50 Years After March, Views of Fitful Progress
by RICK LYMAN
WASHINGTON — When Daniel R. Smith was born dirt poor more than three-quarters of a century ago, there were only about 20 other blacks in his small Connecticut town. His own father had been born a slave in Virginia in 1862. Mr. Smith served as a medic in Korea in the years just after the Army had been desegregated.
On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed thousands of people gathered around the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington.
And in August 1963, he found himself standing beside the Reflecting Pool with tens of thousands of others listening to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver one of the most famous speeches in American history.
“I felt that this was the beginning of a new era for black Americans, that whites would respect blacks more,” said Mr. Smith, whose story exemplifies the journey of millions of black Americans. “From then on, I thought, America is America, it has become what the Constitution stands for.”
This week, he intends to join the thousands of others at events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But what is often on Mr. Smith's mind, as it is on the minds of others who attended and watched the historic event, is what has happened in the five decades since Dr. King detailed his vision of a society in which people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
“I wondered back then if the mind-set of the nation would change,” Mr. Smith said. “I think it did, for a while, but the pace has slowed considerably.”
Energized by his experience at the march, Mr. Smith headed to the Deep South to study veterinary medicine at what was then the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but drifted into civil rights work and marched from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. King in 1965. He ran anti-poverty and literacy programs in the poorest corners of Mississippi, having his share of scrapes along the way, before returning to work for the federal government and settling in Washington.
And now, five decades after the march, Mr. Smith, 81, lives on a leafy street in a diverse neighborhood in Northeast Washington with his second wife, who is white.
Certainly it is a different-looking society compared with 1963. A black man is president, for one thing, and young people in minority groups have an array of opportunities that their parents were limited to dreaming about.
“When you look at the places that were typically occupied by people who were not racial minorities, whether it's the legal profession or the medical profession or major companies, there are now racial minorities in those places,” said Christopher Bracey, a law professor at George Washington University who writes on constitutional law and civil rights. “The changes are tangible. You can see it everywhere. Yes, there are still disparities, but there is no doubt there has been progress.”
A New York Times comparison of census data from 1960 and 2011 shows that 56 percent of black Americans lived below the poverty line around the time of the march, compared with 18 percent of whites. By 2011, the number had dropped to 28 percent for blacks, though the percentage was still double that for white Americans.
A separate report by the Census Bureau, released this week, showed that the percentage of blacks who graduated from high school jumped to 85 percent in 2012, from 25.7 percent in 1964, while the number of black Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1 million from 365,000.
And the outcome is clear in the types of jobs that black Americans now hold. The percentage of blacks working in executive, administrative or managerial positions, for instance, went to more than 8 percent in 2011, from a little over 1 percent in 1960.
But there have been other changes, particularly in black family life, that are not so clearly positive. The percentage of blacks who had never married rose to 49 percent in 2011, from 23 percent in 1963, a jump that far outstrips the rise in that category among whites. Black households headed by a woman jumped by nearly 12 percentage points at a time when similar households for whites rose just under 4 percentage points.
“If people could be disabused of the notion we are in a postracial society because America elected a black president, that would be helpful,” said Joyce Ladner, who at 19 worked with the small crew that organized the 1963 march and is now a retired sociologist. “Yeah, we have a black president, however look at all of these things that are still unjust, all of these problems that still exist.”
Nidal Hasan convicted of Fort Hood killings
by Billy Kenber
Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who opened fire on dozens of soldiers at Fort Hood., Tex., was found guilty Friday of murdering 13 people, taking him one step closer to becoming the first active-duty soldier to be executed in more than 50 years.
Hasan, who acted as his own attorney but demonstrated little interest in mounting a defense, was convicted on 13 charges of premeditated murder and 32 of attempted murder by a panel of senior officers. He showed no reaction as the verdict was read, according to news agencies. In the courtroom were several survivors of the attack and relatives of those killed, and some began to cry after Hasan and the panel had left the room.
Responses to the attack appear to be on hold pending confirmation, as a U.N. team awaits access to the site.
The case will now move to a sentencing phase, during which more witnesses may be called and the 42-year-old major could testify before a punishment is handed down.
The unanimous verdict closes a key chapter in one of the most painful episodes in recent U.S. military history. The FBI and Defense Department have been criticized for failing to spot warning signs that Hasan had become radicalized, and survivors have accused the government of abandoning them and depriving them of financial benefits.
Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim, admitted responsibility for the shooting at the start of the trial, saying he had been on the wrong side of a war against Islam and had switched over. During the proceedings, he declined to call any witnesses, testify or give a closing argument. He was prohibited by military law from entering a guilty plea.
At a pretrial hearing, the judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled that Hasan could not defend himself by arguing that he carried out the killings to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. Instead, the defendant chose to make his case to the public through communiques and authorized leaks to newspapers, arguing that he was waging jihad because of the United States' “illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the court-martial, Osborn refused a request by Hasan's three standby attorneys to limit their role because they believed the defendant was trying to secure a death sentence.
Experts said that despite Hasan's apparent desire to be executed, it will be years before a potential death sentence could be carried out. Under the military's justice system, there are several automatic appeal stages, during which lawyers are likely to be appointed to represent Hasan, regardless of his wishes.
After a sentence is handed down, the court's records and findings require the review and approval of a military official known as the convening authority.
The case will then enter the appellate phase, going before the appeals courts for the Army and the armed forces. The case can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Lastly, the president would have to sign off on a death sentence. The last time an active-duty soldier was executed was in 1961.
Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said he expected the appeals process to take several years. “It's most likely to be the next president that's going to have to make the final decision,” he said.
Greg Rinckey, a former U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps attorney, said the appeals courts are highly unlikely to allow Hasan to represent himself and his appointed attorney could lodge a number of challenges.
“Part of defense strategy in this case will be delays .?.?. [and] I think they're going to file mental-health issues, whether he had the capacity to stand trial, ineffective assistance of counsel,” Rinckey said.
Robert S. Mueller III talks about how the attacks shifted the FBI's focus from domestic crime to terrorism.
Hasan, who worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 to 2006, had been due to deploy to Afghanistan within a few weeks of the attack, and prosecutors presented evidence of his meticulous planning. The Army major and psychiatrist chose the most high-tech, high-capacity weapon available at a gun store in Killeen, Tex., and trained himself at a local firing range before giving away some of his belongings on the day of the shooting.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2009, Hasan walked into Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center with two guns, shouted “Allahu akbar!” meaning “God is great,” and opened fire, the court was told.
Twelve people who were killed were soldiers waiting for medical tests; the other was a civilian who tried to tackle the psychiatrist. Hasan was left paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by an Army police officer and now uses a wheelchair.
The shootings exposed a number of failings by the Defense Department, which a Pentagon report concluded was unprepared for internal threats, and by the FBI. On one occasion, Hasan gave a presentation to senior Army doctors in which he discussed Islam and suicide bombers and warned that Muslims should be allowed to leave the armed forces as conscientious objectors to avoid “adverse events.”
The FBI was also aware that Hasan had exchanged 18 e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric who was a leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula before he was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011. However, the e-mails were dismissed as legitimate research, and the Defense Department was not informed.
During the sentencing phase, the prosecution and defense can present evidence on the impact of the crime and any mitigating circumstances. The approval of three-quarters of the military jury is required for a prison term of more than 10 years; the death penalty requires a unanimous decision.