Guest Column: Massey Shares His Views On Black History Month


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Joe Massey.

Joe Massey, Guest Writer

For those of you who don’t know, February is Black History Month. What I’ve been doing for the last five years for the month of February is to post a quote or fact on my Facebook page about African Americans from the past and present. This started as a conversation with a African American student and Black History came up.

The student thought it was in January because we didn’t have school on MLK Day. And they only knew of Martin Luther King being a person from Black History. The conversation ended with the student saying that “the stuff I was talking about was from back in the old days, and it’s not like that anymore”…Huh???

First of all “The old days” are history, and the reason I post during February is to share some information that some people might not be aware of or may have forgotten. My hope is that anyone who reads my post will share it with younger generations, so they will know there’s more to Black History.

Although Martin Luther King sacrificed himself and did so much for African Americans in the late 50’s and 60’s: The desegregation of schools in the South, the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, and the lunch counter protests by doing all of this he helped get the Civil Right Bill passed in 1964. Those were great accomplishments, and yes they are parts of Black History but there are so many more things that have been accomplished that are never mentioned.

When I was a child my Grandfather was my best friend; he would tell me stories of how he was raised and the things he had to go through and endure growing up in the South. This was my introduction to Black History. My Grandfather was born in McCool, Mississippi in 1902, and what made things worse was he was born to a White Mother and a Black Father. So imagine if you can what it was like being a bi-racial child raised in the Deep South in the 1900’s.

My Grandfather would tell me shocking stories about the things he had to go through in his childhood from his Mother being spit on, being called hateful names, and having their lives threaten. My Grandfather couldn’t go to school because of his skin tone; he wasn’t welcomed at all by the white community. His own family members on his Mother’s side did not accept him.

Although he was accepted by the Black community there were some who did not welcome him or his siblings. Some thought they were privileged because their mother was white. This was hardly the case, so he was home-schooled by his Mother. He told me his education was probably at a 8th grade level when I was around 10 years old. When my Grandfather was 16 he had to leave the South because he and his brother got into a fight with two white men. I don’t know what the fight was about….but one of the men was hit in the eye and it caused permanent damage so my Grandfather and his siblings left their home in the middle of the night by freight train. They knew there would be retaliation.

When my Grandfather and his siblings left Mississippi they went to Chicago where his brother decided to settle. My Grandfather met and married my Grandmother and started a family. My Grandfather worked for the railroad and he moved his family to Nevada. After a few years in Nevada he transferred to The Northern Pacific railroad in Portland, Oregon where he worked until he retired in 1969.

I’m telling you this because younger Generations today will never know the struggles that the African Americans who lived before went through. They endured so much so that we can have the freedom and privileges we have today.

In 2019, being bi-racial isn’t a big deal, African Americans can ride public transportation and sit wherever they want, we can eat wherever we want, and so much more. Many of us will never know about the White Only restrooms, or White Only drinking fountains.

Some people don’t know that even in Oregon there were places where African Americans weren’t welcomed. Oaks park, Champoeg park, and Jantzen Beach Amusement Park (before it was a mall) were all places African Americans weren’t able to walk around until the late ‘50s.

Some will never know that in some business establishments in Portland signs were posted that said No Dogs, N-word or Indians allowed! There are so many things that African Americans have contributed to this country, from the traffic light, the first open heart surgery, some great poetry, to becoming the President of the United States. But with all the accomplishments that African Americans have made, there have been huge tragedies reaching those accomplishments. Sacrifices made by Merger Evers, Emitt Till, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and so many more.

What I would like for Black History Month is for all races of the younger generation to research and read educate themselves on the people and events that happened in the “old days” because it’s not just Black History… it’s History and there’s so much more to us than what’s portrayed in movies, on television, or what’s in music/videos.