Here’s what you need to know:
Flowers were laid outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston after the killing of nine African-Americans there in 2015. Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times
Five years to the day after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, one of the nation’s oldest black churches, the city, like much of the United States, is wrestling anew with its legacy of slavery and racial discrimination.
The shooting at Mother Emanuel, as the church is known, left nine dead, shocked the country and ignited a reckoning over racism and racist violence. The gunman was a white supremacist who had posed with the Confederate battle flag, and the shooting led to the removal of the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House and a broader effort to remove Confederate symbols throughout the South and elsewhere.
Now, national protests against police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd, have spurred renewed scrutiny of the historical figures whose statues adorn public spaces and a movement to purge those who espoused racist views or participated in slavery or the violent colonization of North America.
In Charleston, the focus has turned to a statue of John C. Calhoun, a South Carolinian who served as vice president from 1825 to 1832 and was a fierce defender of slavery. Leaders of civil rights groups and several state lawmakers have called for the statue’s removal, and on Wednesday, Mayor John Tecklenburg is expected to announce its fate, according to The Post and Courier.
The announcement will come as the city is remembering the nine African-Americans, ages 26 to 87, who were killed at Mother Emanuel on June 17, 2015.
On Wednesday evening, the church will post on its Facebook page and YouTube channel a video tribute to the victims by family members and survivors. On Sunday there will be a march remembering the “Emanuel Nine,” as well as Mr. Floyd and Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist who was killed by a white police officer in North Charleston two months before the attack at Mother Emanuel. Next Wednesday, the church will host a prayer vigil on its steps.
A 2019 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that while 114 Confederate symbols had been removed since the shooting at Mother Emanuel, 1,747 still stood.
Some of those have come down or been damaged by protesters in recent days, including a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, in Richmond, Va., and a Confederate obelisk in Birmingham, Ala.
On Tuesday night, another Confederate statue in Richmond, known as Richmond Howitzers Monument, which commemorated a Civil War artillery unit, was toppled by protesters from its pedestal, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, becoming one of the latest symbols to fall.
Prosecutors in Atlanta will announce on Wednesday their decision on whether to bring criminal charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.
Paul L. Howard Jr., the Fulton County district attorney, has a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern time. Mr. Howard said soon after the shooting that he was initiating his own investigation, and he had indicated that the shooting might not have been justified.
On Sunday, he told a CNN reporter that Mr. Brooks “did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.”
The officer who shot Mr. Brooks, Garrett Rolfe, was fired by the Atlanta Police Department within 24 hours of the shooting, and a second officer involved in the confrontation, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty.
Mr. Brooks’s family has been joined by activists in calling for prosecutors to bring charges against the officers. But if Mr. Howard moves forward with charges, his decision could add more strain to the relationship between his office and rank-and-file police officers.
Some of them were already upset over the charges brought against six officers involved in a traffic stop involving two college students who were Tased and pulled from their car for being out after a city-imposed curfew during recent protests.
Aunt Jemima, the syrup and pancake mix brand, will change its name and image amid an ongoing backlash, with its parent company Quaker Oats acknowledging that the brand’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype.”
The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that have often been criticized as offensive. Even after going through several redesigns — pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989 — Aunt Jemima was still seen by many as a symbol of slavery.
On Wednesday, Quaker Oats, which is owned by PepsiCo, said that it was taking “a hard look at our portfolio of brands” as it worked “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.”
The packaging changes, which were first reported by NBC, will begin to appear toward the end of this year, with the name change coming soon after.
“While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.
Amid nationwide protests over racism and police brutality in recent weeks, many companies rushed to express their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, often running into accusations of hypocrisy. But PepsiCo was already familiar with the fallout — in 2017, it apologized for running an ad featuring Kendall Jenner, a white model, that was criticized for trivializing the movement.
PepsiCo bought Quaker Oats in 2001, inheriting the Aunt Jemima brand. Ramon Laguarta, the chief executive of PepsiCo, wrote in a piece in Fortune this week that “the journey for racial equality has long been part of our company’s DNA.”
The Aunt Jemima brand was inspired by a minstrel song called “Old Aunt Jemima” and was once described by Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African-American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, as “an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.”
‘That Could Have Been Me,’ Philonise Floyd Tells U.N.
Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, pleaded to the United Nations to create an independent commission to study the killing of black Americans by the police.
The officers showed no mercy, no humanity and tortured my brother to death in the middle of the street in Minneapolis with a crowd of witnesses watching and begging them to stop showing us black people the same lesson yet again: Black lives do not matter in the United States of America. When people raise their voices to protest the treatment of black people in America they are silenced. They are shot and killed. My brother George Floyd is one of the many black men and women that have been murdered by police in recent years. The sad truth is that the case is not unique. The way you saw my brother tortured and murdered on camera is the way black people are treated by police in America. You watched my brother die. That could have been me. I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America. And you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd. I’m asking you to help him. I’m asking you to help me. I’m asking you to help us, black people in America. I hope that you would consider establishing an independent commission of inquiry to investigate police killings of black people in America, and the violence used against peaceful protesters.
Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, pleaded to the United Nations to create an independent commission to study the killing of black Americans by the police.
In an extraordinary session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday, George Floyd’s brother made an urgent plea for the world body to create an independent commission to study the killing of black people by the police in the United States.
“You watched my brother die,” Philonise Floyd told the council via video. “That could have been me. I am my brother’s keeper. You in the U.N. are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd.”
“I am asking you to help me,” he said. “I am asking you to help us, black people in America.”
The meeting of the council in Geneva was called by Burkina Faso, on behalf of 54 African countries. The council’s president, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, said the issue did not just pertain to the United States, but it was the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd in policy custody on May 25 that galvanized a global movement to address systemic racism and abuse of power by the police.
“This is a topic that is not about just one country, it goes well beyond that,” Ms. Tichy-Fisslberger said in a statement before the hearing. “When I said it’s not against the United States, I mean there are complaints about a lot of racism in many countries of this world, of course in Europe, but not only; you find it all over the world.”
Philonise Floyd also made an emotional plea to American lawmakers last week, asking members of the House Judiciary Committee to “stop the pain” and pass reforms that make officers accountable for brutality.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday morning unveiled their answer to Democrats’ sprawling policing legislation, proposing a narrow set of changes to law enforcement that would place new restrictions on the use of chokeholds, impose penalties for the failure to wear body cameras, and make lynching a federal crime.
The measure was spearheaded by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only African-American Republican, who has become increasingly focused on matters of race in recent years and has led the effort to bring his party together around a proposal to answer a growing public movement to address systemic racism in policing that has placed Republicans on the defensive.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced that the Senate would take up the bill next week, a swift timeline that reflected a sense of the urgency for action.
“The witnessing of the murder of George Floyd, and the experience in my hometown of Breonna Taylor certainly brings to the forefront this issue for all Americans, including Senate Republicans,” Mr. McConnell told reporters. “I want you to know that we’re serious about making a law here.”
But the limited reach of the legislation reflects the challenge facing Republicans. While they have scrambled to show their willingness to move on policing changes for the first time in years, they are unwilling to accept the far-reaching federal measures that civil rights activists say are necessary to confront systemic bias in policing.
Democrats will push their own legislation through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, advancing an expansive bill that would place an outright ban on chokeholds, change the qualified immunity doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits, and make it easier to identify, track and prosecute police misconduct.
The action at the Capitol on Wednesday demonstrated the wide gulf that lawmakers will have to bridge to reach an election-year agreement on what both sides agree is an exceedingly complicated and sensitive set of issues. The Republican and Democratic bills differ in ways large and small. One particularly stark difference is the way in which they address chokeholds, which the Republican measure would restrict and the Democratic bill would ban outright.
Mr. Scott’s legislation defines it as “a physical maneuver that restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation.” The Democratic bill targets chokeholds and other “carotid holds,” defining them as “the application of any pressure to the throat or windpipe, the use of maneuvers that restrict blood or oxygen flow to the brain, or carotid artery restraints that prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air of an individual.”
Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, and his wife, Patty Quillin, donated $120 million to the United Negro College Fund, Spelman College and Morehouse College, the largest-ever individual gift to support scholarships at historically black colleges and universities.
The record donation comes amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd, and the national conversation about how to end systemic racism. That conversation has included discussions about how to provide more education and job opportunities for African Americans.
Unlike the Ivy League universities that have endowments in the tens of billions of dollars — Harvard University’s endowment tops $40 billion — the top historically black colleges and universities, or H.B.C.U.s, have endowments that are the hundreds of millions of dollars. Spelman College’s endowment, for example, is around $390 million.
Mr. Hastings said he and Ms. Quillin want to help change that.
They have made education a primary focus of their philanthropy, and have given smaller amounts in the past several years to the same institutions. “I think white people in our nation need to accept that it’s a collective responsibility,” Mr. Hastings said. Mr. Floyd’s killing and the emotional outpouring that followed were “the straw that broke the camel’s back, I think, for the size of the donation,” he added.
Mr. Hastings said that he hoped that the donation would lead other wealthy individuals to give to H.B.C.U.s. “Generally, white capital flows to predominantly white institutions, perpetuating capital isolation,” he and Ms. Quillin said in a statement announcing the donation. Mr. Hastings is worth $5.3 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Throughout the past several weeks, as protests over the killing of George Floyd rippled through America’s cities, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher has spent her days watching the news in her home in Albany, Ga., sometimes with tears running down her face.
For Rutha Mae Harris, who once marched and was jailed with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is like revisiting her past.
There have been times when she wondered what her generation had achieved. But the past weeks — particularly the sight of kneeling police officers and throngs of white faces — have offered some redemption.
“I love it, I love it, I love it,” she said. “It has surprised me, and it gives me hope. I thought what I had done was in vain.”
For the dwindling cadre of civil rights activists like Ms. Harris who took to the streets 60 years ago, this is a moment of trepidation and wonder.
In their time, major actions were the result of months of planning, punctuated by all-night arguments over strategy and phone-tree lobbying to get reporters to show up. Five years passed between Emmett Till’s lynching and the Greensboro, N.C., sit-ins. Another year passed between the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides.
Now they are watching another movement unfold at quicksilver speed.
Dr. King’s confidante Bernard Lafayette, 79, could not contain his excitement about recent demonstrations; he has been offering advice to young activists from his home in Tuskegee, Ala. Andrew Young, 88, a former mayor of Atlanta, has vented his frustration over looting and vandalism. And Bob Moses, 85, was cautious in his comments, saying the country seemed to be undergoing an “awakening.”
“I think that’s been its main impact, a kind of revelation about something that has been going on for over a century, a century and a half, right under your noses,” Mr. Moses said. “But there isn’t any indication of how to fix it.”
The anger after George Floyd’s death is fueling a national movement to topple perceived symbols of racism and oppression, including calls to bring down monuments in rural places like Columbus, Miss., where on Monday county officials voted to keep a monument to Confederate soldiers on the lawn in front of the city courthouse.
Activists have renewed their efforts in recent weeks to remove the monument, which was erected more than a century ago. Demonstrations have also protested the decision last month by the state attorney general not to prosecute an officer who had been indicted in the killing of an African-American man in 2015. And a push to change the Mississippi flag, which has the Confederate battle emblem, has gained new momentum.
“It’s commemorating and celebrating a lost battle — I don’t understand,” David Horton, an activist in Columbus who has been involved in all of those efforts, said on Tuesday. “These are things I have to endure all my life as a young African-American man living in Mississippi. It’s always made me feel inferior, it’s always made me feel like I shouldn’t hold my head up.”
Many in Columbus were incensed by comments made to the local newspaper by a white county supervisor who voted against moving the monument. He said that African-Americans had remained “dependent” since slavery.
“In my opinion, they were slaves, and because of that, they didn’t have to go out and earn any money, they didn’t have to do anything,” the county supervisor, Harry Sanders, was quoted as saying. “Whoever owned them, took care of them, fed them, clothed them, worked them. They became dependent, and that dependency is still there. The Democrats right here who depend on the black vote to get elected, they make them dependent on them.”
Trip Hairston, another white county supervisor who also opposed moving the monument, said he was trying to strike a more nuanced position. He said the state flag ought to be changed because “we need a flag that represents all the people,” but he was resistant to moving the monument because he said it represented the area’s history, even if some of it was ugly.
In some ways, Mr. Hairston said, the debate has been good for the community because it has forced people to reckon with the past and confront fixtures of another era that had essentially been hidden in plain sight.
“I think it’s an opportunity to have conversations we haven’t had before,” he said.
Edwin Raymond, a black lieutenant in the Police Department, heard racial insults — “Sellout!” and “Uncle Tom!” — rising above protesters’ chants as he helped to control the crowds at recent demonstrations in Brooklyn against police brutality and racism.
He said he understood the words were aimed at black officers like him. He tried not to take them personally, but the shouts were particularly painful, he said, because he has long been an outspoken critic of what he sees as racial discrimination within the department.
“I’m not blind to the issues, but I’m torn,” Lieutenant Raymond said. “As I’m standing there with my riot helmet and being called a ‘coon,’ people have no idea that I identify with them. I understand them. I’m here for them. I’ve been trying to be here as a change agent.”
Lieutenant Raymond, 34, is one of hundreds of black and Hispanic officers in New York City who have found themselves caught between competing loyalties. Many said they sympathized with protesters across the city and the country who have turned out en masse to demonstrate against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white officer in Minneapolis.
The officers said they had experienced racism and share the protesters’ mission to combat it. Still, the unrest offers painful reminders that many black and Hispanic New Yorkers see them as enemies in uniform, worsening the internal tug-of-war between their identity and their badges.
Reporting was contributed by Ellen Barry, Catie Edmondson, Tiffany Hsu, Sarah Mervosh, Rick Rojas, Simon Romero, Edgar Sandoval, Marc Santora, Ashley Southall, Kate Taylor and Lucy Tompkins.