Remembering the Silent Parade Civil Rights March of 1917

New York City had never seen anything quite like it. On July 28, 1917, between the buildings and businesses of Fifth Avenue, roughly 10,000 black citizens made their way down the street. Handwritten signs protesting racial discrimination and violence emerged from the sea of marchers; police mingled with 20,000 onlookers, ready to intervene at the first sign of trouble. Whose defense they might come to was in question.

Known as the Silent Parade, the event was the first of its kind on American soil—a heavily publicized, massive, and organized condemnation of civil rights violations that had been plaguing the country. In 1916, black farmer Jesse Washington had been lynched in Waco, Texas; a mob scene in East St. Louis just weeks prior to the march saw upwards of 200 people killed.

To draw attention to these crimes, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary James Weldon Johnson rallied his Harlem branch to make a public spectacle of their anger. His word spread throughout the black community, and by 1 p.m. that day, Johnson was part of an ocean of citizens walking in silence to condemn the deplorable racism and white supremacist activities gripping American culture. The only sound heard was the beat of drums. Some onlookers wept.

The visual impact was augmented by their choice of apparel. The women and children wore white; the men wore black. Messages like "Thou shalt not kill" and "Your hands are full of blood" were written on signs. Some of them addressed President Woodrow Wilson, who they felt was failing to live up to campaign promises to make America a unified and tolerant nation.

The peaceful demonstration began at 57th Street and ended at Madison Square Park, which saw the assembly cheer out of a sense of victory. Displaying a mixture of benevolence and mourning, they had demonstrated that the black community would not stand passively while being victimized. Today, the Silent Parade—which is being remembered with a Google Doodle to commemorate its 100th anniversary—is recognized as being a pioneering step in the struggle to achieve equality for all.

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

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The Definition of Museum Could Be Changing

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
roman_slavik/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve always casually defined museum as “a place to see art or historical objects,” you’re not necessarily wrong. But the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has a more specific, official guideline that defines a museum as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.”

ICOM’s 40,000 members have been adhering to this definition for almost 50 years to represent more than 20,000 museums around the world. Now, The Art Newspaper reports, some members want to change it.

On July 22, the organization’s executive board convened in Paris and composed a new definition that Danish curator Jette Sandahl believes better suits the demands of “cultural democracy.” By this updated description, a museum must “acknowledg[e] and addres[s] the conflicts and challenges of the present,” “work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world,” and “contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality, and planetary wellbeing.”

The proposal immediately elicited harsh reactions from a number of other members of the museum community, who felt the text was too ideological and vague. François Mairesse, a professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and the chair of the International Committee of Museology, even resigned from the revisory commission—led by Sandahl—earlier this summer when he realized the new definition wasn’t, by his standards, really a definition. “This is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant,” he told The Art Newspaper. “It would be disastrous to impose only one type of museum.”

The current plan is for ICOM members to vote on the definition at the general assembly on September 7 in Kyoto, Japan, but 24 national branches and five museums’ international committees have petitioned to postpone the vote—they’d like some time to create their own definition for museum and present it as a counter-proposal.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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