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Opinion

Memories of LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton

Memories of LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton

Covering the three-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the University of Texas last week brought back a string of memories – some fond, some bitter. As a son of the South –Tuscaloosa, Ala., to be specific – I saw first-hand how the region was transformed from America's version of apartheid to one that is perhaps more genuinely accepting of African Americans than any other geographical section of the country.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – all white Southerners who grew up in the Jim Crow South – played a significant role in the region's transformation. But that didn't happen in a vacuum. Each was pushed and challenged by the modern civil rights movement, a multi-racial movement, with blacks serving as chief architects that prodded the U.S. to have its deeds mirror its professed ideals. (George W. Bush, a wealthy Texan, is omitted from this discussion because he did nothing significant to advance civil rights. In fact, his appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court represented a setback to the cause of civil rights.)

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Whitney Young of the National Urban League; NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins; John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) receive the lion's share of publicity about the movement, the true heroes were the everyday men and women of the South who risked their jobs and lives to be treated as equals.

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African-American women and paycheck fairness

African-American women and paycheck fairness

When John and Ann started working on Jan. 1, 2013, John had an immediate advantage. Because women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, it took Ann until last Friday (April 11, 2014) to earn the same amount of money that John earned in the calendar year of 2013.

The issue of unequal pay is so important that President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago. While we have come a long way, baby, the pay gap has remained stubborn. This is why President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act as soon as he assumed office.

This year, to commemorate National Equal Pay Day (that's the day Ann finally earns as much as John), the president signed an Executive Order protecting workers from retaliation when they speak of unequal pay in the workplace (one of the ways employers can maintain unequal pay is to make discussing pay grounds for firing). The president, through the Secretary of Labor, is also requiring federal contractors to provide data on pay, race, and gender to ensure that employers are fairly paid. Furthermore, the Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, which may pass the Senate, but not the House of Representatives.

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  • Written by Julianne Malveaux

Who cares if Al Sharpton was an FBI informant 30 years ago?

Who cares if Al Sharpton was an FBI informant 30 years ago?

Like many people living in New York, I saw the Rev. Al Sharpton's face plastered over copies of the New York Post and the New York Daily News, roasting him for being a "rat" and a "mob snitch." Apparently, Sharpton served a role as an FBI informant against mob bosses in the 1980s. That was around the time I was either wearing diapers or serving as nothing more than a figment of my mother's imagination.

In response to the reports, Sharpton hastily organized a press conference at the National Action Network's headquarters in Harlem to address the reports. Sharpton, very much a black preacher, cleverly refuted the stories by noting, "Rats are usually people that were with other rats. I was not and am not a rat, because I wasn't with the rats. I'm a cat. I chase rats."

Let me repeat that for the folks in the back pews. Reverend Sharpton isn't Master Splinter, he's Heathcliff, ya dig? Can I get an amen?

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Actually, Obama’s record compares just fine with LBJ’s

Actually, Obama’s record compares just fine with LBJ’s

The tenuousness of making comparisons between President Lyndon B. Johnson's vaunted vote-wrangling prowess and the allegedly ineffectual legislative skills of President Barack Obama was nicely summed up on Wednesday with this tweet:

LOLGOP @LOLGOP
In 30 years, the left will be asking why current Democrats don't get things done like Obama did & the right will say Obama was a Tea Partier

Although it's meant to get a laugh – and it's hard to imagine a future where Obama's remembered as a Tea Partier – the upshot – that perceptions change over time – actually holds up pretty well.

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Obama could stand to be a little more like LBJ

Obama could stand to be a little more like LBJ

On Thursday, President Barack Obama joined other dignitaries at a civil rights summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's signature accomplishment as president – passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And in a nod to the shoulders that he stands on, Obama said, "I have lived out the promise of LBJ's efforts."

But some Americans, particularly those who lived through LBJ's presidency, wish that President Obama not only reaped the rewards of President Johnson's leadership but also led more like him. And to that point, I recently attended the critically acclaimed Broadway play All the Way, in which "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston portrays the president during the year in which he struggled and eventually triumphed in his efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act.

Seeing the production, two things became obvious: Cranston will get a Tony Award nomination for his performance, and the president he portrays is very different from the president we have today. After I saw the production with a family member who lived through the civil rights movement, she couldn't help remarking about how different Johnson – one of the presidents she admires most—is from the current president, whom she also admires greatly.

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Man who hates wife’s natural hair: cut him some slack

Man who hates wife’s natural hair: cut him some slack

Love him or deride him, comedian, relationship expert and talk show host Steve Harvey nailed his advice to a newlywed black couple who recently appeared on his show for the segment "I Love My Man, But ..."

The wife, whose name is Love, recently decided to change her hair from the long, straight weave she'd worn "since I had my first tooth" to a well-coiffed Afro puff. Her husband, McClea, hated it. How much did he hate it? He ran out of the house in horror at the sight of his wife's actual hair, and when he returned, he asked whether she was wearing a wig and, if so, would she take it off. Love has stopped wearing her natural hair "often" because her husband "prefers" her weaves.

Not surprisingly, the husband's reaction didn't go over well with Harvey or viewers of the video that's been making the rounds on social media. Harvey clowned the husband about as bad as actor Samuel L. Jackson did to an entertainment reporter who mistook him for Laurence Fishburne. After the husband repeatedly disparaged his wife's hair—much to the audience's chagrin—Harvey quipped to him, "You about to get your skull opened up." Then Harvey got serious, pointing out the obvious to McClea: "You can't be any more wrong with your approach ... You got to find another way to express yourself." And the kicker: "It ain't your damn head."

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