- visit ActAgainstAIDS,
- text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), or
- call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)
For more information about the disease, you can visit:
There have been many promising developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS, particularly PrEP, a preventative pill, and a stabilization in the U.S. infection rate. However, 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV and almost one in eight people do not even know they are infected. Additionally, the rates of infection are higher among men who have sex with men and African-Americans. In honor of June 27 HIV Testing Day, make sure you know the facts about HIV/AIDS, your status and prevention. To find a testing site near you, you can:
For more information about the disease, you can visit:
Today, June 21st, marks the anniversary of a terrible chapter in the Civil Rights struggle: when the Klu Klux Klan murdered three young men in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964. James Early Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were members of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who were participating in Freedom Summer, a large voter registration drive in the state.
Beginning with the Freedom Rides in 1961, Mississippi had become a hotbed of Civil Rights activity. The following year the federal government sent 500 U.S. Marshals to the University of Mississippi when James Meredith integrated the school, which was accompanied by rioting. Organizations such as CORE, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee all were working in the state to register voters and hold local protests against segregation. COFO was formed as a coalition of these various civil rights organizations to coordinate their voter registration work throughout the state, to receive federal funding that had recently been made available by the Justice Department and to sidestep the national leadership of the different groups, who viewed each other as rivals. Under COFO, the groups worked together on organizing a massive grassroots campaign, voter registration drives and boycotts.
In response, violence to began to mount against the civil rights workers, which included black Southerners as well as white Northerners. On June 12, 1963, Medger Evers, a leading figure in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated. In response, COFO and other groups decided to increase their activism with sit-ins, protests and other events. Violence against them increased as well and they decided to focus their energy on a massive voter registration campaign for 1964: “Freedom Summer. “
Michael Schwerner was a member of CORE, working with COFO in the state, who had arrived from New York City in the spring with his wife Rita, also a CORE volunteer, to prepare for the impending influx of volunteers. They were the first whites to be stationed outside of Jackson, Mississippi for CORE. He became friends with James Charney, who was born in Meridian, Mississippi. He had been suspended in high school for wearing NAACP patches and had participated in Freedom Rides in 1962 before joining CORE the following year. On Memorial Day, Chaney and Schwerner spoke at Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Neshoba County to share information about the upcoming Freedom School, voter registration drives and opportunities to organize and protest. In response to this act, the Mississippi White Knights, a local offshoot of the Klu Klux Klan, attempted to intimidate COFO and put an end to their organizing activities. Participants in the conspiracy included the Sheriff of Neshoba County, Lawrence Rainey; police officer Other Burkes; Baptist preacher Edgar Killen, who was later convicted of planning the murders, along with six others.
They beat members of the congregation and burned down the church in order to lure COFO workers back to their county. Schwerner had traveled to Ohio to train Northern volunteers who would be participating in Freedom Summer. When he heard about the church arson, he wanted to return to investigate the occurrence and brought other COFO workers with him, including Andrew Goodman, who was originally from New York.
Meeting up with Chaney in Meridian, the three drove out to inspect the destruction. On their return journey, they were stopped and accused of speeding by Cecil Price, Deputy Sherriff of the county. They were taken to the Neshoba County jail and held until 10 pm, allowing time for a lynch mob to form. After being released, he followed them in patrol car to outside the town before stopping them again. He then escorted them back toward town and then to a rural intersection, where they met up with at least ten men, including Alton Roberts and James Jordan who shot them. They were then taken to a dam, where they put in a prepared hole and covered with dirt by a bulldozer.
Almost immediately, a search began for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. They had told the COFO Meridian office that they would return by 4 pm and to begin a search if they were not there. They notified the Jackson office at 4:45 pm and began calling authorities around the area. The car from the civil rights workers, which had been set on fire, was found that night and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered 150 federal agents sent to increase manpower from New Orleans within 36 hours. By the next day, there were hundreds of sailors searching the swamps (who incidentally found the bodies of two other men who had been killed by the KKK a month earlier and six other bodies of black Mississippians who had disappeared).
However, the event had the opposite of the intended effect: instead of dissuading activists, it caught the attention of the nation. President Lyndon B. Johnson and civil rights activists used the event to galvanize support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed July 2nd. Thanks to an informant, the bodies were found and in November the FBI charged 21 men with depriving the three activists of their civil rights. The more traditional charge of murder, which is a state crime, was not possible because Mississippi refused to prosecute them. Even then, a judge who was a segregationist dismissed the indictments, which had to be overruled by the Supreme Court. Seven of the men were finally convicted in 1967, becoming the first ever conviction for the killing civil rights workers in the state. Their sentences were from three to 10 years and none of them ended up serving more than six. 41 years later, Mississippi finally charged someone for the murders, Killen, and he was convicted of three counts of manslaughter with three consecutive 20 year sentences.
While justice was never properly administered for their heinous murders, they ended up serving as an important rallying point for the Civil Rights movement, especially in Mississippi. At the time, Schwerner's widow rightly criticized the amount of national attention these deaths received because two of the people were white in comparison to the media surrounding the regular disappearances of black civil rights workers. However, this specific case did resonate nationally, serving to affect people who were not previously moved and galvanizing ones who already sympathized to take action. This tragedy helped later achievements, such as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, be enacted and that is some consolation.
This past Friday, Muhammad Ali, 74, passed away in Arizona. One of the greatest athletes of all time, he rose from modest circumstances living under Jim Crow to transcend sport and become an important figure and activist on the global stage, similarly to Arthur Ashe. However, his style and methods were incredibly different than Ashe: where Ashe spoke humbly, Ali was known for his braggadocio; where Ashe tried to bridge divides, Ali sometimes firmly entrenched himself, even at one point voicing support for Governor George Wallace’s stance on segregation. Among Ali's advocacy work, he promoted Pan-Africanism and vociferously objected to the Vietnam War, famously refusing his draft notice despite the consequences.
In 1966, five years into the conflict with 382,010 men conscripted that year, Ali publicly refused to be drafted. Years before he had shed his birth name Cassius Clay and converted to the Nation of Islam, a religion that opposed participation in the political process. This was a year before Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King would speak out publicly against the war. By refusing to serve, he was convicted of draft evasion, which carried a five-year sentence in addition to denying him his boxing license, charging a fine and stripping his passport. His popularity also suffered, viewed as a radical by many Americans. For three years, instead of fighting in the ring, he fought his sentence in the courts, thereby losing years of his prime. The conviction was eventually overturned in 1971 and he returned to boxing, regaining the heavyweight title. His views against the war had anticipated not only King and other civil rights leaders feelings about the conflict, but also the shifting American stance which by 1971 viewed the war dubiously.
Ali’s opposition to Vietnam might be his most famous example, but his commitment to his values and beliefs permeated his actions throughout his life, which earned him the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in 1997. Even after his retirement from boxing, he continued to work as an activist: helping to bring back 15 hostages from Iraq in 1990, visiting with war-mutilated children in a refugee camp during the Liberian Civil war in 1997 and contributing humanitarian aid on many occasions around the world. Additionally, he was a tireless advocate for Parkinson’s research, raising money and speaking publicly and before Congress about the disease. While Ali’s status as a boxing champion is undeniable, he will be equally remembered for his myriad contributions outside the ring.
Read more about Muhammad Ali’s life and significance:
Today, June 3rd 28 marks the anniversary of when one of the first African-American units in the United States, the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, arrived in Beaufort, SC, ready for combat during the Civil War in 1863. Following the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in January, the Governor of Massachusetts John Andrew authorized the formation of a black regiment. Frederick Douglass had been arguing for the enlistment of black soldiers since the outbreak of the war because the government could not deny full citizenship to former slaves who had fought for the country. The Secretary of War had decided that the black units should be led by white officers, however, ten percent of officers in the United States Colored Troops ended up being black.
The 54th was led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who came from a prominent abolitionist family and took pains to choose white officers for the regiment who held similar antislavery views. Shaw’s parents and their abolitionist friends worked on recruiting free blacks to serve, many of whom had escaped slavery. Since more volunteers came forward then were necessary, the medical exam they were subjected to was extremely thorough. The regiment ended up including two of Frederick Douglass's sons and Sojourner Truth's grandson. They trained at Camp Meigs for two months before departing from Boston on May 28th by steamer. They arrived in Beaufort, SC (which had fallen to the Union Army in late 1861) with much fanfare, however, they were at greater risk than other regiments: Confederate President Jefferson Davis had made a proclamation in late 1862 that any black soldiers or their officers would essentially be subject to capital punishment if captured.
The 54th’s first engagement was a raid into a town in Georgia, followed by a July 16th campaign on James Island, SC where they stopped the Confederates and suffered 42 casualties. Two days later, the regiment had a major battle, attacking Fort Wagner near Charleston. They lost 272 of the 600 men who charged, including Colonel Shaw. The total casualties were the worst that the 54th would suffer during the war. Even though the assault was not successful, word of their bravery spread, driving up African-American enlistment. After Fort Wagner, the unit came under the command of Colonel Edward Hallowell. During the Battle of Olustee while covering a Union retreat, they ended up manually pulling a broken down train car loaded with injured soldiers three miles to Camp Finnegan.
Despite their valor, they were denied proper compensation for their service. At the time of recruitment, they were promised pay equal to that of white soldiers at the rate of $14 a month. Upon arrival in the South, the department said they would only receive $7 per month. Colonel Shaw protested this and after his death, Colonel Hallowell continued the fight. The entire regiment boycotted receiving their pay on principle, even though the state of Massachusetts had offered to pay the difference.
On June 18, 1864 Congress authorized equal pay for black soldiers who had been free men as of April 19, 1861. As a Quaker, Colonel Hallowell did not believe in slavery and thus had all of his men swear they free men on April 19, 1861, entitling them to full back pay.
The story of the 54th Regiment was later turned into the 1989 Academy Award-winning film Glory.
Originally written in 1961, “Seven People Dancing” by Langston Hughes was just published this week in the New Yorker. Arnold Rampersad, who co-wrote Days of Grace with Arthur Ashe, came upon the short story decades ago while researching a biography of Hughes and going through his papers which are at Yale University. However David Roessel, who Rampersad collaborated with on Selected Letter of Langston Hughes in 2014, really pushed for the story about a party in an apartment in Harlem, to be published. There is no evidence that Hughes attempted to do so himself during his lifetime, perhaps due to the subject matter of the story, which touches upon subjects that were controversial at the time such as sexuality and interracial relationships. Around the same time as he wrote this, Hughes published another story that dealt with homosexuality and was apparently planning a book with stories about sex that he never finished. Hughes passed away in 1967, but several pieces by him have been released posthumously, beginning with The Panther and the Lash, a collection of political essays, the same year he died.
Read “Seven People Dancing” on the New Yorker
Rampersad reflects on this story and Hughes’ work in the New Yorker
Arthur Ashe Learning Center
Inspired by Arthur Ashe’s proactive life as a conscious leader, humanitarian, educator and athlete, the Arthur Ashe Learning Center promotes his legacy to educate and motivate —with an emphasis toward inspiring youth. By vividly focusing upon the areas of education, health and wellness, citizenship and self-reliance, the AALC fosters empowerment and leadership in the individual and the community, elevating