Bury My Heart: Remembering Those Who Worked for Racial Justice

‘Tis the season for year-end lists and remembering those we lost in 2007. Given that, I thought it was important to remember a few of those who worked for racial justice that we lost this past year. This list of ten people, some of whom you’ll recognize and some you may not, are in no particular order.

#10. Vernon Bellecourt, who fought to restore land and dignity to Native Americans and against the use of Indian nicknames for sports teams as a longtime leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), died in Minneapolis on October 13, 2007 at the age of 75. He was president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media and principal spokesman for AIM.

#9. Thelma Garcia Buchholdt, the first Filipino American state legislator outside of Hawai‘i and the first-ever Filipino American woman state legislator, died on November 5, 2007 in Anchorage, Alaska. Buchholdt was elected to Alaska’s state legislature in 1974, from a legislative district where Asian Americans constituted less than 1% of the population. She was re-elected three times and served for eight years. As vice chair of the House Finance Committee, which prepares the preliminary state budget, Buchholdt became one of the most powerful women in Alaska. In 1980, Buchholdt pushed for a $600,000 Asian Alaskan Cultural Center, which now serves the cultural and education needs of Anchorage’s Filipino and Asian communities. And, in 1996, Buchholdt published Filipinos in Alaska, 1788-1958.

#8. Esther Renteria, Latina activist, who worked to increase the number of Latinos in news and other programs, died January 17, 2007 at age 67. Renteria formed advocacy groups, met with general managers of stations, filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission and raised scholarship funds for Latino journalism students. Congresswoman Solis recognized the life of Esther in the House of Representatives, saying: “She understood the importance of Latino children watching people on television who looked like them and could relate to them. Esther’s endless advocacy and enthusiasm helped increase and positively modify the presence of Latinos in the media.”

#7. Will Maslow, a longtime advocate for racial justice, died February 26, 2007, in New York City at age 99. In 1946, he negotiated with Gertz, the largest department store in Jamaica, Queens, to hire blacks for the first time. “The negroes’ fight against discrimination in employment, housing, education is part of the struggle for Jews for equality of opportunity in those fields,” Maslow told the New York Times when the settlement was announced. As former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, Maslow worked for decades leading the organization’s lawsuits on behalf of blacks and other oppressed groups, including a lawsuit against Columbia University to change its discriminatory admissions quotas, and another against the giant Stuyvesant Town Housing Co. to end its restrictive racial policies.

#6. Ernest Withers, Memphis-based photojournalist who photographed the civil rights movement from the Emmett Till trial through the assassination Martin Luther King and created an archive on African-American society, music and culture, died October 16, 2007 at age 85 in a Memphis hospital. Tony Decaneas, founder and director of Panopticon Gallery in Boston, which represents Withers’ work, said, “There’s no question in my mind that he had the largest body of work documenting the civil rights movement in the South of any photographer, bar none.”

#5. The Rev. Edwin R. “Doc” Edmonds, referred to as “New Haven’s premier civil-rights figure of the mid-20th century,”died on November 6, 2007 at age 90. Edmonds, a former chair of the UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice, was the retired pastor of Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC in New Haven, Conn., where he served for 35 years.

#4. Laurence Holland, a civil rights leader who advocated for educational and economic opportunities for the black community in Rockland County, New York, died December 18, 2007 at age 81. Holland served as president of the NAACP in Nyack from 1969 to 1975. Through his work with the NAACP, Holland promoted housing integration, development programs and scholarship opportunities. He also supported and had leadership roles in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Rockland Negro Scholarship Fund and other nonprofit organizations. “His vision was that all people would be treated fairly and equally and there would be justice for all,” said Wilbur Aldridge, director of the NAACP in the Mid-Hudson and Westchester region.

#3. June E. Johnson was active in Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights organization. At the relatively young age of 15, she was involved desegregating a bus stop in Columbus, Miss., in 1963. Following that act of civil disobedience she was arrested, along with the well-known civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer and others, beaten and jailed. Throughout her life she continued to work for the cause of racial justice. In 2000, she worked as a research consultant for the film “Freedom Song,” a documentary about the Mississippi SNCC workers, and served as lead consultant for “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders,” a documentary about her civil rights activism and that of Hamer, Victoria Gray Adams and others. Additionally, she was featured in the public radio documentary “Mississippi Becomes a Democracy.” She died April 13, 2007, in Washington, D.C.

#2. Carolyn Goodman, a clinical psychologist and civil rights advocate, died in New York City on August 17, 2007 at age 91.  She became a nationally prominent civil rights advocate after her son Andrew Goodman along with two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.  Politically active until she was 90, Dr. Goodman came to wide public attention again in 2005 when she traveled to Philadelphia, Miss., where she testified at the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, a former Klan leader recently indicted in the case. On June 21, 2005, the 41st anniversary of the killings, a jury acquitted Mr. Killen of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

#1.  Oliver W. Hill, a civil rights lawyer who was at the forefront of the legal effort that desegregated public schools, died on August 5, 2007 at age 100.  He also helped win landmark legal decisions involving equality in pay for black teachers, access to school buses, voting rights, jury selection, and employment protection.  In 1998, he retired after practicing law for almost 60 years.  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1999.



  1. racismreview.com » Blog Archive » Ten Ways to Work for Racial Justice in 2008

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