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Dorothy Height

Social activist Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 24, 1912. At an early age, she moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania. While in high school, Height was awarded a scholarship to New York University for her oratory skills, where she studied and earned her master's degree.

Height began her career working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department, but at the age of twenty-five, she began her career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. She remained active with the organization until 1977, and while there she developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs. In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized "Wednesdays in Mississippi," which brought together black and white women from the north and South to create a dialogue of understanding. Leaders of the United States regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government.

Height has served on a number of committees, including as a consultant on African affairs to the secretary of state, the President's Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped and the President's Committee on the Status of Women. Her tireless efforts for equal rights have earned her the praise and recognition of numerous organizations, as well. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Freedom From Want Award and the NAACP Spingarn Medal. She has also been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Height passed away on April 20, 2010.

Accession Number

A2003.245

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/13/2003

Last Name

Height

Maker Category
First Name

Dorothy

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

HEI01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Quote

African American women are very special women. We seldom do what we want to do, but we always do what we have to do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/24/1912

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Sweet Potatoes

Death Date

4/20/2010

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and social activist Dorothy Height (1912 - 2010 ) was the president of National Council of Negro Women for over forty years. Leaders of the United States regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Employment

Little Red Schoolhouse (NYC)

Negro World

New York Department of Welfare

Greater New York Federation of Churches

Harlem YWCA

National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Height interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorothy Height's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorothy Height describes her parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorothy Height recounts her childhood Rankin, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorothy Height describes her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorothy Height reviews her childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorothy Height details her pursuits during her school years

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorothy Height describes her parents' affiliations

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dorothy Height recalls a racial encounter from her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorothy Height remembers her mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorothy Height recalls an episode from her early oratorical career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorothy Height discusses her college choice

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorothy Height details her extra-curricular endeavors in New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorothy Height describes her affiliations while in Harlem, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorothy Height remembers an artist community in 1930s Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorothy Height recalls her social service work as a student

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorothy Height discusses her involvement with the National Black United Front

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorothy Height describes her involvement in various organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorothy Height recalls meeting Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorothy Height describes her early work with the Harlem YWCA

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorothy Height discusses her advocacy efforts during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorothy Height remembers Eleanor Roosevelt

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorothy Height recalls a threat from the Ku Klux Klan, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorothy Height recalls a threat from the Ku Klux Klan, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorothy Height discusses the aims of the National Council for Negro Women

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorothy Height illustrates the employment opportunities for African Americans post-World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorothy Height discusses the Mary McLeod Bethune Monument, Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorothy Height reflects on the legacy of the Brown v. the Board of Education decision

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorothy Height reviews black women's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dorothy Height remembers U.S. presidents

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dorothy Height remembers the United Civil Rights Leadership

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dorothy Height recalls law enforcement's abuse of black women during the Civil Rights Movement, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dorothy Height recalls law enforcement's abuse of black women during the Civil Rights Movement, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dorothy Height discusses black women's participation in Civil Rights activities

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dorothy Height recalls Civil Rights efforts in Mississippi

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dorothy Height remembers the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dorothy Height considers the legacy of the National Council for Negro Women

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dorothy Height reflects on her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Dorothy Height remembers an artist community in 1930s Harlem
Dorothy Height recalls meeting Mary McLeod Bethune
Transcript
Harlem [New York] was, was alive with art and creativity, and some of it was popular art and some of it was fine art. Now, who were some of the musicians in Harlem that you knew or--?$$Well, first there was Duke Ellington, Sy Oliver, Cab Calloway. For a while, I lived next door to the Mills Brothers, and there was Lena Horne, Count Basie. The interesting thing is that, at that time, many of the musicians had little work, but they would work downtown and then come to Harlem--there was a restaurant on Seventh Avenue, where sometimes the peo--they would be helping and waiting tables and singing with three (unclear). And, you know, it was, it was a remarkable kind of experience. It was also a time when Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen and John [Oliver] Killens and all of them were very much a part of life and Paul Robeson, of course. So, and I worked for Paul Robeson on what he called a Housing Coordinating Committee cause he was trying to do more about housing for the poor, as well as doing his singing. So it's, Harlem was just a marvelous place for me to grow up.$$Now, I read that one of your--that you lived close to W. C. Handy?$$I lived next door to W. C. Handy. And we would spend holidays together. His daughters, particularly, Catherine [Handy Lewis] and, and they--we were friends together. And whenever we were with Mr. Handy, he always played the 'St. Louis Blues.' I do have to say that it was his song, but other people played it better, but he certainly was the creator. And we always--I always loved to hear him tell about it.$$Okay, did he have a story about it, about the 'St. Louis Blues'?$$Well, he would just, you know, he would just say how he took the feelings of people and put them into music, and say "I hate to see the sun go down". It's almost, it's, it's almost like saying, the close of day makes me sad. And he would, he had all kinds of stories about some of his work that he did. And he loved to play the, the saxophone and stuff like that.$Also in 1937, and this is a big year because you meet Mary McLeod Bethune and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt in '37 [1937], am I right?$$Yeah, 1937 was quite a year for me because when I came back, and I was working there at the Harlem Y [YWCA, Young Women's Christian Association], I had the assignment to escort Eleanor Roosevelt into a meeting Mrs. Bethune was holding. And it turned out to be the meeting of the National Council of Negro Women [NCNW]. And as I was leaving to take Mrs. Roosevelt, I--Mrs. Bethune asked me my name, and when I told her, she said, come back. We need you. And I've been back ever since. And even then, before I could get back, she had put me on the resolutions committee. And the first resolution that I ever wrote in my life had to deal with child welfare for the National Council of Negro Women.$$Now, what was Mrs. Bethune like? Tell us something about her.$$(No audible response).$$What was Mary McLeod Bethune like?$$She was a magnificent human being, a deeply spiritual person; a person who was both no-nonsense and had a very good sense of humor. She had an understanding of issues and it was she who came up with the idea, "Leave no one behind" cause she really felt that we needed to organize our efforts and that, as a--as, as really a basic purpose, more than a slogan. In 1935, she founded--she had founded the National Council of Negro Women as an organization, a national organization. And this was two years later that I met her. But I've been very active in it ever since.

Maulana Karenga

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University—Long Beach, was the holder of two Ph.D.’s. Karenga completed his degrees in political science at the United States International University, and in social ethics at the University of Southern California, before being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Durban, South Africa.

Karenga’s fields of teaching and research within Africana/Black Studies included: ancient Egyptian (Maatian) ethics; ancient Yoruba (Ifa) ethics; Africana/Black Studies theory and history; Africana/Black (continental and diasporan) philosophy; African American intellectual history; ethnic relations; and the socio-ethical thought of Malcolm X.

A prolific writer, Karenga authored numerous scholarly articles and books, including: Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics; Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt; The Book of Coming Forth By Day: The Ethics of the Declarations of Innocence; Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings; and Introduction to Black Studies. Karenga was also one of the creators of the pan-African cultural holiday Kwanzaa, and the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles), as well as the author of the authoritative text, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture.

An activist-scholar of national and international recognition, Karenga played a major role in Black political and intellectual culture from the 1960s on. Karenga has, along with The Organization Us, been instrumental in such movements as Black Power, Black Arts, Black Studies, the Independent Schools, Afrocentricity, Ancient Egyptian Studies, the Million Person Marches, and the Reparations Movement. In addition to his activism, Karenga lectured on the life and struggle of African peoples on major campuses in the United States, Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Trinidad, Great Britain, and Canada. Karenga served as the chair of The Organization Us; the National Association of Kawaida Organizations; and as the executive director of the African American Cultural Center and the Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies.

Karenga has received numerous awards for scholarship and service, including: the C.L.R. James Award for Outstanding Publication of Scholarly Works that Advance the Discipline of Africana and Black Studies; the National Leadership Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievements in Black Studies from the National Council for Black Studies; the President’s Award for Scholarship and Service in the Development of Black Studies from the African Heritage Studies Association; the Diop Exemplary Leadership Award from the Department of African American Studies-Temple University; the Richard Allen Living Legend Award from the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and the Pioneer Award from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund.

Accession Number

A2002.207

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/18/2002

Last Name

Karenga

Maker Category
Schools

Salisbury High School

Los Angeles City College

University of California, Los Angeles

United States International University

First Name

Maulana

Birth City, State, Country

Parsonburg

HM ID

KAR01

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

Maryland

Favorite Quote

It is a good day to struggle and that we must remember the teachers of the Ottoeva (ph.), that we are all divinely chosen to bring into the world and not let any good be lost.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/14/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Short Description

Social activist, africana studies professor, and author Maulana Karenga (1941 - ) is the founder of Kwanzaa, in addition to having a career as a prolific writer and influential figure in a number of Afrocentric movements.

Employment

Mafundi Institute (Los Angeles, California)

California State University

African American Cultural Center

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black, Green, Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maulana Karenga interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recalls his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga explains his limitations with oral history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maulana Karenga shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts his family's transition to California

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers his college years

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga details how he became a black nationalist

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga lists his intellectual influences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga describes his involvement in The Organization Us

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga remembers Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga explains why he learned Swahili

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga recalls his activism in the early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga details his philosophy of Kawaida

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga details how he created Kwanzaa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga responds to criticism of Kwanzaa

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga discusses the problems posed by the recent creation of Kwanzaa

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga explains how Kwanzaa became seven letters

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his involvement in the Black Power Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 1)

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 2)

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 3)

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 4)

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his incarceration

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts surveillance by the FBI's COINTEL program

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers FESTAC 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga recalls the founding of ASCAC

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga discusses redressing the distorted view of ancient Egypt through ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga recalls the founding of ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga explains the philosophical underpinnings of ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts building the National Black United Front

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers helping to create the Million Man March

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga responds to criticisms of the Million Man March

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga discusses his involvement with the African American Leadership Retreat

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga discusses the impact of the African American Leadership Retreat Family

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga describes his current projects

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga shares the importance of African philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga recalls his parents' reaction to his career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga considers his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Maulana Karenga remembers Malcolm X
Maulana Karenga details how he created Kwanzaa
Transcript
Now, so Malcolm [X] was very important to us as, as, as a teacher, as a mentor. I met Malcolm in '62 [1962], and the first time I met him we, he took me home afterward. We went and talked. We--it's a restaurant, it used to be a restaurant on 51st and Main, a Muslim restaurant. And you--after the mosque, you would go over there and eat bean pie and talk abstract. So Malcolm welcomed us. We were right from UCLA [University of California Los Angeles]. He welcomed us back there. We talked a long time, and every time since when he would come in town, I would try to get there. And, in fact, when there was a crisis, Malcolm asked me to be the emcee for a memorial for, Ronald 26X [sic, Stokes] actually, that was shot by the police. I don't know if you remember that. But--$$Is that the scene with him, even in the movie shows the picture of the man, the poster, the famous picture of Malcolm showing a poster of the body was full of holes--(simultaneous)?$$Yes, shot, that was it. Yes, that was the major police shooting of the Muslims at that time. And I learned a lot from Malcolm, and I always enjoyed his company and the brilliance of his intellect. See, I'm, I'm writing now a book on his social, ethical thought because people usually think of ethics, they think King [Martin Luther King, Jr.]. And they think Christianity. But Islam has ethics and certainly Malcolm had an ethical philosophy, and I, I think he has a rich legacy that's still to be taped. And I challenge all those people who have written books on him, who seem to be janitors of history, looking for stench and stain, and reductively translating his message. Mine is to speak his special culture, true, and to show the brilliance of his mind and incisiveness of his analysis. That's what I want to show. The rest, FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], [J. Edgar] Hoover, got data for all this, you know. It's just like writing a book on King and trying to talk about King, what he didn't do and all that. The question is, what does he mean to us? You see, and one of the problems I find with modern intellectuals, black intellectuals, is that they've so limited themselves to deconstructionism, that mainly what they do is janitorial service and look stench and stain, peeling paint and criticize and condemn things, but they have no capacity for conceptual generation, that is, the production of concepts to enrich and expand our lives, to give us the capacity to understand ourselves and assert ourselves in dignity-affirming ways in the world. That's a whole different kind of project.$I wanted to ask you about the development of Kwanzaa out of Kawaida theory.$$Yes, right. So first, I'm, I'm at UCLA [University of California Los Angeles] in '64 [1964], just got my Master's. I decided to go on to get my doctorate. I'm studying on my doctorate. The revolt comes. I quit and join the Movement, and I create my organization. And I fur--[The Organization] Us, and I further developed my philosophy, Kawaida. And I call it Kawaida because I believe that culture and tradition are the foundation for our life, our future and our effective assertion in the world. I think culture is a fundamental way of being human in the world. And so at the heart of Kawaida philosophy is this argument that we must constantly dialogue with African culture, asking it questions and seeking from it, answers, to the fundamental issues of human life. How do you create a just and good society? What does it mean to be human? What is our moral obligation to each other? What is our rightful relationship with the environment? Those questions, we usually don't ask Africa those questions. We usually ask Europe or Israel. We ask Greece or Israel or some other culture, but we don't ask Africa. You know, we don't--we just don't ask Africa what does it mean to be human? What is my relationship with God or anything like that? What is, what is that? So, I wanted to do that. And so I began to draw from the best of African culture, synthesize it and put into this philosophy called Kawaida. And it's subconsciously called Kawaida, a Swahili word, it means tradition because that is the core of it, tradition and reason.$$Can you spell Kawaida for us (simultaneous)?$$K-A-W-A-I-D-A, Kawaida, okay. Now, I've already--as I said earlier, I've already decided to use Swahili to do this, okay, because the language itself contains philosophical concepts I need to stress the communitarian value system I'm going to create with the seven principles, Nguzo Saba. So I'm in the philosophy, and I'm asking how can I teach this philosophy in a simple, but profound way? How can I produce concepts that would create both a discourse and a practice of being African? Okay. And I decide I, I need a value system that is manageable. And I decide the way I can do that is study African cultures, and I studied African culture, and I asked myself, what is the social cement and the social glue that holds these cultures together and give them their humanistic, moral content? And I believe that it is their communitarian values, values that stress family, community and culture. And so the question is how do I choose these values? Okay. I choose ten, twenty, thirty? Well I choose seven, and I choose seven for several reasons, because first of all, the spiritual significance of seven in African culture, all the way back to ancient Egypt. Seven is like a sacred number, okay. Second--so it has special value as well. Then the second thing I do is manageable. People would be saying, why didn't you do ten? Well, try to get seven, you know, then we can talk about the other. If we could just do some of these some of the time, a whole new change would come in our life. So, my argument was let's do these seven. So now, I have to choose seven values, communitarian values that form a system of thought and practice. And I have to choose them according to what I think is most important, not just now, but of enduring importance. And that's a very important thing. I can't be a faddist. I can't choose values like Green Power, I mean that goes out, you see. I have to choose that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown, as the Husia said. And so what I do, is I choose what is enduring values, and I organized them such--there are seven values, Nguzo Saba. First of all, look at the name, Nguzo means "pillar," okay. It's both a pillar as a strength in the community and as a protection for the community, okay. Okay, so Nguzo is pillar, and it means principle. And Saba, of course, means seven. So I start with Umoja, unity. Why? Because unity in the family community, nation and race. Why unity? Because without unity, you can't even start a project. I mean the fundamental requirement for a people to actually understand and realize itself and assert itself successfully is unity. So Umoja, unity, is the first principle. Second principle is Kujichagulia, to define ourselves, create for ourselves, name ourselves, be up for ourselves. That's a very important thing, to speak our own special culture truth, make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Third, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, to make our sisters and brothers' problem our problem and to solve them collectively. We, we have to see ourselves as responsible for each other, and we have to, together, build the world we want and deserve to live in, okay. Ujamaa, cooperative economics, shared work and shared wealth. People want to do the wealth, shared wealth, but a lot of times they don't want to do the shared work. So we say to build our sisters and brothers stores, shops and other business and to profit from them together, just to tell people, you have to work together and you have to get profit together. That's a very important discourse in the '60s [1960s], whether we go capitalist or whether we go communal. Okay, we say we have to go communitarian. We have to do communalism. We have to do cooperative economics. The cooperative economics comes from the word Ujamaa, and jamaa, the root word of jamaa is--Ujamaa, jamaa, which means "family" or "kinship." And so what it says is we must do economics as if we are related, related not just as a human, but related to the environment too. That's a whole different discourse. So what I'm doing is giving categories. This has been Kawaida's main strength and Us organization's main strength, it's creating a series of categories, philosophical concepts that encourage a discourse about African life in a way it has never been done before. That's what we did with Kwanzaa. That's what we did with the Husia. That's what we did with Odo Ifa. That's what we did with Operation Unity, etc. Okay, now, next, Nia, purpose, the collective vocation of rebuilding our nation so that we can restore our people to their traditional greatness, okay, to bring good into the world and to give black people both permanence and power in the world. And then the sixth principle, Kuumba, creativity, to do all we can in the way we can to leave our community and this world better and more beautiful than when we inherited it. And finally, Imani, faith, faith in ourselves, our leaders, our teachers and the righteousness and victory of our call and faith that through hard work, long struggle and a whole lot of love and understanding, we can again step back on the stage of human history subconsciously as a free, proud and productive people, speak our own special culture truth to the world and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Now, the question is, how do I build an institutional process to, in fact, teach those? I mean I could just put them out there, but it doesn't work. So I think of, what about a holiday? Again, I'm a scholar. I have to do research. I'm very concerned with culture and with authenticity. I can't just--they just don't drop from the sky for me. I have to study them from a social context, from a historical context. So I studied, I decided that I would use the oldest celebrations, and that way, I thought they would be more authentic--authentic, than one that was later created and might be influenced by Europe. So what are the oldest celebrations? They're agriculture celebrations. It's the same way when we go to Egypt. It's before the European comes, before there is this question of influence, you see, back then. And so I studied first fruits celebrations, harvest celebrations, okay. And I'm very struck by umKhosi, a Zulu celebration, which is seven days, and happens at the end of the year. Part of it is in the beginning, part of it at the end. So I straddled Kwanzaa the same way. Most of it is in the first of the year, and then there's one day in the new year. And that day I set aside for meditation, January first. So I put Kwanzaa December the twenty-sixth to January first, and it duplicates the umKhosi celebration of the Zulus, okay. I don't even tell everybody all this. I'm, I just do this, okay, because I'm, I'm, I'm saying, this is my culture. I, I can do it. I study also the Yoruba and the other festivals, and always, there are five fundamental activities that they engage in regardless. The first is that, the holidays are a time of ingathering of the people, a time when the people come from all over to reaffirm the bonds between them. Second, is the time for thanksgiving for the Creator and the creation, okay, a time not only to give thanks for a good harvest, but to recommit ourselves to the protection and preservation of the earth which provided the harvest. Third, is the time for commemoration of the past, time to raise and praise the names of those who gave their lives so that we could live fuller and more meaningful one; time to remember Fannie Lou Hamer's teaching that there are two things we all should care about, "Never to forget where we came and always praise the bridges that carried us over." Fourth, is a time for the reaffirmation and recommitment, a time for recommitment rather; time for recommitment to our highest culture values, values that stress and strengthen family, community and culture, speaking truth, doing justice; honor thy elders and the ancestors; cherishing and challenging our children, caring for the vulnerable among us, having a rightful relationship with the environment, constantly struggling against evil and always raising up, praising and pursuing the good, but especially time for recommitment to the seven principles, Umoja, unity, Kujichagulia, self-determination, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa, cooperative economics, Nia, purpose, Kuuma, creativity, Imani, faith. And finally, the fifth activity of Kwanzaa after ingathering of the people, a special reverence for the Creator and the creation, commemoration of the past, recommitment to our highest culture values, is celebration of the good, the good of family, community and culture, the good of life, the good of the environment, the good of our history, the good of our awesome march through human history, the good of existence itself, just the good of the world. And so we celebrate that, I mean, the good of the harvest, it used to be, but the good, above all, of the ongoing challenge to constantly bring good into the world and not let any good be lost. Now, people often say, why did you create Kwanzaa? I mean I think I've said, but I've--in the context of my discussion, but I created it for three basic reasons, one to reaffirm our Africanist, to reaffirm the fact that we're an African people. When you're in the process, you know, Kwanzaa is, is created in the context of the Black Freedom Movement. The Black Freedom Movement is from ninety--1955 to 1975, and there are two sections to it. From 1955 to 1965 is the black, is the Civil Rights Movement, and from 1965 to 1975 is the Black Power Movement, and I'm more in the Black Power Movement. In the Black Power Movement, even though I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, in the Black Power Movement, one of the core elements is the return to Africa, to step back to black. In fact, we used to say in Us, the first step forward is a step back to your own culture and your own self, okay. And so what we argued is that we have to reaffirm that we're African. We must say we are African people, okay. So Kwanzaa gives us a time to do that. And if you look at it, more than any other time in the, in the, in the year, black people talk about Africa, even corporate types wear African clothes, want their kinara and their Kwanzaa set to be aside other end-of-the-year celebration sets, right? They talk it. Okay, we've got a discourse, a conversation around Africa. Second, I created it to give us a time as African people all over the world to come together, reaffirm the bonds between us and meditate on the meaning and awesome responsibility of being African in the world. And if you look at it all around the world, you see that that has happened. Twenty-eight million people celebrate this holiday on every continent in the world, throughout the world African community. And finally, of course, as I said, early, I created Kwanzaa in order to introduce and reaffirm the importance of community and values, especially, Nguzo Saba, the seven principles.

Conrad Walter Worrill

Conrad Walter Worrill was born on August 15, 1941, in Pasadena, California. His mother, Anna Bell, was the first African American to sing in the Pasadena Philharmonic Orchestra and his father, Walter, was a college-educated YMCA manager. Conrad Worrill became an activist and scholar whose goal is to advance the cause and concept of African independence and self-determination both in the United States and internationally.

After moving to Chicago on his ninth birthday, Worrill became serious about athletics. He gained his first racial consciousness through competitive swimming when his black YMCA team faced serious heckling. In 1962, he was drafted into the Army and shipped to Okinawa, Japan. While overseas, he read profusely about African American history, culture and politics. After he returned to Chicago in 1963, Worrill attended George Williams College but became radicalized by the Black Power movement. After graduating in 1968, a West Side YMCA hired him as the program director. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He headed George Williams College's Urban Institute in 1973 and began teaching at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1976, where he is the coordinator and professor of Inner City Studies Education. While organizing in 1983 to elect Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, Worrill co-founded the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment. As the national chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF), Worrill is working aggressively to change the American public school curriculum to be inclusive of the contributions of Africans and African Americans.

Worrill is the elected economic development commissioner of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA). He served as special consultant of field operations for the historic Million Man March/ Day of Absence on October 16, 1995, in Washington, D.C. As part of the fight to win reparations for the American descendants of slaves, he traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997 with a delegation to formally charge the U.S. Government with genocide and human right violations before the Commission on Human Rights. The delegation presented the commission with a "Declaration of Genocide by the United States Government Against the Black Population in the United States" with 157,000 signatures.

Upon returning to the United States, Worrill presented this petition to the United Nations in New York City. In 2001, he led a 400-member delegation to the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. He writes the syndicated weekly column "Worrill's World," which is widely read in African American newspapers across the country. In August 2002, Worrill organized a national reparations rally attended by thousands.

Accession Number

A2002.144

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/13/2002

12/15/2009

Last Name

Worrill

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Walter

Schools

Pacific Oaks Children's School

John Farren Elementary School

William H. Ray Elementary School

Hyde Park Academy High School

Pasadena City College

Malcolm X College

Central YMCA College

George Williams College of Aurora University

University of Chicago

University of Wisconsin-Madison

First Name

Conrad

Birth City, State, Country

Pasedena

HM ID

WOR01

State

California

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/15/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and african american studies professor Conrad Walter Worrill (1941 - ) is a reparations leader and chair of the National Black United Front. He traveled with a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland in 1997 to formally charge the U.S. Government with genocide and human right violations before the Commission on Human Rights.

Employment

U.S. Steel

Sears YMCA

United States Army

George Williams College

Northeastern Illinois University

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Conrad Worrill interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill details his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill gives his brother's name

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill recounts his parents' courtship and early marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill recalls his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Conrad Worrill remembers his father's early career

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill describes race relations in the Pasadena, California of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls his family's move to Chicago and his traumatic elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill recounts his involvement in sports at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill illustrates his family's relationship with Jackie Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill talks about his family's relationship with Jackie Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls some of the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill lists his childhood role models

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill details his involvement in high school sports

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill remembers DuSable High School winning the state basketball championship

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill provides the socio-political context of his senior year of high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Conrad Worrill recounts his wild college years

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Conrad Worrill provides the socio-political context of his college years

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill discusses his rising awareness of Civil Rights issues

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls his experiences in Army basic training

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill relates his overseas experience in the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill recounts his efforts to be productive after returning from the Army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill talks about his decision to finish college after his return from the military

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill explains how he got involved in social work

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill recalls his entree into political activism with Fred Hampton

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill discusses his involvement in Black Power

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill details how he gave the Sears YMCA back to the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill remembers being courted by other social service organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill recalls Catalyst's impact on the black community in Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill describes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s relationship to Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill recalls the assassination of Fred Hampton and C. T. Vivian's 'Black Curfew' declaration

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill lists the social service programs funded as a result of unrest in the Chicago black community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill recounts his experiences in graduate school and community organizing

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill details the political context of his graduate school years

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Conrad Walter Worrill's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls his work at the YMCA during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers the black consciousness movement

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls enrolling at the University of Chicago

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about working on his first political campaign

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers the assassination of Fred Hampton

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls joining the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes Black Nationalist activities in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers Charles O. Ross, Jr.

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the development of Communiversity

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the start of the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the history of the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the history of the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls working at George Williams College

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about accepting a professorship at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the Communiversity activities at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the Communiversity activities at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the conflicts between Marxism and nationalism in the Pan African movement

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes socialist theories

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the founding of the National Black United Front

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the National Black Independent Political Party

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the activities of the National Black Independent Political Party in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the contention against Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls rallying Chicago leaders to support mayoral candidate Harold Washington, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls rallying Chicago leaders to support mayoral candidate Harold Washington, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes a flyer used in Harold Washington's campaign

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the community support of Harold Washington

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about Mayor Harold Washington's accomplishments

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the death of Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the Free South Africa movement

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about campaigns against genocide in Africa

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about social and racial issues of the 20th century

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about books on African American history