|Photo used with permission of Michael Popek, http://www.forgottenbookmarks.com|
When I first saw the photograph of Jake's hands, I thought of LR, and her work to preserve the history of not only her own family, but that of other African American people in the communities where she lives. I am imbuing the photograph with my own interpretation, but that is what I do: give meaning and explanation to what I observe. So, here it is again, with my story of who Jake is, and what this photograph represents:
Rockland County in 1942 was home to at least 5,000 African American residents. One of the "Stars for Victory" shows was staged in Rockland County, December 10, 1942, by local African Americans to support aid for wounded Russian soldiers, allies of the United States. Helen Hayes served as chairwoman, and the star line-up included Lena Horne, Billy Banks, W. C. Handy, Joshua White, Edna Thomas, and Abby Mitchell. One of the songs presented was Langston Hughes' "Freedom Road" with guitarist Joshua White. The show was
...expression of gratitude by the American Negro people for the heroic resistance that the Russians have placed in the way of the Hitler advance. (Rockland County, 1942)Langston Hughes' song "attempts to link the war abroad to the struggle for racial justice at home" (That's why I'm Marching: Mobilizing African Americans for War).
Jake would know segregation and discrimination in his time in the service, an irony not lost on the African Americans who served during World War II whilst they were allegedly "striking their blows for democracy" (That's Why I'm Marching).
The challenge for African-American leaders was to remind white Americans that a struggle for racial justice abroad must inevitably lead to a closer look at injustice at home. African-American leaders constantly reminded their fellow citizens, and themselves, that this was their country, too; they had shaped its history in profound ways. (That's Why I'm Marching)For your efforts to preserve that shaping of history, and the profound ways in which you and your family have contributed to that history, my Christmas gift to you, LR--Jake's hands.
Sources: Rockland County Negro Citizens Put on "Stars for Victory" Show to Aid Russians.(December 12, 1942). The New York Age, p. 9.
"That's Why I'm Marching": Mobilizing African Americans for War. (n.d.). Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Department of History and Art History. George Mason University. Fairfax Virginia.