Tag Archives: Black History

Change Is Gonna Come

Change Is Gonna Come

Released December 22, 1964

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No Change

In October 1963 Sam Cooke was touring Louisiana. He had made reservations at a Shreveport Holiday Inn, but when he, his wife, brother, and another arrived, hotel personnel told them that there were no vacancies. 

Cooke argued to no avail and left angrily. When they arrived at their next hotel, police arrested them for disturbing the peace. 

With the rebirth of the civil rights movement, Black entertainers faced a difficult decision: make a living by catering to the tastes of the majority white audience, most of whom weren’t thrilled with black activism, or musically/philosophically join the civil rights struggle and risk their livelihood.

Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” surprised Cooke. How could a white person write such a moving song? Cooke began to use the song in his shows.

Change Is Gonna Come

His own change

And Cooke also decided to write his own.

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By December 1963 he’d written “A Change is Gonna Come.” In February he performed it live on the Johnny Carson Show (no video available), but had not yet recorded it. Two days after Cooke’s performance on the Tonight Show, the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan.

Change Is Gonna Come

RCA holds off

Cooke did not record “A Change is Gonna Come” until November 1964 and RCA did not release it until December.

Sadly, Cooke had died eleven days before on December 11, 1964. (NYT article)

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Change Is Gonna Come

Anthem

It became one of the civil rights movement’s anthems and dozens of artists have since covered the song.

In 2005, representatives of the music industry and press voted the song number 12 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Cooke’s style and spirit continue to inspire many of today’s young artists. The New York Times Magazine recently described Leon Bridges as “The Second Coming of Sam Cooke.” (NYT article)

Change Is Gonna Come

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston

On  February 15, 1848 5-year-old Sarah Roberts (“a colored child…, a resident of Boston, and living with her father.”) had applied for admission to her nearest school. The school committee refused her application “on the ground of her being a colored person.”

Rather than walk past the five white schools to get to her assigned black school, Sarah Roberts “went into the primary school nearest her residence, but without any ticket of admission…and was…ejected from the school by the teacher.”

Sarah’s father Benjamin sued.

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston

Roberts v The City of Boston

On December 4, 1849,  the case of Roberts v. The City of Boston began. Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw presided.

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston
Charles Sumner was the lawyer for Sarah Roberts

Abolitionist, and later United States Senator Charles Sumner and Robert Morris, a young Black abolitionist, represented Sarah Roberts. Their argument asserted that all persons, regardless of race or color, stand as equals before the law in Massachusetts.

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston
Robert Morris represented Sarah Roberts

In April 1850 Judge Shaw decided in favor of the Boston Board. Shaw discounted the objection to the extra distance that Sarah had to walk as  trivial. “In Boston,” he pointed out, “more than one hundred thousand inhabitants live within a space so small…it would be scarcely an inconvenience to require a boy of good health to traverse daily the whole extent of it.” In light of this, he concluded, the extra distance that Sarah had to walk did nothing to make the committee’s decision “unreasonable, still less illegal.

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston
cover to Sarah’s Long Walk about Sarah Roberts and others

Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick wrote Sarah’s Long Walk (2004).

Five years later, on April 28, 1855, Massachusetts desegregated the state’s public schools with a law that stated: “no distinction shall be made on account of the race, color, or religious opinions, of the applicant or scholar.”

Despite that progress, on May 18, 1896, the US Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities (including schools) under the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

It was another 58 years, on May 17, 1954, that the US Supreme Court overturned Plessy and unanimously ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. It was a victory for NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who became the first black US Supreme Court justice.

Sarah Roberts Walks Boston

Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton

Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton

Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton

Site of Clinton Melton murder, Glendora, Mississippi

Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton

Clinton Melton

On December 3, 1955, Clinton Melton was working in a gas station in Glendora, Mississippi. Otis Kimball, a cotton gin operator, drove in and told Melton to fill up his car. Something about the transaction angered Kimball and he threatened to come back to the gas station and kill Melton.

Ironically, Kimball was driving the automobile of J. W. Milam, one of the men a jury had acquitted of killing Emmett Till just the previous August.

Kimball returned with a shotgun and with no provocation and in full view of the gas station owner and other witnesses, he shot and killed Clinton Melton .

Kimball charged

Authorities charged Kimball with the murder. Kimball’s lawyer argued self-defense. Lee McGarrh, the filling station owner, white, and Melton’s boss, testified that Melton did not have a gun and did not provoke the attack; John Henry Wilson, a black man testified that Kimball said he was going to kill Melton and would kill Wilson too if he got in the way; a third witness, standing ten feet away at the time, testified he did not see a gun in Clinton Melton’s hand.

Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton
Medgar Evers speaking with Clinton’s wife Beulah.
Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton

Witnesses

Witnesses for the defense – none of them eyewitnesses – included the sheriff, a deputy sheriff, and the chief of police. Kimball claimed Melton cursed at him during the argument. He claimed he had a scar from a bullet wound that came from a gunshot by Melton, and he produced a doctor who claimed it was indeed a gunshot wound. An all white jury acquitted Kimball after deliberating for four hours. (NYT article >>> Acquitted)

Beulah Melton

Just before scheduled commencement of the trial Beulah Melton, Clinton’s wife, died in a car accident. She drowned after her car ran off the road into the bayou.

Additional information about Clinton Melton case
Otis Kimball Kills Clinton Melton