Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr. captures the life of a Civil Rights genius. Dr. Cleveland Sellers had a vision of social improvement in the lives of African Americans and marginalized peoples. He spent his life fighting for that improvement through social action, political action and the academy. This book captures that phenomenal life story.
Sellers was inspired at the age of 10 by the tragic murder of Emmett Till. He became an active protester as early as his teenage years in Denmark, SC. Later he went to Howard University, although he never finished he cultivated his desired approach to social reform. Sellers approach was aimed at helping blacks and marginalized peoples recognize their rights and abilities as full American citizens. This entailed taking political power through voting, pursuing entrepreneurial ventures and not accepting the pervasive narrative of inadequacy given to blacks by broader American society since chattel slavery. Sellers “black power” approach is chronicled through his movement as SNCC National program secretary, voter registration drive / community organizer, Orangeburg Massacre scapegoat, University professor and President. (among other things) This book also explains the mischaracterization of “black power’ and why this concept was so misunderstood.
This book reads like a “Who’s Who” is American Civil Rights History. Cleveland Sellers worked beside a list of noteworthy civil rights leaders. That list includes Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Nikki Giovanni, John Lewis, H. Rap Brown and others.
My only critique of the book is that it does not get into the nuance of Seller’s strength as an administrative organizer. One of the reasons Dr. Seller’s name is not as readily recognizable among civil rights heroes is due to the fact that his position was more in the background fighter during his time with SNCC. However, he was no less significant. As the SNCC National Secretary (similar to a CFO) he oversaw the operational task of the movement. I felt like the author could have more to unpack the nuance in those operational challenges and thereby provide a road map for similar contemporary movements that interact with this work.
In summary this book captures the extraordinary life of the Civil Rights leader Dr. Cleveland Sellers. It shares Sellers approach to black empowerment which literally begins in the womb (through being born to progressive parents) and extends into the end of his tenure as the President of Voorhees College in his home of Denmark, SC. The book interacts with and explains the heart and soul of “black power” as seen though the life of Sellers. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the life of Dr. Sellers, the American Civil Rights Movement or American values.
In South Carolina State University: A Black Land-Grant College in Jim Crow America former SC State Professor William Hine argues “No public institution in South Carolina has meant more to the state’s African American residents than the school that became South Carolina State University.” This book lays out that argument through looking at every dimension of SC State culture from its inception (and even before in the way it was birthed out of Claflin University) in 1896 to the end of the official end of the civil rights era in 1988.
Professor Hine examines every SC State president from Thomas Miller to Maceo Nance. He gives historical context to the growth and development of the campus. He includes major points of importance such as the stories behind buildings/properties named after stakeholders, gender inequity, the former farming extension program, the former law school, state allocations, student and community protests (including The Orangeburg Massacre), extracurricular activities among other things. He also introduces key figures in SC State history such as Maceo Nance, Emma McCain, Fred Moore, Lewis McMillian, Louise K. Cawley, Ernest E. Just, Benjamin Mays and many more.
My only critique of the book is the fact that Professor Hine calls out the problem of strict moral regulations without interacting with the psychological effects of why they were enforced. In the epilogue Hine writes… “Unfortunately their campus was not an oasis where they could learn in an atmosphere of open expression and creative inquiry. Instead they too often encountered arbitrary authority and mandatory regulations that severely curtailed freedom of thought and action.” While I personally side with his laissez-faire approach to leadership there has to be an empathy applied to leaders (specifically black leaders) in the Jim Crow South. I would argue that one of the byproducts of living in a culture of white supremacy is the illusion of black exceptionalism. Throughout American History (even to this day) within the black community there is the fallacy of respectability politics. (ie. “If you’re nicer, smile more and accept more mess the white man will love you more and you will be given more access to equality” ) I would argue that the strict codes of discipline are a microcosm of a deeper issue that blacks have had to survive while being under white supremacy. “How should we lead and teach ourselves?” While I think he does good job of similarly interacting on the nature of the physcology of colorism. (in the end of the preface) I would have like to seen him interact more with the undergirding tension that creates the culture of autocratic rule within black leadership and systems that lead black people in America.
In summary, this book is a well researched piece of work that can be used for a textbook or a casual piece of literature. Professor Hine engages every facet of South Carolina State University history from the university’s inception to the end of formalized segregation. While he didn’t discuss the psychology of black respectability politics he did interact with much of the nuance of South Carolina State life and culture. I would highly recommend this book to a interested in learning about SC State, Orangeburg or Black South Carolina History.
“I’m sorry but the worst thing about this job has to be changing the diapers. Eeeeuwugh!” Chris said as he shook his head and grimaced. He then smiled and said “and of course I’m implying that they were wearing diapers when they delivered the goods.”
“Hmmmmm” Sheryl pondered “yeah I see your point, but when you wipe up patients at least it’s over in a couple of minutes…When you have to deal with the families, you’re dealing with crap even after your patient is dead”
Chris laughed as he wiped his mouth with his Applebee’s napkin and responded “Ok you got me there. Speaking of interesting families, how did the reading of the Gregg’s will go?”
“Honestly, I am still trying to process it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I figured David’s father would be a generous man, but I didn’t expect this…”
“I don’t think one black person can speak for all black people,”
…said my Christian brother of a lighter hue (“Broken Frames” code for Caucasian) as he chuckled nervously.
He then asked “Do you?”
At that moment everything in my body wanted to exclaim “YEPPP!”
However, after prayer, time, and critical assessment I had to partially agree with him. (If I fully agreed with him I would not have written this blog. I will elaborate on my position later in this post.) We live in an era of a black US President, black fortune 500 CEO’s, black skate boarders, and white rappers. We also live in an age where we are inundated with caricatures of blackness through reality television, commercial rap lyrics, and media outlets which seek to profit through using senseless stereotypes of black people. As a result there are many popular voices that speak for “all” black people which often insufficiently represent “all” black people.
So, in order to best explain “What it means to be black today” I conferred with some of the popular voices in Black American Journalism, Academia, Punditry and Satire. In this blog I did my best to do what Adler and Doren call synoptically read Disintegration by Eugene Robinson, How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston, New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness by Toure.
For most African Americans today, I would argue the word “Uncle Tom” outranks even the “N” word as the most despised racial epithet. It is a label that pins its recipient with the billet of cowardice, treason, and fraud.
Peyton vs. Eli Manning
Marsha vs. Jan Brady
Riley vs. Huey Freeman
Sibling Rivalries are always the best right?….
Two or more people joined by birth in the same family. Although both endure struggle in their respective journeys, each individual’s struggle is uniquely different.
In each of the different ministry contexts in which I have been able to lead I have encountered different forms of the same rivalry.
My blog site tagline is “Clear vision through the broken lens of race, fast food, singleness, and my own inadequacy.”
I will soon get into the specifics of my broken lens or frames through future blog post. However, when I refer to my “clear vision,” I am referring to my Christian worldview…Yes, I am a Christian.