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Black Facts for November 28th

1998 - Stanford, John (1938-1998)

John Stanford was the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools from 1995 until his untimely death from leukemia in 1998.  He was born in Darby, Pennsylvania   on the outskirts of Philadelphia and graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  He joined the U.S. Army in 1961, and after 30 years of service he retired as a major general.  Stanford then went to work as county manager in Fulton County, Georgia which includes the city of Atlanta.  

In July 1995, after being recruited by the Seattle School Board, he assumed the job of superintendent becoming the first non-educator to fill this position.  Calling himself the children’s crusader he vowed to keep schools safe, to implement exit exams students must pass before promotion and to make principals the CEOs of their buildings.  

Stanford’s personal charisma brought positive attention to Seattle schools. He promoted a community-wide “reading offensive” that prompted the donation of thousands of books to school libraries. His plan to make principals the CEOs was embraced by a major business which made a donation to help train them in a new leadership institute.  A former chairman of a grocery-store chain committed to spending millions of dollars to create a special program at T.T. Minor Elementary School.  

It was his feeling that a controlled choice program for racial balance did not serve minority students.  At his urging, the school district abandoned race-based busing in 1996, replacing it with magnet schools and school choices within neighborhoods.

His announcement in April 1998 that he had been diagnosed with leukemia brought concern and sadness to the Seattle community.  After two rounds of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant, he died on November 28, 1998.  Thousands attended his memorial and his leadership was memorialized with the establishment of the John Stanford International School, one of the programs he founded.

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1960 - Richard Wright

Richard Nathaniel Wright was a famous author and poet of the 20th century. He was born on September 4, 1908 in Mississippi and raised by his mother, as his father had left the family when Wright was 6 years old. His mother also suffered from a stroke, as a result of which Wright had to go live with his uncle for some time. After being reunited with his mother, they moved to Jackson, Mississippi in order to live with his grandmother. By the age of 12, he had not even finished a single year of schooling. In Jackson, he was enrolled in public school where he excelled and was selected as class valedictorian. The principal tried to manipulate him into giving a pre prepared speech, and even tried to get his uncle to change his mind but Wright refused to oblige and gave his own speech, the way he wanted. He only ended up studying till 9th grade due to financial pressures.

He took a deep interest in reading and writing, and would spend hours at the library, borrowing books on a white classmate’s stolen card as blacks were not allowed to use the public libraries back then. He published his first story at the age of 15 in a local African American newspaper. In 1927, he moved to Chicago hoping that he would be able to get his stories published there. Here he undertook a series of odd jobs. After being fired from his job as a postal clerk, he was faced with utter poverty. He joined a local organization called “John Reed Clubs” which led him to became involved with the Communist party. He formally joined their ranks in 1933. He continued to write and also joined the Federal Writers’ Project. He published numerous poems for the party as well.

In Chicago, Richard Wright published his first novel called “Cesspool” and then a story by the name of “Big Boy Leaves Home”. He also served as the editor for a Communist publication called “Left Front” as well as being a contributor to “The New Masses” magazine. He then had a falling out with the communist party and moved to New York in 1937. He became one of the editors at a newspaper

1901 - William Hooper Councill’s Letter to the White People of Alabama, 1901

Most scholars of today imagine Booker T. Washington as the major accommodationist and black political conservative of the era.  There were others including Professor William Hooper Councill, the founder and  first President of the Huntsville Normal School which today is Alabama A.A & M University.  Councill founded the school in 1875, six years before Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee in South Central Alabama, and led the school until his death in 1909.  In the public letter below written on November 28, 1901, Councill outlines his views regarding the recently passed Alabama Constitution which effectively denied the vote to its African American citizens.  Couched in the language of deference, Councill, nonetheless, protests the new level of denial of rights to blacks in the state and the language of racial hate that accompanied that denial.

I have served you in slavery and in freedom for over half a century.  I have stood with you for “good government” for a quarter of a century.  As all of past life has been devoted to your service and to the welfare of my race, I believe that you will grant me a hearing now.

I love Alabama.  I have been true to her at home and abroad.  I have never breathed one work against her.  I have all along trusted her white people.  I revere the names of her long lines of noble sons with untarnished honor, who scorned wrong and hate injustice. Their faith in right gave birth to your Confederate monument which stands on Capitol Hill representing what they regarded as truth.  But today, I am alarmed! I tremble for the future of my people in Alabama, unless you come to our rescue.  

The recent [political] campaign was one of bitterness and abuse of my people.  Many of the public speakers did not appeal to the highest sentiment in man, but held up the Negro in a manner to make the white masses hostile to him.  With all your best efforts for many years to come, it will be hard to undo the harm which was done to my race by the campaign into which was put so much unkind feeling.  Not

1987 - Brawley, Tawana Glenda (1972– )

Tawana Brawley is an African American woman from Wappinger’s Falls, New York, who became known when she was 15 years old in 1987 for wrongly accusing four white men for brutally raping her in Dutchess County.

On November 28, 1987, Brawley, who had been missing for four days, was found seemingly unconscious in a garbage bag outside her family’s former apartment. With burned and torn clothes, she was covered in feces and had racial slurs written on her body. Brawley explained that she was abducted by car, brought to the woods, and then sexually abused and forced into oral sex. Brawley indicated one of the men who assaulted her was a white cop.

The allegations divided New York City and much of the state, as racial tensions had been growing from recent cases including a white mob attacking three black teens in Queens a year earlier. The Brawley family retained two attorneys, Alton H. Maddox Jr., and C. Vernon Mason. They also made Rev. Al Sharpton a key advisor. Brawley’s family and supporters continuously asserted that Brawley had been raped and rallies were held through the nation seeking justice for the teenager.  

A week after Brawley was found, Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr. was found dead in his apartment. Brawley’s advisors believed Crist was a suspect, along with Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones, who provided an alibi for Christ, and Scott Patterson, a friend of Crist and Pagones. Without proof, Brawley’s lawyers accused them of kidnapping, abusing, and raping Brawley.

After a seven-month investigation, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley’s accusations were false and she had not been abducted or the victim of racial and sexual assault. Police reports, medical examinations, and more than 100 testimonies led to conclusions that Brawley’s story was fabricated.

Evidence presented to the grand jury showed Brawley hid in her apartment during her disappearance. She also self-inflicted,  potentially with an accomplice, her injuries and condition including crawling into the