Tag: black History

A Wonderful Historic Moment for Black College Baseball

By Michael March 13, 2021 0

Why the Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic Matters?

A faint breeze slightly chilled the night air, the sky tinted ocean blue, and patches of small fluffy clouds lingered in the afterglow of dusk, hinted at the artistry of the Divine.

Down below on a baseball diamond where Triple-A professionals dream of getting a call up to the big league are two historic Black universities, Florida A & M University and Grambling State University. Each is seeking their first win since the pandemic derailed their season a year ago, prepared to do battle in the first Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic. read more

The Harvey Book Collection Makes Perfect Holiday Gifts

By Michael November 12, 2020 0

“Son, you write with a wicked pen. I just wish I could get you on my side.” K. B. Young, Dean of Students at Tuskegee Institute, once said to future Award-winning author, Harold Michael Harvey.

The year was 1973. Harvey, a political science major, wrote a weekly column in the Campus Digest, the student newspaper, and defended students before the Institute’s Judicial Board. read more

Book On C. T. Vivian Sparks Reflections

By Michael September 15, 2020 0

My C. T. Vivian Story: A Powerful Flame That Burned Brightly ( Harold Michael Harvey, Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2020) sparked reflections from Richard Keil, the founder of the Tubman Museum of African American Arts, History, and Culture in Macon, Georgia.

Keil’s human rights legacy began in the 1950s at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. read more

Book Launch Feature Reading on Integration

By Michael September 18, 2019 0

September 1965, this young man and 12 others integrated Lanier Jr. High.

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, from 6-9pm at the Douglass Theatre in Macon, Georgia, the older man will read from his memoir Freaknik Lawyer about the horror he felt that day, 54 years ago.

“I grew up a lot my first day at school with white kids,” Harvey said. read more

A Woman’s History Month Salute to Elaine Harvey

By Michael March 13, 2018 4

Today, I salute Elaine Harvey. When she turned 18 years old, she asked her dad if he would take her into town so she could register to vote. He did not want to bring the rath of the KKK onto his family farm in Middle Georgia.

Thus, he refused her request, with a stern warning that she was not to go into town “fooling with them white folks.” read more

Tuscaloosa More than a Powerhouse Football Team

By Michael February 25, 2018 0

Have you ever thought about Tuscaloosa, Alabama without your thoughts going immediately to the powerhouse football team whose motto is “Roll Tide Roll?”

If you have, you would be one of the rare people on the planet who does not associate Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama. For most people Tuscaloosa is visions of Bama on any given Saturday in the fall and usually extending into the first week of January, where they dominate the college football playoffs.

I have to admit it, until a year and a half ago whenever I thought about Tuscaloosa, Alabama, two thoughts came to mind.

One, a childhood memory of the Alabama Governor George C. Wallace standing in the door of the admissions office at the University of Alabama in June 1963.

Ostensibly, Wallace sought to deny admission to James Hood and Evelyn Malone. They were the first two African Americans to seek admission after Autherine Lucy was admitted in February 1956 and  was later suspended because the university alleged it could not guarantee her safety after riots broke out on campus.

The other is a childhood memory that extends through this day: visions of Paul “Bear” Bryant, Joe Willie Namath, Johnny Musso, Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and a host of other coaches and players who have defined college football in the image of Bama.

Then a year and a half ago, I received a telephone call from Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the President and CEO of the International Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He wanted to know if I could drop what I was doing and meet him in his office on Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta within the hour. Steele had a friend visiting him from his hometown of Tuscaloosa he wanted  me to meet.

I do not receive calls everyday from civil rights leaders who follow the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so I stopped in mid-sentence of the manuscript that I was working on and drove down to “Sweet Auburn” Avenue.

When I arrived, Steele introduced me to Ruby J. Simon, a Black native of Tuscaloosa, who recently had retired from the Tuscaloosa Public Schools System.

Although, I knew that Steele, George Curry, the first Black sports writer at Sports Illustrated and the archivist James Horton were from Tuscaloosa, it had never occurred to me that Tuscaloosa had a viable Black community.

Oh my gosh!

I was in for an education. Simon told me about her interest in publishing a book about the Black community in Tuscaloosa.

Since I had edited and published a book for Dr. Steele, through my publishing house (Easier to Obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights, Charles Steele, Jr., Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2016), Simon asked if I would edit her manuscript and serve as publisher.

Frankly, I had little knowledge of Black people in Tuscaloosa outside of the few that I knew personally, so I did not think that there was much there; yet I agreed to read the manuscript and get back to her.

She presented me with a manuscript titled “Ruby’s Chronicles.”

Immediately, I became fascinated with Simon’s research and her story on the legacy and history of Black Tuscaloosa which predated the creation of the University of Alabama.

Simon tells her story through the lenses of two churches founded in what is known as the “Big Bend” Community in Tuscaloosa. Both churches, one Baptist (Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church) and one Methodist (Beautiful Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church) were founded in 1870. They originally held services in the same “bush abhor,” splitting into the two dominations when their numbers grew too large for the bush arbor services.

I was struck by the oral histories Simon had collected, some of the oral histories had been handed down since 1865 on the very day that certain enslaved people in “Big Bend” had been notified they were now free. Had Simon not written her book, this account of the day freedom came to the enslaved in Tuscaloosa would have, in a few years, disappeared from human memory.

We went to work to fashion Ruby’s Chronicles into a volume that tells the story of the indigenous inhabitants and Africans who sustained the majority culture that has come to be known as Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

For in the beginning was the Spirit. The Spirit uttered a sound. The sound formed the Black Warrior River and caused it to bend around a land mass later to be named Tuscaloosa for the dreaded Warrior who had Native and African DNA.

The Spirit caused the river to bend around the Crimson Tide long before the first football was punted, long before the first forward pass, long before the first half-back ran around left end, long before Paul “Bear” Bryant, long before, Joe Willie Namath, much longer before Nick Saban yells “Roll Tide, Roll!”

Simon has recorded the history of the Tuscaloosa that was Tuscaloosa before football was invented. It is a look inside the Big Bend Community where on Saturdays in the fall the Crimson Tide rolls around Tuscaloosa. It is a look at the descendants of the former enslaved who sustained Tuscaloosa during the time of King Cotton when pigskin was synonymous with pork rinds and not football.

Yes, Tuscaloosa, Alabama is more than the sum total of a powerhouse college football team. In the pages of Big Bend: Where the Tide Rolls Arounds Tuscaloosa,you will meet the men and women who settled in the Big Bend Community in Tuscaloosa following the Civil War. Their stories are told by the descendants who still reside on the land their fore parents worked during the period of enslavement, then as sharecroppers and later as civic and government leaders.

Cascade Publishing House is proud to present to the world, Ruby J. Simon and her work Big Bend: Where the Tide Rolls Arounds Tuscaloosa.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Speaking Truth To Power From The Slave Auction Block

By Michael January 22, 2018 4

Speaking truth to power is an often used cliche when a person hits a cord of truth on behalf of the powerless. I have often been encouraged to stand up and speak truth to power. Usually, I do not have a problem articulating my opinion on the major topics of the day.

Perhaps this is because many years ago my mother taught me to hate injustice with a passion. And so at great peril to liberty and finances, I have never shied away from expressing my opinion on issues of injustice and inequality.

Other than my mother’s encouragement to look power in the eyes and tell them the truth, I have often wondered where the courage to do this emanated.

Thanks to an enterprising correspondent for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, I now know that I have the genetic disposition to speak truth to power.

In 1889, an Ohio newspaper, The Salem Daily News, ran a story about my great great grandfather Dempsey Clark and his brother Bristow Clark. As the story goes, Dempsey Clark was born in 1825 in North Carolina. About 25 years later he finds himself standing on a slave auction block in Hawkinsville, Georgia with his brother Bristow and “several thousand slaves [who] were brought in by the slave traders.”

A rumor circulated among the men and women in bondage that a particular planter in the area was mean and treated his workers poorly.

The Clark brothers stood erect, side by side, on the auction block in the full embodiment of their Africanness. The dreaded planter, a white man named Mr. Coley, prepared to bid for them. The Clark brothers, speaking truth to power, interrupted the auctioneer:

“We don’t like you Mr. Coley and you need not buy us, cause we ain’t gonna live with you.”

“Oh well,” Mr. Coley replied, “I got plenty of dogs.”

When the transaction was completed Dempsey and Bristow were sent to Mr. Coley’s plantation. On the third day, the Clark brothers headed for the woods. Mr. Coley sent his bloodhounds into the woods after them. They were captured, but on the trip back to Coley’s plantation, the Clark brothers escaped, again speaking truth to power, they swore they “would die before going back to Coley’s plantation.”

Mr. Coley was about as stubborn as the Clark brothers. He kept a team of “Negro hunters” with bloodhounds on the Clark brothers trail. Coley’s Negro hunters chased the Clarks “into the cypress jungle, and among the lagoons just below big creek near where the creek runs into the Okmulgee. The swamp was almost impenetrable, but the hunters followed their dogs and approached within fifty yards…”

Whereupon Dempsey and Bristow fired upon Coley’s Negro hunters and dogs. They gave up the chase for the evening and the Clarks descended further and further into the swamp. After three years of trying to capture them, Coley admitted that the Clark brothers had meant every word of the truth they had spoken to power from the slave auction block, and he sold them while they were still in the woods to a Mr. Brown of Houston County.

When the word got out in the county that Coley no longer had legal title to the Clark Brothers, they emerged from the swamp, walked into Hawkinsville under their own power and turned themselves into Mr. Brown.

They worked on Brown’s plantation without incident. In the early 1850s Dempsey Clark married Celia who gave him 12 children. In 1860, Celia gave birth to Lilly Clark my maternal grandmother’s mother. Eight months after Dempsey Clark died in 1893, Lilly Clark married Paul C. Coley and three years later gave birth to my grandmother Puella Coley. In 1985, my wife Cynthia gave birth to our son, and to honor Puella, we named him Coley M. Harvey.

In 1889 Dempsey Clark was considered one of the wealthiest Negroes in Georgia. He owned 600 acres of land and various livestock.

Sometime after Reconstruction, Bristow moved to Colorado where he owned “large mining interests. He never came back to the south to live.

Now you know why I am the way I am, speaking truth to power without trembling or fear, but with power, and a sound mind willing to bear witness to the truth. It’s in the genes.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com



Integrating Lanier Jr. High School for Boys

By Michael February 3, 2017 0

Editor’s Note: This piece was written in 2009 on the 40th anniversary of the integration of Lanier Junior High School in Macon, Georgia.

I read with interest Tom Johnson’s (former head of CNN) plans for the Miller-Lanier 50th class reunion.  Mr. Johnson invited the 1959 class at Ballard-Hudson to lunch.  Fifty years ago this group could not sit together at the soda fountain in the old Davidson’s Department store in downtown Macon, Georgia.

It was such an unthinkable notion; no one would have bothered to daydream about it.  The law prevented Negroes from sitting with white people in public.  If the kids had such a thought, surely their parents would have rushed in and pointed out the social mores prohibiting it.

Thus Tom Johnson and his classmates left their youth behind and went off to college, family, and careers without knowing much about Negroes their age; save perhaps, kids of domestics, who worked in their homes or in some other menial jobs relegated to Negroes in 1959 Middle Georgia.

Johnson’s class reunion got me thinking about my own date with destiny.  This past June marks the 40th anniversary of the Lanier class of 1969.  This class was the first to see white boys and black boys go to school together for four consecutive years.

This experiment began in 1964, when Winifred Anderson and Vernon Pitts enrolled in Willingham and Lanier senior high schools respectively.  Anderson, now a doctor and Pitts currently an attorney integrated the senior high schools as seniors.   I watched them navigate their senior year with their heads held high.  Little did I know I would be in their shoes a year later?

Yet, the 1969 classes at the formerly old white high schools validated the efficacy of integration.    My class culminated the “freedom of choice” plan that permitted Negroes to attend Lanier-Miller, McEvoy-Willingham and later Smith-Lassiter high schools. In the good old days, the white high schools were segregated by sex, while the Negro schools were co-educational.

It was the first class that had been together for four years.  It ended with several Negroes walking across the stage at the City Auditorium, in my case, with fist raised in the Black Power sign.  Why not pump the right fist in the air?  I had done what many said at my birth could not be done; I had just kicked Jim Crow in the seat of his pants.

During the spring of 1965, while completing my foray into the maze that 8th grade can be over at Ballard-Hudson Jr. High School, the principal, Robert Williams made an announcement.  It came during last period science class.

“Judge Boottle,” he said, “had just ruled any Negro student could elect under a ‘freedom of choice’ plan to attend an all white high school.”

A light went off inside my head.  I had day dreamed about wearing the blue and white colors of the Willingham Rams.  These day dreams begin when my family moved to Bibb County in 1960 and I begin to read in the old Macon Telegraph about the football team at Willingham. I did not think it was possible. Yet I daydreamed about it. I held onto this doubt even after learning that Winifred Anderson had enrolled in Willingham and graduated with his class.

When the bell sounded announcing the close of another school day, I ran the half mile trek to my house, rushed into the house to see my mom.  She was not inside the house.  I found her in the back yard hanging cloths on the cloth line.  Haplessly out of breathe, I blurted out Mr. Williams’ announcement and asked her if I could enroll in Willingham Jr. High School.  Without blinking or pausing to think about it, mom said yes!  I was on cloud nine.

Before I could shout for joy at a chance to attend Willingham, my brother Gerald found us in the back yard.  He had the look of excitement on his face and asked if he could enroll in Lanier Sr. High School.  Mom said yes to integration, but we had to attend the same school.  Gerald, a rising junior at Ballard-Hudson Sr. High School, had stayed behind at school a little longer and he and a group of friends had selected Lanier Sr. High.  Thus, a Lanier Poet, I became.

That summer was the last summer my teammates on the Westside Braves coached by Rev. James Jackson, made me feel like a part of the team.  It was perhaps one of my best summers at the bat.  I have always kept stats and the record records a .411 batting average with no homers but double digit doubles. Something happen after I stepped foot on the Lanier campus.  It was as if my childhood friends thought I was better than them or something weird like that.  I felt isolated at school by the white students and isolated in the community when I returned home from school.

But that is getting ahead of the story.  At summer’s end a local civic group sponsored a tutorial session in English and Math at Mercer University.  I came under the tutelage of Mary Wilder who ran the tutorial program.   I would later, as a journalist, cover Ms. Wilder’s exploits as a member of the Macon City Council and as Macon’s first female candidate for Macon Mayor.

Two days before the start of school in 1965 I visited with my grandmother at her cloth line.  She gave me a sage piece of advice that I carry in my heart today: “No matter what they say about you, no matter what they do to you, get your education son; because once you got your education baby, no one can take that away from you.”

Though rebuke, scorned and stripped no man has ever been able to take away the things I have learned in school or life.

Yet neither Ms. Wilder nor granny could have possibly prepared me for the first day at Lanier Jr. High School.

Gerald and I dressed in silence that first day of school in 1965.  If he was afraid, he hid it.  His seeming courage emboldens me.

Mom labored in silence to serve a breakfast of bacon, grits, eggs and toast.  She saw us off and quickly closed the door.  She had just sent her only progenitors off to integrate the public school system in Bibb County.  I have never asked her but I am sure she must have fallen on her knees and prayed.

Gerald and I walked up to Frank Everest’s house on Pio Nono Avenue, where the site of the Frank Johnson Recreation Center now stands.  Frank had a car and when Mrs. Everest had blessed our journey Gerald, Frank, and I believe Tommy Miller and I piled into Frank’s car.  We headed to school.  Frank kept the group loose by telling jokes.  We were laughing and unaware the history we were embarked upon.

Then we came to Henley Avenue and Napier.  They let me out of the car as I was the only one going to the junior high campus.  I walked down the street towards the horseshoe parking lot in front of the building.  I saw from a distance what I perceived at first blush to be a welcoming committee. Boy was I wrong.

As I drew closer to the entrance, I discovered to my horror, they did not come out to welcome me on my first day at a new school.  I began to discern the shouts of “two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.”  I turned my sight away from the rage and anger emanating from this sea of white faces.  My eyes looked away from the crowd, my mind blocking out the words of their shout.

A man came through the crowd.  To this day I do not know who he was.  I do not recall seeing him again.  He greeted me and took me through this gullet and into the principal’s office.  My first day at a new school and already I am being escorted to the principal’s office.  I sat and waited.

No one spoke to me other than to initially ask for my name.  “Harold Harvey,” I trembled and said.  About five minutes later one by one the other black boys began to arrive and were brought into the room.  In came Ernest “Sonny” Lester, Kenneth Nixon, Sylvester Royal, James Thomas, Larry Carson, Alvin Russell, Hamp Davis, James Mason and Carlton Haywood.

When the officials were able to clear the kids from the front of the school, we were each escorted to our respective home rooms.  I was assigned to Mrs. Chapman.

Thus begin this social experiment to see if blacks and whites could en mass attend school together.  After umpteenth racial slurs, a few fist fights, and a burned school building; we emerged 40 years ago from the turbulent 60’s and set our course for the advancement of race relations.

Tom Johnson’s journey has almost come full circle.  It’s high time we get to know each other.  Sitting down at lunch and enjoying a glass of sweet southern ice tea is an excellent way to let the good times roll.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.