The history of the WD Palmer Foundation and a
United States & Philadelphia Black history timeline
side by side.
Click to jump to a decade
The story of the WD Palmer Foundation is long and winding, and this page intends to tell it from the beginning of the story until now. Jump to a decade, read a section, and use this page as a resource for our foundation’s history.
Click on links or files for more information. Black boxes contain history of The WD Palmer Foundation’s work, mostly based in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. White boxes contain Black History in the United States and Philadelphia, giving context to the strides that the Palmer Foundation has made and the work Walt Palmer has done.
The WD Palmer Foundation has used a number of vehicles to teach leadership in order to reclaim, affirm, and develop communities, projects Walt Palmer has worked on throughout his life. Whether through political organizing, business or dance and drama, the common theme in Palmer’s work is teaching leadership.
Jump to the creation of the foundation, to the Curbstone College, to the November 17, 1967 student protest, to the W.M. Anderson Minority Buy-out.
Gwendolyn Brooks wins Pulitzer and Althea Gibson plays at Wimbledon
“Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize (for Annie Allen).” (thoughtco.com: https://www.thoughtco.com/african-american-women-writers-p2-45338)
“Althea Gibson became the first African-American to play at Wimbledon.” (thoughtco.com: https://www.thoughtco.com/althea-gibson-3529145)
Timeline of women in the 1950’s: https://www.thoughtco.com/african-american-womens-history-timeline-1950-1959-3528310
Supreme Court rules restaurant segregation unconstitutional
“On May 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rules racial segregation in District of Columbia restaurants is unconstitutional” (blackpast.org)
No lynchings in the US for the first time in 71 years
“Tuskegee Institute reported no lynchings in the United States for the first time in 71 years of tabulation.” – blackpast.org
Louisiana bus boycott begins
“On June 19 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana African-Americans begin a boycott of their city’s segregated municipal bus line” (blackpast.org)
Brown v. Board of Education
“On May 17, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declares segregation in all public schools in the United States unconstitutional, nullifying the earlier judicial doctrine of separate but equal” (blackpast.org)
Timeline of Brown v. Board of Education: https://www.thoughtco.com/brown-v-board-of-education-timeline-45459
Resources about the Brown Case: http://www.littlejohnexplorers.com/jeff/brown/browncases.htm
The WD Palmer Foundation is created
Walter D. Palmer started the Palmer Foundation as 21-year-old with the aim to educate and enhance Black communities. Was founded as a non-profit unincorporated association.
The Black People’s University of Philadelphia Freedom School founded
Shortly after high school, Walt Palmer created a small school which he called “Black People’s University.” He’d already been teaching young people on street corners, and created this to be the educational and political action arm of the Palmer Foundation.
“So I said, ‘I’m going to be bodacious,’ in 1955. You’ve got to picture what 1955 was like: no Blacks in Philadelphia in any significant roles. No major Black professors on Penn’s campus. No Black judges, lawyers. There are some but they’re just images. Blacks in the banks were non-existent. Blacks driving subway cars and trains and buses was just non-existent. So, I started pushing with my little school, I created the Palmer Foundation which would be the source for gathering information on African and African American people. I’d go out and I’d find National Geographic magazines that had all kinds of histories about people: Africa, Asia, all over the world. I’d used them in my little school to help educate people. I was trying hard to get Black kids get beyond a six block radius, or gang turfs.”
“But I wanted to teach about Black History. I was excited and I was proud. And I had art skills. So I started painting pictures of Black people in significant roles, things they did. So the Black People’s University became the teaching tool for the Palmer Foundation. The Palmer Foundation and the Black People’s University was, in 1955, a unincorporated association. And I registered for a charter and wouldn’t do that until almost 1980. So for almost 20 some years, we were a nonprofit unincorporated association. But we did the work. And Black People’s University helped to train people in leadership: we trained them in politics and organization, grassroots organization. We were ahead of the curve.”
“We took in children from two years old up to five years old as a preschool, and then had an after school for children who were in kindergarten up to the end of elementary, and then had a high school after-school program. Small, we were small. We had 12 children for preschool during the day. But we had many more children in the evening and afternoon schools.
“I was able to use the Black People’s University as a platform for training and educating an amount of Blacks in politics. Some of the names, some are still alive, for instance: Councilman Curtis Jones and United States Congressman Chaka Fatah, United States Congressman Lloyd Evans, Pennsylvania state legislator David P. Richard, the youngest person to ever be elected to a political post like state legislator in the history of Pennsylvania, at 24 years old.
“I was training people and trying to get them engaged in business, education, politics, and government law. By the 1960s, my notoriety had become well known locally and nationally. [Even during the period of time that I] worked in the medical field, I was a medical specialist by day and a fighter for social justice by night, and even in the medical field I tried hard to bring this sense of urgency about Black people and recognition of Blacks.”
“My school, my freedom school, Black People’s University of Philadelphia was the first one that was rebooted in contemporary times, and was the model for a lot of other schools. Along the way, I got a chance to, to work with a lot of people.”
-Walt Palmer, 2020
Emmett Till lynched, Rosa Parks arrested, George W. Lee Killed
“Fourteen-year-old Chicago resident Emmett Till is lynched while vacationing in Money, Mississippi on August 28” (blackpast.org)
Biography of Emmett Till: https://www.thoughtco.com/emmett-till-biography-45213
“Rosa Parks refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man on December 1, initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Soon afterwards Dr. Martin Luther King becomes the leader of the Boycott.” (blackpast.org)
Quotes from Rosa Parks: https://www.thoughtco.com/rosa-parks-quotes-3530169
How Rosa Parks Helped Spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/dec/1
Montgomery Bus Boycott Timeline: https://www.thoughtco.com/montgomery-bus-boycott-timeline-45456
“On May 7 Reverend George W. Lee, an NAACP activist, is killed in Belzoni, Mississippi” (blackpast.org)
Supreme Court bans segregation in interstate travel
“On November 13, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gayle v. Browder bans segregation in interstate travel, effectively giving a victory to those supporting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.” (blackpast.org)
Indictment of boycotters and conviction of Dr. King: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/feb/21
Walter Palmer becomes first Black hospital director
When he assumed the role of Director of Cardio-Pulmonary Care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he became the first Black and the youngest director in the nation.
Congress passes Civil Rights Act of 1957
“Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first legislation protecting Black rights since Reconstruction. The act establishes the Civil Rights section of the Justice Department and empowers federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also creates the federal Civil Rights Commission with the authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures.” (blackpast.org)
Althea Gibson first Black woman to win U.S. Open
“Althea Gibson becomes the first African American woman to win the U.S. Open tennis championship in Forest Hills.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer founds the Black Oak Park Civic Association
The area in Philadelphia from Pine to Cedar Ave and from 52nd to 51st street was named Black Oak Park. It used to be a predominantly white, wealthy area, and the Palmer family was one of the first Black families to live there and have a business there. Little by little, Black families started to control that area and it’s almost 100% Black now. Walt acquired many large properties in the area of the park, including two mansions across the street.
He began using the park to practice and organized many sports teams, including baseball, basketball, football and track. The high school on 48th and Chestnut St. used the part to create the first Black drill team in Philadelphia, called the Scottish Drill Team. The park was renamed Malcolm X Memorial Park in 1993.
First Black Grammy award winners
“Ella Fitzgerald and William ‘Count’ Basie become the first African American performers to win Grammy awards.” (blackpast.org)
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Walter Palmer is a co-founder of COPE 46
“We decided to go against a powerful political machine in West Philadelphia. It was called the 46th Ward, and it covered most of West Philadelphia, all the way out to Overbrook, and all of the area around what’s called University City West. It was Democratic, and the 46th Ward had so much control. So much about appropriate outcomes were determined by how successful you are at getting the 46th Ward to work.”
“Some of my old-time friends from around the Black Bottom, Bea Freeman and her sister Lillian, helped to create an organization called COPE 46. It was the Committee on Political Education for the 46th Ward. Now, in the 1960’s, this was going to become one of the first Black independent political organizations in Philadelphia. And we’re going to strike out; we’re trying to get a state legislator replaced with our own person in the form of Tom Love.”
“I was helping on a campaign in my 20’s for a man by the name of Thomas Love. Tom Love was a captain in the Air Force, handsome man. He just had such a presence about him, such an aura of respectability or prominence. And he believed in good government, believed in better government. And so I worked with him and tried to help get him elected. He was not successful, but nevertheless, it was a tremendous learning, because we created COPE 46.”
“[The 46th Ward] has 60 different sections, little neighborhoods called divisions, and every one of those divisions has to have a committee man and a committee woman; it has to be equally divided. So that’s 120 people. So we have to get and identify people who have been loyal to COPE 46 because the existing Democratic Party already has 120 people in those areas. So it means we’re going to have to have neighbors fighting against neighbors in order to get elected, if we’re going to be able to take this party over.”
-Walt Palmer, 2020
Palmer and his team were successful in some senses but had challenges going up against the powerful and well-funded Democratic party. There were attacks on Palmer and his partners and turmoil. They were able to get at least 30 people elected out of 120.
COPE 46, beginning of sit-in movement, ’60 Civil Rights Act, birth of SNCC, the Little Rock Nine
COPE 46 stands for Committee of Political Education for the 46 Ward (Philadelphia). COPE was the first Black independent political organization in fifty years.
Woolworth’s counter sit-in, beginning of sit-in movement
“On February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro begin a sit-in at Woolworth’s Drug Store to protest company policy which bans African Americans from sitting at its counters.” (blackpast.org)
Nashville Students Launched Protests; Later Faced Attack: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/feb/13
52 Individuals, Including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Arrested in Atlanta Sit-in Protest: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/oct/19
Civil Rights Act of 1960 – Voting protection
“The Civil Rights Act of 1960 is signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 6. The Act established federal inspection of local voter registration rolls and introduces penalties for anyone who obstructs a citizen’s attempt to register to vote or to cast a ballot.” (blackpast.org)
The Little Rock Nine
Birth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
First Freedom Ride for CORE; white mob terrorizes Alabama residents
First Freedom Ride for CORE
“on May 4, seven Blacks and four whites leave Washington, D.C., for the Deep South on the first Freedom Ride for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).” (blackpast.org)
“On May 20, 1961, nineteen Freedom Riders traveling by bus through the South to challenge segregation laws were brutally attached by a white mob at the Montgomery, Alabama, downtown Greyhound Station.” https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/may/20
Meet the Players: Freedom Riders https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/meet-players-freedom-riders/
White mob terrorizes 1,000 Black residents inside Montgomery, AL church
Walter Palmer established the “School without Walls” at the University of Pennsylvania
In 2010, Walt Palmer helped to set up the School Without Walls, recruiting young people to come in and get an education. The organization set up a pencil and computer school for people from 12 or 13 years old to 20 years old.
“These kids were surviving. Mothers that have a bunch of children, father dead or in jail, living in poverty, food stamps are not enough. Boys and girls. Life of African-Americans is difficult in our society, that’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to have race dialogue.” – Walt Palmer, 2020
Walter Palmer becomes visiting lecturer
Walter Palmer becomes visiting lecturer in 8 of the 12 University of Pennsylvania Colleges
Discrimination in federally-funded housing finally banned; lacked enforcement
“I Have a Dream”; JFK Assassinated; Fannie Lou Hamer arrested & beaten
“I have a Dream” speech
Over 200,000 people gather in Washington, D.C. on August 28 as part of the March on Washington, an unprecedented demonstration demanding civil rights and equal opportunity for African Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech here.” (blackpast.org)
“President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas on November 22.” (blackpast.org)
Fannie Lou Hamer Arrested and Beaten in Winona, Mississippi
Walter Palmer co-founds the Black People’s Unity Movement in Philadelphia
Walter Palmer starts doing Curbstone College
Walt Palmer joined forces with a man from North Philadelphia named Playtell Benjamin, who was a great orator and historian. They started organizing and doing lectures on street corners, trying to get Black people interested in Black history, which they called the Curbstone College. With a host of civil rights fighters and Black power advocates, they’d go out weekly and teach.
“We would organize with all of the young people in all the different neighborhoods, all the gang leaders, all the communities; every week we’d put out thousands of flyers in the neighborhood and let people know we were coming. Each Saturday was a different corner, and by the time we got there, there would be hundreds, thousands of people. I remember one Saturday, it had to be over a thousand people. Curbstone College became a big deal.”
“I remember the SNCC committee, 5 of them were arrested for conspiracy and a plot to blow up City Hall. They raided their office on 15th Street and found five sticks of dynamite. Now, we rallied people all over the city in support for the SNCC members; the problem with the case—they had the 5 sticks of dynamite but had no blasting caps. How could you have a conspiracy to blow up a place if you have no blasting caps? You can’t really read intent. So they were dismissed, largely because we continued having Curbstone College and street rallies in their support. You couldn’t count on the white newspapers, the Inquirer, the Bulletin, etc… you only had one Black paper and they didn’t necessarily give you as much coverage as you needed to rally people. So I had to be constantly creative all the time, thinking of ways in which to get the word out for our support.”
“That was my life, my life’s work from sunup to sundown, even when I was working professionally to make a living; the top priority was really organizing the Black folks.”
Walt Palmer is the founder of the Original Philadelphia Freedom Theatre, a grassroots community theatre.
Walt Palmer created the Philadelphia Freedom Theatre in the 1960’s because of his interest in theater with his close friend Walton Bellegarde, who was a young, budding actor. They created the theatre with the idea that it would talk about the Black experience and Black history.
“So the idea of the theater, because I just loved music, art dance and drama so much, was to use it to demonstrate. And it’s ironic that I would want to do that because most people thought of entertainment in one dimension. They thought about it being for your entertainment, or about it being for a job. But if you look at the number of Black entertainers in particular, who use their music or dance and drama for social change, they’re in large numbers. You’d be shocked at some of the ones who did do it. And so I had a sense of the power. It was a way of galvanizing people, getting their attention.” – Walt Palmer
Malcolm X founds Organization of Afro-American Unity, Economic Opportunity Act
Malcolm X founds Organization of Afro-American Unity, Economic Opportunity Act
“On March 12, Malcolm X announces his break with the Nation of Islam and his founding of the Muslim Mosque in Harlem. On June 28 he founds the Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York City.” (blackpast.org)
Malcolm X Life Timeline: http://brothermalcolm.net/mxtimeline.html
Economic Opportunity Act (beginning of Head Start)
“On August 20, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act, initiating the federally-sponsored War on Poverty. The act includes Head Start, Upward Bound, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer founds SPAAH
The Society for the Preservation of African American History
Walt Palmer founded SPAAH in order to teach African American history using art.
“I used to draw and paint pictures of African-Americans in history. This predates the Curbstone College; I would stand on street corners holding up these portraits and tell their history. [These were] little-known historical figures that have gotten little-to-no historical recognition. And later on I’d put together the Association of Black Artists- I got artist friends of mine like John Gray and Howard Green, Reggie Bryant—these were all artists, and I put all those guys together and I would have them do portraits and pictures. I had hundreds of them, and I would use them as props.”
“When I started doing student teaching, I’d get students involved and we’d do assemblies, having students each learn about one of the portraits and have them do a whole parade on stage, and students would tell them who they are. They’d say, “I’m Nat Turner,” and talk like they were Nat Turner, and tell what he did.” – Walt Palmer
Malcolm X assassinated, Selma-to-Montgomery Protest March, Voting Rights Act, Jimmie Lee Jackson murdered
Malcolm X assassinated
“Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, New York on February 21.” (blackpast.org)
Malcolm X Website with information, pictures, etc: http://brothermalcolm.net/introduction.html
Mourners Flock to Harlem Funeral Home to Honor Slain Leader, Malcolm X:
Selma-to-Montgomery Protest March
“On March 7, six hundred Alabama civil rights activists stage a Selma-to-Montgomery protest march to draw attention to the continued denial of black voting rights in the state. The marchers are confronted by Alabama State Troopers whose attack on them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge is carried on national television. On March 21, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads a five-day, 54-mile march retracing the route of the original activists. The 3,300 marchers at the beginning of the trek eventually grow to 25,000 when they reach the Alabama capitol on March 25. After the protest march, President Lyndon Johnson proposes the Voting Rights Act to guarantee Black voting throughout the South.” (blackpast.org)
Bloody Sunday: Civil Rights Protestors Brutally Attacked in Selma (article and video): https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/mar/7
Voting Rights Act signed
“The Voting Rights Act is signed into law on August 6.” (blackpast.org) More information at: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/aug/6
Dr. King and Hundreds of Voting Rights Protestors Arrested (Feb 1): https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/feb/1
The Voting Rights Act marked the end of the Jim Crow Era: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-jim-crow-45387
The Murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson
Walter Palmer is an organizer of the Temple University African American Studies Courses
Walter Palmer produced a citywide tribute to Malcolm X
The tribute was held at the University of Pennsylvania’s then-new Annenberg Theatre.
“When Malcolm X died, a lot of us died with him. He was a wonderful, wonderful man, and a great inspiration. For a whole year or more, people were just totally paralyzed–didn’t know what to do. And they just simply were lost.”
“And they weren’t doing what they should have done, which was to learn from Malcolm’s experience and rise up and fight and resist.”
“So what I did was I helped organize a tribute to Malcolm X. Invited his wife, Betty Shabazz to come to Philadelphia. Penn had created a brand new building: Annenberg Theatre. The very first event ever held in Annenberg Theatre, on that new stage, was a tribute to Malcolm X. The Black artists came and they brought their portraits. The poets came Leroy Jones and Larry Neil, with their poetry. Arthur Hall, the great Arthur Hall Dance Ensemble, came and danced all through the corridors and the halls and the walkways and on the stage.”
James Meredith shot
“On June 5, James Meredith begins a solitary ‘March Against Fear’ for 220 miles from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi to protest racial discrimination. Soon after crossing into Mississippi Meredith is shot by a sniper. Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King (SCLC), Floyd McKissick (CORE), and Stokely Carmichael (SNCC) vow to continue the march which eventually reaches Jackson. While in Greenwood, Carmichael gives his first Black Power speech on June 26th.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer was an organizer of the Information, Consultation, and Education in Services Inc.
With his experience from setting up the Black People’s University Freedom School and from his work in reforming public schools and fighting for parental school choice, Walt Palmer created the Information, Consultation, and Education Services, Inc. in order to create an income stream to fund his work. He offered consulting to educators and administrators about how to develop a curriculum that really works for African American children. He offered education on Black culture, language, history, and racism as context to the education needs of these children.
“Why do Black children oftentimes refer to their education as being white education? Why do Black children say to other Black children, ‘you’re acting white’? What makes them think like that? And that’s not just in Philadelphia, that’s all over the country. That’s 40 million Black people and there are communities all over the country where there are some Blacks who look at other Blacks in a derogatory way. I mean, because they feel intuitively that their culture is different from white culture. Their language is different, their behavior is different, their interests are different. But white Americans can’t accept that, because they think that everybody should be treated the same, that everybody is equal, that everybody should be equal, and that’s just platitudes, that’s not real.”
“So many whites run from the history because they don’t want the discomfort, they don’t want the pain. They say, ‘let’s just talk about what’s going on right now, in the 21st century. Let’s not get ourselves all worked up about before, because that’s gone, tat’s history, that’s behind us.’ well, they’re contributory to racism; they are the gatekeepers who are maintaining racism.” – Walt Palmer
Walt Palmer organized the November 17th Student Protest
After Walt Palmer left the medical field and went into organizing in North Philadelphia for Model Cities, a number of high school students came to him and asked if he would help them fight for their rights.
“They wanted the right to wear African clothing, which the teachers would deny. They wanted the right to wear their hair in braids and natural. They wanted the right to speak Swahili. They wanted Black history in the schools. They wanted more Black teachers, more Black principals, more Black administrators. So I worked with them, I trained them, organized them, and got them to organize students all across the city of Philadelphia.
They called for a Black students’ strike on November 17th, 1967, when they asked all Black students across Philadelphia to leave their schools and go home. A number of them would march against the Board of Education in order for them to meet 25 demands and allow them to create a Student Bill of Rights. It turned out to be the largest student strike in the history of America, with tens of thousands of students walking out, pulled off by Black students and adults.
However while the small group was in the Board of Education negotiating between 10am and 12pm, over 5,000 students were surrounding the building. At 12pm, the Commissioner of Police ordered the police to attack the children.
The children were beaten. And I told them, ‘Fight, fight back, don’t let them beat you.’ And so everybody’s out there fighting. But these are children. They’re overwhelmed. They threw tear gas on us. They arrested me and held me without bail for 24 hours or more.”
“Some things are worthwhile going to jail for. This attack by the police went national, went international. It galvanized Black people in ways which I could never have galvanized them before. They came to our aid, came to our support. Not all of them. There were some Blacks, who for the most part, were opposed to my philosophy and my way of thought. They benefited from it, but they didn’t like the idea of it existing. But they had to face it.”
Palmer was the primary orchestrator of the Temple University-Tripartite Agreement
This agreement was with the North Philadelphia community residents, students, faculty and trustees of Temple University.
“For context, I got called into a lot of things. Student groups called on me all the time because I was working with students all the time. I had worked with Penn students and faculty to build coalitions. I helped set up the first Black student unions in all of the schools. Sometime in ‘68, after I did the school strike in Philadelphia, my notoriety grew and I became the go-to person. So that’s how I got pulled in. We fought against Temple because they were encroaching on the North Philadelphia community area, trying to take 25% of it. We did demonstrations against Temple for encroaching into Black communities and formed an agreement that they wouldn’t go past Diamond Street, although they eventually found ways to circumvent it.”
Palmer was director of “Model Cities” Philadelphia
Model Cities was a grassroots organizing effort of Philadelphia, community planning and development. Palmer spend time as director of the North Philadelphia project.
“The Model Cities program was the last major urban aid initiative of the Great Society domestic agenda of President Lyndon Johnson (1908-73). The legislation called for the coordination of federal services to redevelop the nation’s poorest and least-served urban communities. In 1967, North Philadelphia was designated for renewal under this program. Rather than serving to unify policies, however, the question of how to combine redevelopment with citizen participation exposed not only the inadequacies of the federal program but also the widening racial fault lines between white elected leaders and the city’s African American communities.”
Co-founded the Black Student Union and Black Student League of Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania
Newark Riot, Thurgood Marshall appointed, interracial marriage legalized, November 17, 1967 Student Protest
Newark Riot leaves 23 dead
“The six-day Newark Riot begins on July 12 and claims 23 dead, 725 injured and 1,500 arrested.” (blackpast.org)
Thurgood Marshall first African American on Supreme Court
“Solicitor general Thurgood Marshall takes his seat as the first African American Justice on the United States Supreme Court on July 13.” (blackpast.org)
More information about Thurgood Marshall: https://www.thoughtco.com/thurgood-marshall-supreme-court-justice-45303
Laws in Sixteen States Banning Interracial marriage Finally Found Unconstitutional
Loving v. Virginia: https://www.thoughtco.com/loving-v-virginia-1967-249721
Interracial Marriage Laws History and Timeline: https://www.thoughtco.com/interracial-marriage-laws-721611
November 17, 1967 Student Protest
Links with more information:
Walter Palmer co-founded the Philadelphia City-wide Black Ministries Organization
“This was an attempt to bring Black churches together. The Black church has always been a very strong part of the Black community. The Black church emerged out of the slave period, and Black churches grew little by little, they were very small and many times they were hidden because whites didn’t want them to be able to meet and be active and do anything without their presence. They forbid them from learning the English language to any degree, just enough to be able to say ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ they didn’t want them to have the drum, the drum was taken away, they didn’t want them to… they separated them by virtue of language. If they had different languages, they separated them out so they couldn’t communicate. So, the Black Church had to… as they grew, little by little, what they recognized is that whites and white slave masters thought they were innocent because they were willing to use the Bible. But what they used the Bible for was to teach people how to speak, and teach people how to communicate, so the Bible became very useful. And they met, they met and sometimes they got to the point where they talked about Black revolutionary theology, and trying to overthrow, and they try to undermine, they slowed, work stoppage, poison, whatever they could do to try to… there was always resistance, always resistance. And so the songs that they oftentimes wrote were songs which were used for being able to find escape routes to get away from their bondage, etc. And so over the years, they became very very active in organizing and extolling people to get involved in politics and education and what have you. And to this day, it’s very hard to organize without considering the church as one of the primary pieces that you need in any plan of organizing. And that’s why so many people at the church… you see the elected officials, Donald Trump, goes after the Evangelicals. Joe Biden goes after the Catholics, and trying to get the Black Baptists, etc., because the power and the importance and significance of the church. So, putting together the Black Ministerium Group, the whole purpose of this was to give cover for a lot of the civil disobedience that we were doing. The Black church gave legitimacy within the ranks of your own people, middle-class people would be more likely to be supportive if they knew the Black church, or members of the Black church were involved. And so, that’s how the Black ministry… And so some of the names of the people who were very prominent, Father Paul Washington, Reverend Jerome Cooper, Reverend Lorenzo Sheperd, Reverend Bill Gray, these were just very very prominent names in Philadelphia. The Black church circles are very big.”
“We made sure to organize people around their own interests. We put together Black media group, Black artist’s group, Black theater group, constantly organizing around people’s interests. The Black Ministerium is very important because of how high esteemed they were in the Black community.” – Walt Palmer
Co-founded the Philadelphia Black United Fund
During the Civil Rights Movement, Walt worked with a group of people who came together to create the Black United Fund, an effort to make small loans available to Black people who for the most part were not bankable, and couldn’t get loans from the bank.
“And it worked. It still exists today. It was a model and it was transferred, transported to other parts of the country.” – Walt Palmer
Recruited the Philadelphia Episcopal Church of the Advocate as an organizing base for Empowerment.
Walt worked closely with Father Paul Washington at the Church of the Advocate, convincing Father Washington to let him use the church as a gathering place.
Examples include the Black Power Conference, the SNCC Stick of Dynamite case, the Poison Plot case, the Black economic development case, the Black Ministerium, the anti-war movement, the Black People’s Unity Movement, the Black Power Movement, and the education reform movement.
“Almost all these movements that we ran, that became our base of our operations. You couldn’t have these national platforms just at that one church, it couldn’t hold… you’re talking about 5,000, 10,000 people every time you have these conferences, so one of our strategies was that we had in place, a database in terms of other parts of the city which would be used for warehousing, lectures, seminars, workshops, etc., and we also, we had a city-wide network of people who would lend their homes for strangers who came into town for these conferences.” – Walt Palmer
Co-organized the international Anti-war Peace Movement Conference in Philadelphia
“Once again, that was about organizing people to fight against the war in Vietnam. A lot of young white people who were eligible for the draft, you’re 18 years old you have to sign up for the draft, and at some point between 18 and 21 you’d be called to join the service. So, many of the young whites, they fled the country and went to Canada in order to resist it. And on the other hand, many Black families were sending their young sons into war because it offered them shelter from the street, it offered them education, it offered them a stipend, it made money. So, from poor people’s perspective and Black people’s perspectives, it looked very different from young whites who were trying to flee from this. One of the things that was a major cry during the Vietnamese war—the Korean war and Vietnamese war—was that Blacks were dying at a higher rate because they were on the front lines at a higher rate than whites were. And that became a real cry during the Vietnamese war, and there was an effort to try to put a crush to that. At the same time, they were being segregated in terms of the home base opportunities that whites had in the clubs and places like that. We created a national meeting on one occasion, and held it at the Church of the Advocate, which was the local place we often used up in North Philadelphia under Father Paul Washington, and the outcome of the particularly major peace meeting that I was asked to organize, in Philadelphia, it was a national thing, we organized over a half million people to march on the United Nations against the war. It turned into, as many of these things do, it turned into a police confrontation.” – Walt Palmer
Supported Gloria Steinem & the Feminist Movement
In September 1968, Palmer supported Gloria Steinem and the Feminist Movement, convergence on Atlantic City, New Jersey, to protest the image of womanhood conveyed by the Miss American Pageant. Palmer supported her at the time in her movement and push against the pageant.
More information about the protests:
Orchestrated the University of Pennsylvania Quadripartite Agreement
The Penn Quadripartite agreement was an agreement that Penn would stop any further expansion into the Black Bottom, and if they were to expand at all, they would consult the community, the faculty, the students, and the board of trustees. This agreement was the outcome of the protesting, demonstrations, and take over of College hall by students, which Palmer led.
“I lead that fight because it was my neighborhood, and because I was leading up the Civil Rights movement, Black power movement, Afrocentric movement, so this was the final outcome of when Penn would agree to stop any further expansion.” – Walt Palmer
Community Organizer and Director of the Temple University Community Mental Health Center
Co-facilitator of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Social Policy and Practice American Racism courses
These courses credited Penn as the first university in America to require American Racism courses to obtain a master’s degree.
“1968 Penn School of Social Work students shut the school down demanding more Black faculty, administrators, staff and students. They also wanted required courses on American Racism and Gender Bias, and I was invited to participate in the dialogue and creation of these courses. Penn became the first major American University to have required courses on racism for a graduate degree. I have been teaching these courses at Penn, Stockton State College, Montgomery County College, Philadelphia Community College, Temple University, and the Philadelphia College of Art. Over the last fifty years, we have had to fight against faculty to keep the courses, and we had to use different tactics and strategies over the many years.” – Walt Palmer
Palmer organized the second national Black Power Conference held in Philadelphia
The first Black Power Conference was in Newark, New Jersey in 1967. The second, organized by Walt Palmer, was in Philadelphia in 1968.
“Philadelphia is critical, is the keystone city to the keystone state. It’s what you have to go through in order to push an agenda through the Northeastern Seaboard. They said, if you do it in Philadelphia, you’ve got to go to Walt Palmer. So, I just simply was the go-to person from the 1960’s, because of my organizing abilities.
I wasn’t there as a participant, I was there as an organizer. Which meant I had to constantly be running. It’s a massive undertaking, all of these events are massive. I had to find housing for thousands of people, strangers coming from all over the city, had to find food, we had donations, I put together teams, committees.” – Walt Palmer
In talking about Black Power, Walt spoke of his childhood.
“I’d sing slave songs, work songs, field songs. So it wasn’t hard to really identify with the need for Black liberation. Or, long before Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase in the 1960’s, ‘Black Power.’ But in Philadelphia, as much as I had this sense of the need for Black freedom and Black expression, it is all about survival, even surviving amongst Black people, constant fights all the time.”
An article (cited below) speaks of the people who attended the ’68 conference and the issues that were debated.
“The Philadelphia Black Power conference drew approximately 4,000 people to North Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, far exceeding the building’s capacity. On the last day, the conference was moved to the larger building of the Benjamin Franklin High School. Its theme was “Black self-determination and Black unity through direct action.” It gathered an eclectic cast of Black leaders, such as Max Stanford, Queen Audley Mother Moore, Richard Henry, Malauna Karenga, Amiri Baraka, Jesse Jackson, Whitney Young, Nathan Hare, John Conyers, and Rosa Parks.”
“Electoral politics was not the only issue debated in Philadelphia. There were overall ten workshops organized around the themes of politics, education, culture, history, economics, reparations, Black student as well as Black women community organizing, religion, and communication. For the participants, the right to develop Black-owned businesses in or outside of the ghetto, to redefine school and university curricula so as to include Blacks in the larger realm of American history, and to (re)write African American history as a whole, were issues as fundamental as the right to vote and choosing Black candidates for office.” https://journals.openedition.org/orda/1624
Archives can be found at:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated, Civil Rights Act of 1968 passed (housing)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4. In the wake of the assassination 125 cities in the 29 states experience uprisings. By April 11, 46 people are killed and 35,000 are injured in these confrontations.” (blackpast.org)
Biography of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader: https://www.thoughtco.com/martin-luther-king-jr-1779880
Civil Rights Act of 1968 passed
“In April Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which outlaws discrimination in the sale and rental of housing.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer organized the first Black Panther International Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
First Black Panther International Constitutional Convention in Philly
The Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention (RPCC) was “a multicultural public gathering of between 10,000 and 15,000 people who answered the call by the Black Panther Party (BPP) and assembled in Philadelphia on the weekend of September 5, 1970. Arriving in the midst of police terror directed against the BPP, thousands of activists from around the country were determined to defend the Panthers. They also intended to redo what had been done in 1787 by this nation’s founding fathers in the city of brotherly love– to draft a new constitution providing authentic liberty and justice for all.”
The Black Panther Party: https://www.thoughtco.com/black-panther-party-45367
Facilitated the Episcopal Church of the Advocate Mural Arts Initiative
This historic initiative was created and designed by Richard Watson, the Resident Artist and Curator for the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Police kill Black Panther leaders
“On December 4, Chicago police kill Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clarke.” (blackpast.org)
Four days later, Los Angeles Police Attack Black Panthers in Violent Raid: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/dec/8
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Walter Palmer organized the International Black Power Conference in Bermuda
“By 1969 or 70, the National Black Movement will be asking me to organize a Pan-African Conference in Bermuda in order to take it out of the United States. And so I do, and we have the first modern day pan-African conference in Bermuda.” -Walt Palmer
“From July 10 to July 13, 1969, the First Regional International Black Power Conference (BPC) was held in Bermuda. Local Blacks and the wider African Diaspora supported the meeting, which signified the growth of Black Power in the West Indies. As were other Black Power Conferences in the region, it was seen as an opportunity to address the concerns of the Blacks across the world.”
Walter Palmer fasts for 30 days for Community Mental Health
“At one point I called for shutting down the community mental health center until we got certain changes, and I went into a hunger strike. For 30 days and 30 nights, I fasted, didn’t eat. I just drank water for the most part, and juices. I lost about 30 pounds, which was almost lost a pound a day during the strike, but it got their attention. In the meantime, I would write letters and send them to every member of Congress, every member of the Senate, and to the secretary of health and to the department of mental health in the capitol as well as the CDC, just trying to get people’s attention, no matter where they were. And of course the cameras were there every day, they were checking to see where I stood on issues, how much weight I’d lost.” – Walt Palmer
Mississippi Police kill two college students; first issues of Essence and Black Enterprise
Mississippi Police Open Fire on Protesting Jackson State College Students, Killing Two
First issues of Essence magazine and Black Enterprise magazine
“The first issue of Essence magazine appears in May, and the first issue of Black Enterprise magazine appears in August.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer co-directed academic reinforcement for minority medical and dental students at Howard University
When Palmer was in law school at Howard University, he was hired by a friend in the medical school to help run a program created by Dr. Randall Maxey for African American students in the medical and dental school. The goal of the program was to help students succeed and provide them the skills to do so. The program worked to motivate students, improve their self-esteem, provide a support system for them, and provide academic support. He ran this program for three years, going to law school in the morning and running the program at the medical school in the afternoon.
“It was a clever idea, it was a great idea, because they made it into the school, the question was: how were they going to stay in?” – Walt Palmer
President Nixon Declares “War on Drugs,” Attica Prison Riot
President Nixon declares “War on Drugs” that targeted communities of color
Attica Prison Riot – 1,200 inmates seize control
“On September 9, nearly 1,200 inmates seize control of half of the New York State Prison at Attica in what will be known as the Attica Prison Riot. Four days later 29 inmates and ten hostages are killed when state troopers and correctional officers suppress the uprising.” (blackpast.org)
Shirley Chisholm first African American to campaign for Democratic presidential nomination
“Over the summer, New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm makes an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is the first African American to campaign for the nomination.” (blackpast.org)
Eleanor Holmes Norton establishes National Black Feminist Organization
“The National Black Feminist Organization is established by Eleanor Holmes Norton.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer was an organizer and planner in the Community Legal Services Self Help Legal Advocacy Project
After graduating from Howard Law, Palmer joined a team centered around offering legal services and guidance. Working with high school students and any community member who was willing, Palmer promoted self-advocacy by teaching people what their rights were in different jurisdictions such as housing, education, and healthcare.
“When I left law school, I went to Community Legal Services to clerk. And I had known of Community Legal Services before I went off to law school, because they’d set up a community legal service in the Black Bottom, at 40th and Market Street.
What I did was I got the managing officers to agree to allow me to bring community people in. I’ve always been pushing: community people, they can do this. 95% of everything we learned in law school, everyday people can do it. So we had these meetings with neighborhood community people and some of the law clerks and the lawyers. A lot of the more established guys weren’t interested… some were, most weren’t. But the new clerks and all, they were interested, they were young lawyers. So we started meeting on a regular basis and took all of the subjects that people had to deal with: housing, education, welfare, social security, you name it, and we wrote what the process would be if you were a layman without a law degree and you had to go into the courts and had to go into hearings. And so all of those manuals, that became the basis for doing this work. It got to the point where a lot of the traditional lawyers were in protest, they were opposed to it.
I mean, the idea of having neighborhood community people coming into their turf, doctors feel the same way, most professionals feel the same way. So we eventually had to shut down and protest, so several of the folks who worked in the community legal services, lead by me, we shut down Law Center West and wouldn’t allow the lawyers to come back to work. And we brought community people in and occupied the building at 52nd and Walnut Street. This was in 1975, 1976. There were a half dozen law centers all across the city, and we started sending bulletins and materials to staff and to community people. So they went to court to have me arrested, and the judge gave them a junction against me, and gave them a right to reentry and repossess the building. So, they couldn’t make the arrest on me. I kept agitating… even though I knew I had warrants out for my arrest, I would show up at one of the centers, giving out materials, and before the sheriff or the police could come, I’d leave. And I did that to every center in the city. It got to the point where they didn’t call the police anymore, because it wasn’t working. So we returned the buildings back to them, but it was a whole brand new face, a whole brand new look, a whole approach and attitude about how you treat poor people and about how you have them be involved in decision making.”
Delbert Tibbs (innocent) sentenced to death, Hank Aaron most home runs
Delbert Tibbs, an Innocent Black Man, Was Wrongly Accused and Sentenced to Death
Hank Aaron surpasses Babe Ruth in home runs
“On April 8, Henry (Hank) Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th home run surpassing Babe Ruth to become the all-time leader in home runs in major league baseball.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer co-produced and hosted CBS (TV 10) Consumer Advocate Education
First Black Medical School established
“The Morehouse School of Medicine (Atlanta) becomes the only Black medical school established in the United States in the 20th Century. The first dean and president of the Morehouse School of Medicine is Dr. Louis Sullivan who later becomes the U.S. Surgeon General.” (blackpast.org)
Created the Black Bottom Community Association and hosted the family picnic
“We created the Black Bottom Community Association and hosted the Annual Black Bottom family and community picnic, which has become the largest and oldest family and community picnic in Philadelphia history.
In 1976, six people from the neighborhood founded the Black Bottom Association. In September of that same year, the Association held a dinner party to celebrate their first ‘family reunion.’ More than 100 people attended the affair.
The first Black Bottom Association annual picnic was held during the summer of 1984 at Belmont and Parkside Avenues. Two hundred people, contacted simply by word of mouth, attended the gathering. Many of the families had not seen each other since 1976. To this day, the Black Bottom Association has an annual picnic on the last Sunday of July.
In addition, On March 25th, 1999, the Council of the City of Philadelphia designated the last Sunday of August as Black Bottom Day in Philadelphia, ‘in fitting tribute to the great history and legacy of this great and historic community.’
Though the families may have been physically displaced, spiritually the former residents of the Black Bottom remain united.”
The Palmer Foundation promoted and co-sponsored the Philadelphia Bicentennial & the creation of the Philadelphia Afro-American Museum
Milton Friedman wins Nobel Prize, Barbara Jordan delivers keynote address
Milton Friedman wins Nobel Prize for Economics, consequences in education
“Since I set up my first Freedom School in 1955, I believed in public, parochial and home schooling. In the 1980s, the work of Nobel Peace Price winner Milton Freeman, advanced the notion of education in the free market to provide competition to government controlled public education. This laid the ground for the creation of charity schools, cyber schools and school vouchers, and has divided the country on maintenance of the status quo versus parental school choice.” -Walt Palmer
Biography of Milton Friedman: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Milton-Friedman
Barbara Jordan delivers keynote address
“Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan becomes the first African American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention which meets that year in New York City.” (blackpast.org)
Barbara Jordan biography: https://www.thoughtco.com/barbara-jordan-biography-3528702
Patricia Harris appointed by President Jimmy Carter
“In January, Patricia Harris is appointed by President Jimmy Carter to head Housing and Urban Development. She becomes the first African American woman to hold a cabinet position.” (blackpast.org)
Walter Palmer was the chief negotiator in the MOVE confrontation (Powelton Avenue) in Philadelphia
“I was the chief negotiator between Rizzo and the Move Organization, and I literally lived down in Powelton Village for a year organizing a city-wide protest. In August 1968, when the police refused to withdraw and it evolved into a gun battle and the death of a policeman, I was pinned down in crossfire twice and nine members of Move were sentenced to life for a crime they did not commit.” – Walt Palmer
Founder of the city-wide Black Community Council on Human Rights
Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks
“On September 15, Muhammad Ali becomes the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times when he defeats Leon Spinks at the Superdome in New Orleans.” (blackpast.org)
Organizer and planner in the W.M. Anderson Mechanical Construction Company minority buyout
Walt was an organizer and planner in the minority buyout of the W.M. Anderson Mechanical Construction Company. It was a $50,000,000 project.
“In the 80s, civil rights activist Stanley Branche asked me to help him acquire the 100 year old WM Anderson Company (valued at 50 million) located at the foot of the South Philadelphia bridge. The steel pipe-fitting company had been in the Anderson family for four generations, and was now starting to go under. I developed a plan that would save the company with a new business model, using agreements from several Atlantic City Casinos and getting agreements from Liberia bankers to build a plant in Liberia until the takeover by Sergeant Doe, who assassinated the President and his cabinet and arrested our contacts.”
Rappers Delight recorded
“The Sugar Hill Gang records ‘Rappers Delight’ in Harlem.” (blackpast.org)
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Walt Palmer was designer and planner of the first annual WDAS Unity Day
WDAS was an all-Black radio station…
…owned by Bob Klein. In 1980, Klein decided to sell the radio station and asked Walt Palmer if he would design something that would be a tribute to the Black community for all the years they’d been loyal to him. So, Palmer galvanized a number of his activist cohorts around the city and told them that he wanted to create the “WDAS Unity Day”: a parade, picnic, and all-day event.
It would take place in Philadelphia at 46th and Market Street, between Market and Haverford at the Lee Cultural Center. He worked with an architect named Gary Small to design the entire 25-acre layout with five stages, and the radio station would line up live, top-name entertainment. They had a swimming pool, games, and competitions for kids and young people.
Organizing Philadelphia Gangs as Security People
“We organized all the gangs in the city of Philadelphia out of the projects. We were right in the middle of one of the projects. We tapped into all of them. We wanted them to be the security people. And I told them being security does not mean being physical, it does not mean being a gorilla. It meant being a communications person, somebody who can communicate with people. You see young girls who don’t know how to get to the bathroom, you show them where it is. You make sure that they’re protected and they’re not bothered when they go in.
We had tables all lined up through the place. Public health announcements, legal announcements, housing announcements, you name it. Information, big pamphlets and leaflets being given out by the tens of thousands.” – Walt Palmer
The WDAS Unity Day became a WDAS Tuesday, which grew exponentially and continued long after Palmer was involved.
More about WDAS and WDAS Unity Day:
The Palmer Foundation Inc. becomes a 501(c)3
The Palmer Foundation Inc. becomes a 501(c)3 organization.
Founder of the Wisconsin Steel Mill minority buyout
“I forged a business coalition (Palmer Industries) to acquire the Chicago-based 100 year old Wisconsin Steel Mill, valued at 500 million dollars, sitting on 5,000 acres of land with two hot rolling mills, one cold rolling mill, 15,000 carrier ships, two hundred fright trains, 50 locomotives, 17 miles of rails, 35 million tons of coal, and 50 million dollars of taconite mine with my friend and investment banker, Tom Flemming took me on Wall Street to Drexel, Burnham, Lambier and got us a 90 million dollar commitment.
I flew to Chicago to meet Mayor Jane Burn and she gave us a 20 million dollar UDAG grant and I asked her to get an audience with President Jimmy Carter to get a 90 million dollar guarantee for our Wall street loan, and she did on October 8, 1980. Unfortunately, on November 4, 1980, Jimmy Carter lost the presidency.” – Walt Palmer
Liberty City riots
“On May 17-18 rioting breaks out in Liberty City, Florida (near Miami) after police officers are acquitted for killing an unarmed Black man. The riot which generates 15 deaths is the worst in the nation since Detroit in 1967.” (blackpast.org)
Michael Donald hanged by members of Klan in Mobile, Alabama
Organizer and planner in the “recall” of Atlantic City mayor Michael Matthews
Michael J. Matthews was Atlantic City’s first popularly elected mayor. He was later recalled and imprisoned on extortion charges, pleading guilty in 1984 to accepting a bribe from a federal agent posing as a mod-connected representative of a janitorial supply company.
Walt Palmer was asked to come back to Atlantic City to help with his recall. Black folks were trying to find someone to run against him, so they tapped a man who had been a principal in the school system in Atlantic City, James Usry, who went on to be elected mayor in 1984 as the first Black mayor.
Using his grassroots organizing skills and WUSS, a local radio station, they were able to get Matthews recalled and Usry elected.
Information from Walt Palmer and the following source:
Creator of Black political infrastructure in Atlantic City
Walt Palmer was contacted by a relative who worked on the police force in Atlantic City to help the community oust their mayor, who had been purportedly engaging in misconduct. Palmer then helped them get a popular schoolteacher elected in his stead. In doing so, Palmer was able to help his hometown community create a network of communication and advocacy similar to the one he had helped establish in Philadelphia.
“I helped create the Black political infrastructure for getting Blacks elected. And I spent almost 20 years going back and forth down there (Atlantic City), training and getting people elected, and wound up running major campaigns for City Council, Board of Education, state representatives, state senate, governor, mayor, so we just ran all these campaigns for 20 years. And the process that I designed, they continued using it after I stopped doing it.
The whole idea once again is teaching leadership models, teaching people leadership, it’s like training the trainers. You can’t do it all and you can never get it done without people, you have other people help you succeed. So, if people are willing to take the model, and learn the model, and commit the model, and teaching other people how to do the model, the model will last forever. Now it needs to be updated, that’s the problem you need to make sure that you’re reprogramming it, it’s not a computer, it’s a methodology, it’s a process. So it has to be updated as time goes on.” -Walt Palmer
Rev. Ben Chavis blocks toxic waste dump
The struggle of Rev. Ben Chavis and his followers to block a toxic waste dump in Warren County, North Carolina launches a national campaign against environmental racism.” (blackpast.org)
Alice Walker wins Pulitzer Prize
“Alice Walker’s The Color Purple wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.” (blackpast.org)
Grassroots campaign organizer for Jim Usry, mayor of Atlantic City, NJ
Walt Palmer is a grassroots campaign organizer for Jim Usry, the first Black mayor of Atlantic City, NJ
Grassroots campaign organizer of Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, PA
Walt Palmer was grassroots campaign organizer (Philadelphia field coordinator) of Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in the state of Pennsylvania.
Walt Palmer met Jesse Jackson in 1968 at the Second National Black Power Conference in Philadelphia, which he was asked to organize. Jackson was a high profile person, at the time working with Dr. Martin Luther King.
When Jackson decided to run for president, he asked Palmer to run his campaign.
“He had a meeting down at the Afro American Museum, which we had created in 1968. He had a press conference, and he had several people around him. And he sucker punched: because he says, ‘Before I start this press conference, where’s Walt Palmer?’ And I was trying my best to stay in the shadows. And everybody’s looking around and said, ‘There he is! Walt, Walt, Walt, Jesse wants you!’ I said, ‘Tell him to do the press conference; I’ll talk to him after the press conference.’ ‘Nope, nope, nope.’ ‘Because I want Walt Palmer to help run my campaign.’
“So what he did was he put me on spot on national television. And they said, ‘Walt, you have to do it. I mean, you know, it’s historic, I mean, win, lose, or draw, the first Black man.’ He wasn’t the first Black man to do it, but once again, he was electability, prominence, recognition. And so I did and we won Philadelphia, we beat the Democratic Party and Walter Mondale 50 to 51. And we took all of the delegate seats that were their delegate seats in two congressional districts and we won all of them, right. And we won twelve cities in Pennsylvania.
“And, of course, he didn’t win, but it laid the groundwork: so much of much of all of this led towards Barack Obama’s eventual winning.” – Walt Palmer
Rev. Jesse Jackson loses Democratic presidential nomination
“Rev. Jesse Jackson wins approximately one fourth of the votes cast in the Democratic primaries and caucuses and about one eighth of the convention delegates in a losing bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.” (blackpast.org)
Jesse Jackson’s campaign announcement in Philadelphia:
Jesse Jackson biography: https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/honorable-jesse-jackson-jr
Grassroots organizer for Wilson Goode (Philly mayoral campaign)
Walt Palmer was grassroots organizer for the Wilson Goode for Mayor of Philadelphia campaign.
Walt Palmer organized Wilson Goode’s Philadelphia campaign for Mayor of Philadelphia.
Wilson Goode elected mayor of Philadelphia
On January 2, W. Wilson Goode becomes the first African American mayor of Philadelphia.” (blackpast.org)
Founder of the Atlantic City Black, Latino, Asian, and poor political organizing campaign
Walt Palmer coordinated and organized the grassroots campaign and legal response to the MOVE confrontation (Osage Avenue)
Wilson Goode orders MOVE bombing
“In May, Philadelphia’s African American mayor, Wilson Goode, orders the Philadelphia police to bomb the headquarters of MOVE, a local Black nationalist organization. The bombing leaves 11 people dead and 250 homeless.” (blackpast.org)
Walt Palmer’s Involvement
“The 1978 police and Move shootout was reignited in 1985 on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, and unlike the shootout of 1978, John Africa led the fight to free the Move 9. In the end, after 100,000 bullets, tear gas, and community evacuation, every MOVE man, woman and child other than Ramona Africa and Birdie Africa was either shot to death or burned alive. After I could not convince Mayor Wilson Goode to go out to West Philadelphia, I did get councilman Lucien Blackwell to go.
“Stanley Branche begged me to step in and organize a campaign against these actions. We got mob lawyer Bobby Simone, myself, Stanley and constitutional lawyers Bill Kunstler and Ron Kubie from NY to meet at the Palmer Foundation and drafted a writ of mandamus calling for the possession of the bodies. We also called for indictments of murder against Mayor Goode, Leo Broalls, Commissioner of Police Sambor, Commissioner of Fire Richards, Coroner Sorensen and District Attorney Ed Rendell.” – Walt Palmer
Founder of the International Schools of Financial Services Inc
Anti-Drug Abuse Act passed
Aretha Franklin inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
“Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.” (blackpast.org)
Founder of the $1,000,000 political action committee for Black and poor citizens of Atlantic city. “Support” PAC.
“You have to have money to organize, getting people to do the work, particularly on election day. And in a town like Atlantic City, small little town, a million dollars is a big deal. The concept had been around a long time, the idea of political PACs, but these folks were hard pressed to wanna go along with it, even the people who were that intimidated by the idea of a million dollars. So it was created to help maintain the Black political infrastructure, but it never got off the ground because of the resistance that people had about it because they just thought it was too much money, and people who weren’t used to money and don’t understand how money works, they always see something deleterious under it. If they’re talking about raising money, it must be corrupt, there must be something under it. Well, non-profit organizations have failed with a lot of American societies and other societies too because they never understood that you can’t sustain yourself just because you’re a church or a nonprofit.”
Temple University offers Ph.D. in African American Studies
“In September, Temple University offers the first Ph.D. in African American Studies.” (blackpast.org)
Ronald H. Brown elected chair of Democratic National Committee
“On February 7 Ronald H. Brown is elected chair of the Democratic National Committee, becoming the first African American to head one of the two major political parties.” (blackpast.org)
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Walt Palmer is co-founder of the Atlantic City youth corps.
W.D. Palmer joins the University of Pennsylvania faculty (American Racism Sequence) Nominated for the “Teacher Excellence Award” each year (25yrs).
First Black woman brigadier general and U.S. Army
“Marcelite Jordan Harris is the first Black woman brigadier general in the U.S. Army and the first woman to command a mostly male battalion.” (blackpast.org)
Rodney King forcefully arrested and beaten on camera
“On March 3, Los Angeles police use force to arrest Rodney King after a San Fernando Valley traffic stop. The beating of King is captured on videotape and broadcast widely prompting an investigation and subsequent trial of three officers.” (blackpast.org)
Three officers who beat Rodney King acquitted
“On April 29, a Simi Valley, California jury acquits the three officers accused of beating Rodney King. The verdict triggers a three day uprising in Los Angeles called the Rodney King Riot that results in over 50 people killed, over 2,000 injured and 8,000 arrested.” (blackpast.org)
For five days after the jury acquits the officers, there is unrest:
The Palmer Foundation receives recognition at Community Activist Reunion
Joycelyn Elders US Surgeon General, Toni Morrison wins Nobel Prize
First African American and first woman United States Surgeon General
“Joycelyn M. Elders becomes the first African American and the first woman to be named United States Surgeon General on September 7.” (blackpast.org)
Toni Morrison wins Nobel Prize for Beloved
“On October 7, Toni Morrison becomes the first Black American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The work honored is her novel, Beloved.” (blackpast.org)
Justice Department sues after principal bans interracial couples from prom
Adjunct Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work and Urban Studies
“I became an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work and Urban Studies, where I have directed the Black Bottom project for the past thirty years.” – Walt Palmer
Million Man March in D.C., Mississippi Ratifies 13th amendment, Johnny Gammage killed
“The Million Man March organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan and other political activists is held in Washington, D.C. on October 17.” (blackpast.org)
Mississippi Ratifies 13th Amendment, 130 Years After its Adoption
President Bill Clinton cuts programs for poor
“In May, President Bill Clinton signs into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with state block grants. It also substantially cuts programs designed to help the poor.” (blackpast.org)
Consultant and supporter of the Million Women’s March
“I knew the founders and the organizers: Phile (Chionesu), Asia Coney, Jackie… these women, from out of the housing projects. Phile was a Black activist for years, when she was even in high school. And they came up with this idea, this was after the Million Man march, which I did not participate in, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to have it. And I was very critical of a lot of the people who were pushing for it. One, because it was male dominated, and it still did not push for a lot of the Black Women’s issues and Black women’s rights that should have been fought for. And it also, was just more of a theatric than it was a real movement.
I said, I would support the idea of identifying, in each of the fifty states, an area that needed real help and real support. Fix up, paint up, clean up, organize, and get 20,000 men to go to each of those states. That’s real impact. And that’s because of my organizing head. I always think organizing, planning structure. The Million Woman March comes after that. And it’s from that critique that I then said, I’m on board for the Million Woman March. The women who I mentioned to you were excited about the prospect of me using some of that same critique I gave these guys, using with them. And I said to them, ‘The thing you want to do, Asia, is make sure that you’re planning, that you have an appeal to action for people to do something when they go back home. Otherwise you’re going to fall on your face same as the Million Man March. I worked with them behind the scenes, I was not up front and didn’t want to be up front. I just helped them work through logistics around the country, what kind of things you have to do. And I was there with them, and you have one picture of me and Dick Gregory, and Winnie Mandela, a picture of all of us standing on the stage (I had a hat on, behind Dick Gregory), we had the Black Power fist, announcing that there’s a million women here on the parkway.”
Palmer Foundation leads efforts to passing PA charter and cyber schools
The Palmer Foundation leads efforts to passing PA State Act 22 Education Reform act creating PA charter and cyber schools. PA state legislator passes Act-22
President Bill Clinton formally apologizes for Tuskegee Syphilis Study
“President Bill Clinton makes a formal apology to Black men exploited in the U.S. Public Health Service Tuskegee Syphilis Study.” (blackpast.org)
James Byrd killed by white supremacists
“On June 7, churchgoers discover the dismembered body of James Byrd, Jr., in Jasper, Texas. It is later determined that three white supremacists chained Byrd, who is Black to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged him to his death.” (blackpast.org)
First Black chess grandmaster
“Maurice Ashley becomes the world’s first Black chess grandmasters, the game’s highest rank.” (blackpast.org)
2000 and beyond
Most of Walt Palmer’s work after 2000 was surrounding his school, the WD Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School. Click below for more information.