Black History We Didn’t Learn in School Part 5

This week’s Black history lesson is all about the Douglass family. Emily dove into the few facts we know about Anna Murray Douglass and Brenton covered the life, history and impact of Frederick Douglass. 

You can listen to this episode of the podcast here:

You can find the podcast Youtube channel here:

Resources we used: 



Ways to continue to get involved and donate to BLM causes:

Black History We Didn’t Learn In School Part 2!

Keeping with last week’s theme we decided to continue to educate ourselves on Black History – because our knowledge is sorely lacking. 

This week on the podcast we shared information about Juneteenth (Brenton’s share) and Claudette Colvin (Emily’s share). 

The link is below if you want to listen to the podcast.

Let’s jump in! 

Juneteenth – June 19, 1865

Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day. It is the oldest national commemoration of the end of slavery in the US. This marks the day when the final slaves in the confederacy were freed. This comes two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (September 22, 1862), which was the executive order that made all confederate slaves free. It officially took effect on January 1, 1863, but was hard to enforce in confederate states since they were not governed by Union laws. Only when General Lee surrendered in April 9, 1865, did it fully take effect.

Texas was the last confederate state to receive news of the Proclamation. There are no concrete reasons why it took so long, but there a couple of theories:

  • The messenger was murdered on their way to Texas
  • News was deliberately withheld by enslavers to maintain the labor force.
  • Federal troops waited for slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest.

Either way, Texas was never one for following the rules.

Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. He announced news that the war had ended and that slaves were now free. This date is celebrated as the end of slavery, but that wouldn’t come until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. Many border states during the Civil War (including Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee) were not part of the confederacy so the Proclamation didn’t come into effect. Once freed, Black citizens spread across Texas and neighboring states to establish a new life as independent people.

The celebration of June 19 became known as “Juneteenth.” Celebrations were meant as a time for reassuring one another and gathering together community members. Activities included rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, and baseball. Dress was very important as old laws had governed what slaves could wear. Therefore celebrations included casting off old clothes into rivers and wearing clothing that belonged to old slavers. There was and continues to be a focus on self improvement and education. Celebrations usually took place in rural areas and in churches as there was often pushback and protest from the white community. Eventually, Black land owners were able to donate land specifically for celebrating.

Celebrations declined along with the economy in the early 1900’s. National textbooks provided less detail on former slaves & slave practices. They intentionally left out Juneteenth and focused on Lincoln’s Proclamation as the end of slavery. Juneteenth began to recirculate during the Civil Rights movement, as protestors wore pins to tie their current struggle with their ancestors. Senator Al Edwards was able to make it an official state holiday in Texas on January 1, 1980. It is the first emancipation celebration that had state recognition. Today there are many Juneteenth organizations promoting the holiday and Black historical knowledge. There has been a large push to make it a national holiday (you can sign the petition as well). It is recognized in 46 states; the only stragglers are Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Claudette Colvin 

I remember learning about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus system but no one shared 15 year old Claudette Colvin’s story with me until recently. 

Claudette Colvin was riding home from school on March 2, 1955 (nine months prior to Rosa Parks). She was asked by the bus driver to give up her seat and refused stating that she had paid her fare and had a right to keep her seat. She was eventually forcibly removed by police officers and taken to jail. 

Black History 

Claudette had been learning about Black History at school. The women she had been studying were Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. As a class they had also discussed the current racism they were experiencing (ex: not being able to try on clothes in stores). 

Claudette was inspired by the women above and said that it felt like Sojourner Truth was holding her down on one side and Harriet Tubman on the other. She could not get up. 

Not Alone 

Claudette was not the only woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus. Many women did it throughout the movement and were faced with fines. 

What makes Claudette unique is that she was one of four women represented in Browder v Gayle – the court case that successfully overturned the bus segregation laws in Montgomery. 

Why Did History Overlook Her? 

Colvin believes she was overlooked due to age and aesthetics. Rosa Parks was secretary of the NAACP and had a middle class look to her. Colvin was shunned by her community after the bus incident and ended up pregnant at a young age. The civic leaders at the time thought an adult would make a better representative for the movement than a minor. 

Youth Activism 

I think it’s important to note that the majority of the civil rights movement was young people at the time and 50% of them were women. 

You can learn more about Claudette and her book in the NPR article below.

Let us know if there are any moments you want us to focus on in the future – we still have so much to learn!

And if you want to check out last weeks post it can be found here!

It’s Ok to Not Know – But Don’t Give Up

It’s ok to not know what you’re doing – but do SOMETHING anyway. Inaction is not an option right now.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, some days (most) I have no idea what I’m doing. This comes out especially in allyship and activism. I’m aware that I’m a work in progress and always will be. 

What I’ve learned from this is that It’s ok to not have a plan, but it’s not ok to sit on the sidelines. You cannot be complicit right now. 

The I Don’t Know Hang Up 

It’s natural to think we have to have it all figured out. But, perfection – as an ally – is not the end goal. We feel “safe” when we think there’s an order of a plan to things. It’s embedded in our culture. In general, humans like predictability, safety, knowing what comes next – at least in our own lives. Safety, stability and security are basic needs for our success so to ensure that we have those – we plan. 

But, I encourage you, instead of digging deep into the “I don’t know how to help” mentality – look for options. It is better to start and have to course correct along the way than it is to sit still and watch things get worse while you try to figure out the “right thing”.  When it comes to activism, you shouldn’t expect yourself to understand things if you’ve never been exposed or even learned about the causes. Take a chance to educate yourself. 

You Play Small Because You Don’t See the Plan 

Anyone else remember the pit in their stomach everytime someone asked them what they were going to do after college? Maybe it came recently when you had the thought of even sharing or posting something related to BLM. Were you worried about saying the “wrong” thing or not wanting to stir the pot? 

You don’t need a fully fledged game plan – you need a good dose of asking yourself why. Ask yourself why you are doing this? Why are you afraid to stand up for BLM? What’s so scary about doing the right thing?

You will get things wrong, you will make mistakes, apologize and grow and keep going. 

Complacency and the Fear of Judgement 

We let other people’s opinions of what we should be doing keep us from doing what we want or trying new things.  

“If I post about BLM then my racist uncle will comment that all lives matter?” 

“What will my mom think if I delete the entire family on Facebook?” 

“I feel ashamed that I took this long to learn about this issue so I better stay quiet..”

Oh, sweet privilege, read some of your worries out loud and noodle on what it would be like to not have the privilege to make that choice. Understand that you were probably not judged by something (such as the color of your skin or the neighborhood you grew up in) that you had no choice over. 

Stop the Shame Game

Shame is rooted in the self. Refinery29 broke this down here but to summarize shame allows white people to get stuck in their own feelings instead of making meaningful change. Yes, you will feel guilt, you (my white friends) have benefited from white supremacy culture. Deal with your guilt, look inside and confront your guilt and then make the choice to take action. Do NOT unload your guild on any BIPOC in your life! It is not their job to comfort you or reduce your guilt. 

Choices are a privilege – so instead of wallowing in your privilege shame use it to make important choices. Demand that other people listen to you. Give vocally and loudly to important causes. Ask for the change that you want in any and every room you walk into. If you want to live in a diverse society where everyone is treated equally, you, my privileged friend, have to demand it. 

Perfection is Impossible 

You WILL NEVER BE PERFECT. Not as an ally, not as a human and not as a white person. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to go about things but even if we make a wrong turn it is important to ACKNOWLEDGE IT, APOLOGIZE and LEARN from it. 

You may feel uncomfortable doing this work. Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Acknowledge that allyship isn’t about you – it’s about the people you are being an ally for. Use your privilege to make space for BIPOC, do not use it to take center stage. 

At the very least, TRY! 

Go out there and try new things, quit what doesn’t serve you and explore. You owe it to Black people and other marginalized communities to fight for them. It’s ok to not know. You don’t have to know how to get there you just have to be willing to try. 

*I am not a therapist or licensed medical professional. This does not replace the advice of a certified medical professional. Always work with a legitimate professional when it comes to your health. 

Black History We Didn’t Learn About In School

As part of my journey to be a better ally I’ve been educating myself on America’s systemic oppression of Black people. It’s no surprise that a lot of our (white people’s) wrong doings were white washed or downplayed in History class in an effort to coddle us into thinking we lived in a post-racist society (of course this was total bs). Black history was hidden in plain sight from us.

Taking Black History Education into Our Own Hands  

Since I don’t think I’m alone in my ignorance on those issues, Brenton and I decided it would be an excellent use of our podcast But Really Tho to dig into things that were conveniently glossed over. I went down a COINTELPRO rabbit hole and he dug into the Tulsa Race Massacre. I’ve included our research (with some personal commentary peppered in) below and I hope you will take the time to educate yourself. Sources will be included at the bottom of each section. 

If you are an auditory learner you can stream the podcast via the link below or on any major podcast player. 

Let’s Learn

COINTELPRO, the Black Panther Party and Fred Hampton (Emily’s share) 

Black Panther Party 

To truly dig into this we need to start with a base level knowledge of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence. As a child, I was told that the Black Panthers were part of the Black Power movement. Images of men with guns in leather jackets and black berets were juxtaposed with photos of MLK’s “peaceful protests”. This was not only a disservice to my and my peers’ educations but it’s also a disservice to the Black community and lacks historical accuracy. 

I’m going to confess a major piece of ignorance here. The way I was taught about the Black Panther Party in history class I assumed Malcom X was the founder – this is inaccurate. The Panthers started the party in the wake of Malcom X’s assisination and after a teenager named Matthew Johnson was murdered by the SF PD in 1966. 

The Black Panther Party was a political party that wanted to end police brutality. Formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale they organized social programs (such as a children’s breakfast program and healthcare clinics) and presented a 10 point program for ending police brutality, assisting with housing, employment opportunities and justice for all. 

The Black Panther Party organized armed neighborhood watches to protect their communities. At their peak they were about 2000 members strong across the US. They had chapters in major cities such as LA, NYC, CHI and Philadelphia.

MIsconceptions and the FBI’s Lie

Media and history often portrays the Black Panthers as a gang or a communist organization but they were neither. The first FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panther Party “one of the greatest threats to the nations internal security” in 1968. By 1969 the Panthers had been declared a communist party and an enemy of the United States by the FBI. Because of this declaration the FBI began investigating the Black Panther Party through their CounterIntelligence Program – COINTELPRO. 

The FBI weakened the Black Panther Party by exploiting existing rivalries within the Black Power movement, trying to undermine and dismantle the free breakfast for children program (absolute monsters for trying to take food away from kids), and did this by planting a spy named William O’Neal. This work ultimately led to the assisination of the Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in 1969. 

Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton went to school to study law because he wanted to do something about police brutality. He was a leader with the NAACP youth council and after hearing about the Black Panthers he moved to downtown Chicago to join them. 

Fred Hampton was smart and charismatic. He brokered non-aggression pacts between Chicago street gangs. He quickly grew to be the leader of the Chicago Black Panther Chapter. As leader, he organized social programs such as the breakfast for Children Program and the Peoples Clinic. The FBI became interested in him because of his leadership role. 

Fred Hampton quote on the breakfast for children program being a revolution.

William O’Neal was a criminal that the FBI convinced to infiltrate the Black Panther Party to get close to Fred Hampton. The FBI paid him to rise the ranks of the party and slip them information. Under the guidance of the FBI O’Neal executed plans to cause rift between the Panther Party members and build mistrust within the group. 

December 1969

On the evening of 12/3/1969 O’Neal slipped a sleeping pill in Fred’s drink before leaving the Panther Party headquarters – Fred’s house. Officers were then dispatched to Fred’s house where they shot 100 times into the home. Fred’s bodyguard Mark Clark was killed instantly and one round was fired from his gun AFTER he had been shot in the heart. 

The police shot Fred in his bed while injuring his pregnant fiance and other Panther Party members. His fiance survived and had a boy, now called Fred Hampton Jr. The remaining Panther Party members at the house were charged with attempted murder, armed violence and a barrage of misinformation. In the end the charges against them were dropped due to a DOJ investigation.

The Chicago PD referred to the incident as a “fierce gun battle” but the DOJ investigation proved that 99 out of 100 shots were fired from the Chicago PD – making this a one sided battle and assisination. 

we understood that politics is nothing but war without bloodshed and war is nothing but politics with bloodshed. Fred Hampton Quote


Since the police, not the FBI, shot and killed Fred this seems like it would be an easy cover up, right? Well, a short time after the murder there was an FBI break in at the Philidelphia office. These documents revealed COINTELPRO information including the FBI’s possession of a floor plan to Fred’s house marked with his room and an outline of a deal to cover up FBI involvement in the assasination. 

Charges and Settlements 

In 1970 the survivors of the raid and relatives of Hampton sued the government for $47.7 million dollars over their civil rights being violated. The case was dismissed. After it was determined that the government withheld documents the case was reopened in 1979. In 1982 Cook County and the federal government agreed to pay a settlement of $1.85 million. 

Final Thoughts 

Not only is it a disservice to Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party that this was not taught in school BUT it is also infuriating to hear that society itself has brushed this story under the rug. Black history is often white washed by our education system and this is no exception. It’s important to highlight the major mistakes our government has made to avoid repeating them. If you think I missed anything or mis-spoke on the topic at all feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I am happy to issue any corrections. 


Now to the Tulsa Race Massacre (Brenton’s Share)

Aka Tulsa Race Riot, Black Wall Street Massacre, Greenwood Massacre

Referred to as the single worst incident of racial violence in American History

Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma (1906-1921)

Black people came to the area during the westward expansion and Native American removal. Many Black people lived with Native Americans for a variety of reasons. Some were slaves to the tribes, but many tribes had differing rules on slaves so some Black people live among them as free people.

There was a great land rush within Oklahoma between 1889 – 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. JB Stratford, a wealthy educated attorney, came to Tulsa in 1898. He purchased land within the area to set aside and sell directly to Black people. He believed Black people could have a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources. OW Gurley followed, a wealthy Black land owner who bought 40 acres of land from JB Stratford. He was considered one of the wealthiest Black men in America and owned numerous properties in Greenwood. The two led to the foundation of a wealthy Black district within Tulsa, what eventually became recognized as Greenwood in 1906. Booker T. Washington was impressed by the area when he visited in 1905 and coined it “Black Wall Street.”

America and White Supremacy

Greenwood’s success led to white residents of Tulsa to feel resentful. As the years went on, Greenwood continued to increase in economic, population, and land size. Post WWI, white supremacy was also on the rise. The KKK was resurgent and there were 31 lynchings in Oklahoma from 1906-1921. There was also the “Red Summer” in 1919, where cities in the Midwest and Northeast experienced severe race riots. During these riots, white people attacked Black communities often with the aid of police.

Tulsa Race Massacre: Monday May 30

4pm: 19 year old Dick Rowland, a Black shoe shiner, entered the elevator of the Drexel Building to go use the Black only restroom at the top floor. 17 year old Sarah Page was the white elevator operator on duty. A clerk at Renberg’s clothing store in the 1st floor heard what sounded like a scream and then saw a young Black man race from the elevator. He assumed she was assaulted and summoned the police. Current thought is that Dick probably tripped into the elevator and braced on Sarah’s arm to steady himself rather than committing assault. This was not the popular theory even though Sarah did not press charges.

Tulsa Race Massacre: Tuesday May 31

Morning: two officers arrest Dick Rowland for assault. Moved to a jail cell at the top of the Tulsa courthouse station. The sheriff was worried about a lynching as a murder suspect was grabbed the year before.

3pm: Tulsa Tribune runs a story in the afternoon with the headline “Nab N-word for Attacking Girl in an Elevator.” The paper, which was known for its sensationalist headlines, also warned of a lynching. An hour after the paper hits, white residents begin gathering around the courthouse.

8pm: The outside crowd grows to several hundred. At 9:30pm, 50-60 armed Black men show up to back up the sheriff but are turned away. Attorney James Luther later said the sheriff had summoned them by speaking to OW Gurley. The sheriff denied this claim. The armed Black men cause white people to begin arming themselves as the crowd grows to between 1000-2000.

10pm: 75 armed Black men arrive for back up, but are turned away again. Supposedly a white man asked one of them to surrender their pistol and they declined. A shot was then fired starting a gunfight immediately. The Black men retreat back to Greenwood, while the white people follow them to Greenwood. White rioters began to attack Greenwood businesses and noted KKK member W. Tate Brady was part of the riot.

Tulsa Race Massacre: Wednesday June 1

1am: The white mob begins setting fires to Black businesses. By 4pm, over two dozens of businesses were set ablaze. At 5am: a train whistle is heard and the white attackers mistook it for a signal for an all out assault. They begin to attack Black residences and shooting fleeing Black families. There are also reports of planes attacking and dropping firebombs on Black people and businesses.

9:00am: National Guard is deployed to stop the violence. By then, an estimated 4000 Black residents had been rounded up and detained. By 12pm, martial law is declared and riots are suppressed.

Two different reports estimate the dead to either be between 75-100 or 150-300. 10,000 Greenwood residents lost their homes, with an estimated $1.5 million in real estate destroyed. Many Black people had to sleep in tents after the riots when they started to rebuild the area.

The riot was largely omitted from local, state and national histories. Many survivors were also silent because they worried it could happen again. The white massacre therefore was kept relatively quiet, until 1996 when Oklahoma commissioned an investigation into the historical account. The team delivered their report in 2001. Despite a list of items to rectify were given (including reparations), Oklahoma only acknowledged the events in history books via the “1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act.” There is still an ongoing search for the mass graves from the event. In February 2020, Oklahoma announced plans to roll out an extensive education curriculum. The target date was April 2020, but there has been no news since COVID-19 disrupted schools.


Welcome to Anti-Racism – Let’s Learn

White people – are we all riled up and ready to educate ourselves on anti-racism? We better be. One of the best ways to educate ourselves (and NOT burden people of color to educate us ad hoc because we’ve finally decided to hop on board with the right side of history) is to READ. 

Lucky for us, some amazing authors of color have penned literature to help us educate, empathize and challenge our internalized racism. 

If at any point while reading these books you feel uncomfortable – GOOD – that means you are growing. 

Libraries may be closed but that doesn’t mean we can’t get some home delivery books or download ebooks/audible!

Before We Start

I’ve included Amazon links since quite a few of my readers do not live in areas with robust local bookstores. All links are Amazon Affiliate links in this post. If you click through my link and order your book off Amazon I will donate the affiliate kick back to a BLM charity and match it with my own contribution.

Please, If you live near a bookstore (black or other minority owned even better) please shop from your local bookstore instead. If your local bookstore is not open please consider donating to one to help keep it alive and thriving. Bookstores are the cornerstones of our societies. I’m including a link to an independent Black bookstore in Oakland that could use your help:

Anti-Racism Literature – Where to Start

For the purpose of this post I am only sharing non-fiction literature. For me personally, this is my weak spot, but for others it may be crucial to start in the fiction section. To determine this you can ask yourself if you were exposed to books about cultures outside of your own as a child. Multiculturalism is often overlooked in children’s literature and if we don’t start seeking out work outside of our own cultures at a young age we can fail to build that muscle as adults.

Get comfortable with learning about new cultures and seek out the stories of people who don’t look like you – it’s magical, educational and builds empathy. In other words, it’s essential. I’m happy to put together a list of fiction books as well – but for now- let’s jump in.

Anti-Racism Non-Fiction Book List

Between the World and Me

How to Be Anit-Racist

So You want TO Talk About Race

Divided Sisters

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism 

And there are so many more available if you do a quick google search!

If the books are sold out everywhere and audiobooks aren’t your thing, they are all available on Amazon’s Kindle app – which you can download to a phone, tablet or computer. Including a link to a Kindle version of one of the above books below! Don’t let the idea that they are sold out keep you from learning! Please, take the time to read, educate, and challenge yourself to expose your own biases. Remember, learning is the important part – you will fuck up as an ally and make mistakes but keep showing up and educating yourself anyway. 

The world needs you to learn, grow and do better.