Code Switch

Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the civil rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African-Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent resistance from segregationists.

NPR Books and Code Switch are winding down Black History Month in style: We've asked three of our favorite comic artists to illustrate something — a person, a poem, a play, a book, a song — that inspires them. Afua Richardson is an award-winning illustrator who's worked for Image, Marvel and DC Comics. She's chosen Langston Hughes' great poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." And you can see Richardson's video, created from these panels, here.

Forty years after its birth, hip-hop is everywhere, a global signifier of youthfulness and subversion and opulence and Americanness and blackness and menace, sometimes all at once.

But for all the glorification of hip-hop's early days in the South Bronx — the brilliant improvisation, the block parties — there isn't a whole lot of supporting documentation. A lot of what we know is from the fading memories of aging b-girls and b-boys who were present at the creation.

Quick! What Are The Origins Of 'Chop-Chop'?

Feb 24, 2014

It takes a special kind of actor to mix bombast and fatuousness to comic effect — think Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock or Will Ferrell in Anchorman. But the all-time King of Pomposity was the late Ted Knight. He played the role of newscaster Ted Baxter in the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Judge Elihu Smails in Caddyshack.

Moments of the Movement: Joseph Lowery

Feb 12, 2014

The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. But for Freeman Hrabowski, now president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, it was personal. The Birmingham native was part of the movement as a child, and knew Cynthia Wesley, one of the four girls killed that morning. Here, he explains how the events of that day and the aftermath not only forever changed him, but Birmingham as well, and eventually, the country.

Each morning at 7:30 in February, experience the unheralded histories and testimonials of individuals who participated in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.

  With so much on the line, one might think that everyone in the Black community would be on the same page when it came to fighting for civil rights. But Birmingham native Freeman Hrabowski explains that many middle-class African-Americans worried that there could be serious consequences for families of protesters. Now the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Hrabowski was one of the few middle-class children who not only joined the protests, but was trained to lead and protect the younger children who were often the catalyst for change in the movement. 

It happened again.

How I Learned To Feel Undesirable

Feb 4, 2014

For the past few weeks, we've convened a conversation about romance across racial and cultural lines. Some of the most eloquent accounts we encountered came from a Bay Area junior high school teacher named Noah Cho. We asked him to expand on some of his experiences in this essay.

Editor's Note: Code Switch is engaged in a month-long discussion and exploration of interracial and cross-cultural dating. Follow the conversation via the Twitter hashtag #xculturelove.

My first kiss was with an Albanian man I met in Venice, Italy; within hours, Jeta and I were telling each other, "Ti amo." I didn't mean it any more than I knew his last name (and I won't kid myself into thinking there was much sincerity on his end).

Moments of the Movement: Matthew Perry

Feb 3, 2014

Our poll on the life experiences of Latino Americans underscored just how different those experiences can be. But many of the most interesting comparisons among our respondents were between folks who were born here in the United States or Puerto Rico and those who were born elsewhere and came here later.

For generations, the phrase "sold down the river" has been used to signify a profound betrayal.

"River" was a literal reference to the Mississippi or Ohio rivers. For much of the first half of the 19th century, Louisville, Ky., was one of the largest slave-trading marketplaces in the country. Slaves would be taken to Louisville to be "sold down the river" and transported to the cotton plantations in states further south.

Not many people can say they've experienced the world both as an Arab-Latino woman and as an Arab-Latino man. Sami Younes can.

Younes, 26, was once Mariam, a Lebanese and Puerto Rican woman. When he began his physical transition three years ago to become a man, the way people reacted to his change surprised him.

Carlos Mencia is well-known for his standup humor, which is slyly good-natured and often focuses on race and ethnicity. The 46 year-old Mencia has had a successful series on The Comedy Channel (Mind of Mencia) and draws huge crowds when he tours the country. When he was starting out in the business, he spent a lot of time on college campuses. And he learned pretty quickly that how he talked about the ethnicity he thought he shared with his audience could get him into trouble.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson met at the White House with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 18, 1964, the two men were near the peak of their powers and the country was in a maelstrom.

Last fall, curators and interns at the New York State Museum were digging through their audio archives in an effort to digitize their collection. It was tedious work; the museum houses over 15 million objects. But on this particular day in November, they unearthed a treasure.

What questions do you have about interracial and cross-cultural romance?

That's one of the first things we asked participants on Wednesday in our first #xculturelove chat, which is part of our month-long exploration of interracial and cross-culture romance. We're using #xculturelove to anchor our discussions. (Code Switch's Matt Thompson says more about the month-long conversation.)

First, let's acknowledge one thing: 12 Years a Slave has achieved something amazing and wonderful.

With nine Oscar nominations, it has proven a brutal story about the worst degradations of American slavery can attract the biggest accolades Hollywood has to offer.

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