The black funeral home in history

In this case, you’re Chester Miller, a funeral director, and a family is in need of your services.

Indianapolis IN Recorder-November 5, 1938
In response to a reference question, I discovered that 10% of undertakers/morticians/funeral directors were African-American in 2016. But that fact doesn’t get to the historic import of the black funeral home.

US Funerals notes: “In the United States there is a rich cultural heritage of black-owned and operated funeral homes. Indeed black funeral parlors were some of the first businesses to be set up by African-Americans after the abolition of slavery.”

Funeralwise agrees: “Since few white undertakers would serve the African American community, black undertakers created independent businesses to fill the need. During the Civil War black soldiers were often assigned to burial details, recovering and burying the dead, but also assisting with keeping death records and finding ways to preserve remains to be sent home to other parts of the country for interment…

“These experiences prepared many soldiers for work in the burial industry, not only allowing them to serve their brothers and sisters in their time of grief but also allowing them to preserve numerous funeral customs associated with their African heritage.”

Edwin Jackson, a licensed black funeral director, and embalmer, shares a more recent history: “The local sheriff is on the other end and says he needs you to pick up a body… You’re used to putting your evenings and sleep on hold. In this case, you’re Chester Miller, a funeral director, and a family is in need of your services. Today you have been called to pick up a body that was found floating in the Tallahatchie River. You arrive on the scene and immediately you see the battered, broken, and decomposed body of a young boy…

“I use this story surrounding Emmett Till’s death to show how death has been used as a catalyst within the civil right movement and emphasize the role black funeral directors have played in such movements. Sixty years later, we see the maturity of a new movement that now flies under the banner of Black Lives Matter. We also see a new generation of black funeral directors… looking to support our community in the undertaking of such movements.”

While cultural changes are hitting black funeral homes, the institution has long been a business of loyalty, especially in the South. When they died, both my parents were tended to by the nearby African-American mortician in Charlotte, NC.

There is a group, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, founded in 1924. Though by 1957 it had taken on the new name, its history makes clear that it is geared to the black funeral director.

The penultimate pre-election Trump link dump

Trump says he insulted women ‘for the purpose of entertainment’

I haven’t written about Donald Trump lately. It isn’t that he hasn’t ticked me off. In fact, after about a week of not saying too many irritating things a while back, he has returned to form, and that was before the 2005 tape was revealed.

But I haven’t the energy to rant on him. Other sources are doing that for me. So I’ve cleaned out my email with this link dump.

There are basically two narratives about why the mainstream media is finally spending more time analyzing The Donald:

1) He is the nominee of a major party, not just one of 17 candidates for the GOP nomination. The media were counting on someone who was a grownup would defeat him in the primaries – surely they won’t nominate HIM – and they could pretty much go with the entertainment/ratings of the sideshow. But when that didn’t happen – and it’s been at least likely since March 15, when Marco Rubio lost Florida. – they were then obliged to do their jobs.

2) The media is out to get him because they’re all Hillary Clinton supporters.

I think 1) is true, but I also believe Donald ticked off the media when he called them together for “a major” address on the birther issue, spent 30 minutes doing an infomercial about his properties, spent 30 seconds saying that Barack Obama WAS an American after all and that it was Hillary who created the birther movement. The press corps felt they had been played, and they did not like it.

Did this bring on The Death of ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism? “The New York Times responds to a candidate who breaks all the rules by discarding some of its own.” In other words, trashing the false equivalence argument?

So here is a load of links about DJT. This is hardly an exhaustive list, just a number I’ve come across since the last link dump. Feel free to add your favorite links in the comment section, or on my Facebook feed to this article.

If you read nothing else, read the first one, because it links to other stories.

Investigative Reporters and Donald Trump: the 9 Best Articles

The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet

The question of what Donald Trump “really believes” has no answer


Powerful New Clinton Ad Nails The Impact Of Trump’s Vile Behavior

USA Today’s non-endorsement. Plus Newspaper endorsements in the United States presidential election, 2016

UN Rights Chief Blasts Trump as ‘Dangerous’ for Global Community

30 GOP Ex-Pols: Trump a ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘Unacceptable Danger’

Trump budget would boost debt more than HRC’s

The Trump supporter

The ‘Trump Effect’ is contaminating our kids — and could resonate for years

‘Finally. Someone who thinks like me.’

Christians Must Stop Pretending About Donald Trump – Stop pretending that you know what God’s thinking.

How to Talk to Trump Supporters (Robert Reich)

On Your Way to the Camps, I Just Want You to Know…

Video of Trump explaining his dangerous theory that people like him have superior genes

The Post-Trump Problem

Bill of Rights

Trumpism Is the Symptom of a Gravely Ill Constitution; No matter what happens in November, the sickness may be terminal.

Donald Trump Tells Non-Christians At Rally To Identify Themselves

Donald Trump Suggests ‘Freedom Of Expression’ Is Hurting Fight Against Terrorism

On the right to counsel for Ahmad Khan Rahami

International Affairs

Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia

Trump Did Business With Castro’s Cuba

Money from the Saudis


Donald Trump Counts on Scamming Others to Make His Money

Donald Trump’s Business Plan Left a Trail of Unpaid Bills and Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills. As a librarian for small businesses, this particularly irritates me.

Trump may not have paid federal taxes for nearly 20 years and Trump Tax Tweets. No wonder he doesn’t release his taxes.

Trump’s father helped him with numerous loans

The People Behind The Apprentice Owe America the Truth About Donald Trump

American Steel workers screwed

Trump Foundation

New York attorney general has notified Donald Trump that his charitable foundation is violating state law – by soliciting donations without proper certification – and ordered Trump’s charity to stop its fund-raising immediately.

Trump Used Foundation Money to Launch Presidential Campaign

Settling legal problems with money from his charity


I had finished this blog post BEFORE the recent revelations. Shows you what I know. I was appalled by the “all guys do it” defense, and the sometimes vociferous attacks by the Trump defenders against men (including myself) who found Trump’s comments abnormal.

The Most Disturbing Aspect Of The Trump Video Is One That Many Men Won’t Appreciate. And a report that in 2010, that it was his M.O.

Trump says he insulted women ‘for the purpose of entertainment’

Trump Called Her A “Cnt” And “Sht For Brains” For Writing A Story He Didn’t Like

50 Ways Donald Trump Is Every Obnoxious Man You’ve Ever Met – He’s THAT guy.

Porn Trump

“The Blacks”

Donald Trump Says Central Park Five Are Guilty, Despite DNA Evidence

Trump Calls For Intimidation At Polling Places In Black Neighborhoods

Trump barred from civil rights museum after his cronies made demands and bullied the staff


Carly Simon allows the use of ‘You’re So Vain’ in an anti-Trump video—with one tiny tweak

Trump Lies about His Birther Past – Late Night with Seth Meyers

Doonesbury on Trump


Cartoon: Donald Trump’s tremendous charities

Mr Brunelle Explains It All – read many of them

Joss Whedon returns with star-studded, anti-Trump video to get out the vote

Satire: Evidence That Trump Is a Genius – CHRISTIE CALLS TRUMP GENIUS FOR PLAN TO BURN DOWN WHITE HOUSE AND COLLECT INSURANCE and Putin cancels campaign event with Trump

In conclusion

Did the movie A Face in the Crowd predict Trump’s rise?

Both Keith Olbermann and Dan Rather point to Trump’s debate threat against H. Clinton as worthy of a despot, tyrant, or monarch – not a president

STEVE SCHMIDT, Republican strategist, on Meet the Press, October 9, 2016:
What [the Trump candidacy] exposes, though, is much deeper and it goes to the Republican Party as an institution. This, this candidacy, the magnitude of its disgrace to the country is almost impossible, I think, to articulate. But it has exposed the intellectual rot in the Republican Party. It has exposed at a massive level the hypocrisy, the modern-day money changers in the temple like Jerry Falwell Jr. And so, this party, to go forward and to represent a conservative vision for America, has great soul searching to do. And what we’ve seen and the danger for all of these candidates is over the course of the last year, these, these candidates who have repeatedly put their party ahead of their country, denying what is so obviously clear to anybody who’s watching about his complete and total manifest unfitness for this office.

The Curse of Canaan (or Ham)

The explanation that black Africans, as the “sons of Ham”, were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins, became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.

When we were investigating some aspects of black history this year at church, I was intrigued by the fact that, for a time in the mid-17th century, slavery based on race wasn’t really codified in the United States. There were white indentured servants and black slaves, but the former were often given ever-changing terms of servitude, making them functionally little better off than slaves.

In the 1670s, Bacon’s Rebellion “demonstrated that poor whites and poor blacks could be united in a cause. This was a great fear of the ruling class — what would prevent the poor from uniting to fight them? This fear hastened the transition to racial slavery.”

The status of blacks in Virginia slowly changed over the last half of the 17th century.“The black indentured servant, with his hope of freedom, was increasingly being replaced by the black slave.” So why bother with indentured servants who, after 7, 18, or 21 years [would have to be freed], when you could have Africans serve their lifetime, and serve in perpetuity through their children?
But HOW was the idea of permanent black enslavement developed? In part, from the Bible. Specifically from Genesis 9, starting with verse 18. After Noah has too much wine, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brethren outside.” Noah curses Canaan (not Ham) to be the lowest of slaves “to his brothers,” specifically to Ham’s brothers, Japheth and Shem.

From the Wikipedia:

While Genesis 9 never says that Ham was black, he became associated with black skin, through folk etymology deriving his name from a similar, but actually unconnected, word meaning “dark” or “brown”…

The explanation that black Africans, as the “sons of Ham”, were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins, was advanced only sporadically during the Middle Ages, but it became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. The justification of slavery itself through the sins of Ham was well suited to the ideological interests of the elite; with the emergence of the slave trade, its racialized version justified the exploitation of African labour.

Read Black Slavery as the “Curse of Ham”: Bible Truth or Racist Apologetic?

The notion that blackness is equal to sin, used to “prove” black people’s “natural” inferiority, and lack of moral character, also shows up in the Book of Mormon, published in the 1820s (2 Nephi 5:21):

And [God] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God; I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.”

Sometime in the last few years, a good Christian woman, who reportedly has studied the Bible carefully, indicated, more or less out of the blue, that I was descended from Ham. Yet, in spite of my “cursed state,” the love of Jesus Christ was still available to me. Circumstances warranted that I had no opportunity for reply.

THIS is my reply: lady, your “Biblical history” is BS.

The Cosby Show, Black-ish, and how 30 years has seemingly vanished

It deeply bothers me that we’ve basically erased all of the cultural gains made by The Cosby Show and a well-off suburban black family is suddenly a big mystery again.

cosby_oneWhy write a blog post when you can steal from others?

Every week, or usually more often, writer Ken Levine, whose television credits include MASH, and importantly for this context, CHEERS, answers question from his readers. From Charles H. Bryan:

“I was thinking today, a little, about THE COSBY SHOW of the 80s. I think if you mention the show to someone who was watching TV then, they’ll say they liked it and think well of it, but it won’t pop up on a list without the prompt. I think people more likely remember SEINFELD, or FRIENDS, or CHEERS as being part of NBC Thursday. I think more people would recall the Keatons than the Huxtables. Do you think THE COSBY SHOW gets the discussion that it should?”

THE COSBY SHOW was one of the most influential television programs in the history of the medium.
At the time it premiered in 1984 there was a lot of talk that sitcoms were an endangered species. That one show changed everything. The ratings were spectacular and no show in today’s landscape will ever have the impact THE COSBY SHOW had. CHEERS and FAMILY TIES only became smash hits because they followed THE COSBY SHOW.

Creatively, however, I don’t think THE COSBY SHOW aged well. And it’s not just because of those sweaters. In fairness, the first year was wonderful. Funny, fresh, and with attitudes that were real. And it had one of the best pilots ever. I show it to my USC Comedy class every semester.

But as the series progressed and Bill assumed more creative control the show became way more preachy. Scripts were routinely just thrown out by Bill so the poor writing staff was churning out material night and day. Not surprisingly, he would burn them out. And the end result reflected that. Some terrific writers were reduced to galley slaves. So you never got the advantage of seeing them at their best.

Today the show feels dated and somewhat overbearing. But again, give it its due. THE COSBY SHOW must go down as one of the greatest shows in the history of TV.

Jaquandor was “never a big fan of The Cosby Show, to be honest. I didn’t hate it, by any means; it just didn’t light my fire.” I wonder if he were watching those latter, preachier seasons.

Next up, SamuraiFrog, the Midwest blogger who has been helping me (thank goodness) with ABC Wednesday, is rather knowledgeable about the nuances of race vis a vis television. His review of the new ABC sitcom Black-ish is so on target:

I especially get annoyed at the AV Club’s criticism of black shows and movies…

…this morning I happened to catch the first paragraph of their review of the second episode of Black-ish, and I think the reviewer missed the point.

“The biggest concern after Black-ish’s very good and unique premiere was whether the show would maintain its dedication to intelligently remarking on cultural diversity while putting race at the foreground or would it instead fall into the trap of becoming nothing more than a simplistic family sitcom (albeit one that makes the stray reference to a prominent aspect of black culture)…”

I found that comment a bit disappointing, because I think it comes from this sort of thinking that it’s revolutionary in 2014 to have African-Americans on network TV. The sad thing is that that might be true. At the very least, it’s become disappointingly unusual. Network TV has backslid a long, long way since the days of Good Times or The Cosby Show or even The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. That show was a generation ago. When was the last time ABC actually had a black sitcom on the air?…

I saw some reviewers who were breathlessly surprised at how “normal” and “relatable” the show was, as though it was a revelation for some that a black guy knew his own father and didn’t speak exclusively through gangsta slang. And it’s depressing to realize that those attitudes are what this show is up against.

The AV Club reviewer seems disappointed that every episode isn’t going to be The White Person’s Guide to Modern African-American Culture. But that dehumanizes the characters and turns them simply into avatars of modern blackness and sets “black” as their defining characteristic. That’s not the point. The show can and should deal with race, but not exclusively. There is and should be more going on on this show than the Black Problem of the Week. It’s also about a family. About people. About people who have more going on in their lives than contextualizing blackness for a white audience.

It deeply bothers me that we’ve basically erased all of the cultural gains made by The Cosby Show and a well-off suburban black family is suddenly a big mystery again, and too many white critics can’t relate to it if Dre isn’t trying to get the family to out-black themselves every week. (By and large, the black critics I’ve seen are relieved that the show seems to be going in the direction it’s going in, rather than shouldering the burden of symbolically translating Unsolved Black Mysteries every week.) I think there’s a real social concern in every black form of entertainment being a litmus test on whether white people are “ready” to relate to black people. Apparently we’re never ready!

I appreciated what SamuraiFrog wrote, though I found it quite depressing that we’re having “the conversation” about race and television in 2014 that I thought was largely resolved three decades ago.

While I’m at it, here are two other Cosby Show-related links from Mr. Frog:

*The last 11 minutes of an episode of The Cosby Show, “Cliff’s Nightmare.” “In the episode, Cliff eats a sausage sandwich late at night and, trying to sleep with an upset stomach, finds himself in a Muppet-filled nightmare hospital.”

* His obit for Geoffrey Holder 1930-2014 notes, among other things, that Holder, best known to most Americans as the 7Up pitchman, choreographed the season 5 opening of The Cosby Show, which was SF’s favorite title sequence.

Season 5 is my second favorite opening after the season 4 Bobby McFerrin/wedding iteration, but the one Malcolm Jamal Warner least like doing. Check out Celebrating 30 Years of ‘The Cosby Show’ by Debating Four Key ‘Cosby’ Questions. Better yet, check out all of the Cosby Show intros.

S is for the Staple Singers

This century, Mavis Staples, who was the primary voice on so many of the Staple Singers’ songs, has been putting out several well-received albums.

Staple-SingersA major competitor of Motown serving up black music in the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s was STAX Records, which I wrote about extensively HERE.

One of the great groups on the label was The Staple Singers, “an American gospel, soul, and R&B singing group. Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), Yvonne (b. 1936), and Mavis (b. 1939)… While the family surname is ‘Staples’, the group used the singular form for its name, ‘The Staple Singers’.”

They had appeared on other labels before joining STAX, releasing songs such as For What It’s Worth [LISTEN], a cover of the Buffalo Springfield hit, that went to #66 in 1967 on Epic Records.

When Will We Be Paid (1970 – a description of the song HERE)
Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha Na Boom Boom) (#27 in 1971)
Respect Yourself (#12 in 1971) – my favorite song of theirs
I’ll Take You There (#1 in 1972) – my second favorite
If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me) (#9 in 1973)
Let’s Do It Again (#1 in 1975) – their big hit on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label, after STAX’s demise
The Weight, with The Band, from the 1976 movie The Last Waltz

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

This century, Mavis Staples, who was the primary voice on so many of the group’s songs, has been putting out several well-received albums. The first one I picked up was 2007’s We’ll Never Turn Back. “Produced by roots rock and blues musician Ry Cooder, it is a concept album with lyrical themes relating to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Upon its release, We’ll Never Turn Back received positive reviews from most music critics. It was also named one of the best albums of 2007 by several music writers and publications.”

99 and 1/2
I’ll Be Rested

“During a December 20, 2008 appearance on National Public Radio’s news show ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,’ when Staples was asked about her past personal relationship with [Bob] Dylan, she admitted they ‘were good friends, yes indeed’ and that he had asked her father for her hand in marriage.” She ultimately said no, because the interracial relationship would have been too difficult back in that period.

Finally, LISTEN to a live version of Wrote a song for everyone, a tune from her 2010 album You Are Not Alone. That album was produced by Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

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