BLACK HISTORY MONTH; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 19
(House of Representatives - February 04, 2015)

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[Pages H796-H799]
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                          BLACK HISTORY MONTH

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 6, 2015, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Al Green) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader for allowing 
me to be a designee for this moment in time.
  I am also very appreciative for this special time. This is Black 
History Month, and it is a very special month in the life of African 
Americans. But if the truth be told, it is a special month in the life 
of all Americans because Black history is American history.
  I had the opportunity just a couple of nights ago to appear on the 
floor with a couple of my colleagues, the Honorable Donald Payne, Jr., 
from New Jersey and the Honorable Robin Kelly from Illinois. They were 
here to have a Special Order hour. I want to compliment them because 
that Special Order hour, indeed, dealt with a lot of Black history. 
They talked about 50

[[Page H797]]

years from Selma--where we were, where we are now, and where we are 
headed. They did such a great job that I thought it appropriate to 
acknowledge the outstanding effort and the fact that a good number of 
Members were very supportive of what they did. I am honored to also say 
that we plan to continue that tonight with this Special Order time, and 
we will talk about Black History Month, but from a slightly different 
  We are honored to say that this resolution that we have introduced 
into Congress--it was introduced on January 6, 2015--this is the ninth 
time that I have had the pleasure of introducing this resolution, and 
it has 24 original cosponsors. And I want to thank all of the original 
cosponsors for being a part of helping this resolution come to the 
floor for this Special Order time.
  We are not here for the purpose of passage, but we are here for the 
purpose of expressing much about Black history and explaining why this 
resolution is so important. It is important not only to me and the 
people in my district, which is, quite frankly, one of the most diverse 
districts in the country--in my district, the ballot is printed in four 
languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Hence, Black 
History Month is important to not only the African Americans in my 
district, but all of the other friends, associates, and constituents 
that I have in my district. They constantly talk to me about Black 
History Month. We talked about other aspects of history as well, but 
tonight we will focus on Black history.
  It is important to note that this is the 100th anniversary of the 
organization that promoted and promulgated Black History Month. This 
organization, the Association for the Study of African American Life 
and History, founded by the Honorable Carter G. Woodson, is the 
organization that has carried the torch, the flame of hope for history 
to be inclusive, and they have done an outstanding job.
  There was a time that I can remember in my lifetime, in my history 
book, when there was little mention of the accomplishments of African 
Americans in history; and in world history, even less. I remember one 
of my books proclaimed that the reason there was little mention of the 
nations, the countries in Africa was because they contributed very 
little to history. Literally, that was the kind of statement that I had 
to read as a child.
  Well, I am honored that we have come a long way from a point wherein 
we were rarely included to a point where we are included, but I think 
not enough yet. My hope is that at some point in time we won't have a 
Black History Month, we won't have any type of history month other than 
history on a daily basis, because at that point in time we will have 
included all persons and all of the great cultures in this country in 
the history of our great Nation.

                              {time}  1730

  Black history does not mean that Black people assume that they are 
better than anyone else. It just means that they would like to be 
included in history because they believe that no one else is better 
than we are. We are all the same. We are all God's children, and we all 
bring special talents and special attributes that make this great 
country the wonderful place that it is.
  Tonight, in talking about this century of Black life, history, and 
culture in this, the United States of America--and we could make it the 
world--but let's just talk about the United States since the 
organization the Association for the Study of African American Life and 
History was founded in the United States--this is the 100th 
anniversary--I will ask the question and give some examples of why this 
question is so important.
  The question that I pose tonight is with reference to the giants that 
we know about in history, and we stand on the shoulders of giants--we 
all do--the shoulders of giants, people who have done great things to 
make it possible for us to have these great opportunities that we have, 
people who suffered many of the slings and arrows of life so that 
others could have a better quality of life. Many of them are well 
known. We stand on the shoulders tonight of giants.
  The question that I pose is: Whose shoulders do the giants stand on? 
If we stand on the shoulders of giants, whose shoulders do they stand 
  Thurgood Marshall, one of the greatest litigators in the history of 
the United States of America, won 29 of 32 cases before the Supreme 
Court. He was a great litigator and went on to become a Justice on the 
Supreme Court of the United States of America, the first African 
American, a giant.
  I stand on the shoulders of Thurgood Marshall. A good many people in 
this Congress stand directly on the shoulders of Thurgood Marshall, in 
that we are here because of some of the litigation that he won before 
the Supreme Court of the United States of America. We stand on the 
shoulders of Thurgood Marshall.
  On whose shoulders does Thurgood Marshall stand on? Well, the person 
that probably shaped his legal career more than any other was the 
honorable Charles Hamilton Houston. Charles Hamilton Houston was a 
Harvard lawyer. He was a person who was the dean of the law school at 
Howard University.
  He was the person who concluded that the Constitution of the United 
States of America did not condone ``separate but equal,'' the person 
who is said to have killed Jim Crow, the person who was a part of all 
of the lawsuits of the civil rights era from 1930 to 1954, including 
Brown v. Board of Education, the honorable Charles Hamilton Houston. He 
is the person that cultivated and mentored Thurgood Marshall.
  Thurgood Marshall came to Howard University after having been a 
reject at the University of Maryland. He tried to get in, and he could 
not. In a strange sort of way, it compels me to say: Thank God for the 
University of Maryland because had they not rejected Thurgood Marshall, 
he would not have come to Howard University.
  There is a good likelihood he would not have met Charles Hamilton 
Houston and, as a result, may not have acquired the intelligence that 
Charles Hamilton Houston provided a plethora of lawyers about the 
Constitution as it relates to ``separate but equal.'' It was Thurgood 
Marshall who became his prize student. Thurgood Marshall, along with 
Charles Hamilton Houston, became two of the great litigators to bring 
down Jim Crow.
  One of the cases that Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston 
brought before the Maryland Court of Appeals, the one that stands out 
more than any other, is the case of Murray v. Pearson.
  In that case, Murray wanted to get into the University of Maryland as 
well. Isn't it ironic that Thurgood Marshall, who could not get into 
the institution and who went to Howard University, had the opportunity 
to become the understudy, if you will, of the honorable Charles 
Hamilton Houston? Isn't it ironic that the circle comes back to the 
University of Maryland with one of his first cases after completing law 
  Thurgood Marshall was the lead counsel, along with the honorable 
Charles Hamilton Houston, against the University of Maryland to bring 
about an opportunity for the use of the doctrine of ``separate but 
equal'' being attacked with constitutional provisions, and they were 
  I am proud to know that while Thurgood Marshall is the giant, a 
Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall is known far and wide for his 
legal prowess. He stood on the shoulders of an even greater giant, an 
unsung hero to some extent. Well, now, we do know much more about 
Charles Hamilton Houston than previously in previous years.
  It is important to note that he is not the person who has received 
all of the glory, all of the platitudes, and all of the accolades that 
Thurgood Marshall received, but he was the architect. I am proud to say 
that Thurgood Marshall stood on the shoulders of a giant.
  Let's go on. Let's talk now about another giant of the civil rights-
human rights movement, and that was Rosa Parks. Everyone knows the 
story--most everyone does--about how Rosa Parks decided that she was 
going to take her seat. Rosa Parks was a giant. She decided to take a 
seat in what was, at that time, a racist Southern town.
  The story is told that Rosa Parks was tired and that she just had to 
take her seat because she was tired--not true my friends, not true.
  Rosa Parks was an officer in the local NAACP. Rosa Parks was a person

[[Page H798]]

with great standing and credibility in her community. Rosa Parks had 
stature. Rosa Parks had the backing of the NAACP. Rosa Parks had people 
who could get her out of jail.
  She had people who could work with her and help to stage, if you 
will, in the minds of some, this moment in time when she literally 
decided that she was not going to move back nor stand up so that her 
seat could be held and had by a person of a different hue.
  It was a bold thing to do. It was a very bold thing to do in the 
South, the segregated South at that time, the segregated South where 
the Constitution accorded us all of the rights of other citizens, but 
our friends and neighbors denied us those rights that the Constitution 
accorded us. This was the segregated South, and this was Rosa Parks. 
She decided to take that seat, backed by the NAACP and backed by a host 
of persons who were prepared to work with her and support her.
  The truth be told, the honorable Rosa Parks, who is considered by 
many the ``mother of the civil rights movement,'' the honorable Rosa 
Parks stands and stood at that time on the shoulders of a giant. She 
stood on the shoulders of a giant that we rarely hear about and rarely 
read about.
  It is the story of a giant who was but 15 years of age at the time 
she made her mark, if you will, in history. It is the story of a giant 
who was arrested 9 months before Rosa Parks for doing the same thing 
that Rosa Park did. She was a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin. She 
was the first person arrested under the circumstances comparable to 
Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama.
  She went to jail. Little is known about her. Little is known because 
it was thought at the time that she was not the ideal person around 
which to rally. It was thought at the time that a more senior person 
was needed, a person who had greater standing in the community. She was 
not that person.

  Ah, but here is where history--history--tells the story. She was one 
of four people to file the lawsuit--the lawsuit--that ultimately ended 
segregation of the bus line in Montgomery, Alabama.
  Although Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and the multitudes marched and 
protested, they marched and they protested for approximately a year or 
more, it was not the march or protest that actually brought about the 
ending of this form of invidious discrimination. It was really the 
lawsuit, Browder v. Gayle. It is important to note that there were four 
plaintiffs in the lawsuit and that Claudette Colvin was one of those 
four plaintiffs.
  It was that lawsuit that made the difference in the lives of not only 
those people in Montgomery, but people across the length and breadth of 
this country because that was one of the first times that the opinion 
expressed in Brown v. Board of Education was expanded to include public 
transportation. That was an important, significant event in history.
  It was Rosa Parks who received a lot of the credit. I love her, and I 
think she deserves all the credit she received, but I also think there 
are these unsung heroes and heroines who have not received their fair 
share of credit for what they too have done. In fact, they are the 
shoulders that giants stand on. Claudette Colvin is the giant on whose 
shoulders Rosa Parks stood on.
  Moving to another giant, we all know of Dr. King, and last week and 
earlier this week, we talked a lot about Selma, and we talked about the 
march that took place there.
  In talking about that march, we talked about how people assembled at 
a church, and they decided that they were going to march peacefully 
from Selma to Montgomery. As they proceeded to march, they came to a 
turning point in history. They came to one of those seminal moments in 
history that will forever define the life of a country, to be quite 
  They came to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and they confronted the 
constabulary on the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. If you have 
not gone to the Edmond Pettus Bridge, you should go and see the Edmund 
Pettus Bridge.
  If you understand the times that these persons were living in, you 
have to realize that these were some brave, courageous, and bold souls 
to be willing to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, knowing that 
the constabulary was on the other side with clubs and on horses.
  You have to ask yourself candidly: Would you have confronted what you 
knew was waiting for you in the form of possible death on the Edmond 
Pettus Bridge?
  The Honorable John Lewis indicates that he thought he was going to 
die that day because, when confronted by the constabulary with these 
clubs, they beat the marchers all the way back to the church.
  If you see the movie ``Selma,'' you can get a fair depiction and 
representation of what happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. There will 
be another march this year across the Edmond Pettus Bridge. For those 
who are interested, I am Congressman Al Green. You can call my office, 
and we will tell you about it. You might want to join us.
  Let's talk about the Edmond Pettus Bridge and this march. Dr. King 
was not there for Bloody Sunday. There were reasons that compelled him 
to do some other things in his life. There were other persons there. 
The Honorable John Lewis was one of them.
  In a sense, when Dr. King came back--or he came to Selma following 
Bloody Sunday to march, he was standing on the shoulders of those who 
had already gone before him and confronted this constabulary.
  Let's really take a closer look at the history--at the history that 
we rarely talk about and hear about as it relates to the Edmund Pettus 
Bridge because there is a person that I conclude is the greatest unsung 
hero of the civil rights movement who had a hidden hand in the march 
from Selma to Montgomery.

                              {time}  1745

  When they went back to make the final march with Dr. King, as they 
moved across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they had a hidden hand that had 
signed a court order. That court order was signed by the Honorable 
Frank M. Johnson, a Republican appointee to a Federal court, appointed 
by the Honorable President Dwight Eisenhower.
  Frank M. Johnson signed the order clearing the way for them to march 
from Selma to Montgomery. And it is interesting to note that he was a 
contemporary of George Wallace. In fact, they were classmates. He and 
George Wallace had a constant confrontation, a mild form of 
confrontation, sometimes it got a little bit more than mild, but they 
continually battled each other. Frank M. Johnson was so much of an 
impact on the times that he had to be guarded 24 hours a day. He was a 
Federal judge unlike any other. In fact, Dr. King said he put the 
justice in the word ``justice,'' the Honorable Frank M. Johnson.
  So the question becomes, on whose shoulders did Dr. King stand on 
that day when they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge? On whose 
shoulders did the marchers stand on? They stood on the shoulders of a 
hidden hand of the civil rights movement, the Honorable Frank M. 
  Frank M. Johnson integrated schools, he integrated the jury system. 
He changed the face of the South, and so little is known about this 
giant on the shoulders of whom many of the great icons of the civil 
rights movement stood on that day. This is not to demean or diminish--
obviously, we can't--the role of Dr. King and the Honorable John Lewis; 
this is simply to say there are others whose stories are not told 
enough, whose stories should be told more.
  And on an occasion like this when we want to celebrate Black history, 
I think we have to acknowledge that there were unsung heroes and 
heroines on whose shoulders many of the giants stood on. And we also 
have to acknowledge that many of these unsung heroes and heroines are 
not of African ancestry. You see, there really is a White side to Black 
history. Frank M. Johnson is a part of this White side of Black 
history. But we also must know that Frank M. Johnson, the great hero 
that he was, is not in the history that we speak of, is not celebrated 
to the extent that he should be.
  So tonight, I want to say to the family and friends, relatives, those 
who knew him, we celebrate him tonight. We celebrate the Honorable 
Charles Hamilton Houston tonight. We celebrate the Honorable Claudette 

[[Page H799]]

tonight. These are persons who were in the shadows but who made a 
difference, and giants stood on their shoulders.
  Now to close. Let's go back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge because a 
significant thing occurred. At the Edmund Pettus Bridge when they 
marched across, at that time there were five African Americans in 
Congress; there were four Latino Americans in Congress, Hispanic 
Americans; and there were three Asian Pacific Islanders in Congress. 
Now, rather than five African Americans, we have 48. Rather than four 
Hispanic Members, we have 38. Rather than three Asian Pacific 
Americans, we have 14. I would also note that there were 14 females in 
Congress at that time. We now have 104.
  Crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge provided the world an opportunity 
to see the horrors of invidious discrimination, of onerous segregation, 
the horrors that people, decent God-fearing human beings in the South, 
had to suffer. And it provided the President of the United States, the 
Honorable President from the State of Texas, Lyndon Johnson, the 
opportunity to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
  That Civil Rights Act is in no small part why I happen to stand 
before you in the Congress of the United States of America. I stand on 
the shoulders of many giants. Many of them are known to us, but there 
are a good many of them who are not known to us, and I am proud to say 
that during this time of Black History Month, it is appropriate for us 
to acknowledge them and celebrate them for what they have done to make 
it possible for many of us to have the opportunities that we have.
  And today, as we look back and we revisit the Special Order hour, 
``50 Years Ago From Selma: Where Are We and Where Are We Headed?,'' I 
must tell you, in concluding, that we are headed back to the future. We 
are headed back to the future because the Civil Rights Act of 1965, 
which accorded us the many opportunities that we have today, that Civil 
Rights Act of 1965, section 4 of it has been eviscerated. And as a 
result of the evisceration of section 4, we have seen, unfortunately, 
section 5 of the act lose its potency because without section 4, you 
don't have a section 5. Section 5 has been emasculated; section 4 
eviscerated, section 5 emasculated. Section 5 is there, but it does not 
have the coverage areas that it is to address. And so without section 
5, we find ourselves back to a point in time wherein we will have to 
again relitigate the whole question of the right to vote, to a certain 
extent--very limited--but also in this context the means by which we 
were able to secure many of the seats in Congress that the 48 Members 
presently enjoy.
  So without that section 5, an effective, potent section 5, we find 
ourselves with a circumstance where we are looking back now to that 
future, that future that is going to require us to do some heavy 
lifting to reinstate section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
  And, as they marched once before, we will march once again this year. 
My hope is that we will be able to in this Congress come to a 
bipartisan conclusion that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is still 
important to a good many people, and that we will work together to 
revitalize section 4 of the Voting Rights Act so as to give section 5 
the potency it needs to provide the coverage that has been of great 
benefit to us.
  Mr. Speaker, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share 
these thoughts at this moment in time about some of the great heroes 
and heroines and some of the unsung heroes of the civil rights 
movement. I thank you, and I thank the leadership for allowing us this 
time to celebrate Black History Month in these, the great United States 
of America. God bless you, and God bless our great country.
  I yield back the balance of my time.