History Buzz February 9, 2012: Hasan Jeffries: ‘New wave’ Civil Rights historian shares untold past


History Buzz


‘New wave’ Civil Rights historian shares untold past

Source: The DePauw News, 2-9-12

 Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson made great strides for Civil Rights, but Ohio State University professor Hasan Jeffries says social movements take more than just a great individual.

“When you focus on an individual or an individual organization, you miss a lot more that’s going on,” Jeffries said.

The history professor visited DePauw Wednesday afternoon to deliver a lecture stemming from his doctoral dissertation on the intersection of the 1966 elections and start of the Black Power movement in Lowndes County, Alabama.

John Ditma, a former DePauw University history professor who introduced Jeffries, said the young professor is on the “cutting edge” of a “new wave of Civil Rights history.”

But Jeffries said he doesn’t think he has discovered anything new. “It’s not about creating new history,” he said. “It’s about reemphasizing the history we do have and whose voice is heard.”…READ MORE

Full Text February 9, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education Reform & No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waivers



Everything You Need to Know: Waivers, Flexibility, and Reforming No Child Left Behind

Source: WH, 2-9-12

President Obama delivers remarks on No Child Left Behind (February 9, 2012)

President Barack Obama, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, delivers remarks on education reform and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Explaining that our kids can’t wait any long for Congress to act, President Barack Obama announced today that ten states that have agreed to implement bold education reforms will receive waivers from the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.  These waivers will give states the flexibility needed to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability, and increase teacher effectiveness. The ten states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

So what does all this mean for our schools? What’s the problem with No Child Left Behind? What’s a waiver anyway, and why do states need flexibility? To answer these questions, we’ve put together a quick primer to help you understand the details behind today’s announcement.

What’s the deal with No Child Left Behind?

No Child Left Behind, the most current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was signed into law in 2001—and is five years overdue to be re-written by Congress. The law’s objective was admirable. It shined light on achievement gaps and increased accountability at the school level for high-need students. And there’s no question that setting goals and holding schools accountable for meeting them is central to an education system that prepares students to compete in a global, 21st century economy.

As written, however, No Child Left Behind has serious flaws. In fact, some of the law’s requirements are actually stifling the kind of reforms we need to really improve student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school accountability. For example, it determines whether schools are falling behind based on test scores. It imposes punitive labels and prescribes one-size-fits-all federal mandates for fixing failing schools.  It’s led states to narrow curriculum to focus more on teaching to the test and less on teaching everything else student need to know, and to lower standards to make them easier to meet

The Obama administration has worked extensively with Congress to re-write the law, and even submitted its own blueprint for education reform in March 2010, but legislators have not moved forward.

What are waivers and what do they have to do with No Child Left Behind?

Waivers provide an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind without waiting any longer for Congress to Act. States receiving waivers are given flexibility that exempts them from meeting the law’s most troublesome and restrictive requirements in exchange for setting their own higher, more honest standards for student success.

For example, waivers will give states the flexibility to:

  • Set their own ambitious but achievable terms for closing achievement gaps and ensuring students are proficient in reading and math, instead of meeting the NCLB timeline that requires 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Kentucky, for example, has set a goal to cut the number of underperforming students in half over the next five years.
  • Design their own strategies to improve their lowest-performing schools and measure student progress year over year, instead of relying on absolute numbers and a federally prescribed, “one size fits all” approach. Colorado, for example, another state receiving a waiver, is launching a website that will allow teachers and parents can see exactly how much progress students are making, and how different schools measure up.

Why do states need flexibility?

States need the flexibility to move forward with innovative education reforms they design themselves  —rather than a federal mandate—without sacrificing high standards or lowering accountability. After all, what works for Kentucky doesn’t necessarily work for New Jersey, and the parents and educators who live and work in each place are best-positioned to know the needs of their own communities.

There is still no clear bipartisan path in Congress for ESEA reauthorization – and we can’t wait any longer.  Schools and districts continue their daily work of educating students, while also planning for next school year, and states need this flexibility now to implement plans for reform and improvement.  Today’s announcement continues a process the President announced last September.

The fact is, most states are already pursuing reforms that go above and beyond the requirements in No Child Left Behind, and waivers will help them continue that progress. More than 40 states have adopted common standards that define what it means to be college and career ready, just as many have designed assessments to measure student progress toward achieving those standards. States have reformed teacher and principal evaluations to better determine which ones are effective and which ones aren’t, and developed support systems to help the less effective ones improve.

How did these states qualify for waivers?

President Obama offered every state a deal: If you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards based on a clear goal that every student can graduate ready for college or a career, we’ll give you the flexibility to meet those standards.

In addition to setting new performance targets for student achievement, states had to prove that they were serious by developing a plan addressing three critical areas:

  • Preparing students for college and careers: States must have already adopted college- and career-ready standards in reading and math that raise the achievement of all students, including English language Learners and students with disabilities. Additionally, states must create a plan to help schools and districts implement those standards and administer statewide tests to measure progress.
  • Hold schools accountable for making progress: States must establish an accountability system that recognizes and rewards both high-performing schools as well as those that are making significant gains in improving student achievement.And they must develop targeted strategies to turn around the lowest performing schools and help groups of students with the greatest needs.
  •  Improving teacher and principal effectiveness: States must set guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, developed with input from educators and principals. Evaluation systems should assess performance using factors beyond test scores—such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback—and provide teachers with both constructive advice for improving and support in doing so.

 What’s next?

Just as the administration worked extensively with Congress to try re-write No Child Left Behind before announcing last September that it would offer states flexibility waivers, President Obama will continue to call on Congress to reform the law while offering states that are willing to set higher standards for their students the chance to do so.

In fact, in addition to the 10 states that requested the flexibility to implement reforms through this initial round of waivers, an 11th application is still being revised and reviewed, and 28 other states along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have also expressed interest in receiving waivers.

As President Obama explained this afternoon, “if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”


Remarks by the President on No Child Left Behind Flexibility

President Barack Obama announces that 10 states that have agreed to implement bold education reforms will receive waivers from No Child Left Behind.

President Obama discusses No Child Left Behind
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on education reform, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 2/9/12
East Room

1:57 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please have a seat, have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to the White House.

I want to start by thanking all the chief state school officers who have made the trip from all over the country.  Why don’t you all stand up just so we can see you all, right here.  (Applause.)  It’s a great group, right here.  Thank you.  And I want to recognize someone who is doing a pretty good job right here in Washington, D.C., and that is my Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Love Arne.  (Applause.)

We’ve also got some outstanding members of Congress who are here who have always been on the front lines when it comes to education reform.  But above all, I want to thank all the teachers who are here today.  Where are the teachers?  Come on, stand up, teachers.  (Applause.)  There you go.  We got some teachers here.

Earlier this week, we hosted our second White House science fair.  Some of you may have seen this on TV.  I got a chance to shoot a marshmallow out of an air cannon, which I don’t usually get to do.  (Laughter.)  But I met these incredibly talented young people — kids who are working on everything from portable housing for disaster victims to technology that can detect smuggled uranium before it became a threat; this young man had built a prototype.  And I asked him how he came up with this idea, and he said, “I’ve always just been really interested in nuclear materials, and I collect samples.”  (Laughter.)  And I asked him, “How does your mom feel about this?”  (Laughter.)  He said she wasn’t that happy about it.

But just unbelievable young people.  It was extraordinary.  And before they left, I gave them some homework.  I told them go find a teacher who helped them make it here and say thank you, because every single one of us can point to a teacher who in some way changed the course of our lives.  I certainly can; I know Arne can.  And the impact is often much bigger than we realize.

One study found that a single good teacher can increase the lifetime earnings of a classroom by $250,000 — single teacher.  A great teacher can help a young person escape poverty, allow them to dream beyond their circumstances.

So teachers matter.  And in an economy where employers are looking for the most skilled, educated workers, few people are going to have a bigger impact on that than the men and women who are in our classrooms.  And that ultimately is why we’re here today.  It’s about our classrooms, and our children, and what’s happening to them and how they can perform.

In September, after waiting far too long for Congress to act, I announced that my administration would take steps to reform No Child Left Behind on our own.  This was one of the first and the biggest “We Can’t Wait” announcements that we’ve made, because our kids and our schools can’t be held back by inaction.

I want to point out, by the way, the members of Congress who are here, they’re ready to act, but we haven’t been able to get the entire House and Senate to move on this.

I said back then the goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones.  Standards and accountability — those are the right goals.  Closing the achievement gap, that’s a good goal.  That’s the right goal.  We’ve got to stay focused on those goals.  But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures.  That doesn’t help anybody.  It certainly doesn’t help our children in the classroom.

So we determined we need a different approach.  And I’ve always believed that each of us has a role to play when it comes to our children’s education.  As parents, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure homework gets done, but also to instill a love of learning from the very start.  As a nation, we’ve got a responsibility to give our students the resources they need — from the highest-quality schools to the latest textbooks to science labs that actually work.

In return, we should demand better performance.  We should demand reform.  And that was the idea behind Race to the Top.  For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve gotten almost every state in the nation to raise their standards for teaching and learning.  And that’s the first time that’s happened in a generation.

So when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, we’ve offered every state the same deal.  We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards.  We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return.  We combine greater freedom with greater accountability.  Because what might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky — but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.

So over the last five months, 39 states have told us that they were interested.  Some have already applied.  And today, I am pleased to announce that we are giving 10 states, the first 10 states the green light to continue making the reforms that are best for them.

Each of these states has set higher benchmarks for student achievement.  They’ve come up with ways to evaluate and support teachers fairly, based on more than just a set of test scores.  And along with promoting best practices for all of our children, they’re also going to be focusing on low-income students, and English language learners, and students with disabilities — not just to make sure that those children don’t fall through the cracks, but to make sure they have every opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.

So Massachusetts, for example, has set a goal to cut the number of underperforming students in half over the next six years.  I like that goal.

Colorado has launched a website that will allow teachers and parents to see exactly how much progress students are making, and how different schools are measuring up.  So nothing creates more accountability than when parents are out there taking a look and seeing what’s going on.

New Jersey is developing an early warning system to reduce the number of dropouts.  Tennessee is creating a statewide school district to aggressively tackle its lowest-performing schools.  And Florida has set a goal to have their test scores rank among the top five states in the country, and the top 10 countries in the world.  I like that ambition.

This is good news for our kids; it’s good news for our country.  And I’m confident that we’re going to see even more states come forward in the months ahead.  Because if we’re serious about helping our children reach their full potential, the best ideas aren’t going to just come from here in Washington.  They’re going to come from cities and towns from all across America.  They’re going to come from teachers and principals and parents.  They’re going to come from you who have a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

And our job is to harness those ideas, to lift up best practices, to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.  That’s how we’re going to make sure that every child in America has the skills and the education they need to compete for the jobs of the future and to be great citizens.  And that’s how we’re going to build an economy that lasts.

So to all the educators who are in the room, thank you for what you do every day.  We are very proud of your efforts.  We know it’s not easy.  We’re proud of you.  And working together, I am absolutely confident that year after year we’re going to see steady improvement.

I told the superintendents that I met backstage before I came out here, this is not a one-year project.  This isn’t a two-year project.  This is going to take some time.  But we can get it done with the kind of determination and the kind of commitment that so many of you have shown.

So I’m proud of you.  I’m proud of Arne Duncan.  Let’s make this happen.

Thank you very much, everybody.

2:07 P.M. EST

Full Text February 9, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Interview with Access Hollywood on “Let’s Move” Anniversary & Valentine’s Day with the President




First Lady Michelle Obama Talks Keeping Malia & Sasha On ‘Let’s Move!’ Campaign, Valentine’s Day With President

Source: Access Hollywood, 2-9-12

The First Lady Michelle Obama with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, Iowa, February 9, 2012
The First Lady Michelle Obama with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, Iowa, February 9, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama is continuing to campaign for “Let’s Move!,” her initiative to help stop childhood obesity, and on Thursday, in a brand new sit-down interview, she told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush, that campaign starts right at home.

When Bush asked if Malia, 13, and Sasha Obama, 10, are allowed to call up the White House kitchen with an order of burger and fries on occasion, Mrs. Obama said she and President Barack Obama have set limits on the youngsters.

“No, absolutely not,” Mrs. Obama told Bush. “They couldn’t do that at home when we lived in Chicago. They can’t pick up the phone and order anything. They’re kids. That’s the point that I make to them: You live in the White House, but you’re a child.

“They have a set menu, they have a set diet that they have,” she continued of her push for healthy eating habits. “They can’t go in the refrigerator and get what they want. They can eat as much fruit and vegetables [as they want], and they can have at that, but not a lot of snacking. So, we set some boundaries.”…READ MORE

For the rest of Mrs. Obama’s answer and more about her ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign, tune into Access Hollywood on Thursday and Friday night. Check your local listings.

Full Text February 9, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Hails the Housing Agreement — States’ $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Fraud & Abuses



President Barack Obama delivers remark on a landmark housing  agreement (February 9, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks announcing the finalization of a $26 billion settlement between mortgage providers, state attorneys general and the Justice Department, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Feb. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Officials set to announce landmark foreclosure fraud settlement:  State and federal officials on Thursday will announce a landmark settlement with five of the nation’s banks over their flawed and fraudulent foreclosure practices.
The deal, which officially will be unveiled at a 10 a.m. Department of Justice news conference, aims to help troubled borrowers by reducing the amount they owe on their mortgages, lowering their interest rates and paying restitution to homeowners who suffered mortgage-related abuses…. – WaPo, 2-9-12

States Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Abuses:
More than two million American homeowners will get at least $25 billion in relief from the nation’s biggest banks as part of a broad settlement to be announced as early as Thursday with state and federal authorities. It is the latest effort by the government to halt the housing market’s downward slide.
Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help only a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and still facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is implemented, because earlier attempts by Washington to help troubled borrowers aided far fewer than had been expected.
Still, the agreement marks the broadest effort yet to help borrowers who owe more than their houses are worth, with roughly 1 million to see their mortgage debt reduced by banks. In addition, 300,000 homeowners are to be able to refinance at lower rates, while another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September 2008 and the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000.
Brokered by officials in Washington, the final details of the pact were being negotiated until the last possible minute, including how many states would participate and when the formal announcement would be made in Washington. The two biggest holdouts, California and New York, now plan to sign on, according to officials familiar with the negotiations…. — NYT, 2-9-12

President Obama Hails the Housing Agreement

Source: WH, 2-9-12

This morning, the federal government and the attorneys general of 49 states announced an agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage providers — Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo.

Because of that agreement, the financial institutions will provide at least $25 billion to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. It will not only help thousands of working families now, it will establish new protections for homeowners going forward.

Earlier, President Obama spoke about what he called a “landmark settlement.” He discussed the irresponsible practices from lenders that created the housing crisis and said:

Under the terms of this settlement, America’s biggest banks — banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars — will be required to right these wrongs.  That means more than just paying a fee.  These banks will put billions of dollars towards relief for families across the nation.  They’ll provide refinancing for borrowers that are stuck in high interest rate mortgages.  They’ll reduce loans for families who owe more on their homes than they’re worth.  And they will deliver some measure of justice for families that have already been victims of abusive practices.

All told, this isn’t just good for those families — it’s good for their neighborhoods, it’s good for their communities, and it’s good for our economy.

But this is no where near all that needs to be done to help working families. In his State of the Union, President Obama pledged to create a Financial Crimes Unit to investigate the practice of packaging risky mortgages for sale that led to the financial crisis. He also called for legislation that will help every responsible homeowner in America refinance their mortgages and save thousands of dollars each year.

Learn more about these proposals here.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (86MB) | mp3 (8MB)


Remarks by the President on the Housing Settlement

Room 430
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:28 P.M. E

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, good afternoon, everybody.  Before I start, I just want to introduce the folks on stage here, because the extraordinary work that they did is the reason that a lot of families are going to be helped all across the country.

First of all, our Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan; Associate Attorney General — and former classmate of mine — Tom Perrelli.  We’ve got Attorney General George Jepsen from Connecticut; Roy Cooper, Attorney General from North Carolina; Lisa Madigan from my home state of Illinois, and former seatmate of mine when we were in the state legislature together; Dustin McDaniel from Arkansas; Gregory Zoeller from Indiana; and Tom Miller from Iowa.  And I also want to acknowledge Bob Ryan, who worked with Shaun Donovan extensively on this issue, as well as Tim Massad of Treasury.  And I’m going to acknowledge also Gene Sperling, who doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for doing outstanding work.

The housing bubble that burst nearly six years ago triggered, as we all know, the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.  It cost millions of innocent Americans their jobs and their homes.  And it remains one of the biggest drags on our economy.

Last fall, my administration unveiled a series of steps to help responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.  And last week, I urged Congress to pass a plan that would help millions more Americans refinance and stay in their homes.  And I indicated that the American people need Congress to act on this piece of legislation.

But in the meantime, we can’t wait to get things done and to provide relief to America’s homeowners.  We need to keep doing everything we can to help homeowners and our economy.  And today, with the help of Democratic and Republican attorney generals from nearly every state in the country, we are about to take a major step on our own.

We have reached a landmark settlement with the nation’s largest banks that will speed relief to the hardest-hit homeowners, end some of the most abusive practices of the mortgage industry, and begin to turn the page on an era of recklessness that has left so much damage in its wake.

By now, it’s well known that millions of Americans who did the right thing and the responsible thing — shopped for a house, secured a mortgage that they could afford, made their payments on time — were, nevertheless, hurt badly by the irresponsible actions of others:  by lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them; by buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them; by speculators who were looking to make a quick buck; by banks that took risky mortgages, packaged them up, and traded them off for large profits.

It was wrong.  And it cost more than 4 million families their homes to foreclosure.

Even worse, many companies that handled these foreclosures didn’t give people a fighting chance to hold onto their homes.  In many cases, they didn’t even verify that these foreclosures were actually legitimate.  Some of the people they hired to process foreclosures used fake signatures to — on fake documents to speed up the foreclosure process.  Some of them didn’t read what they were signing at all.

We’ve got to think about that.  You work and you save your entire life to buy a home.  That’s where you raise your family.  That’s where your kids’ memories are formed.  That’s your stake, your claim on the American Dream.  And the person signing the document couldn’t take enough time to even make sure that the foreclosure was legitimate.

These practices were plainly irresponsible.  And we refused to let them go unanswered.  So about a year ago, our federal law enforcement agencies teamed up with state attorneys general to get to the bottom of these abuses.  The settlement we’ve reached today, thanks to the work of some of the folks who are on this stage — this is the largest joint federal-state settlement in our nation’s history — is the result of that extraordinary cooperation.

Under the terms of this settlement, America’s biggest banks — banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars — will be required to right these wrongs.  That means more than just paying a fee.  These banks will put billions of dollars towards relief for families across the nation.  They’ll provide refinancing for borrowers that are stuck in high interest rate mortgages.  They’ll reduce loans for families who owe more on their homes than they’re worth.  And they will deliver some measure of justice for families that have already been victims of abusive practices.

All told, this isn’t just good for those families — it’s good for their neighborhoods, it’s good for their communities, and it’s good for our economy.

This settlement also protects our ability to further investigate the practices that caused this mess.  And this is important.  The mortgage fraud task force I announced in my State of the Union address retains its full authority to aggressively investigate the packaging and selling of risky mortgages that led to this crisis.  This investigation is already well underway.  And working closely with state attorneys general, we’re going to keep at it until we hold those who broke the law fully accountable.

Now, I want to be clear.  No compensation, no amount of money, no measure of justice is enough to make it right for a family who’s had their piece of the American Dream wrongly taken from them.  And no action, no matter how meaningful, is going to, by itself, entirely heal the housing market.  But this settlement is a start.  And we’re going to make sure that the banks live up to their end of the bargain.  If they don’t, we’ve set up an independent inspector, a monitor, that has the power to make sure they pay exactly what they agreed to pay, plus a penalty if they fail to act in accordance with this agreement.  So this will be a big help.

Of course, even with this settlement, there’s still millions of responsible homeowners who are out there doing their best.  And they need us to do more to help them get back on their feet. We’ve still got to stoke the fires of our economic recovery.  So now is not the time to pull back.

To build on this settlement, Congress still needs to send me the bill I’ve proposed that gives every responsible homeowner in America the chance to refinance their mortgage and save about $3,000 a year.  It would help millions of homeowners who make their payments on time save hundreds of dollars a month, and it can broaden the impact building off this settlement.

That’s money that can be put back into the homes of those folks who are saving money on the refinancing, helping to build their equity back up.  They may decide to spend that money on local businesses.  Either way, it’s good for families, and it’s good for our economy.  But it’s only going to happen if Congress musters the will to act.  And I ask every American to raise your voice and demand that they do.

Because there really is no excuse for inaction.  There’s no excuse for doing nothing to help more families avoid foreclosure. That’s not who we are.  We are Americans, and we look out for one another; we get each other’s backs.  That’s not a Democratic issue, that’s not a Republican issue.  That’s who we are as Americans.

And the bipartisan nature of this settlement and the outstanding work that these state attorneys general did is a testament to what happens when everybody is pulling in the same direction.  And that’s what today’s settlement is all about — standing up for the American people, holding those who broke the law accountable, restoring confidence in our housing market and our financial sector, getting things moving.  And we’re going to keep on at it until everyone shares in America’s comeback.

So, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your outstanding efforts.  We are very, very proud of you.  And we look forward to seeing this settlement lead to some small measure of relief to a lot of families out there that need help.  And that’s going to strengthen the American economy overall.

So thank you very much.

12:37 P.M EST

History Buzz February 9, 2012: Dr. Boyce Watkins: What is President Obama’s Role in Black History?


History Buzz


What is President Obama’s Role in Black History?

As I’ve run around the country giving Black History Month speeches, I’ve been thinking a great deal about where we are and where we are going as a community; I’ve also been asked about President Barack Obama’s role in Black history. Since the 44th president’s existence has been entirely complex and phenomenal — all at the same time — that becomes an extremely tough question to answer.

The first Black POTUS has always been considered the holy grail of African American achievements.  Most of us didn’t think we’d have a Black president for another 100 years.  We also didn’t consider the fact that the first Black president could have easily been a Republican (Former Secretary of State Colin Powell). Yet here we are, with some of us having more access to power than we’ve ever had before, and it’s turning into a mess.

One of the great challenges of being Black in America is that we sometimes become heavily dependent on our historical oppressors to validate our success.  We forget that the most successful African American on the plantation was not the one who made it into the big house; it was actually the one who escaped.

African Americans contributed heavily to the success of the Obama presidential campaign, but millions of white Americans had to give their stamp of approval before he was allowed into office.  So, to consider the first Black president to be the most accomplished African American in history moves us dangerously close to saying that getting approval from white America somehow makes you into a better human being.

Another thing we must be careful about is comparing Barack Obama to Martin Luther King, Jr. Not that one (a Civil Rights Activist) is better than the other (President of the United States), but in many cases, they are diametrically opposed.  No one can say what the relationship between Dr. King and President Obama would be if King were alive, but given that one of them (Dr. King) spoke endlessly about the ills of poverty, militarism and racial inequality, it’s not hard to imagine that the two might be at odds with one another…READ MORE

History Buzz February 9, 2012: Jeffrey Gould: Indiana University historian awarded fellowship to work at Institute for Advanced Study Princeton


History Buzz


Source: Indiana University News Room, 2-9-12

Jeffrey Gould, Rudy Professor of History at Indiana University Bloomington, has been selected as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for 2012-13.

Gould, whose research deals with Central American social movements, ethnic conflicts and political violence, will spend the yearlong residence working on a book about politics and grass-roots social movements in the Salvadoran revolution of the 1970s.

He was chosen on the recommendation of the faculty of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry.

Each year, nearly 200 scholars from dozens of countries study at the four schools within the institute. The visiting scholars, known as members and visitors, interact with fellow scholars within and across disciplines and conduct research unencumbered by teaching and administrative obligations.

Gould will be writing a book that deals with the problematic relations between the Latin American political left and its grassroots bases during the latter part of the 20th century. The book will focus on minor utopian experiments promoted by peasants and urban workers in El Salvador during the late 1970s and the ways in which the left leadership reacted to those movements….READ MORE

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