Black Panther Party member serving food to students

A picture was taken in a school cafeteria, where Black Panther Party members are serving the children free food. (source image)

I chose this picture because it shows the Black Panther Party (BPP) as not just a radical group of black people, but caring for the next generation. The BPP had a program called Free Breakfast Program, which gave students free food out of the Party’s own expenses. Because of these efforts, political leaders felt pressured by their charity and created the School Breakfast Program in 1975. Nowadays, the program feeds 14.56 million children every day. Within their active years of the Free Breakfast Program, they managed to feed 20,000 children a full breakfast every day. However, the Head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was against this program and waged war with them in 1969. It is said that the BPP was “a pioneer of free breakfast.” Without them, many American children who live in poverty would not be able to eat a hearty meal before heading out to school.


Civil Rights Movements

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The movement was a long and arduous fight for social justice in the 1950s and 60s. The Civil War might have abolished slavery, but discrimination against black people was still going on strong in the South. But the people had had enough; they started getting organised and planned many marches with other sympathising white people to protest against their unjust situation. This fight lasted for around two decades. The lynching of a young teenage boy named Emmett Till in Mississippi caused outrage among the activists.

Brown vs. Topeka

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This was a case of coloureds and whites going in segregated schools. In 1951, in Virginia, black students started protesting against this. The NAACP’s local leaders tried to persuade them to halt their protests. The students didn’t stop, so the NAACP joined them in support. They wrote 5 cases against the school which became known as the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.

Little Rock Nine

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The name “Little Rock Nine” came from a situation in Little Rock Central High School, when nine black students were denied entry to the integrated school by the National Guard. The Guard itself was sent out by the Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus. As he did not follow the Brown decision, this caused the President of the US, Dwight D. Eisenhower to deal with the situation. He was determined to enforce the choice of the Federal court onto Arkansas. He sent out the 101st Airborne Division to protect those students from any harm. All of them received harsh treatment in the school by fellow white students. Only one of them, Ernest Green, graduated from the school. After the 1957-58 year was over, Little Rock’s school system was completely closed down.

The role of Rosa Parks

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Nicknamed “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”, she was arrested for not giving up her seat for a white man on the Montgomery bus, being one of the first to go against the policy. This event gave her national publicity, where even other blacks started to do what is known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They wanted to denounce the bus system for discriminating against coloured people. Around 50,000 black people took part in this, lasting for 381 days. This reduced bus revenues significantly, as they were the majority of customers.

NAACP, Jim Crow and disenfranchisement

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The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was founded in 1909. It is also the oldest and largest civil rights organisations in America. Formed by both white and black activists, in its early years, it mostly dealt with anti-lynching. But their most prominent role came during the 50’s and 60’s, when Civil Rights Movements were on an all-time high. A lot of legal cases were won by them, helping bring about equality for coloured people all around the US.

Jim Crow was a character portrayed by Thomas D. Rice in the 19th century, where he took together the white people’s views on African-American culture. During that time, Jim Crow was seen as a negative term towards black people. But later, in the mid-20th century, the South had already formed “Jim Crow” laws, which were emphasising segregation between whites and blacks.

Disenfranchisement was a part of the Reconstruction Era in America. It was a tactic used by the South as to deliberately not let black people vote. It was not something done in the former border slave states, but rather more in the South. It was created to go against the Fifteenth Amendment (Allowed all ethnicities to vote).

March on Washington, the role of Martin Luther King Jr.

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The most well-known event  in the movement, which happened on August 28, 1963. 200,000 black people came together to march into Washington as a form of non-violent protest. Its goal was to establish equal job opportunities for everyone.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the one who delivered the most famous speech in all of the movement’s history: the “I have a dream…” speech.

Loving vs. Virginia case

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The case touches on the choice of interracial marriage. The South was severely against this. A woman named Mildred Delores Loving had a bit of an incident. She identified herself as Indian-Rappahannock, but during her trial, by her own lawyer, she identified herself as black. And when she went to the police station, the police identified her as Indian. Later on, she and her future husband were having a child, therefore moving to Washington D.C. they did this because by Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, marriage between non-whites and whites was prohibited. So after moving back to Virginia, an anonymous tip gave them away and they were sentenced to jail for 1 year. This was suspended on condition they leave Virginia and never come back. The Lovings called a lawyer to which things escalated to the Federal court even being involved. They unanimously voted against the anti-miscegenation laws and on June 12, 1967, interracial marriage was allowed in all states.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a major landmark in Civil Rights history. It prohibited all kinds of discrimination towards people of colour, race, sex and religion. Unequality was not allowed in any shape or form. It was initiated by President John F. Kennedy and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 2, 1964.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was, in a way, an extension of the Civil Rights Act. The new law banned all voter literacy tests and provided federal examiners in certain voting jurisdictions.

Black Power movement, Black Panther Party

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This was a movement that occurred during the 60s and 70s. It wanted to emphasise racial pride and create cultural and political institutions. During that time, people wanted more black history courses, and black culture thrived in the period.

A black people’s revolutionary party, founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. Its original purpose was to help African-Americans deal with police brutality against them. With its fast growth, it became a Marxist party, which wanted to arm every black man and free black people from prisons because of how the whites had treated them. It grew so much that the FBI declared it a “national threat of our security”. Edgar Hoover called it a communist party and ordered the elimination of the group. Major shootouts occurred and even years later, people considered the methods in use “too extreme”. Edgar Hoover later on personally apologised for the actions.

Critical Response

The movie I will be reviewing is called “The Help” which was made in 2011, directed by Tate Taylor. It was based on the bestselling novel with the same name, written by Kathryn Stockett. The main plot is about black maids and their struggle to deal with segregation in Mississippi, specifically in the year 1962.

The main thing I liked in the movie was the tone. Compared to other movies we saw, it was much more joyful and had humour in it. It felt like a change of pace, which was much needed. I thought the acting was done incredibly well, such as Aibileen (played by Viola Davis) reluctantly helping Skeeter (played by Emma Stone) with her story. I especially enjoyed the maid Minny’s (Octavia Spencer) attitude towards everyone. She was straight-forward and wasn’t afraid to do what she thought was right. The whole setting for the movie, with all of the props, clothing and other widgets, had given me a sense that I was actually looking at an event taking place in the ’60s. In my opinion, the story was decently written and didn’t feel like it stretched itself too far. It started off at a low point, with the maids doing nothing to fight for their own rights. Hannah Goodwyn, a reviewer for CBN said: “At almost 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is a long movie; however, there isn’t a moment when you’ll feel like you are waiting for the movie to end.” As the movie progressed, things started to brighten up and the maid owners got what was coming to them, more specifically, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). A reviewer named Manohla Dargis said: “It’s also about a vision of a divided America that while consistently insulting and sometimes even terrifying, is rarely grotesque.” I agree with her statement and I think this fits as a good description for the movie.

There aren’t many points or nit-picks about this movie. However, I must bring them out, for the sake of keeping a “balance” of sorts. The story did feel somewhat like it had placed a predictably happy ending. It was a bit too light-hearted in my opinion because there weren’t any really sad parts in the movie. Sometimes even, the humour was just pushed in just because it can or misplaced. And I agree with Manohla, who said: “But just when you think it might get too heavy, Minny starts vacuuming a stuffed bear for some laughs.”

In short, I recommend this movie to any movie enthusiast. It isn’t as in-depth as a documentary but gives a good overview of the life of a black maid in the South, all while in the ’60s. Actor for Minny, Octavia Spencer, even won an Oscar for her performance in this movie, as Best Supporting Actress.

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