Tag: racism

'The Negro Motorists' Green Book'

‘Green Book’ Film Boosts Sales for Old Picture Book

The Academy Award-winning Green Book has certainly been making its fair share of green. The film’s earnings have surpassed $100 million internationally. Why such high earnings? Let’s just say if you’d seen the movie already, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. In addition to an incredible performance from Viggo Mortensen (surely you’ve seen any Lord of the Rings movie) and Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali, the film juxtaposes humor and the weight of America’s bigoted history to tell a deeply nuanced story. Though the film juggles many complex elements—historical context, race relations, interracial power dynamics, and queer sexuality—little ever slips.

While some have raised the question of whether or not the film propagates the white-savior complex, one thing is certain: it also raises awareness of a lesser-known facet of American history.

 

'The Green Book' film artwork
IMAGE VIA THE RINGER

 

Long-standing school curriculums have largely neglected the real ‘green book:’ an African-American motorist’s manual published by Victor Hugo Green for thirty consecutive years, beginning in 1936. The guide enabled travellers to avoid inconvenient or unsafe situations in which they may be refused service; threatened; attacked; or expelled from “sundown towns,” whites-only segregated municipalities. 10,000 such towns existed as late as the 1960s, and, despite stereotypes, these towns weren’t geographically limited to the South. Bronxville, NY and Levittown, NY are just two examples of the many segregated towns above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Safety concerns for African-Americans may be a part of history, but they aren’t a thing of the past. In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel warning for the entire state of Missouri after a series of racially-motivated attacks and alarming new statistics, which revealed African-American motorists were 75% more likely to be stopped and searched throughout the state.

In bringing awareness to this uglier part of America’s history, the film also brought renewed attention to a 2010 children’s book on the same subject: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey and Gwen Strauss.

 

 

'Ruth and the Green Book' by Gwen Strauss
IMAGE VIA USA TODAY

 

In November 2018, the month of Green Book‘s theatrical release, Ruth and the Green Book saw a 233% spike in profits compared to the November of the previous year. With the recent awards-season attention to the film, these soaring profits have continued, with a sustained profit increase of over double the amount of the previous year. Publicist Lindsay Matvick explains the phenomenon: “So many people didn’t know about it before the movie came out. That’s why we’re seeing such a spike in sales. People want to talk about it with their children, and this book hits the sweet spot.”

Ramsey, co-author of Ruth and the Green Book, says he wrote the book when it became clear that few people knew about the ‘green book.’ He himself hadn’t known until a funeral for a family friend, during which one mourner said they hadn’t driven such a long distance since a bygone era when the guide was widely used. Though he’s proud to have followed his dream and written this book on the subject, he looks forward to the day when his children’s book won’t be the only one to handle the important topic.

 

Featured Image Via CBS News.

George R.R. Martin

‘Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin ‘Ashamed’ of White-Washing of Original ‘Nightflyers’ Film, Fights Back in New Adaptation

Last Friday 13th, George R.R. Martin, the mastermind and wordsmith behind the famed Game of Thrones franchise, told-all during a panel at the annual Thriller-author convention, Thrillerfest.

 

During an open-panel interview, Martin spoke candidly about his past struggles with novels that didn’t sell, the wild nights of sci-fi author conventions during the 1970’s, his love for H.P. Lovecraft, and more. Martin spoke in such an open, friendly, and conversational manner that it would’ve been impossible not to be completely charmed and feel as though you were listening to stories from a close friend in your living room, as opposed to listening to an insanely famous bestselling author inside of an audience-packed ballroom.

 

george rr martin

George R.R. Martin at Thrillerfest 2018

 

During the discussion, Martin also delved into some controversy from his past, speaking openly and honestly about the prejudices that took place surrounding his 1985 novella, Nightflyers (which is currently being adapted as a SyFy series).

 

According to Martin, he wrote protagonist Melantha Jhirl with a very specific image in mind; as the name Melantha directly translates to black flower, Martin had only ever envisioned her as African American woman. However, in the same vein of many Hollywood film directors, when Martin received the book back from his editor with the new cover in place, he discovered something more-than-unsettling:

 

Nightflyers

via LW Currency

Clearly, the woman on the cover who is supposed to be portraying Melantha is nothing like the character herself; instead of acknowledging Martin’s descriptions of the protagonist he, himself, created in any way, the editor had decided to disregard Martin and choose a white female model to portray the lead. And, as if this total disregard for a character’s literal ethnicity wasn’t gross enough, when Martin pointed out how wrong it was to have a white woman on the cover, he was told

 

Well, you want your book to sell, don’t you? No one’s going to buy a book with a black woman on the cover.

 

Even Martin said that, although he protested, arguing with his editor and openly speaking about how wrong it was to white-wash Melantha, he was still a struggling writer who didn’t hold much power, and he wound up losing the fight. Still, he’s always wished that he could go back and protest even harder. Martin spoke of his regret at not pushing further for accurate representation:

 

I should have fought harder, I should have protested, but I didn’t… It’s bothered me ever since. I’ve been ashamed of it ever since.

 

So, the moment he got notice of the new SyFy adaptation currently in the works, he contacted the team behind it and said that they could take all the creative liberties they wanted with the story, his one and only requirement being: Melantha must be played by a woman of color. The team at SyFy agreed immediately, casting Jodie Turner-Smith in the lead role. 

 

Martin commented, “I’m pleased that that injustice has been resolved.”

 

It’s so vitally important for more popular figureheads to keep pushing forward toward diversity; the more we stand up, the more we will progress.

 

You can check out Nightflyers in Fall 2018.

 

Featured Image via Variety

Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give

Watch Angie Thomas Discuss Her Inspiration Behind ‘The Hate U Give’

The Hate U Give follows sixteen-year-old Starr after witnessing her unarmed best friend Khalil’s murder at the hands of a cop. The book has won the £5,000 Waterstones Book of the Year award. 

 

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and established to draw attention to the number of unarmed African Americans unlawfully killed by police, it takes its title from the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who said that the phrase Thug Life was an anagram for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”

 

 

In this interview, Angie Thomas discussed the inspiration behind her novel: the 2010 killing of Oscar Grant and numerous other high profile deaths of unarmed black people. Thomas credits Tupac with the book’s title, calling the rapper her favorite due to his activism both through his music and his life, the  same way Thomas hopes to use writing. 

 

The book is a New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the National Book Award last year, as well as winning the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction and the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Debut Goodreads Author. A film adaptation starring Amandla Sternberg is underway and is set for release later this year. 

 

Check out the full interview below!

 

 

Featured Image Via Washington – San Jose

Google doodle Carter G. Woodson

Meet Carter G. Woodson, the Man Behind Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson was a teacher, a scholar, an author and “the father of black history.” Here is what you need to know about the founder of what we now know as Black History Month. 

 

Born just ten years after the abolition of slavery, Woodson was the son of James and Eliza Riddle Woodson, who were former slaves. James had moved his family to West Virginia upon hearing that they were building a high school for black students.

 

As his family was large and poor, Woodson was not able to regularly attend school. Instead he taught himself much of the curriculum. He then worked as a miner which allowed him to devote several months a year to his education. 

 

He enrolled in high school at the age of twenty, where it took him not two years to earn his diploma. He became a teacher and then principal of Douglass High School. Through part time classes, he earned his Bachelor of Literature degree in 1903. Woodson was a school supervisor in the Philippines from 1903 to 1907. His quest for knowledge never slowed down, and Woodson went on to be awarded an A.B. and A.M. from the University of Chicago and a PhD in history from Harvard, where he was the second African American to receive a doctorate. He then became a professor at Howard University. 

 

Carter G. Woodson

Image Via African Americans for Humanism 

 

In response to the lack of research into African American histroy, Woodson wrote and published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. He said that African Americans “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.” He established the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and History” (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) the same year. This organization ran conferences, published The Journal of Negro History, and promoted the education of African American children. His book The Negro in Our History sold more than 90,000 copies.

 

He established what was known as “Negro History Week” which ran in Washington, D.C., in 1926, as he believed that greater understanding of African American history would improve relations between black and white people. 

 

On February 1st, 1970, inspired by Woodson, Black United Students and Black educators at Kent State University founded Black History Month. By 1976, it was being celebrated nationwide. President Gerald Ford formally acknowledged Black History Month, during the United States Bicentennial. There are numerous places throughout the United States named after Woodson, who was named one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by scholar Molefi Kete Asante in 2002. 

 

Here is a famous quote from Woodson:

 

If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.

 

Featured Image Via Google

Book Cover

Mississippi Backs Down on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Ban

Biloxi, a Mississippi school district, will begin teaching Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird again, after it was removed from the syllabus some weeks ago following complaints that racist language used in the book was making people uncomfortable. 

 

Though the book will continue to be taught, students who wish to study To Kill a Mockingbird will need to request to do so, and will also need a signed permission slip due to the book’s inclusion of racist language. 

 

However, Lee uses racially charged language and slurs to highlight the suffering of the African American community and confront the issues of racism and discrimination that sully the history of the United States and persist today.

 

MSNCB.com

Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in the film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) | Image Via MSNBC

 

The Biloxi district has received complaints from all over the country, including an impressive letter from eleventh-grade students in New Jersey who had this to say:

 

These derogatory and offensive words are powerful; they make people uncomfortable because they are painful to hear. However, it is critical that discrimination, offensive language and racism are discussed in the classroom. We need a book like To Kill A Mockingbird to illustrate the extreme prejudice that existed in our country’s past and to help start a conversation about the issues that sadly still exist today.

 

The Mark Twain House has also offered to assist the district in the teaching of sensitive material, noting that:

 

Great literature makes us uncomfortable. It changes how we think, forcing us to analyze our established points of view. Guiding students through that process is, as you know, a key element of middle-school literary studies. … These books should build empathy, and not be used to single out classmates.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird remains relevant not just because of its excellent writing and poignant depiction of racism in the South, but because the issues it tackles are still relevant. Racism is still an enormous issue in daily life and within the American legal system. It’s important that young people are given the space, opportunity, and tools to discuss this. 

 

Featured Image Via Above the Law