News, notes and follow-ups

Category: civil rights

One year ago: Avery Clayton


Avery Clayton grew up paying little attention to the bits of African American history his librarian mother, Mayme Clayton, enjoyed collecting.

It wasn't until later that he realized the significance of what she had amassed.

"Her part was to assemble the collection. I really believe my part is to bring it to the world," Avery Clayton said, explaining his intention to establish the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum in Culver City.

The collection features rare books, manuscripts, photographs, films and other documents and artifacts. Some of the items were displayed at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino in an exhibit called "Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles,"  which opened last year.

"Most African American history is hidden," Avery Clayton, who co-curated the exhibit, told The Times in 2007. "What's exciting about this is that we're going to bring it back and show that black culture is rich and varied."

Clayton, a 62-year-old retired art teacher, died suddenly on Thanksgiving Day, one year ago. Read the complete Times obituary, and to learn more about the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, visit its website,

-- Claire Noland


Photo: Avery Clayton in 2009 at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, where the exhibit "Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles" was on display from October 2009 to February 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Margaret Burroughs, a founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, dies at 93


Margaret Burroughs, an artist who co-founded one of the oldest African American history museums in the country, has died. She was 93.

Burroughs died Sunday in her sleep at her Chicago home, said Raymond Ward, a spokesman for the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

President Obama said in a statement that Burroughs was "widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor."

Burroughs founded the museum with her husband and others on Chicago's South Side in 1961.

The museum has artwork, exhibits on civil rights and a display on Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. It was named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, widely regarded as Chicago's first permanent resident.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune: "Margaret Burroughs: Co-founder of DuSable Museum and prominent artist."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Margaret Burroughs in Chicago in February. Credit: Heather Charles / Chicago Tribune

One year ago: Rena 'Rusty' Kanokogi

KanokogiRena "Rusty" Kanokogi had to pose as a man to compete in a sport she loved. By her perseverance, however, she successfully got women's judo into the Olympics and became the coach of the U.S. team. Kanokogi died one year ago at age 74.

Brooklyn-born Kanokogi learned judo from someone in her neighborhood, but her attempts to compete in the city's judo clubs were met with resistance. Although she won the 1959 New York State YMCA judo championships, she was forced to hand over her medal when she revealed her gender.

She persevered, however, and traveled to Japan where she became the first woman at the main dojo with men. She later returned to the United States and slowly drummed up support for women in the sport.

"It was everything piece by piece," she said of organizing the 1980 world championships in New York. "I didn't care if I slept or ate. It was do or die."

Men's judo became an Olympic sport in the 1964 Games, and Kanokogi threatened legal action if women's judo was not treated equally.

Her efforts were rewarded when women's judo joined the Olympics in 1988 with Kanokogi as U.S. coach. And last year, the Brooklyn YMCA awarded her the gold medal she was forced to give up in 1959.

Kanokogi in 2008 received the Emperor's Award of the Rising Sun, bestowed on foreigners who have had a positive influence on Japanese society.

For more on the woman who fought for women's judo, read Rena Kanokogi's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Rena Kanokogi displays the gold medal for the 1959 New York State YMCA Judo Championships that was stripped from her when it was discovered she was a woman competing against men. It was returned in 2009. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: John Harris Burt


John Harris Burt was a rector at Pasadena's All Saints Episcopal Church who was known for his outspoken support of the civil rights movement during the days of Martin Luther King Jr.'s crusade. Burt died one year ago at age 91.

Burt helped organize massive civil rights rallies in Los Angeles in the 1960s, including a 1963 event in South Los Angeles that attracted 30,000 people. He also was a vocal supporter of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement. 

BurtTwice Burt sat behind King while he addressed crowds of thousands in L.A. -- once in 1963 at South L.A.'s Wrigley Field (now demolished), and a year later at the Coliseum

Burt was one of four rectors "who really shaped All Saints to be a peace-and-justice church," said Rector J. Edwin Bacon, who currently leads the Pasadena church, which is known for the strong stands its clergy has taken against war, poverty and racial and ethnic discrimination over the last seven decades.

Burt was a Navy chaplain during World War II and afterward served at St. John's Episcopal Church in Youngstown, Ohio. In 1978, after leaving Pasadena to serve as bishop of Ohio, he earned the prestigious Thomas Merton Award for his advocacy to keep steel plants open in Youngstown, an effort that ultimately failed.

For more on his life and causes, read John Harris Burt's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Upper photo: The Rev. John Burt, seated at fourth from the left, listens as Martin Luther King Jr. addresses 15,000 people at the Coliseum during an interfaith rally in 1964. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: Burt in Ohio. Credit: Episcopal Diocese of Ohio

One year ago: Collin Wilcox Paxton

Collin-wilcox Collin Wilcox Paxton, who played the poor Southern white girl who falsely accuses a black man of raping her in the 1962 film adaptation of the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," recalls receiving unfriendly looks when she appeared to speak at an NAACP conference. An official had to remind the crowd that "she is not the character in the film."

Paxton, who spent her life acting and advocating for desegregation, died one year ago of brain cancer at her home in Highlands, N.C. She was 74.

Paxton said she believed she could play the character of Mayella because she understood both sides of the racism issue and the culture from which her character would have come. She once recalled that the other girls auditioning for the role were overly made up, while she intentionally dressed in worn-down clothes that better reflected the character's background.

Both Paxton and Brock Peters, who played the accused black man in the film, were involved in the civil rights movement and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

"On the set, there was a main feeling that we were making a film that had meaning, had something to say," she recalled. "But no one ever expected or anticipated the kind of impact the film actually created."

In addition to "To Kill a Mockingbird," Paxton also made appearances on Broadway and as a guest star in a variety of TV shows.

For more on her career, read Collin Wilcox Paxton's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Collin Wilcox Paxton. Credit: Eric Skipsey

Gospel singer Albertina Walker dies at 81

Walker Legendary gospel singer Albertina Walker has died. She was 81.

Walker died of respiratory failure Friday morning in at RML Specialty Hospital in Chicago, said Pam Morris, a close friend and Chicago radio host.

Born in Chicago in 1929, Walker began singing in a church choir at the age of 4. Walker was urged to pursue a gospel singing career by the woman who became her mentor, gospel great Mahalia Jackson.

Walker officially launched her career at age 22 when, urged by Jackson, she formed her group the Caravans. She was a fixture in body and spirit at Chicago's Gospel Festival since the event's inception, both solo and with the Caravans.

-- Times wire reports

Photo: Albertina Walker in 2001. Credit: Associated Press


One year ago: Mary Travers


Mary Travers, who performed in the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s, helped create the archetype of the female folk singer that survives today. She died one year ago from the side effects of the chemotherapy she was receiving for leukemia.

Travers, Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey brought a political and socially conscious edge to their music, making Top 10 pop hits out of “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)," written the previous decade by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of the Weavers, and Bob Dylan's “Blowin’ in the Wind."

The threesome earned numerous gold and platinum records and five Grammy Awards.

They also had a major hit with the children's song “Puff (the Magic Dragon),” which at one time was thought to contain a thinly veiled message about marijuana. Travers insisted that it was innocent, however, and "just a song about growing up."

Peter, Paul and Mary's commercial success dwindled as the '60s rolled on, and the trio disbanded in 1970 to pursue solo projects, then reunited in 1978 and continued touring regularly until Travers became too ill.

For more on the clarion-voiced folk singer, read Mary Travers' full obituary by Times pop music writer Randy Lewis.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Mary Travers performs with Paul Stookey, left, and Peter Yarrow as the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962. Credit: Warner Bros.

Services set for Mario Obledo, former state secretary of health and welfare

Obledo A public memorial service will be held in Sacramento this week for Mario Obledo, former California secretary of health and welfare in Jerry Brown's administration, who died of a heart attack Wednesday at 78.

Sometimes called the “Godfather of the Latino Movement," Obledo served in the Brown cabinet from 1975 to 1982. He co-founded the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and later directed the League of United Latin American Citizens as national president. In 1998 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.

A Mass will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by a rosary at 7 p.m. and a public viewing through midnight. A funeral mass will be held Friday at 9 a.m.

All services will be held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th St., Sacramento.

--Elaine Woo

Caption: Mario Obledo in 1975. Credit: Associated Press


Mario Obledo, Latino activist and MALDEF co-founder, dies at 78

Mario Obledo, the president of the National Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and California's former secretary of health and welfare, has died. He was 78.

Obledo died Wednesday in Sacramento after having a heart attack, said his wife, Keda Alcala-Obledo.

During his career, Obledo was known for his efforts in supporting civil rights and humanitarian causes.

In 1998 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the nation's highest civilian award, by President Clinton.

While serving as Gov. Jerry Brown's secretary of health and welfare from 1975 to 1982, he was credited with encouraging Latinos to enter state government.

Obledo also was co-founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, and the Hispanic National Bar Assn.

-- Associated Press

One year ago: Mary B. Henry

Mary-b-henry Mary B. Henry, a civil rights activist and Los Angeles icon who died one year ago, would likely have been beaming if she had lived to see the passing of the historic healthcare legislation last year.

Henry, who fostered the rise of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center from the ashes of the 1965 Watts riots, was honored by presidents, governors and mayors for her lifelong work to provide quality education and social services to the poor.

Her work on President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty task force led to the Head Start program that brings nutrition and early childhood education to inner-city children.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas remembered her as a tireless advocate for quality healthcare. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) described Henry as "a huge positive presence in our community" and its "matriarch."

Henry was named the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year in 1967, and in 2002, the Mary B. Henry Child Development Center was opened at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

For more on the woman who fought for the health of impoverished Angelenos, read Mary B. Henry's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Mary B. Henry. Credit: Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Kenneth M. Stampp

Kenneth-stampp In the 1950s, the standard college text on slavery in the United States portrayed slave owners in a largely favorable light as a civilizing influence on their African slaves. But then came Kenneth M. Stampp, who wrote "The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South," a 1956 book that marked a turning point in historians' treatment of slavery. Stampp died one year ago.

Stampp was a UC Berkeley historian when he wrote the book, which rejected the moonlight-and-magnolias mythology that inspired such stereotypes as the benevolent plantation owner and the smiling black mammy. He also showed how slaves resisted their bondage, not only through rebellion and escape but also through more passive methods, such as work slowdowns and breaking tools.

The power of Stampp's book stemmed from its rich documentation -- which included narratives by fugitive slaves, antebellum newspapers, court records and slave owners' correspondence -- and its literary style.

Although Stampp's book came out during the eve of the Civil Rights movement, it was a product of thoughts and research he had been developing for at least a decade. Still, the book's theme meshed well with the temper of the times and within a few years became the generally accepted account of slavery.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Leon Litwack, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus who studied under Stampp in the early 1950s, said this about the book:

"What his book asked us to do was view slavery through the eyes of the slave as well as through the eyes of the slaveholders. ... The voice of slaves could no longer be denied."

For more, read Kenneth M. Stampp's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Kenneth M. Stampp. Credit: UC Berkeley

One year ago: Hugh R. Manes

Manes-afterword Hugh R. Manes, who looked like Winston Churchill and could fill a courtroom with his baritone voice, was a trailblazer in the fight against police abuse. He tried more than 400 cases in his 40-year career as a civil rights lawyer in Southern California. One year ago today, he died after a long battle with emphysema. He was 84.

Manes (pronounced MAY-ness) began representing victims of police misconduct in the 1960s, nearly three decades before the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney G. King by Los Angeles police officers threw a harsh spotlight on the issue of police brutality.

His most prolific case was in defense of a group of Samoan Americans beaten by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at a bridal shower in Cerritos in 1989. The $23-million award he won for 35 plaintiffs was believed to be the largest then imposed on a U.S. police agency.

"He was a voice in the wind," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who called Manes the dean of police-abuse lawyers. "Doing police-abuse cases is not fashionable now and was even less fashionable then. Hugh did as much as any citizen to keep the Los Angeles Police Department in check."

Read the Hugh R. Manes obituary published in The Times on June 18, 2009.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Hugh R. Manes

Credit: Nikol Manes


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