The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law | The Map of Shame is now interactive!

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law | The Map of Shame is now interactive!.


Variations on an Explosive Theme

Variations on an Explosive Theme

“Porgy and Bess”: Excerpts from the New York City Opera’s version of “Porgy and Bess,” produced by Sherwin M. Goldman. Includes “Summertime,” “Bess, You Is My Woman,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and others.

Published: January 21, 2012

WHEN George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” — arguably the most important piece of American music written in the 20th century — first opened on Broadway in 1935, the opera’s libretto was littered with a word now shunned as an antiblack slur. The African-American residents of Catfish Row, the only slightly imaginary block in Charleston, S.C., where the opera is set, used it liberally, and so of course did the white characters during their occasional menacing visits.

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Ray Albert (as Porgy) and Wilhelmenia Fernandez (as Bess) during a 1978 Houston Opera production at the Palais des Congrès de la Porte Maillot in Paris.

None of the opera’s early critics seemed to notice; whether black reviewer or white, they primarily critiqued “Porgy and Bess” as a theatrical experience, focusing in particular on the highly original way Gershwin fused blues tonalities, spirituals and other elements of African-American music into a full-length opera. It had never been done before. Some would say it’s never been done since.

In the early 1940s, however, during a “Porgy and Bess” revival — which turned the opera into a more commercially viable musical, not unlike the current Broadway revival starring Audra McDonald — a singer named Etta Moten, hired to play Bess, refused to utter the word. Ira Gershwin, George’s brother, who co-wrote the lyrics with DuBose Heyward, revised the line. By 1951, according to Howard Pollack, the author of “George Gershwin: His Life and Work,” Ira Gershwin had “totally eliminated the word from the text, replacing it with such terms as tin horns, dummy, low-life, suckers, buzzard, andbaby.” That year, the producer Goddard Lieberson, who had just recorded “Porgy and Bess” for Columbia Records, said, “Sometimes, happily, times change, and with the times, ethical values. It seemed proper to eliminate certain words in the lyrics which, in racial terms, had proven offensive.”


The Trip Calculator of Another Time

The Trip Calculator of Another Time

Published: January 19, 2012

BEFORE GIS, before GPS, before Google Earth, there was the milestone. These heavy markers, inscribed with distances to City Hall or other locations, went up in series as early as 1769, and once numbered 40 or 50 in all. About two dozen now survive, mostly in museums. Even at several feet high and weighing 200 pounds, the markers have proved remarkably difficult to track.

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In 1910, a milestone dating to 1741 still stood at 82nd Street and 18th Avenue in Brooklyn. It is now at the Brooklyn Historical Society. New York once had as many as 50 milestones; today most have vanished.

In 1769 the city’s Common Council found it prudent to erect 14 milestones leading away from City Hall (then at Wall and Nassau Streets), up Broadway and over the Kingsbridge crossing of what is now the Harlem River. Alexander Hamilton would have looked for the ninth milestone, near what is now 133rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, when he was driving downtown from Hamilton Grange, the house he built in 1802 near 143rd Street. This stone stood until the 1990s, reading “1769 9 Miles from N York.”


African-American – News

African-American – News January 22, 2012

Film Friday: 'The Human Stain' directed by Robert Benton
Film Friday: ‘The Human Stain’ directed by Robert Benton (TheCelebrityCafe)
A few years ago Oprah Winfrey had a show about the phenomenon known as passing. Before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, passing was often done by light-skinned blacks who could pass as white.
Gingrich confronted on race, agrees to meet with Sharpton (Free Republic)
Newt Gingrich was confronted by a black man outside Tommy’s Country Ham House, who questioned him on his comments on having poor children work as janitors.

2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Parade (In Paris Texas)
The Martin Luther King Jr. Parade took place today, Saturday, January 21st. The rallying point was over on Martin Luther King and 20th Street Northeast, right by Martin Luther King Church of Christ.

Study: Racial Disparities in Bankruptcy Filings (KSFO-AM San Francisco)
Racial disparities in bankruptcy filings last year show African-Americans are more likely to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy than people from other races, says a new study.

Bay area eager to see Red Tails movie about Tuskegee airmen (WTSP-TV Saint Petersburg)
Brandon, Florida – An action packed movie with ties to the Bay area opened across the country and in theaters in our area on Friday.

Supreme Court unanimously strikes TX redistricting map (Daily Kos)
This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the above interim Texas congressional redistricting map , which had been drawn by a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, stating that the judges shouldn’t have started from scratch but rather should have deferred more to the map … (more)