anti-immigrant commentary of their employee, Lou Dobbs.  Update: Lou Dobbs is now an ex-employee of CNN. Go to this site for more information on the campaign.

Center for Rural Strategies  Rural Reality vs. Reality TV: Anatomy of a Public Awareness Campaign Find out how and why CRS stopped CBS from producing a new version of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Chief Illiniwek: Dignified or Damaging? Joseph P. Gone (Gros Ventre) argues against the use of Indian mascots in response to the University of Illinois former mascot, Chief Illiniwek. The mascot was officially discontinued in 2007 after years of activist pressure.

Facing the Music: The Fight to Save Radio Airwaves – Journalist, dee-jay and activist, Davey D, discusses media accountability campaigns over the past few years, comparing strategies and making suggestions for the future.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) A national media watch group that provides analysis of media bias from a progressive perspective. On their site you can access the radio program CounterSpin, the magazine Extra!, and FairBlog or join the Action Alert Network. Also check out the FAIR report

Smearcasting: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation

GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of GLBQT people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Media Resource Kits including: Monitor and Mobilize, Media Reference Guide & Covering Hate Crimes are available on their site.

How to Respond to Hate Speech: Resources and video clips

Is KMEL The People’s Station? A Community Assessment of 106.1 KMEL An excellent report describing the Youth Media Council’s efforts to hold the SF Bay Area station, KMEL, accountable to its listeners.

Media Justice: Access and Accountability (audio on-line) This edition of Making Contact profiles various media justice projects and campaigns including the grassroots boycott of Hot 97 for playing the racist “Tsunami song.” Interviews with Jay Smooth, Malkia Cyril, Makani Themba and many others.

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media Not entirely up-to-date but still contains useful information. Visit this site to learn about Paramount Pictures discriminating casting policies and cultural insensitivity in the feature film, The Last Airbender. The site includes information on efforts to boycott the film and Racebending 101, responses to FAQ’s regarding racial stereotypes in film and popular culture. Great resources for activists and teachers!

The Return of Cruising Reviewer Michael D. Klemm discusses the original (1980) activist response to the movie Cruising upon its re-release in 2007.

Soundbites and Cellblocks: Analysis of the juvenile justice media debate & a case study of California’s Proposition 21 Published by We Interrupt This Message, 2001

Speaking for Ourselves: A Youth Assessment of Local News Coverage Youth Media Council’s study of KTVU Ch. 2 in the San Francisco Bay Area revealed  disproportionate coverage of crime. Includes analysis and recommendations for better coverage. Published by We Interrupt this Message, 2002.

Team Spirits: The Native American Mascots Controversy. Eds. Richard C. King and Charles F. Springwood. Forward by Vine Deloria, Jr. Deloria, Vine, Jr. University of Nebraska Press, 2001. In this work activists and academics explore the origins of Native American mascots, the messages they convey, and the reasons for their persistence into the twenty-first century. Also showcased are examples of successful opposition, including an end to Native American mascots at Springfield College and in Los Angeles public schools.

IV. Strategic Communications Tools

How to use communications to shape public conversations and win social justice

Talking the Walk: A Communications Guide for Racial Justice, ed. by Hunter Cutting and Makani Themba-Nixon, We Interrupt This Message 2003.An excellent “insider’s guide to disrupting the current narrative (or lack of one)on racial justice.” Find on-line tools for this book here.

Communicate Justice 101 The Center for Media Justice published this how-to guide for social justice organizers.

V. Organizations

Media Activist, Media Literacy, Journalists and Funders

Allied Media Conference Every summer activists, media makers, poets and allies gather in Detroit to share tactics, stories and dreams.

Center for Media Justice is the anchor organization for MAG-Net and a leader in strategic communications for social justice. See their site for news and tools for media justice.

Detroit Digital Justice Coalition works to secure the fundamental human right of communication  through activities that are grounded in the digital justice principles of: access, participation, common ownership, and healthy communities.

Esperanza Peace and Justice Center: Based in San Antonio, TX. The Esperanza is a cultural and political mecca of the Southwest. Publishes La Voz newsletter, hosts art exhibits, film festivals and on-going cultural projects. The Esperanza continues to play a leading role in coalition efforts to win social justice in Texas and the world!

Free Press holds national conferences on media reform and provides lots of information on their website about media issues.

MAG-Net/Media Action Grassroots Network is an emerging coalition of regional organizations working together to build a movement for media justice and communications rights.

Media Alliance: Provides training in strategic communications, journalism for activists and other community members. If you’re in the SF Bay Area sign up for Media Alliance’s listserve to find out how to get involved with media activism.

Media & Democracy Coalition National Coalition of organizations working for progressive media policies.

Media Democracy Fund supports projects that work for a just media environment and democratic media policy.

Media Justice Fund – The Funding Exchange supports media justice organizing.

New York City Grassroots Media Coalition organizes an annual gathering of media activists and year-round networking events.

Reclaim the Media: Based in Seattle WA. Find out what’s going on in media activism in the Northwest and beyond by visiting this bountiful site. Don’t miss the cool media heroes trading cards!

UNITY:Journalists of Color, Inc. Representing 7,000 journalists of color, UNITY is an alliance of four national associations: Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.  Hosts the annual UNITY Convention and develops programs that promote journalism advocacy and education, with a focus on fairness & accuracy in news coverage and diversity in newsrooms.

WIMN/Women In Media & News If you’re interested in gender and the media this site is for you! If you’re not, visit it and you will be.

Media Literacy:

New Mexico Media Literacy Project This project trains teachers and produces a wide range of media literacy curriculum on advertising, tobacco and alcohol, body image and more. Check out their companion website for more information on lesson plans, videos and dvd’s.

Native American Mascots: An Examination This resource helps you “dig deeper” into the question of mascots.

VI. Video, Film, Audio, Publications, Books

The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo. A co-founder of GLAAD and Act-Up, Russo was the first to study Hollywood’s impact on the public perception of gays. Also see the movie version (1995) by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and What We Learned at the Movies

Latin Film and Video Images and Latinos and the Media are packed with useful essays. Centro De Estudios Puertorriqueños Bulletin [Scroll down to 1990 – both editions printed that year]

Shot in America: Television, The State and the Rise of Chicano Cinema, Chon A. Noriega. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Documents the work of Chicano media makers against the backdrop of social movements including campaigns against stereotypes like “Frito Bandito” and job discrimination in Hollywood.

Video / Film / Websites

Color Adjustment by Marlon Riggs (1991). A study of network television and racial representation including clips from Amos ‘n’ Andy, Good Times, Roots, The Cosby Show and more.

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes A self-described “hip hop-head” takes an in depth look at masculinity and manhood in hip hop. Resources for teachers on the site.

IDA B. WELLS: A Passion for Justice by William Greaves. Documents the life of the pioneering African American journalist, activist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader of the post-Reconstruction period.

In Whose Honor by Jay Rosenstein. This documentary takes a critical look at the long-running practice of “honoring” Native American Indians by using them as mascots and nicknames in sports. Documents activist Charlene Teters, a Spokane Indian and mother of two, and her impassioned transformation from a graduate student into a leader of a national movement.

Paper Tiger TV See this New York City based video collective’s on-line catalogue for lots of tapes on media activism including Renee Tajima Reads Asian Images in American Films: Charlie Chan Go Home

Pepperspray Productions Check out the offerings of this video activist collective in Seattle, WA including the tapes Big Media is Big Enough Already! featuring testimonies from the 2007 FCC Media Ownership Hearings in Seattle and Ya Se Pudo, documenting the Radio Barnraising for LPFM station KPCN.

Pirate Radio USA It’s not about Left vs. Right, it’s about Big vs. Small Watch the trailer here. A feature length digital documentary about the underground world of illegal radio in America, where people play what they want and say what they want—unless the FCC catches them.

Planet of the Arabs by Jaqueline Salloum. A trailer-esque montage spectacle of Hollywood’s relentless vilification of Arabs. Riffs off of Jack Shaheen’s anthology Reel Bad Arabs. View on-line.

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People features Jack Shaheen, author of the book by the same name. Study guide for the film

Soldiers Without Swords: The Black Press in America by Stanley Nelson. Chronicles the history of the Black press in the U.S. The site includes lesson plans and other resources.

Stop the Movie (Cruising). When William Friedkin came to New York’s West Village to shoot the movie Cruising, gay activists responded with lively street protests. Filmmaker Jim Hubbard documented some of the action with Super 8 film. DVD’s available from

Race: The Power of an Illusion Three-part documentary about race in society, science and history. The website is chalk-full of useful resources including lesson plans for teachers. Episode 3, The House We Live In, shows how race has affected housing policies and home ownership in the U.S.

Waves of  Change celebrates and documents developments in community media and the struggle for media resources around the world. Interviews, videos and great analysis. Check it out! 

Film/Video Distributors:

Arab Film Distribution Excellent source of film and video from throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

California Newsreel: Film and video for social change This film distributor has one of the most extensive collections of film and video in the world. Includes the Library of African Cinema and Unnatural Causes (2008) a series that explores socioeconomic and racial inequities in health.  Diversity training, tools for educators and more!

Fanlight Productions Their catalogue includes a large selection of films on disability issues.

Frameline Largest distributor of LGBT aka Queer media.

Groundspark Respect For All Project facilitates the development of inclusive, bias-free schools and communities by providing media resources, support and training to youth, educators and service providers.

Media Education Foundation produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to inspire critical reflection on the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media. has a searchable data-base of films and videos. Learn how to host the annual Media that Matters Festival and watch the winners on-line.

Third World Newsreel distributes a number of special collections of contemporary video and work by the original Newsreel Collective including Black Panther and Up Against the Wall Ms. America.  TWN also conducts production training courses in New York City and fiscal sponsorship for producers.

Women Make Movies The largest distributor of films by and about women in the world!


A Thousand Kites Through the Media Justice, Criminal Justice Campaign learn how to use radio to serve as a line of communication between prisoners and their family members, and between those who want to share criminal-justice-system-stories and the community at large.

Emancipatory Journalism Part hip hop mixtape, part lecture tape, Jared Ball describes the FreeMix radio project and the tradition of black underground press that inspired it.

VII. Progressive News and Public Affairs Programs/Blogs

[This is just a sampling -These sites will link you to more ways to diversify your media diet]

The Black Agenda Report: A journal of African-American political thought and action.

The Black Commentator: Commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African-Americans and the African world.

Colorlines Magazine: Covering the latest in race, culture and organizing. Published by the Applied Resource Center, along with the blog, RaceWire Colors NW A multicultural media company offering news and perspectives for and about people of color in the Northwest.

The Daily Yonder: This site focuses on news for the 55 million people who live in rural areas in the U.S.

Democracy Now! Daily progressive public affairs with Amy Goodman available on community stations and as streaming video and audio on-line. provides a platform for young women to comment, analyze, influence and connect.

FSRN/Free Speech Radio News Available on community radio stations across the U.S. and on-line. International in scope with reports from journalists from the region they are reporting on.

Indymedia: Launched to cover the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, the Indymedia portal now links to independent media centers throughout the world. You can post news here too!

National Radio Project: Listen on-line to current and archived public affairs shows on activist topics.

New America Media: Find breaking news and public affairs stories from over 2000 ethnic media outlets at their site.

PNN/Poor News Network is a multi-media access project of POOR Magazine, dedicated to reframing the news, issues and  solutions from low and no income communities. Visit their site for perspectives you absolutely will not find anywhere else!

Radio Bilingüe, a non-profit radio network with Latino control and leadership, is the only national distributor of Spanish-language programming in public radio. Listen on-line to news, music and public affairs. Their website is in English and Spanish.

WINGS / Women’s International Newsgathering Service: Listen on-line or find out how to contribute stories to WINGS.

VIII. International Organizations Concerned with Media Justice & Communication Rights

WACC/World Association for Christian Communication promotes communication for social change. Search the site for information on the Global Media Monitoring Project and the No-Nonsense Guide to Communications Rights was founded by the Association of Progressive Communications as a resource for all those working for gender equity and IT (information technology) policies that empower women.

IX. Archives / Web Resources Relevant to Media Justice History

The Black Journalist Movement: How They Got Their Start Video oral histories with African-American journalists that broke into mainstream media in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Charlayne Hunter-Gault and many more!

The Art of Self Defense by Ayana Baltrip-Balagás 2006 An overview of graphic artist, Emory Douglas’ work for the Black Panther Party and newspaper.

The Black Panther / Black Community News Service Index and Archive: Access issues of the Black Panther Newspaper, articles, political cartoons, art work and photos.

X. Resources for Anti-oppression Education & Organizing

The Western States Center, located in Portland, OR, an organization that has a number of resources for social justice organizations on their website, from their Dismantling Racism. These include:

Moving A Racial Justice Agenda: Organizational Assessment, Are you ready? Assessing Organizational Racism: a tool for predominantly white organizations and multi-racial organizations of white people and people of color.

Challenging Homophobia, Racism and Other Oppressive Moments: tips on how to respond to comments and behavior (for “moments,” not for deeper dynamics)

Resources from other sources:

White Supremacy Culture from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001 This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack Start the conversation with this short and effective piece.

Tools for White Guys who are Working for Social Change: Another useful article from the SOA Watch website.

Definitions: from A is for Ableism to W is for White Supremacy Cool glossary for today’s activist! Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work For Racial Justice, by Paul Kivel, New Society Publishers, 1996. This is one of the better books on this topic.

An Open Letter To Activists Concerning Racism In The Anti-War Movement February 13, 2003: written by activists in response to organizing in NYC.

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