James Alexander Hood, a hero of the American civil rights movement, died on January 17 at the age of 70 in Gadsden, the city in which he born in 1942, in the US state of Alabama. The example he set still has lessons for Kenyans today.
JAMES HOOD ENROLLS IN AN ALL-WHITE UNIVERSITY
In 1963, James Hood attempted to enroll in the University of Alabama, then an all-white institution in a segregationist state. He was prevented from doing so by the state’s Governor, George Wallace, who backed by state troopers physically blocked his entry to the university in a confrontation that was carried live on US national television.
JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERVENES
The then US president, John F. Kennedy, then ‘federalized’ the Alabama National Guard, that is he brought them under US national rather than Alabama state control. James Hood returned to the University of Alabama, this time supported by the National Guard, not confronted by them, and enrolled in the course of his choice.
Although James Hood left the university two months later following threats to his life, the mould had been broken – African-Americans could in theory go to what had until then been all-white southern US universities.
BACK TO UNIVERSITY AND FRIENDSHIP WITH GEORGE WALLACE
In 1995 Hood returned to the University of Alabama and signed up for his doctorate degree and in May 1997 he duly received a PhD in ‘Interdisciplinary studies’.
That was not all he achieved. James Hood also formed a friendship with non other than former Alabama governor George Wallace and attended his funeral in 1998.
‘BLACK HISTORY MONTH’ – LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
February is ‘Black history month 2013’ and the United States International University (USIU) is holding a series of panel discussions with guest speakers beginning on Tuesday, ‘that will enlighten audiences about the plights, struggles, and successes of African nations and the continent as a whole’.
Well good for the USIU says the Kenya Forum, and good luck with ‘Black History Month 2013’. There’s just one matter that we would like the organisers of the event to consider in future.
The advertisement promoting the USIU’s ‘celebration’ placed in the The Star newspaper last Thursday, included the names and photographs of the 17 invited ‘keynote speakers’ and panelists and all worthy people they are no doubt: and all bar one of them are men…
The advertisement’s sub-headline, as it were, reads, “Emancipation in Africa: The Road Trodden; The Heights Gained”. The line up of male faces displayed underneath seems to suggest that female emancipation in Kenya hasn’t quite reached the USIU and the organisers of Black History Month 2013’! James Hood would have spotted this we think.