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Black History of the Revolutionary War

Only took about 200 years to recognize that Crispus Attucks as one of the first to fall at the brewing revolution to form America. SO why are we surprised it has taken another 50 to recognize the contribution of black folks, both slave and free to the Revolution?

The Secret Black History of the Revolution

As we know all too well, the Revolutionary War was not fought so that all men could be free, but its role in creating the seeds of abolition should not be forgotten.

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was a Continental Army regiment during the American Revolutionary War. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment became known as the “Black Regiment” due to its allowing the recruitment of African Americans in 1778.

A central myth of American history teaching is that the American Revolution was fought for the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” of each person. By each, Jefferson sadly meant mainly white farmers. This patriotic myth—what I call a Founding Amnesia—drove Frederick Douglass, in 1852, to declare that the Fourth of July was not for slaves. 

But perhaps in contrast to its long history of racist exclusion, the Daughters of the American Revolution should first honor black Patriots. As Georg Daniel Flohr, a German private who fought at the decisive battle Yorktown with the French Royal Deux-Ponts for the Patriots, noted while walking around the field of battle the next day: “all over the place and wherever you looked, corpses… lying about that had not been buried; the larger part of these were Mohren [Moors, blacks].”

And as I emphasize in Black Patriots and Loyalists (2012), the acme of freedom in the American Revolution was the gradual emancipation of slaves in Vermont (not yet a state) in 1777, in Pennsylvania in 1780, in Massachusetts in 1782, in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784, in New York in 1799, and in New Jersey in 1804. If we ask the central question in American history: how did there come to be a free North to oppose bondage in the Civil War, the answer is, surprisingly: gradual emancipation during and just after the American Revolution. Thus, black Patriots and their white abolitionist allies played a central, undiscussed role both in battle and in the deepening of American freedom.

Finally, why did the man believed to be the first martyr of the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave of black and Native American parentage who became a sailor, fiercely take on the Redcoats in the Boston Massacre? Attucks is part of a complex history that reveals how much the Revolutionary War and the Fourth of July are a day that belongs to African Americans.

1.  The violent fight against Imperial press-gangs

The first part of this story is the emergence of a violent revolutionary movement of self-defense among sailors in the 18th century. The Imperial Navy needed bodies for its expanding empire. But the crown had never relied on volunteers. Instead, it sent armed gangs to kidnap people at sea or in the street. But people did not go willingly. All around the Atlantic—in Antigua, Jamaica, Halifax, and Boston, for example—there were 604 uprisings against these royal gangs in the 18th century. 

Sailors often defended themselves with pikes or muskets. Soldiers and sailors were killed in such raids.

The greatest of these uprisings was a three day battle in Boston against Admiral Knowles’s gangs in 1746. In the Independent Advertiser in 1747, Sam Adams wrote that multiracial, multinational movement against press-gangs was a driving force in making a free regime: “All Men are by nature on a Level: born with an equal Share of Freedom, and endow’d with Capacities nearly alike.”

 Whole communities rebelled against the gangs. Women, left behind, were called “Impressment widows.” Mary Jones, an Irish teenager, and her children starved after her husband was taken during the Falklands war scare of 1770. Mary was arrested for shoplifting a small piece of muslin.  Suckling one of her children even as the noose was put around her neck, she was hung. British “law” meant hanging and it was used depravedly against the poor. And in the colonies, it was worse.

Agrippa Hull was a free African-American patriot who served as an aide to Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish military officer, engineer and nobleman, for five years during the American Revolutionary War.

Merchants and members of the Boston House of Representatives feared revolutionary crowds. They denounced “a tumultuous riotous assembling of armed Seamen, Servants, Negroes, and others… tending to the Destruction of all Government and Order.” The phrase, “Armed Seaman, Servants, Negroes, and others” became almost a formula in such denunciations. They would be echoed by many later historians.

But a vast, Atlantic-wide succession of rebellions against Impressment was the key feature of the run up to the Revolution. These rebellions mobilized sailors against the crown, motivated them to participate vigorously in other demonstrations about taxes, and taught them, their relatives and communities, in Lockean terms, the need for violent self-defense. In America, press-gangs made revolutionaries.

Now black escapees, like Crispus Attucks, often found freedom at sea. Sailors, notably blacks, would lead revolutionary crowds against press-gangs and other abuses.

Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1760 in Jamaica, Tacky’s Rebellion, the largest uprising against bondage until that time, lasted for 4 months. Between 1760 and 1775, the outbreak of the American Revolution, some 20 slave uprisings took place in Bermuda, Nevis, Surinam, British Honduras, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Vincent, Tobago, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts.

Seized without compensation, forced to abandon their families, sailors on British ships often identified with slaves. They took the word to London and Boston. In 1760, J. Philmore talked with mariners on London docks, and wrote the memorable Two Dialogues concerning the Man-Trade. In the broad abolitionist movement in England and America, Philmore’s 1760 pamphlet marks the most thorough transition politically from fighting for the basic “rights of an Englishman” to natural, universal or what we name today human rights. Unlike non-abolitionist authors, Philmore replaces the commonly labeled “slave trade”—a pro-bondage appellation which falsely legitimizes owners, merchants, and hunters—with the shocking but true name: the Man-trade. James Otis wrote a similar pamphlet in Boston. These ideas would be discussed in every poor people’s tavern in the 11 years leading up to the Revolution and shape rank-and-file abolitionism.

Integrated riots against press-gangs marked the pre-Revolutionary period as well as protest against taxes on tea or stamped paper. In Newport in June 1765, 500 “seamen, boys, and Negroes” rioted after five weeks of impressment. In Norfolk in 1767, Captain Jeremiah Morgan retreated, sword in hand, before a mob of armed whites and Negroes. “Good God,” he wrote to the governor, “was your Honour and I to prosecute all the Rioters that attacked us belonging to Norfolk there would not be twenty left unhang’d belonging to the Toun.” According to Thomas Hutchinson, the Liberty Riot in Boston in I768 was as much against impressment as against the seizure of John Hancock’s sloop. To understand this militancy, we might say that a second and deeper emancipatory revolution against bondage surged from the Caribbean via sailors into the U.S. and London, and shaped the revolution for independence from Britain.

In 1776, the crown authorized large numbers of press warrants in London for bodies to fight the American Revolution. But sailors, armed, marched together “having resolved to oppose any violence that might be done to them, and rather die than assist the Royalists in shedding the Blood of their American Brethren.” This was a startling example of democratic solidarity or internationalism from below, anti-patriotic, despising the Royalists’ haughty colonialism.  Read the Rest Here including the level of Black Toryism, and Black Patriots who fought in major battles…

Portrayal of the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. One of my ggg-grand-sires fought in this regiment and gained his freedom

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Black History

 

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Slavery’s Legacy Remembered

It has been 150 years, but the legacy lives on…

How close we are to slavery: America’s horrible legacy still deeply runs through the nation’s veins

For Lula Williams, America’s worst period isn’t ancient history — her grandmother was a slave

How close we are to slavery: America's horrible legacy still deeply runs through the nation's veinsAs a child growing up in South Carolina, I was keenly aware of how close I was to the history of slavery. It was all around me — in the fact of my ancestors owning slaves and fighting for the Confederacy, in the presence of black people who shared my last name, and in the Confederate battle flag that flew on my state’s capitol.

In many ways, the war for white supremacy was not over. It was simply being fought by other means.

I’ve been trying to understand and account for this history and my own privilege as a white male by writing and teaching about the nexus of race and violence in America. I mostly encounter white people who are embarrassed and angered by the violence of slavery and lynching or white people who don’t think it has any relation to them or to the present.

When Dylann Roof murdered nine black people last June at Emmanuel A.M.E., a church with deep roots in the freedom struggle, the proximity of our present lives to our nation’s slaving past resonated once again especially as photos surfaced of Roof posing before the Confederate flag.

Then Nikki Haley, the governor of my home state, did something I never imagined happening in my lifetime—she signed the order to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s state house grounds.

The backlash from the pro-flag contingent was swift. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 346 pro-flag rallies in the months after South Carolina furled the flag.

Even in Ohio, where I live now, I noticed a spike in Confederate flags. Giant Confederate battle flags, fluttering in the wake of jacked-up trucks. Just two weeks ago, I saw one on a red GMC the very same day I interviewed a woman named Lula Williams who will turn 95 years old this month.

Lula’s grandmother, Eliza Jane Smiley, was a slave.

In a story that is in step with the terrifying realities of slavery, Eliza Jane’s father was also her master. As she grew up, Eliza Jane became the personal slave of her master/father’s young daughter. In fact, Eliza Jane slept on the floor next to her bed.

I repeated aloud what Lula said just be clear. “So she was a slave to her sister?”

Lula looked at me knowingly and said, “Weird. Sick minds.”

After Emancipation, Eliza Jane remained on the plantation, either because she lacked better opportunities or because she was coerced. Then she met a man named Charles Smiley who had been born a “free black.” Charles worked on a riverboat and the captain was friends with Eliza Jane’s father/master.

Charles took her away from the plantation and the two were married in 1873.  Charles, Lula’s grandfather, founded Hill Street Baptist Church in Louisville in 1895 and pastored there for over forty years. When Eliza Jane died, he came to live with Lula and her mother in Coshocton, Ohio.

Lula has fond memories of her childhood and her “loving close family,” but those memories are framed by stories of violence and barriers erected by both personal and institutional racism. She grew up knowing that the Klan was in her community, that a black man named Henry Howard was lynched on the courthouse square in 1885, and that a local jeweler kept one of Howard’s toes on display in his store.

There weren’t many black people, but the town, situated in the Appalachian foothills, was small enough that “most everybody knew everybody.” And yet some businesses still wouldn’t serve black people. Barbers wouldn’t cut their hair. Restaurants wouldn’t serve them. And some area towns were off limits to black people after sunset.

Lula said that some of her siblings had trouble in school because of their race. “They would call us names, and then we’d fight them,” she said. “But the others who were raised a little better, they ignored us, but at least they didn’t call us names.”

When her grandfather died, Lula traveled with her mother to Louisville for his burial. Once there her mother’s white aunt—Eliza Jane’s sister — contacted her and asked to see her. She was living in the Brown Hotel in Louisville.  Lula accompanied her mother to this meeting, but when she got there was told that she would have to sit in the hallway. Lula never did meet her.

“Is there any part of you that’s ever wanted to meet those people?” I asked.

“Not really. I was always kind of bitter about it. I can’t say that I hated them, but to me they just didn’t exist.”

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Black History

 

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Racism and Rock and Roll

There is no question that Rock and Roll owes it’s roots to black music. And in the 50’s and even early 60’s songs written by black musicians were stolen and made hugely popular with white audiences by segregated radio. It took decades for those black artists to receive compensation for their work. The first Rock Superstar was Elvis Presley, although there were a number of others, including Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis who aspired to the throne. Several of Elvis’ big hits were covers of black musicians music. Bu he also “borrowed” from white musicians. In particular Blue Suede Shoes was a cover of Carl Perkins.

Elvis learned his chops playing with, and befriending black musicians. Because of his “Rockabilly” style, upbringing, and birthplace, a lot of black folks assumed Elvis was a bigot. There is no evidence to support that, although in a racist South, he, like all of the 50’s rock musicians performed with all white bands. The people who actually performed in the Studio recordings however – were a different story.

The Truth About Elvis and the History of Racism in Rock

Racism In Rock

Elvis has long been vilified as the face of racism and cultural appropriation in rock music—but it’s the legacy of the genre (and the truth about Elvis) that merits closer scrutiny.

Rock music’s legacy is conflicted.

It’s a genre that transformed American culture in a way that re-shaped racial dynamics, but it also came to embody them. Music that at one point in the 1950s seemed to herald the deterioration of racial boundaries, gender norms and cultural segregation had, by the 1970s, become re-defined as a white-dominated, male-dominated multi-million dollarindustry. In the years between, rock ‘n’ roll matured into “rock” and the counterculture embraced anti-establishment ideas like integration and women’s rights—without ever really investing in tearing down white supremacy in any real, measurable way. In that, rock’s history with race is sometimes naïve, sometimes willfully ignorant, and sometimes undeniably hypocritical.

“Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me. See straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain…”

It’s one of the most well-known and significant lines in hip-hop history. Public Enemy’s high-profile smackdown of white America’s “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” resonated and reverberated throughout hip-hop nation in a way that even overshadowed the Flavor Flavlyrical gut-punch of John Wayne that completed the infamous couplet. On a certain level, the line was symbolic of hip-hop’s intentional dismantling of America’s white iconography; this was a new generation that wasn’t going to be beholden to your heroes or your standards. We’ve got our own voice, it announced. You will be forced to reckon with that voice.

That line also hit so hard because Elvis Presley’s racism has long been a part of his image and reputation in the black community. His notorious quote (“The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes”), solidified his villainy amongst black people. His is the legacy of cultural appropriation and white privilege—made doubly offensive by the fact that he was so dismissive and contemptuous of the black people from whom he’d stolen rock ‘n’ roll.

But—what if none of that was actually true?

The “shine my shoes” quote came from a 1957 article called “How Negroes Feel About Elvis,” published in a periodical called Sepia. The Ft. Worth-based magazine had been founded by Horace Blackwell, a clothing merchant; but by the mid-’50s had been bought by Jewish-American merchant George Levitan. It was by now white-owned but had a black staff and was still marketed to black readers, a publication superficially in the vein of EBONY but often with a more sensationalist slant.

“Some Negroes are unable to forget that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, hometown of the foremost Dixie race baiter, former Congressman Jon Rankin,” read the article. “Others believe a rumored crack by Elvis during a Boston appearance in which he is alleged to have said: ‘The only thing Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.’”

At the time of the article’s publication, Elvis Presley had never been to Boston. It was also alleged that he’d said it on Edward R. Murrow‘s Person to Person TV show—but he hadn’t appeared there either. Louie Robinson, Jet magazine’s associate editor, tried tracing the actual origins of the quote and came up empty. So he tracked down Elvis himself, interviewing the singer in his Jailhouse Rock dressing room in the summer of 1967.

“I never said anything like that,” Elvis said at the time. “And people who know me know I wouldn’t have said it.”

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Elvis continued, regarding his “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” status and reputation. “But rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let’s face it; I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music.”

“I always wanted to sing like Billy Kenny of the Ink Spots,” Elvis was further quoted as saying in the Jet interview. “I like that high, smooth style.” But Presley acknowledged that his own voice was more in line with the originator of the song that he would cover for his first single. “I never sang like this in my life until I made that first record—‘That’s Alright, Mama.’ I remembered that song because I heard Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup sing it and I thought I would like to try it.”

Presley had grown up on the “black side” of Tupelo, he’d run with the likes of Ike Turner in his early days as a musician and became close friends with B.B. King and eventually James Brown, Cissy Houston and Muhammad Ali. The racism that he’s been branded with because of a phantom quote seems to be a fabrication. But rock’s legacy as a genre pioneered by black people before white artists discovered it, white media re-branded it and white audiences embraced it means that despite Elvis not spouting racist ideas, his legacy is still rooted in racism—even if that racism isn’t directly born of the man himself. He attained his stature because he was not black and in doing so, he opened the doors for a generation of his disciples to reap those same benefits. And when examining the histories of so many of those notables, there is a legacy that is as conflicted as it is confounding.

Not unlike the history of rock itself.

To a generation of long-haired hippies, Elvis came to symbolize the antiquated era of malt shops and sock hops or a rock ‘n’ roller who’d grown up to be a stale old fart, churning out shlock. He may have aided in the white embrace of black music, but he hadn’t sang at the March on Washington like Bob Dylan, nor had he championed Bobby Seale like John Lennon. In the era of pop stars as quasi-revolutionaries, Elvis had become the establishment. The ’60s generation was about change. …Read the Rest Here

 

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Southern Baptists Reject confederate Flag

I wouldn’t have thought this possible as little as 20 years ago…

U.S. Southttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_tIxFJhR5khern Baptists Formally Repudiate Confederate Flag

The resolution calls for Southern Baptist churches to discontinue displaying the Confederate flag as a “sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ.”

The U.S. Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on Tuesday repudiating the Confederate battle flag as an emblem of slavery, marking the latest bid for racial reconciliation by America’s largest Protestant denomination.

The resolution, passed at the predominantly white convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis, calls for Southern Baptist churches to discontinue displaying the Confederate flag as a “sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ.”

The action came four years after the denomination elected its first black president, Fred Luter, a pastor and civic leader from New Orleans.

Rev. Fred Luter was named the denomination’s first black president four years ago.

In 1995, a Southern Baptist committee issued a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for condoning slavery and racism during the early years of the denomination’s 171-year history.

The convention, currently made up of more than 46,000 churches nationwide, was established in 1845 after Southern Baptists split from the First Baptist Church in America in the pre-Civil War era over the issue of slavery.

The denomination now counts a growing number of minorities among its more than 15.8 million members and has sought in recent years to better reflect the diversity of its congregants and America as a whole.

“This denomination was founded by people who wrongly defended the sin of human slavery,” said Russell Moore, head of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Today the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted to repudiate the Confederate battle flag, and it’s time and well past time.”

The flag carried by the South’s pro-slavery Confederate forces during the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War re-emerged as a flashpoint in America’s troubled race relations after the massacre of nine blacks by a white gunman at an historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015. The assailant was seen afterward in photographs posing with the flag.

The episode stirred a movement to eliminate the Stars and Bars flag – seen by many whites as a sign of Southern heritage, not hate – from South Carolina’s statehouse and many other public displays in the South during the months that followed.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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When Mexico Wanted a Wall To Keep Americans Out

Seems that after the Civil War, Mexico was fine with Immigration…Just not black folks immigrating.

1.38 Million Afro-Mexicans live in Mexico today. For decades successive Mexican Governments tried to erase the fact of their existence. Only in 2015 did the Mexican Government finally recognize their existence.

When Mexicans Feared American Immigration

When the path to upward mobility for thousands of free black Americans was south of the border, Mexico stopped just short of calling for their own wall.

If there is one issue that has steered 2016 in a startling direction, it has been immigration. The GOP’s strategy to increase its appeal to Latinos after Mitt Romney’s upset in 2012 quickly unraveled once the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, charged that Mexico was sending “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” to the United States. Before long, chants of “Build that wall!”—a reference to Trump’s promise to construct a “beautiful” concrete wall along the Mexican border—could be heard at political rallies, high school sporting events and beyond. The GOP’s concerns about inclusion, it seems, pale in comparison to Americans’ anxieties about jobs, crime, national security and the sense that there is a teeming mass of people desperate to burst across the border.

It hasn’t always been this way; for much of American history, the U.S.-Mexico border has been largely unprotected. Only in 1891 did the United States start deporting illegal immigrants (a category at the time limited principally to Chinese workers as well as felons, paupers and the insane), and it wasn’t until 1924 that Congress formed the Border Patrol. And at one point, remarkably, our contemporary debate was even flipped: Hordes of Americans wanted to escape their bleak prospects for a better life—and the place they wanted to flee to was Mexico.

Carmen Robles, afromexican colonel in Mexican revolution.

But Mexico didn’t want them. The story unfolded in the late 19th century, in the form of a little-known black migration scheme to the low-lying, underdeveloped parts of south and central Mexico—Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacán and San Luis Potosi—and was spearheaded by a man sparingly remembered by history. He intended [to avoid repeating scheme] to relocate thousands of black families to start a new colony in Mexico, which would have radically changed the demographics and the economy of that region, if not all of Mexico. The plan provoked sensationalist, often racist, reports in the Mexican press—one warned of a “race war”—and fiery fights in the country’s Senate. In the end, it failed—no such colony was ever settled. But the history lesson, of a time when our current debate was flipped on its head, is a timely reminder of those fluid identities, and just how easily these centuries-old, deeply ingrained fears can be stoked—on either side of the border.

Born as a slave in 1894 on a cotton plantation in the small South Texas town of Victoria, William Henry Ellis managed in his early 20s to transform himself into a successful merchant in San Antonio. To do so, however, he had to craft an alternative persona for himself as a Mexican named Guillermo Enrique Eliseo (his name translated into Spanish) to gain entry to the all-white business settings that would have otherwise been closed to him. To further his ethnic charades, Ellis cultivated a showy Mexican-style mustache, dressed in the Mexican fashion, and used the fluent Spanish that he had learned in Victoria as a child.

In the 19th century, during the administration of President Porifirio Díaz, Mexico was hoping to modernize its economy by attracting more immigrants. Ellis did much of his business across the border in Mexico, and he saw the United States’ southern neighbor, with its lack of legal segregation, as a place of great promise not only for himself but for other African-Americans as well. He thus set in motion in 1889 an ambitious plan to facilitate the large-scale migration of African-Americans to Mexico.

Vicente Guerrero, a mulatto and Mexico`s 2nd president, was a hero in Mexico`s War of Independence from Spain, and an active abolitionist. The state of Guerrero in Mexico was named in his honor. His grandson, Vicente Riva Palacio y Guerrero, was one of Mexico`s most influential politicians and novelists.

Taking advantage of new railroad connections between the U.S. and Mexico, Ellis journeyed to Mexico City. Tucked in his luggage, he carried letters of introduction from the Mexican consul in San Antonio to Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ignacio Mariscal, and Secretary of Fomento (Public Works), Carlos Pacheco Villalobos. Once in the Mexican capital, Ellis persuaded Pacheco, a grizzled former general who had lost both an arm and a leg in Mexico’s recent war against the French-backed emperor Maximilian, to grant him a 10-year contract to colonize up to twenty thousand settlers in Mexico. Although the race and nationality of the colonists was not specified in the contract—only that each colonist would have a certificate attesting to their “morality, honesty and diligence”—Ellis’s comments to the press left little doubt that he intended to fill the colonists’ ranks with African-Americans.

The colonization movement represented one of the most divisive fault lines running through African-American politics in the late 19th century. Even as they defended the right of blacks to live wherever they pleased, most black leaders, from Frederick Douglass to Norris Wright Cuney, the influential chairman of the Texas’ Republican Party, decried efforts to relocate African-Americans (a movement known in the language of the day as colonization). These figures charged that colonization not only diminished the pool of African-American voters in the United States; it also encouraged long-standing white fantasies of solving the United States’ “race problem” by ethnically cleansing all blacks from the nation. Even the great liberator Abraham Lincoln had briefly entertained thoughts of colonizing freed slaves on Mexico’s Tehuantepec isthmus or Yucatán peninsula. Above all, by presenting blacks’ real home as elsew

The most famous black Mexican was Gaspar Yanga, whom was a Mandingo slave brought to Mexico from Cuba to work the sugarcane Plantations. He successfully led a series of revolts resulting in the slaves overthrowing the Plantation owners, and founding the first free slave town in the Americas, which bears his name.

here, emigration diverted attention from what many African-Americans perceived as the more pressing task: achieving their full civil rights in the United States. “I cannot see wherein [African-Americans] would gain anything [by colonization],” contended Cuney. “They are so thoroughly identified with the perpetuity of our American institutions, that it seems to me to be rather late for them now to seek homes in a new country with the customs, government and people of which they are thoroughly unacquainted. There is much more glory, honor and gain for the colored man here in the land of his birth, and here he should stay and fight his way to the front.” 

Relocating to Mexico, however, did not necessarily represent a retreat from politics in Ellis’s eyes. Rather, it highlighted the shortcomings of Reconstruction—in particular, the federal government’s failure to support blacks’ economic aspirations. Whites blamed the poverty in which blacks found themselves trapped after Emancipation on a lack of work ethic. Ellis, in contrast, knew that the problem lay not with African-American character but rather with their lack of access to land, the foundation of wealth in a predominantly agricultural society. If the place of their birth would not facilitate black access to property, perhaps Mexico, in its desire to attract immigrants, would. “The idea of Mr. Ellis,” explained one observer, “is that the colonists will become self-sustaining farmers.”

Colonization tended to draw its support from the most marginalized members of the black community—those, unsurprisingly, who suffered the worst oppressions and therefore had the least to lose in relocating to an unfamiliar land. Even before Ellis finalized his contract with the Mexican government, he had compiled a list of several hundred families from four adjoining Texas counties— Fort Bend, Matagorda, Brazoria and Wharton, all “places where the colored people have been having trouble” in Ellis’s apt phrase—who had expressed interest in moving to Mexico. These counties were home to the largest African-American majorities in all of Texas. Not only had these conditions led unsympathetic whites to dub the region “Senegambia”; it also spawned fierce racial strife as local whites endeavored, despite the demographic imbalance, to “free . . . themselves from Negro rule” by threatening the area’s black elected officials….Read The Rest of This Engrossing Story Here

The Los Angeles Pobladores, or “townspeople,” were a group of 44 settlers and four soldiers from Mexico who established the famed city on this day in 1781 in what is now California. The settlers came from various Spanish castes, with over half of the group being of African descent.

 

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2016 in Black History

 

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A Little Blues From the Heyday

Just for the fun of it, some old time Blues…

 
 

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Smithsonian African-American Museum Opens

The National Museum of African American Culture and History has opened. Love the idea, but really am no fan of the building architecture, which is both decidedly visually unexciting, and unlike the Native American Museum seems to have no visual cultural clues as to it’s function.

National Museum of African American History and Culture; (NMAAHC) construction site - Conststution Avenue and 14 th Street image taken on Conststution site October 23, 2015.

 

Smithsonian’s National African-American Museum opens at last

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was over a century in the making. In 1915, black Civil War veterans collected funds they later put toward creating a museum on the National Mall that would celebrate African-American achievement. In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed Public Resolution 107, establishing a commission to plan its construction, but the project went nowhere. It took a renewed effort by lawmakers and African-American leaders beginning in the 1960s, and then decades of planning and proposals, before President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2003 authorizing the museum, which is set to open September 24, steps from the Washington Monument.

“It’s one of those sites and projects that comes about only once in a generation,” says the lead designer of the building, David Adjaye. “It’s always magical to complete a project, but to complete this one on the National Mall, it’s very profound. It’s very humbling.”

Construction on the exterior of the building, a glass structure wrapped in a three-tiered bronze-colored scrim that’s meant to recall a motif in African sculpture (it looks like boxes stacked on a figure’s head), was completed in 2015. Curators are now filling the galleries with artifacts from a collection of some 34,000 items spanning centuries or longer. Museum Director Lonnie Bunch says the exhaustive preparation and organizing is “really almost like planning a military exercise.”

Larger artifacts already in place include a 1944 training plane used by the black military pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen; a once-segregated railway car and a guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, both of which the museum lowered in place with cranes before constructing the roof; a 19th-century slave cabin from South Carolina; and Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac.

“When I walk through, I feel the weight of my ancestors,” Bunch says. “I feel an amazing sense of joy that we are close to giving to America, giving to the world, a gift. A gift of understanding who we are as a people in ways that we haven’t before.”

The museum’s nine floors contain three history galleries covering slavery through present day, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement; a theater named for donor Oprah Winfrey; culture galleries featuring African-American icons of music, theater, film and television; and a Contemplative Court, where visitors can reflect on what they’ve seen.

Adjaye has said “there’s triumph and there’s also incredible tragedy” in the history of the African-American experience. Bunch agrees: “You cannot tell stories of celebration and resistance without understanding the trials and travails.”

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Black History

 

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