Thanks to President Obama, new attitudes about the Cuban embargo and the growing clout of Cuban millennials, the Cold War policies that kept Americans away from Cuba are changing. Visits to the island nation are now an option, as is the legal purchase of a good Cuban cigar.
Black folk thought so, too. Of course that happened decades before Fidel Castro. In 1939, the Baltimore Afro-American broke an interesting story of racial discrimination. Pan Am Airlines, according to the story, was charging black travelers to Cuba an additional $200. Why? The airline was just doing its part.
Back then, conventional wisdom was to keep Cuba’s hotels as racially segregated as possible. Thus, the airline came up with the not-so-bright idea of charging black travelers more money to discourage them from visiting Cuba. True story!
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Bad press and a budding war effort forced Pan-Am to stop the practice. Pan-Am went on to become the first airline to sign non-discrimination contracts with black-owned travel agencies.
Sources:A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow by N.D.B. Connolly University of Chicago Press, 2014 p. 111 and “Cuba Welcomes US Tourists, Blames Airline for Jim Crow” Baltimore Afro-American July 13, 1940; and “Pan American Line Boasts of Race Equality” Chicago Defender Feb. 16, 1946
“It is not safe in the republican form of government that clannishness should exist either by compulsory or voluntary reason. It is not good for the government, and it is not good for the individual.” — T. Thomas Fortune
In 1908, William B. Sawyer arrived in Miami. A physician who became a wealthy landlord, a hotel owner and a crusader against tuberculosis in South Florida, Sawyer often offered sage advice over one of his favorite pastimes — checkers.
“In his more quiet moments, Sawyer enjoyed passing the time playing checkers with other men on the front porch of his doctor’s office in Colored Town. Between jumps, according to observers many years later, Sawyer would encourage his friends and neighbors to pool their money, buy land and “become taxpayers.” Sawyer likely explained how owning property allowed colored people to vote in “freeholder” elections. The names of new black deed holders were also printed in the newspaper every year, serving as public recognition of the Negro’s economic discipline.”
On December 12, 2000, just one day after attorneys made their arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore, the High Court issued a ruling that made Texas Gov. George W.. Bush. the 43rd president of the United States.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince and her colleagues had ruled earlier in the controversial election to hold a recount of some of the contested ballots in Florida.
Vice President Al Gore appeared to have the votes to win Florida, but Bush surged ahead in a very close race. The candidate with the most votes would win Florida’s 29 electoral votes and the presidency.
Quince and a majority of her colleagues on the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the recount to ease mounting tensions. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state court decision, ending the count and the election.
“Even though the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overruled what we had said, I’m still very proud of how this Court handled itself. I think we did exactly what courts are required to do. But I also am very proud of the fact that the people of this state and of this country accepted the final product, whether we agree with it or not.”
“I learned to drive an automobile during that first summer, a Hupumobile. After two attempts and two failures, I passed the driver’s exam and secured my license. But, I found it next to impossible to keep my mind on the road when I drove. I would drive all around town in first gear, a trail of exhaust following behind. before long my driving became notorious. No one in his right mind would ride with me. When I took burial ceremonies at the cemetery, cars would line up — all of them full to capacity — while my five passenger car stood empty, save for me, the driver.”
“In 1947, wooden shotgun shacks still made up nearly 80 percent of all the homes in [Miami’s] Colored Town. Other kinds of wood construction continued to house black folk through Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.”
“In late 1833, William Pope DuVal resigned as governor of Florida. During his twelve years in office, he had turned a territory at peace into a swamp of injustice, ethnic hatred and smoldering violence. He did not intend to be the one in charge when the chickens came home to roost.”
Mary McLeod Bethune made this day a red-letter date in American history for black women. On December 5, 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) as an “organization of organizations” to represent the concerns of Black women, here in America and abroad.
The NCNW gave black women the chance to realize their aspirations for social justice and human rights as the organization took on job discrimination, barriers to voting rights and fought for anti-lynching laws. Today, the NCNW consists of roughly 36 national African American women’s organizations and more than 230 community and campus based sections. It’s mission remains to advocate, empower and lead nearly three million women , their families and communities.
Bethune, of course, was a noted educator, founder of Bethune Cookman College, and perhaps the most influential black woman of her time. The NCNW is just one of the many accomplishments that are part of Bethune’s rich legacy.
“Men may concede that public sentiment, and not law, is the cause of the discrimination of which we justly complain and the resultant disabilities under which we labor. If this be so, then such public sentiment needs penal correction, and should be regulated by law. Let it be decidedly understood, by appropriate enactment, that the individual rights, privileges, and immunities of the citizens, irrespective of color, to all facilities afforded by corporations, licensed establishments, common carriers, and institutions supported by the public, are sacred, under the law, and that violations of the same will entail punishment safe and certain. We will then hear no more of a public sentiment that feeds upon the remnants of the rotten dogmas of the past, and seeks a vitality in the exercise of a tyranny both cheap and unmanly.” — Florida Congressman Josiah T. Walls addressing the Civil Rights Act of 1875