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Test 5 (WEBD)

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W. E. B. Du Bois was a prolific scholar whose influential writings revolutionized our understanding of the myriad forces responsible for racial inequity in the United States and what form possible solutions might take. Raised in a relatively tolerant and integrated small town in Massachusetts, Du Bois was dismayed by the pervasive discrimination he encountered when he moved in 1885 to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Frisk University. After completing his doctorate at Harvard University, Du Bois continued to hone his understanding of systemic racism in the United States while teaching at various universities, and in 1903 he published what is considered his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk. In the book, Du Bois speaks passionately to the perseverance and vitality of the African American community in the face of oppression and argues for the integral importance of higher education in altering these circumstances. The Souls of Black Folk found a sympathetic readership among a burgeoning community of intellectuals of color, and in 1905 Du Bois invited fifty-nine of his peers to Niagara Falls, New York, to form the Niagara Movement: an organization dedicated to advocating for equal rights and privileges for all citizens, regardless of race. While the group’s initial gathering took place at the Buffalo home of Mary B. Talbert, a noted civil rights activist and friend of Du Bois, meetings later in the week were ultimately held on the Canadian side of the Falls after American hoteliers denied the group lodgings. The Niagara Movement later formed the nucleus of the NAACP, which Du Bois helped to establish in 1909 and in which he served in various roles, including as the founding editor of Crisis, its monthly magazine.

Du Bois was also deeply concerned with the living conditions of peoples of African descent outside of the United States, and he organized a series of pan-African congresses around the world in 1919, 1921, 1923, and 1927. Disillusioned with what seemed to be intractable problems of discrimination in the United States, Du Bois moved to Ghana in 1961 and became a citizen shortly before his death in 1963 on the eve of the March on Washington.

Test 4 (GKA)

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Over the course of a political career that lasted almost half a century, Buffalo native George K. Arthur dedicated himself to ensuring equality and promoting unity in a constantly changing city. Arthur’s public service began in 1964, when, at the urging of a friend, he ran for and subsequently won a seat on the Erie County Board of Supervisors. He later served as the Ellicott District Common Council Member from 1970 to 1977, Common Council President from 1984 to 1996, and was appointed as a director of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority in 2007. In his various roles, Arthur was and continues to be a passionate advocate for economic development and equality in housing and education, serving as the lead plaintiff in Arthur v. Nyquist, a federal suit that brought to an end segregation and unequal resources in Buffalo schools that spanned from 1981 to 1996. In 1985, he challenged long-serving incumbent Jimmy Griffin in Buffalo’s mayoral race, becoming just the third African American to run for mayor in the city’s history and only narrowly losing.

Outside of political office, Arthur has worked with a number of organizations including the NAACP, the historic First Shiloh Baptist Church, and the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation, where he was instrumental in preserving the home and archives of Rev. J. Edward Nash, Sr., as the Nash House Museum.

test 2 (FD)

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A former slave, Frederick Douglass was one of the most influential voices in the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War and in the work to ensure the full recognition of the civil rights of African Americans after the war’s end. After escaping in 1838, Douglass eventually made his way to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he quickly came to the attention of the local abolitionist community as a powerful orator. In 1841, he was hired by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society as a traveling public speaker, and in 1845, he published his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. While the immediate success of the book brought needed attention to the horrors of slavery, the publicity also inadvertently put Douglass at risk of being captured and re-enslaved. He would spend the next two years in Britain, continuing to speak out against slavery and returning to the United States only after a group of British friends purchased his freedom. On his return, Douglass moved to Rochester, New York, where he began publishing the North Star, a newspaper dedicated to ending slavery and promoting civil rights for African Americans, and he became active in helping escaped slaves make their way to Canada. During this time, Douglass continued his public speaking, and in an 1857 speech, he delivered one of his most powerful calls on the potential of the oppressed to resist oppression: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Douglass was an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln in his bid for the presidency, and following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he became an active recruiter of African Americans for the Union army. Throughout the war and in the years following, Douglass leveraged his influence in the government to fight for new legislation and enforcement of existing laws protecting the civil rights of African Americans. Until his death in 1895, he was a committed advocate for the right of African Americans to vote—which was finally codified in the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870—and against the emergence of segregation laws that threatened this and other rights in the American South in the wake of Reconstruction’s failures.

test 1 (MLK)

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One of the most profoundly influential participants in the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, led the Southern Christian Leadership Council, orchestrated nonviolent protests and marches throughout the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, and delivered a number of speeches that ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

King recognized that the Voting Rights Act would not entirely solve the country’s systemic problems of racial and social injustice, and he became frustrated with the movement’s lack of progress after 1965. His commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience was questioned by former colleagues and supporters who began to preach the ideology of Black Power and more radical action. But King persisted in his efforts to form a coalition among all races by drawing a relationship between racial and economic inequality. In 1966, King shifted his attention to the north, specifically Chicago, to bring attention to the elaborate network of city laws and ordinances that resulted in the dramatic housing segregation seen there and in other urban centers. At the same time, he became an increasingly vocal critic of the war in Vietnam, stating, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” Both King’s powerful antiwar message and his efforts to bridge divisions between poor African Americans and whites in order to challenge economic injustice and exploitation drew the ire of important sectors of the federal government, and the F.B.I. subjected King, his family, and his associates to more than two decades of extrajudicial surveillance. In his last speech, on April 3, 1968, King delivered the spiritual message, “I’ve looked over and seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”