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Black Panther Party Co-Founder Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard Dies

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elbert “Big Man” Howard, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party who served as newspaper editor, information officer and logistics genius behind the group’s popular social programs, has died at age 80.

His wife, Carole Hyams, says Howard died Monday in Santa Rosa, California, after a long illness.

Friends and family described Howard as a “gentle giant” who could paint in words what a jazz song was saying. Howard was an author, volunteer jazz disc jockey, lecturer and activist in Sonoma County, where he later made his home.

Howard was one of six people who founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in Oakland in October 1966, along with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The political organization started out patrolling police for possible abuse against blacks.

Key members quit in 1974 after years of fatal fights with police and each other. Later it became clear that the FBI had engaged in surveillance and harassment to undermine the party and incriminate its leaders.

Howard quit the party in 1974, but in its active years, he served as editor of its newspaper and deputy minister of information. He traveled to Europe and Asia to set up chapters and was responsible for the social programs that made the party famous.

Billy X. Jennings, a longtime friend and party archivist, said Howard was the person who negotiated lower prices and organized refrigerated trucks for food giveaways. Later, as an administrator at a local college, he organized a program for jail inmates to take courses.

“He was a beloved member,” Jennings said. “People might have had different grudges against Bobby or Eldridge (Cleaver), but nobody got a grudge against Big Man.”

Howard was born Jan. 5, 1938, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the only child of Emma and Anderson Howard. He joined the Air Force and was posted to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

Jennings said after he was discharged, Howard enrolled in Merritt College, where he met Seale and Newton. Seale remains active in politics. Newton was killed in 1989.

Read more by Janie Har at US News

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Africa

How African American folklore saved the cultural memory and history of slaves

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All over the world, community stories, customs and beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation. This folkore is used by elders to teach family and friends about their collective cultural past. And for African Americans, folklore has played a particularly important part in documenting history too.

The year 1619 marked the beginning of African American history, with the arrival of the first slave ship in Jamestown, Virginia. Slavery put African Americans not only in physical shackles. They were prevented from gaining any type of knowledge, including learning to read or writeduring their enslavement. Illiteracy was a means to keep control as it was believed that intellectual stimulation would give African Americans ideas of freedom and independence.

The effects of slavery on African culture were huge. The slaves had to forsake their true nature to become servants to Anglo Americans. And yet, even though they were forbidden from practising anything that related to their African culture and heritage, the native Africans kept it and their languages alive in America.

One important way of doing this was through folk tales, which the African slaves used as a way of recording their experiences. These stories were retold in secret, with elements adapted to their enslaved situation, adding in elements of freedom and hope. In the story of a slave from Guinea, recorded in The Annotated African American Folktales, he asks his white master to bury him face down when he dies, so that he may return to his home country which he believes is directly on the other side of the world:

Some of the old folks in Union County remembered that they had heard their fathers and grandfathers tell the story about Sambo who yearn…

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History & Culture

Project to restore neglected African-American cemetery launches with public forums

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RICHMOND — The first time Veronica Davis was invited to a wreath-laying ceremony at Maggie L. Walker’s grave, she dressed to the nines.

Davis bought a new outfit and had her hair done. She expected that Walker, the first African-American woman to start a bank and a prominent leader in Richmond’s history, would be laid to rest in a distinguished place, much like Hollywood Cemetery, where Confederate generals were remembered with grand monuments and pristine lawns.

But when she stepped out of the Bentley that a community member had loaned for the occasion, she could hardly hide her disgust. It was if they had driven out into the woods. Vines and overgrown brush strangled the pathways and all but hid Walker’s monument from view.

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History & Culture

BASEBALL LEAVES THE DISTRICT (AGAIN)

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By the time September 30, 1971 rolled around, baseball fans in Washington had become accustomed to abandonment. In fact, the feeling had been passed down from one generation to the next.

In 1899, the Washington Statesmen/Nationals/Senators were contracted by the National League after only 9 years of existence (3 team names in 9 years has to be a record, right?).  District baseball aficionados may not have protested too much, though, when the first incarnation of the Senators left town. In their 9 years, the Washington franchise assembled a rather horrendous 0.366 winning percentage. That qualifies them as the 19th worst franchise in the history of professional baseball.

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