Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oxford African American Studies Center

Oxford African American Studies Center
The online authority on the A/dean American experience
Shear, Marie. "Taylor, Carol." African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates
Jr .. , edited by Evelyn BrooksHigginbotham. Oxford African American Studies Center,
http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e4651 (accessed Sun Jun 14 14: 11 :57 EDT 2009).
Taylor, Carol
By: Shear, Marie
(27 Dec. 1931- ),

the first black flight attendant of either sex for a U.S. airline and an activist, was born Ruth Carol Taylor in Boston, Massachusetts, the older of two children of Ruth Irene Powell, a registered nurse, and William Edison Taylor, a barber and farmer, who lived in nearby Cambridge.

After several years in New York City, the family moved to a farm in Trumansburg, in upstate New York, where Taylor grew up. She attended Elmira College for Women in Elmira, New York, and New York University in New York City, became"a registered nurse in 1955 upon graduation from the Bellevue Schools of Nursing at New York University, and practiced nursing for the next three years.

With the nation's airlines under pressure to break the color line, Taylor became one of about eight hundred ''Negro girls" interviewed by Mohawk Airlines, a regional carrier based in Ithaca, New York, which she said wanted worldwide publicity. Being, as she later explained, "near-white enough with aquiline features, so-called" and having deliberately given safe answers to airline interviewers' questions, she made her initial flight as the "first Negro airline hostess" on 11 February 1958. The landmark was reported in The New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, and Time magazine and on the cover of Jet. Bored by the job, she quit after six months, never having been invited to eat with the other crew members. Nonetheless, once Taylor broke the color barrier other airlines gradually began adding black people to their flight crews. Fifty years later in 2008, Taylor's accomplishment was memorialized by the New York State Assembly.

In 1960 she married Rex Norman Legall and gave birth to a daughter, Cindy Legall. In 1969 she had a son, Laurence Legall Taylor, whose father was a colonel in the Barbados military, Laurence G. Quintyne, M.B.E. Her grandson, Tyler Legall, was born to her daughter in 1997. Taylor's husband died in 2008. "

After spending about five years in Trinidad, London, and New York City during which she covered the 1963 March on Washington for Flamingo, a British magazine with an Afro-Caribbean readership, Taylor settled in Barbados and lived there from 1964 to 1977. She was a community activist on consumer affairs and women's rights, among other issues.
\ Wanting a less insular life for her children, Taylor brought them to Brooklyn in 1977, where she remained for more than thirty years. As a widely known grassroots activist, she spoke, wrote commentaries for local black-owned newspapers, and attended innumerable demonstrations against police brutality and other injustices, even shaving her head once to emphasize her protest.

Calling herself a " blacktivist," she deployed neologisms and nontraditional spellings in articles, riffs, and jeremiads; on handmade signs; and during media interviews and speeches in order to raise public awareness that all people on earth are part of a single "hueman" race descended from "beautiful blueblack" Africans-although, she said dryly, some people "are more rinsed-out than others." She firmIy rejected "African American" as exclusionary and identified herself as "a black African." Varying her diction and enunciation from cultivated to rowdy, scatological, gleeful, or satiric at will, she advocated the word "colorism" as more accurate and incisive than "racism." She considered "race" a bogus concept and words like "biracial," "transracial," and "interracial" meaningless. Yet she said, "If you're not playing the race card, you're not playing with a full deck." In order "to agitate," she said that God is a black woman.

Taylor saw "untreated racismlcolorism" as a rampant disease in the United States. In 1982 she
decided that a racism quotient test, analogous to an IQ test, was needed. Collaborating with a
psychologist, Mari P. Saunders, she developed what came to be called the racism/colorism Quotient Test (RQ). Its twenty multiple-choice questions were designed to reveal the extent of the test-taker's bias regarding workplace, neighborhood, and social situations. Then education and healing- "remedial ethnotherapy"--could follow in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental vein.

In the same year Taylor and Saunders founded the Institute for "Interracial" Harmony, inserting the quotation marks later, to administer the test and offer diversity training in the public and private sectors. The Institute's motto was "Prejudice is learned. It can be unlearned." The RQ test could be taken, free of charge, at the Institute's website, http://www.racismtest.org. Test-takers received their scores and evaluations immediately, online.

When the RQ test was published in 1992 by The Village Voice, a local weekly newspaper, four
thousand of its predominantly white, liberal readers submitted responses. A third of them, Taylor said, were "dysfunctional in their responses to color and cultural differences." She often wrote to journalists and to political, civic, educational, and religious leaders, urging that the RQ test be given to all police, judges, jurors, teachers, doctors, and others before they were allowed to make decisions affecting black people's lives.

After her teenaged son was mugged twice and then treated like a criminal when he sought help from the police, Taylor self-published The Little Black Book: Black African Male Survival in America or Staying Alive and Well in an Institutionally Racist Society (1985). The pocket-sized pamphlet contained about thirty rules and recommendations to protect young black men, whom Taylor considered an endangered group. By 2008 she said that more than two hundred thousand copies of The Little Black Book had been sold, often in bulk, at two dollars each. Taylor carried copies with her everywhere she went, wearing a sign on her clothing identifying herself as its author and selling single copies on sidewalks and buses. The pamphlet was also available from bookstores, schools, unions, libraries, and religious organizations and from littleblackbook@juno.com.

While objecting to nationwide suppression of black voting, she herself refused to vote after the early 1980s, regarding the system as corrupt She dismissed voting as "a major soporific for the control of the masses." Holding dual U.S. and Barbadian citizenship, she said, "I am a world citizen." She continued advancing her views on current affairs online at http://www.caroltaylorword.blogspot.com.

Her work was covered by The New York Times, The Washington Post, the New York Amsterdam News, The Boston Globe, New York Newsday, Library Journal, the Gannett newspaper group, and other news organizations.

Taylor's impassioned blactivism, visible in her raised, clenched fist or one-finger salute at
demonstrations, was coupled with receptivity to strangers of all colors in her daily life. She welcomed conversations with them. When people recognized her and greeted her warmly, asking "How are you?" her usual reply was succinct. "At war," she said.

Further Reading
Gubert, Betty Kaplan, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline M. Fannin. Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science {2001).
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added 400 more entries from Paul Finkelman's remarkable Encyclopedia of
African American History. 1896 to the Present (published in print February 2009).
In a starred review of this work, Library Journal declared, "No similar
encyclopedia rivals the wealth and confirmation of African American history
found here." The 400 new articles in the range of H-P include entries on Jazz,
Kwanzaa, the Montgomery Buss Boycott, the NAACP and more!

The latest update also offers 50 exclusive, online-only biographies from the
African American National Biography project These brand new entries - only
available through the Oxford African American Studies Center - include Darlene
Clark Hine's biography of First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as entries for social
worker and educator Henrietta W ells and the first black flight attendant, Carol Taylor.

A group of 21 new primary documents have also been posted to the site -
historically significant slave narratives with accompanying commentary. These
remarkable documents are the object of the latest Focus On feature, providing a
unique perspective on the history of African Americans, directly from those who
personally experienced it.

In another new development for June, At a Glance pages have now been made
publicly available for increased discoverability of the site. At a Glance pages
provide users with an overview of the multiple entries available for a particular
topic or biographical subject. This will guide researchers to the Oxford African
American Studies Center by making it more visible in search engine results. Click here for an example At a Glance page.

Finally, Oxford African American Studies Center Editor in Chief Henry Louis Gates

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