Posts tagged with "thanksgiving"

Thanksgiving Reflection and Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a day to reflect and show gratitude for how far we’ve come in the search for liberation. The SPLC honors the civil rights leaders and martyrs who fought diligently to advance the rights of all people. While their legacies have shaped our history, we are still fighting for justice on their behalf and for the many who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.

Below are some of the martyrs who were targeted for death because of their civil rights work; random victims of vigilantes determined to halt the movement; or people who, in the sacrifice of their own lives, brought new awareness to the struggle. Also featured are two prominent civil rights leaders who dedicated their entire lives to the liberation of all people.



September 25, 1961 · Liberty, Mississippi
Herbert Lee, who worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register Black voters, was killed by a state legislator who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Louis Allen, a Black man who witnessed the murder, was later also killed.

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four school-age girls and wounding others. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.

June 21, 1964 · Philadelphia, Mississippi
James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, young civil rights workers, were arrested by a deputy sheriff and then released into the hands of Klansmen who had plotted their murders. They were shot, and their bodies were buried in an earthen dam.

January 10, 1966 · Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, a wealthy businessman, offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. The night after a radio station broadcast Dahmer’s offer, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns.

John Lewis
Civil rights icon and one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, John Lewis nearly died when law enforcement attacked him and other protestors while attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge during his long quest to secure freedom and civil rights for Black people. Also known as “Bloody Sunday,” the brutal attacks were photographed and published in newspapers, sending shockwaves throughout the country. Lewis was a man of action who always stood for justice in the face of violence. He served 17 terms in Congress and passed away from cancer at 80 in 2020.

Ella Josephine Baker
Serving in leadership roles for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Baker organized communities across the country. She spent most of the 1940s knocking door to door, encouraging Black people to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Her sharp organizing skills, dedication and strategic thinking led her to implement campaigns with local organizations for causes such as anti-lynching, job training, equal pay for Black teachers and voter registration drives. She died at 92 in 2005.

The legacy of these figures helped shape the fate of the country. These martyrs and civil rights leaders serve as a reminder of the immense sacrifices made in light of the liberation of all people which we are still fighting for today. Today and every day, we honor them with action.

In solidarity,

The Southern Poverty Law Center

The History Of Thanksgiving And Why It Matters Today


Every year Americans gleefully celebrate Thanksgiving. Today the holiday has morphed into consumerism, displays of costumed harmony and gratitude shaped by the fables and illusions constructed by those in power demanding we overlook the harsh truth and history of Thanksgiving. Still, no matter how far we stray from the path of truth, and as long as grass grows and water runs, history will remain seated in its scared place on top of the mountain awaiting man’s arrival for deeper knowledge and finally, true freedom rooted in a just and equal world.

Today, young people are still drawing pictures of pilgrims eating harmoniously with Native Americans when that depiction is far from historical fact. The truth, unfortunately, is the brutal genocide of Native Americans. And the official commemoration of Thanksgiving by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 was an idea born from George Washington as a political strategy for pilgrim unification, and in celebration of The Constitution. Historians say the turkeys significance as part of the origin of Thanksgiving, is due to the pilgrims dependence on wild turkeys they found to sustain themselves in their new world. And the national day of celebration was directly tied to their protestant religion of praising God for all the glory, land and newfound opportunities for riches outside the boundaries of Europe.

Equally important to note is how the European settlers defined themselves in an effort to unify and strengthen their hostile takeover of Native American lands. At some point, they no longer wanted to be seen as immigrants. Thus, after forming The Constitution, they evolved from being called pilgrims, colonists, Europeans and finally settling on whites, which essentially removed their specific place of origin across Europe from their identity. This new white institution was to form a political force and also to establish world dominance via the construct of white supremacy. Unfortunately, the “white” label of unity didn’t stop the Civil War from dividing the country, but I digress.

There are numerous historical accounts describing the brutality inflicted upon Native Americans by the pilgrims who came to be known as whites. It’s also important to remember, Black enslaved people were part of this journey of discovery to colonization. And they endured the worst of the pilgrims voyage and eventual settlement of the new world. It’s no secret our American teachings is shaped with many untruths and myths about our journey to this point in time, including the rotund myth of Christopher Columbus. As we advance in our knowledge of the world and its history, it’s becoming more evident that all the lies spun have been to lionize white men and their place in the world. This, despite clear, historical and anthropological accounts to the contrary. From human evolution to advancements in civilization, Africans paved the way.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a unique American tradition. It’s a day we celebrate the blessings of family, friendships, abundance and American liberty as we know it. Sadly, many Native Americans recognize this day as one of mourning. And rightfully so when you consider the ugly truths of Thanksgiving, which depicts their ancestors in a tale of brotherhood with their killers. Also, Black folks remain economically and socially oppressed in America despite the riches and bounties their ancestors reaped under forced slave labor that the pilgrims who turned white control and use as a dominating global force and superpower.

The significance of Thanksgiving matters, especially today, because we celebrate despite the reality on the ground for the people who suffered the greatest toll in the establishment of this day of harvest, feasting and celebration of our bounties. It’s a callous truth and yet every year we skip to the festive beat of Thanksgiving, with presidential turkey pardoning’s, parades and family gatherings, all while blindly ignoring history and realism. The world I want to live in celebrates a Thanksgiving where all the people who labored for the harvest equally enjoy and benefit from it. And until that day comes, the gobble, gobble will never be sweet in America.