The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

city

Joseph Henry Beasley

Human rights activist Joseph Henry Beasley was born to sharecroppers on a rural plantation in Inman, Georgia, on December 27, 1936. Beasley received his primary education in a segregated one room school house before moving with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he excelled in the local public schools. It was during this phase of his life that Beasley began to set high expectations and committed himself to a life of service; he ultimately received his B.S. degree in criminal justice from Park College and attended graduate school at Clark Atlanta University.

Beasley’s career began in the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired as a police superintendent after twenty-one years of service. Beasley joined Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in 1976 as a member of the Board of Directors of its Kansas City affiliate, and assumed the position of Executive Director of that chapter in 1978. Three years later, Beasley moved to Atlanta where he was named Chapter Coordinator, and in 1995 was named Southern Regional Director.

Under the leadership of the Reverend Cameron M. Alexander, Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church North, Beasley successfully tackled issues of equal justice, eradication of poverty, and economic development around the globe. Beasley worked with the African National Congress to register voters for the 1994 election that swept Nelson Mandela into power; served as a monitor in Haiti during that nation’s second democratically held election in 1995; and made a high impact visit to Zambia after its contested 2002 presidential election. Closer to home, Beasley served as the Georgia Deputy Director for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, and also became engaged in the challenge of redistricting Georgia’s congressional boundaries to increase African American representation in the United States Congress.

Beasley continued to serve as the Southern Regional Director of the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and as the president of African Ascension, an organization he formed to develop economic and political ties throughout Africa and the African Diaspora. Beasley served as a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City; Afronet in Lusaka, Zambia; Afrobras in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Christ Institute in Atlanta; and is Chairman of both the Benedita de Silva International Foundation, and the Asian American Center, both in Atlanta, Georgia. The library at Zumbi dos Palmares College in Sao Paulo, Brazil is named in Beasley’s honor.

The bulk of Beasley’s later work focused on the unification of African descendants for economic, political, social, and cultural empowerment. Beasley received dozens of awards and was featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angles Times, and numerous other newspapers, periodicals and magazines, as well as on CNN and other major American television networks.

In addition to his many other blessings, Beasley married and had three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Beasley viewed his life and his numerous accomplishments as a testament to the fruits of spiritual growth, vision and commitment.

Accession Number

A2005.144

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/22/2005

Last Name

Beasley

Maker Category
Middle Name

Henry

Organizations
Schools

New Hope Elementary School

Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School

First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Inman

HM ID

BEA06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

12/27/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pig Feet, Ears, Chicken Feet, Chitterlings

Short Description

Civil rights activist, deacon, and police superintendent Joseph Henry Beasley (1936 - ) served as the Southern Regional Director of the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and as the president of African Ascension. Beasley's career was marked by a dedication to human rights in both Africa and the African Diaspora.

Employment

United States Air Force

Operation PUSH

Rainbow/PUSH

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:249360,3458$0,0:4104,84:4650,94:8238,148:8940,202:18144,342:35109,594:35662,602:38190,636:38743,644:45458,767:45932,775:51383,894:51778,900:52331,908:52647,913:65156,1052:65748,1060:71950,1121:73950,1147:75630,1182:78190,1219:78510,1224:83070,1310:83390,1315:85390,1391:92830,1512:101550,1608:101950,1614:104110,1656:116110,1850:116430,1855:119470,1926:119870,1932:134005,2078:134353,2083:139138,2144:139486,2149:140008,2156:145125,2177:145510,2183:148359,2227:149052,2237:156521,2372:158446,2442:158831,2448:171196,2566:171862,2585:173120,2615:177412,2690:181038,2786:181556,2795:182148,2804:182592,2811:186580,2838
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Henry Beasley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about his mother's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his father, Rozie Beasley

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about how his parents met and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Henry Beasley recalls his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Henry Beasley recounts how the story of the Haitian Revolution inspired him as a child farm laborer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Fayette County, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about his education at New Hope Elementary School in Fayette County, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley reflects upon racialized codes of conduct in the segregated South

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about racial discrimination in the media and the lasting effects of slavery

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about the murder of Emmett Till and U.S. embargoes on Haiti

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about moving to Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his experience at Robert A. Taft High School in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about applying for college and joining the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his service in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about advancing in the U.S. Air Force to become a police superintendent

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy's assassination, and the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his work to expand opportunities for African Americans in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley recalls being in Atlanta, Georgia after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about embracing his African heritage after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley reflects upon his Pan-African philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about how he came to work for HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson at Operation PUSH

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes working as the director of Operation PUSH in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about the relationship between HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes working as the director of Operation PUSH in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley recounts Rainbow/PUSH's legal campaigns against the Coca-Cola Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes Rainbow/PUSH's lawsuits against the Coca-Cola Corporation in the United States and in Africa

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about suing the Boy Scouts of America in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his work to protect African American voting rights in Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes the efforts of HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson and civil rights organizations to combat police brutality

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes working with the Antioch Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia and with Brazilian Senator Benedita da Silva

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about working to combat racial discrimination

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes how he responds to threats

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about reparations for slavery

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his charitable work with the Antioch Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joseph Henry Beasley describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about what he would do differently

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joseph Henry Beasley reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joseph Henry Beasley talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joseph Henry Beasley narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$4

DATitle
Joseph Henry Beasley describes working as the director of Operation PUSH in Kansas City, Missouri
Joseph Henry Beasley describes the efforts of HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson and civil rights organizations to combat police brutality
Transcript
Now, before we get you here [Atlanta, Georgia], like, what kinds of things did you all do in Kansas City [Missouri] when you were director of Kansas City PUSH?$$Yeah. Well, we carried on the programs that the national office--we had by--at that time, we had, like, a labor--we had a grant from the Labor Department [U.S. Department of Labor]. I think we learned the lesson, because, you know, some of the, you know--but we had, like, (unclear) forced development and peace that gave us the capacity to have a big office there in Kansas City. I was very concerned about the plight of black men being in trouble, in prison. So we had put together a project to work with--to try and divert young men and women, you know, from the prisons there in--and, of course, we had, which was among the biggest programs was PUSH for Excellence, where we went into the schools and said to the young people, you know, to be excellent in their education; to sign a pledge that you would study, you know, two hours a night. And we encouraged the parents to take your children to school and meet your--the parents, see your children's teachers and exchange phone numbers; then every nine weeks, to go back to school and pick up the report card. And so we were very much involved in education. And, of course, the biggest thing that I think that Operation PUSH was about in doing is the ongoing discrimination that still exists. And so, you know, people would come to us with complaints of job discrimination, you know; unfair firings, and the lack of promotion opportunities. So we took on the struggle for equity in Kansas City. And so it was a very fascinating job. And when I decided to come back home to Atlanta [Georgia], enough time had elapsed, because [HM] Jesse [L. Jackson] had meticulously decided that he would not put a chapter in Atlanta, the headquarters of--well, that's SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] National Office. But by that time--(simultaneous)--$$To avoid conflict with SCLC?$$Conflict. Right. And, but it was clear there's enough work for everybody to do. And so, I guess in 1981, we opened--organized a chapter of Rainbow--I mean of Operation PUSH here in Atlanta, Georgia. And it was such a great pleasure to work with [HM] Dr. Joseph Lowery and Reverend Osborn, who is one of the leaders. And at that time, people, like Abbott Love, who now is back working with SCLC again full time. And I, you know, always sought to put SCLC involved in everything that we were doing. And then freely acknowledging that you are the parent and we're the children, and we want to learn. We want to work with you. And as we take on these different issues, we're not concerned about who gets the credit for it. Let's knock down some of these barriers together. And then, of course, we agree with the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]. Yes, you're the oldest. You're the biggest. You're the baddest. Having said that, let's work together. Let's work together. And whether Mr. [Kweisi] Mfume or whether Nelson Rivers, who's one of the leaders, if y'all gonna be the first to speak or the last how we gonna do it, let's do it together, 'cause I don't give a rip about who gets the credit, you know. I, for one, am not looking for no accolades from nobody. And if my name is never called, all the better. But I'm gonna be behind the scene doing some work. That's what I'm concerned about.$Now, do you have a hard time--I know one of the functions of the Urban League is to point out discrepancies and, you know, different discriminatory practices. They do a lot of statistical analyses and that sort of thing. Do you have the benefit of, like, work done by the Urban League, say, to help you?$$Oh, yeah. We, you know, and we'll never criticize another civil rights organization. And they have [HM] Marc [H.] Morial now as the young man that's over the Urban League, 'cause he was the Mayor of New Orleans [Louisiana] at one point. And so [HM] Reverend [Jesse L.] Jackson worked closely with the Urban League. We worked closely with the NAACP. Mr. [Kweisi] Mfume's replacement have not been named yet. But with [HM] Julian Bond and others. And, of course, with Mr. [Charles] Steele, who has now assumed the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC]. We're working very closely as a team together. And, you know, we still have all these police killings. Just recently heard that we've joined--and SCLC have taken a lead on the taser gun that is killing a lot of black men and black people all over the country. And we're saying that we need to do away with the taser until more testing is done. And so the SCLC have taken on the initiative in Gwinnett County and said that, because the D.A. [district attorney], when that black man was tasered five times over in forty-five seconds, they killed him. And the D.A., when they convened the Grand Jury, he didn't show them that the tasered incident. He said that they said they didn't want to see it. But it was clear that they murdered the man. And so we're joining forces with SCLC and to stand together in these kind of, you know, incidents and stuff, so.$$So, is there--in a city like Atlanta [Georgia] has had black police chiefs for, I guess, the last twenty years, I guess, or most part of twenty.$$Yeah. Right.$$But you still have a serious police brutality problem here?$$Well, I have great admiration for Chief Pendleton, who is our Chief of Police now. And we got him here from New Orleans. He did a great job in putting a handle on this police misconduct. And so, we're pleased that--while we don't have a utopian situation here, that we have a tolerable situation. And Chief Pendleton know that he is accountable to the people, and he is accountable to the people. And he's responsive to the people. And so, you know, but we still have the rogue cops here in Atlanta. And when we find the rogues, we're gonna run them out of town. And so, we have that commitment to have, because what we've seen historically is that, if anything that could set off a riot is this police misconduct. You know, whether it's Rodney King in Los Angeles [California] or whatever. So we will not tolerate police misconduct here in Atlanta.