In Loving Memory – Celebrating Brooklyn Centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones

Dear Readers:

The article featured here was originally posted in 2014 in honor of Ms. Susannah Mushatt Jones. Earlier today Ms. Jones made her transition just a few months shy of her 117th birthday. Here is a link to coverage from the BBC news outlet informing the world of the  Passing of Susannah Mushatt Jones. We are so thrilled to be able to claim her as one of Brooklyn’s most cherished daughters!

Original article:

On July 6, 2014, Brooklyn super-centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones celebrated her 115th birthday.  A few days later there was a celebration for her at the Vandalia Senior Center in Brooklyn, New York Ms. Mushatt Jones is the oldest resident of New York State, the second-oldest American and the third-oldest person in the world.

Susannah Mushatt Jones Celebrates 115 years

Susannah Mushatt Jones Celebrates 115 years

Susannah Mushatt Jones was born on July 6, 1899 in Lowndes County, Alabama. This was one of the toughest times to be a person of African or Caribbean descent living in the rural south.  I imagine she witnessed the cruel indignities that were designed to strip African and Caribbean Americans of all hope of ever achieving the basic civil rights enjoyed by their white counterparts. Despite these challenges, she would also witness some amazing “firsts” in Civil Rights history.

Ms. Mushatt Jones - NY Times

The Lovely Ms. Mushatt Jones

Ms. Mushatt Jones migrated to New York City in 1923, at the age of 24. Like those who made the journey before her, she dreamed of creating a new life filled with hope and promise.  For many southerners moving “up north” this was a time filled great expectation, despite the harsh realities they would experience.  This was a period when segregation was woven into every facet of life in America.

Opportunities for economic and educational advancements were non-existent.  Often times, the only jobs available to African-Americans were as domestics or field workers.  If exceptions were made, they were given the most laborious tasks. When using public transportation, they had to sit in the back of the bus. The same rule was in effect when traveling on the interstate.

The legal system was equally as cruel. For many, punishment for the slightest infractions could range from life in prison, to a life of hard labor. There was no hope of a fair jury trial. We also know that, during these times, lynching was the order of the day. This was truly “the worst of time.”

Thankfully, Ms. Mushatt Jones made it safely through these atrocities and settled into life in Harlem. She must have been so excited! This was the time of the Harlem Renaissance and the beginning of a whole new world on so many levels – intellectually, financially, socially and economically. She worked as a child-care provider for 42 years, until she retired in 1965. As she made her way in the world, America’s history was going through a transformation. She had a front row seat.  Here are some of the wonders that she was able to see.

On the Road to Civil Rights – the mid 1950s through the 1960s.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that segregation in public schools was illegal. I am not sure if I could articulate how Ms. Mushatt Jones felt when Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the court’s decision.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Surely she rejoiced on November 13, 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in the case of Browder v. Gayle that segregated bus laws in Alabama were unconstitutional.  This case was presented after Rosa Park’s arrest on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger.  Ms. Parks’ defiance sparked the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for 381 days, until the local ordinance segregating African-Americans and whites on public buses was repealed.

On August 28, 1963, she would see thousands of Americans participate in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I wonder if she was there?  This past August, we commemorated the 51st anniversary of this historic day.

Rev. Dr. King, President Johnson and civil rights leaders

Rev. Dr. King, President Johnson and civil rights leaders

One year later, on July 2, 1964, I envision Ms. Mushatt Jones rejoicing when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. I can almost see her listening to the radio as the provisions were read. Title VI prohibited public access discrimination and would lead to school desegregation. Title VII prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Title VIII was the original “federal fair housing law,” that was later amended in 1988.

On March 25, 1965, all eyes would focus on her home state of Alabama for the Selma to Montgomery MarchRev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in the campaign for voting rights. Residents in Harlem led their own demonstrations to show their support. Perhaps she was among them.

Justice Thurgood Marshall

Justice Thurgood Marshall

I would be remiss if I did not mention two additional milestones that took place in 1967.  The first occurred when President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to be the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The second occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Loving v. Virginia that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

As we know, the fight for Civil Rights culminated in the 1960s but is far from over. The decades that followed would be marked with notable firsts in education, housing, criminal justice and employment.

I would love to know what her reaction was when, in January 2009 and January 2013, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America. His beautiful wife Michelle would take her place as America’s First Lady. When Ms. Jones was growing up the word “lady” was not given to African-American women. What a celebration this was for her on so many levels. She lived through a century of firsts with years to spare.

This list is by no means finite. I have presented it in this manner to provide a glimpse of what she lived through. I also imagine that she played an important role in securing many of the freedoms that we now enjoy.

As we help Ms. Jones celebrate another milestone, in addition to serenading her with the traditional “Happy Birthday” another song that was popular during the civil rights movement also comes to mind, “Someday We’ll All Be Free” by Donny Hathaway.

Please join Brooklyn Legends in wishing Ms. Mushatt Jones a very Happy Birthday!

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Credits:
Photos of Ms. Mushatt Jones – The New York Times
Photos of The Little Rock Nine – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of James Meredith – Wikipedia.org
Photo of Richard and Mildred Loving – Time.com
Photo of Jackie Robinson – via Pinterest, Mary Kay Ward
Photo of Justice Thurgood Marshall – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of The March on Washington – via Googleimages.com
Photo of Rev. Dr. King and President Johnson – via img.dooyoo.co.uk
Background information – Wikipedia and Google.com
Rosa Parks on the bus in Alabama – via Pinterest, Linda Wallace

Remembering Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Civil Rights Icon

Dear Readers,

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader and icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The year was 1968, and the struggle for racial and social justice was woven in the fabric of American life. The entire world watched as people of African and Caribbean descent fought to end injustice and discrimination throughout the country. Hundreds of supporters would gather and march for equal access to education, housing, employment and voting rights.  We have made phenomenal progress but, as we also know, there is still much work to do.

As we pay respect to Dr. King, we would be remiss if we did not salute his widow Mrs. Coretta Scott-King.  A devoted mother and community activist, Mrs. King carried on her husband’s legacy, with unmistakable style and grace, until she passed on January 30, 2006.

Brooklyn Legends joins the world in commemorating Dr. King’s legacy and the great changes he was able to bring about.  We thought you might enjoy watching this segment from his last speech – I’ve Been To The Mountaintop.

Have a great weekend.

Monique
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Credits:
Information about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – http://www.nobelprize.org

 

A Lifetime of Firsts – Celebrating Brooklyn Centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones

Susannah Mushatt Jones
Susannah Mushatt Jones

On July 6, 2013 Brooklyn super-centenarian Susannah Mushatt Jones turned 114 years old.  A few days later, on July 12th, there was a celebration for her at the Vandalia Senior Center in Brooklyn, New York. This extraordinary milestone was covered on television, in the New York Daily News and the New York Times. Ms. Mushatt Jones is the oldest resident of New York State, the second-oldest American and the third-oldest person in the world.

I watched a few of the interviews on television and I always smiled when various reporters asked her “What is your secret?” Or, “Tell us how you did it?” Please know that I am not belittling these questions, for I know they are asked with deep respect and sincerity. However, I also feel the answers could never fully capture the storms she has weathered during her life.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend and she said “Can you imagine what her eyes have seen?” While I do not know first-hand, I can use history as a guide; here is what I have come up with.

Susannah Mushatt Jones was born on July 6, 1899 in Lowndes County, Alabama; which was one of the toughest times to be a person of African or Caribbean descent living in the rural south. I imagine she witnessed the cruel indignities that were designed to strip African-Americans of all hope of ever achieving the basic civil rights enjoyed by their white counterparts. At the same time, she has witnessed some amazing “firsts” in Civil Rights history.

Ms. Mushatt Jones - NY Times

The Lovely Ms. Mushatt Jones

Ms. Mushatt Jones migrated to New York City in 1923, when she was just 24 years old. Like the men and women who left the south before her, she dreamed of creating a new life, filled with hope and great expectations. I imagine there were times when her journey was also hard and demeaning. This was a period when segregation was woven into every facet of life in America.

Opportunities for economic and educational advancements were non-existent. Schools were separate and unequal. Many were forced to accept jobs as domestics or as field hands. If exceptions were made, they were given the most laborious tasks. When using public transportation, they had to sit in the back of the bus. The same rule was in effect when traveling on the interstate. This was an era of privilege and entitlement for anyone but African-Americans.

The legal system also treated them most unjustly. For many, punishment for the slightest infractions could range from life in prison, to a life of hard labor. There was no hope of a fair jury trial. We also know that, during these times, lynching was the order of the day. This was truly “the worst of time.”

Thankfully, Ms. Mushatt Jones made it safely through these atrocities and settled into life in Harlem. She must have been so excited! This was the time of the Harlem Renaissance and the beginning of a whole new world on so many levels – intellectually, financially, socially and economically. She worked as a child-care provider for 42 years, until she retired in 1965. As she made her way in the world, America’s history was going through a transformation. She had a front row seat.  Here are some of the wonders that she was able to see.

On the Road to Civil Rights – the mid 1950s through the 1960s.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that segregation in public schools was illegal. I am not sure if I could articulate how Ms. Mushatt Jones felt when she heard the news.

Surely she rejoiced when, in December 1995, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger. Ms. Parks’ defiance sparked the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for 381 days, until the local ordinance segregating African-Americans and whites on public buses was repealed.

In 1963, she would see thousands of Americans participate in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I wonder if she was there? Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of this famous march and thousands are expected to recreate this history day.

One year later, in 1964, I envision Ms. Mushatt Jones rejoicing when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. I can almost see her listening to the radio as the provisions were read. Title VI prohibited public access discrimination and would lead to school desegregation. Title VII prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Title VIII was the original “federal fair housing law,” that was later amended in 1988.

In 1965, all eyes would focus on her home state of Alabama for the Selma to Montgomery March. On March 25th, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in the campaign for voting rights. Residents in Harlem led their own demonstrations to show their support. Perhaps she was among them.

I would be remiss if I did not mention two additional milestones that took place in 1967.  The first occurred when President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to be the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The second occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Loving v. Virginia that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

As we know, the fight for Civil Rights culminated in the 1960s but is far from over. The decades that followed would be marked with notable firsts in education, housing, criminal justice and employment.

I am sure that Ms. Mushatt Jones was extremely proud of all that she, and her family, accomplished. She never had children but was a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews. She encouraged them to go to college, and provided financial support to help them along. Wouldn’t it be great if they recorded all that she shared with them?

President Obama and the First Lady

President Obama and the First Lady

I would love to know what her reaction was when, in 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America. His beautiful wife Michelle would take her place as America’s First Lady. When Ms. Jones was growing up the word “lady” was not given to African-American women. At this point she was 110 years old! What a celebration this was for her on so many levels. She lived through a century of firsts with years to spare.

As I wrote earlier, this list is by no means finite. I have presented it in this manner to provide a glimpse of what she lived through. I also imagine that she played an important role in securing many of the freedoms that you and I are the beneficiaries of.

As we help Ms. Jones celebrate another milestone, in addition to serenading her with the traditional “Happy Birthday,” another song that was popular during the civil rights movement also comes to mind, “A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.”

Please join Brooklyn Legends in wishing Ms. Mushatt Jones a very Happy Birthday!

Credits:
Photos of Ms. Mushatt Jones – The New York Times
Photos of The Little Rock Nine – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of James Meredith – Wikipedia.org
Photo of Richard and Mildred Loving – Time.com
Photo of Jackie Robinson – via Pinterest, Mary Kay Ward
Photo of President Obama on the bus where Rosa Parks sat – via Pinterest, Mary Hartfield
Photo of Justice Thurgood Marshall – images via Yahoo.com
Photo of The March on Washington – via Googleimages.com
Photo of Rev. Dr. King and President Johnson – via img.dooyoo.co.uk
Background information – Wikipedia and Google.com
Rosa Parks on the bus in Alabama – via Pinterest, Linda Wallace

In Honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Civil Rights Icon

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the passing of civil rights leader and icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The year was 1968, and the civil rights struggle was woven in the fabric of American life. The entire world watched as people of African and Caribbean descent fought to end racial and social injustices throughout the country. Hundreds of supporters would gather and march for equal access to education, housing, employment and voting rights.  We have made phenomenal progress but, as we also know, there is still much work to do.

I am happy to see so many tributes in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. This is simply awesome. When you have a moment, I encourage you to read The Root’s tribute: MLK’s Assassination: 12 Forgotten Facts – Forty-five years after his death, a look at lesser-known or overlooked details surrounding the tragedy.  Please click here to enjoy this article.  The New York Times has also prepared a tribute to Dr. King in its Times Topics section. Once there you will see an encyclopedic list of articles, newly digitized videos and archival photos. To see more, please click here.

martin-luther-king-jrAs we pay respect to Dr. King, we would be remiss if we did not salute his widow Mrs. Coretta Scott-King.  A devoted mother and community activist, she carried on her husband’s legacy, with unmistakable style and grace, until she passed on January 30, 2006.

In December 1968 Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes, visited Mrs. King and her children at their home in Atlanta, Georgia.  This was the King family’s first Christmas without Dr. King.  We thought you might enjoy this special video. 

We at Brooklyn Legends are proud to salute Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a true American hero and his widow Mrs. Coretta Scott-King.
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Credits:
The Root’s Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – http://www.theroot.com
The New York Times Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – http://www.nytimes.com
Mike Wallace Interview with The King Family – http://www.cbs.com via YouTube

Photos:
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – http://www.nobelprize.org
The King family at home in Atlanta, GA – nydailynews.com