Activist Clyde Kennard

Activist Clyde Kennard
June 21, 1927 – July 4, 1963

Clyde Kennard was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. When he was 12, he moved to Chicago to attend school.  He graduated from Wendell Phillips High School.

He joined the military in 1945 and served in both Germany and Korea until 1952 when he was honorably discharged.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Furthering education 

After the war, he returned to Chicago and completed three years of study at the University of Chicago. In 1955, Kennard returned to Hattiesburg to help care for his mother and run the family farm. Kennard wanted to complete his college education, so he sought to enroll at the all-white Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi.

In 1955, Clyde Kennard attempted to enroll in Mississippi Southern College, an all-white public university in Hattiesburg.  His credentials met the criteria for admission, but the university denied his  application on the ground that he had been unable to provide references from five alumni in his home county.

In actuality, of course, it was because he was black.Activist Clyde Kennard

Continued attempts

In 1958, Kennard argued that “merit be used as a measuring stick rather than race. We believe that for men to work together best, they must be trained together in their youth. We believe that there is more to going to school than listening to the teacher and reciting lessons. In school one learns to appreciate and respect the abilities of the other.”

On December 6, 1958, Kennard published a letter in the Hattiesburg American newspaper. He argued that “merit be used as a measuring stick rather than race. We believe that for men to work together best, they must be trained together in their youth. We believe that there is more to going to school than listening to the teacher and reciting lessons. In school one learns to appreciate and respect the abilities of the other.”

In response, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission – a state agency formed to protect segregation – hired investigators to research Kennard’s background and uncover details that could be used to discredit him; these attempts were unsuccessful.

Kennard withdrew his application after Mississippi Governor James P. Coleman met personally with him to convince him to desist from applying to Mississippi Southern.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Framed

Kennard did not give up and reapplied in August 1959, threatening to take up the derailment of his application in federal court. He was again rejected on a technicality.

On September 15, 1959, the college president again rejected Kennard’s application on a technicality. Leaving the meeting,  constables Charlie Ward and Lee Daniels arrested Kennard for reckless driving.

Ward and Daniels claimed before Justice of the Peace T. C. Hobby to have found five half pints of whiskey, along with other liquor, under the seat of Kennard’s car. Mississippi was a “dry” state, and possession of liquor was illegal.

Shortly afterward, on September 25, the Hattiesburg American published another letter Kennard wrote. In it he wrote, ““[W]e have no desire for revenge in our hearts. What we want is to be respected as men and women, given an opportunity to compete with you in the great and interesting race of life. We want your friends to be our friends; we want your enemies to be our enemies; we want your hopes and ambitions to be our hopes and ambitions, and your joys and sorrows to be our joys and sorrows.”

Activist Clyde Kennard

Convicted

Kennard was convicted and fined $600. He soon became the victim of an unofficial local economic boycott (also a tactic of the Sovereignty Commission), which cut off his credit.

All these claims were false, of course, and were meant to keep Kennard from continuing to apply to the university.

It didn’t. Kennard continued his attempts to register at Mississippi Southern.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Imprisoned

On January 23, 1960, after his third attempt to enter the college and his arrest on bogus charges, Kennard was still not ready to give up the fight. He wrote to the editor that he had “done all that is within my power to follow a reasonable course in this matter… I have tried to make it clear that my love for the State of Mississippi and my hope for its peaceful prosperity is equal to any man’s alive. The thought of presenting this request before a Federal Court for consideration, with all the publicity and misrepresentation which that would bring about, makes my heart heavy. Yet, what other course can I take?

He was arrested again on September 25, 1960 with an alleged accomplice for the theft of $25 worth of chicken feed from the Forrest County Cooperative warehouse. Kennard went to trial, with the accomplice, Johnny Lee Roberts, testifying that Kennard paid him to steal the feed.

On November 21, 1960, an all-white jury deliberated 10 minutes and found Kennard guilty.  He was convicted and sentenced to seven years at Parchman Penitentiary.

Speaking at a rally in support of his friend, the NAACP activist Medgar Evers broke down in tears as he described the “mockery of judicial justice” in Kennard’s case.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Cancer

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in prison, but he was refused treatment and forced to continue working in the fields despite his weakened physical state.

Only after Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and others threatened to accuse the State of Mississippi of murder was the emaciated and terminally ill Kennard released. Dick Gregory paid for him to undergo treatment in Chicago. But it was too late to save the man who wanted a college degree. Kennard died on July 4, 1963, less than a month after his friend, Medgar Evers, was murdered.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Revelations

In 1991 the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi published previously secret documents from the files of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, showing that Kennard had been framed.

In 2005  Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger interviewed the black witness who, as a teenager, had testified against Kennard. The man admitted that Kennard had “nothing to do with the stealing of the chicken feed.”

[From the Americas Who Tell the Truth site} Kennard’s case came to the attention of a high school teacher in Chicago. Barry Bradford and his students teamed up with Steve Drizin, the Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s School of Law, LaKeisha Bryant the president of the Afro-American Student Association at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Joyce Ladner and Raylawni Branch, the woman who had served Kennard coffee on his way to apply to Mississippi Southern the third time and had gone on to an impressive career of her own.The team documented the case in favor of Kennard, discovered the legal arguments that could get the case back into court, and began to apply public pressure with the help of the former federal judge from Mississippi, Charles Pickering.

Finally, on May 16, 2006, the case that Steve Drizin called, “one of the saddest of the civil rights era because he was silenced by ‘respectable’ people – academics, politicians, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, businessmen – all acting under the ‘color of law,'” finally ended up in the same court where the 33-year-old Clyde Kennard had been convicted. The presiding judge at the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Robert Helfrich declared, “It is a right-wrong issue. To correct that wrong I’m compelled to do the right thing and declare Mr. Kennard innocent.”

Activist Clyde Kennard
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Don Sugarcane Harris

Don Sugarcane Harris

June 18, 1938 — November 30, 1999
Don Sugarcane Harris
Don Sugarcane Harris

I’m Leaving It Up to You #1

Just before the Beatles arrived in the US and changed the course of pop music history and the lives of Baby Boomers and just one day after the assassination of President Kennedy, “I’m Leaving It Up to You” by Dale (Houston) and Grace (Broussard) hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would stay there until December 6, 1963. And if the Beatles hadn’t arrived, yet, neither had Don Sugarcane Harris.

But first

Like many Billboard hits for white performers, “I’m Leaving It Up to You” was a song already written and recorded by black artists. In this case Don (Harris) and Dewey (Terry).

Harris was born in Pasadena, California, and studied classical violin. He also learned guitar, harmonica and piano. He started the Don and Dewey act with his childhood friend in the mid-1950s, and although they released several singles, they had no hits.

Other artists did with such Harris and Terry co-authored early rock and roll classics as “Farmer John”, “Justine”, and “Big Boy Pete.”

The name Don Sugarcane Harris should strike a familiar bell with some Boomers because Harris later became THE rock and roll electric violinist (OK, tied with Papa John Creach).

He played with John Lee  Hooker, Little Richard, Johnny Otis (Otis nicknamed Harris ”Sugarcane,” reportedly for his reputation as a ladies’ man), John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and most famously with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

On Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh album, Harris played and sang “Directly From My Heart to You.”

His personal discography is relatively short (AllMusic), but his credit list overall is a lengthy one.

After a lengthy battle with pulmonary disease,  he was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment at the age of 61 on December 1, 1999. His obituary appeared in the NY Times.

Don Sugarcane Harris
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Photographer Baron Wolman

Photographer Baron Wolman

Born June 25, 1937

Baron Wolman

Being in the right place at the right time is luck. Being talented and in the right place at the right time is fortune.

Baron Wolman is the very talented photographer whose pictures help us know American life far better than had he not taken them.

Photographer Baron Wolman

Rolling Stone magazine

After getting a taste of photography while in the Army, Wolman lived in (the right place) San Francisco. Wolman was no Boomer (he was born on June 25, 1937), but Jann Wenner was when the two met in April 1967.

The 21-year-old Wenner wanted Wolman to be the photographer for a rock music magazine Wenner had in mind. Wolman said he’d work for free if he could keep ownership of his pictures. A wise quid pro quo.

Photographer Baron Wolman

Cover after cover

Rolling Stone magazine would not have been the same without Wolman’s pictures.

Photographer Baron Wolman

Baron was Rolling Stone’s photographer from 1967 to 1970, a  short time, but perhaps no better stretch to be a part of the scene Rolling Stone wanted to cover. He says that he “shot his best stuff in ’68 and ’69…those were the halcyon days.”

Photographer Baron Wolman

His photos graced cover after cover of the magazine revealing the famous, the emerging, and behind the scene.

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

He photographed, not surprisingly, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and those photos are perhaps the best of any taken there. While shooting Santana that hot Saturday afternoon, Bill Graham took Wolman’s camera to shoot a picture of Baron. No selfies then.

Photographer Baron Wolman

His street-sign photo in the wooded Bindy Bazaar, the festivals “merch” area, now graces the entrance to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts–albeit slightly photo-shopped.

Photographer Baron Wolman

True fashion starts on the street

Photographer Baron Wolman

After Rolling Stone, Baron Wolman changed direction slightly and started to concentrate on fashion with his Rags magazine. As many knew, fashion trends often begin outside of actual fashion studios when someone decides that “others may think this combination odd, but it looks good” and a year later models are walking the runways with it.

Photographer Baron Wolman

Embedded photographer

He followed the Oakland Raiders in 1974 and produced Oakland Raiders: The Good Guys.

Photographer Baron Wolman

Learning to fly

Wolman learned to fly and took pictures of California from his plane ( California From the Air: The Golden Coast (1981)) or pictures of Israel (The Holy Land: Israel From the Air (1987))

Santa Fe today

Wolman now lives in Sante Fe, New Mexico and continues to photograph and be a beacon of light both toward the future and from the past. He regularly posts on his musings and observations on his Facebook page.

He is also on Instagram.

Photographer Baron Wolman
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