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What Makes a Black Man, “A Black Man”

Crystal Valentine, Poetess…

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Underground

If you haven’t watched WGN’s “Underground”, I suggest watching it on the Internet or Cable Services from the beginning. It is part historical and part adventure story as a group of slaves try and escape to freedom from Georgia. The show contains great acting by both the “Good” and “Bad” guys and focuses on the spiritual and moral conflicts of the principal characters. It’s depiction of slavery is Historically accurate, and in the last part of the series , and in season two, several Historical people from the period are included, Harriet Tubman is portrayed in her role in the “Underground Railroad”, and “Bloody Patty”, Patty Cannon who terrorized Delaware and Maryland along the Eastern Shore leading the Cannon-Johnson Gang. Parts of the story are adopted from real life, like the escape of William and Ellen Craft , and a nod to Henry “Box” Brown who actually shipped himself in a crate to freedom.The show’s creators are Misha Green and Joe Pokaski.

The only downside? The music is awful. The decision to incorporate Hip-Hop music distracts, and cheapens the show. There is no shortage of period music from the era, written by the slaves themselves . While the lyrics were often written in allegory, to protect the slaves themselves from retribution, the music directors apparently felt the audience was too stupid to figure it out. The best known song was “Follow the Drinking Gourd”. One I remember finding once was something like “Black Pirate Mary”, which told the story of a black woman who raided the Plantations in Louisiana, killed the slavers, and added the former slaves to her pirate band.

Underground: A Thrilling Quest Story About Slavery

A harrowing new period drama takes its cues from both history and the apocalyptic narratives that populate today’s TV and film.

…But the idea of escape, specifically a harrowing flight through hostile territory while under constant threat of death, is built into the foundation of America’s history. The flights of hundreds of thousands of enslaved people via the Underground Railroad and other efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries are themselves a story of escape from apocalyptic horrors, with many souls risking mutilation, death, disease, and unimaginable psychological trauma in their quest for freedom and a promised land.

Finally, television is exploring America’s most autobiographical apocalyptic quest story. WGN America’s Underground, which airs the final episode of its first season Wednesday night, is an epic series about slavery and escape created by the Heroeswriters Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, and executive produced and scored by John Legend and his Get Lifted team. The entertainment industry has tackled the subject before—on television with Alex Haley’s landmark 1977 miniseries Rootsand its 2016 remake, and in film with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained,and the upcoming Birth of a Nation, among others. But those treatments largely focused on the terrors of plantation life or on revenge fantasies. Underground, by contrast, provides historical fiction about the great flights that shaped American history, taking its cues as much from other weekly primetime thrillers as it does from the famous canon of slavery period pieces.

Underground’s main plot follows a group of escaping slaves known as the “Macon Seven,” whose members include Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Noah (Aldis Hodge), who inevitably become the show’s power couple as they lead their group north. Scenes cut between their journey, the Georgia plantation they escaped from, and the abolitionists at their destination in the Ohio River valley. Some episodes play out uncannily like The Walking Dead, only with single-minded slave catchers taking the place of zombies. Questing characters follow the video-game-inspired level-up process that’s become The Walking Dead’s key structure, with Rosalee and Noah evolving from naive co-conspirators to nearly unkillable wraiths over the course of the first season.

That isn’t to say that Underground is a total departure from its heavier slavery-film counterparts. Scenes back on the Macon plantation, anchored by Amirah Vann’s Ernestine, who’s the mother of Rosalee and the enslaved object of owner Tom Macon’s (Reed Diamond) desires, are as emotionally resonant and torturous as any scene in Roots. Enslaved people are beaten, mutilated, humiliated, stripped naked, and killed, all of which is generally shown in visceral detail. The show doesn’t shy away from the rampant sexual assault that defined plantation life, and it also does a good job of portraying how enslaved people carved out whatever spaces for survival they could. One of the advantages of it being a television series is that Underground has the space to explore the full depth of its enslaved characters: They are brilliant, petty, caring, peaceful, and violent at once, as are all people, and their daily interactions and individual stories have room to breathe and not be swallowed up by the need to sum up for audiences in a few hours just how awful American slavery was.

But the core of Underground is still the quest, which sets it apart as both a TV series and a work about slavery. It isn’t perfect. Some of the episodes require quite a good amount of suspended disbelief, and the Get Lifted team’s decision to incorporate modern music into the show—while a brilliant way to connect the dots in black history and culture across time—sometimes comes across as forced.Underground toes the line between fantasy and reality in a way that can be uncomfortable for historically minded viewers such as myself. But it’s off to a good start, and holds the mark as perhaps the most watchable and rewatchable media about slavery yet. For once, a show finally connects the real epic quests of blackness at the center of American identity with its penchant for fantasy apocalypses.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Going Green – The Black Farmer Makes a Comeback

After over a century of discrimination and destruction, the nation’s black farmers are making a slow comeback. Destroyed by a combination of denial of Agricultural Loans by the Government so they could modernize, predatory zoning and land theft, and land covenants which in some areas kept them from eve being able to expand enough to be competitive – the current trend reverses that started in the Great Migration.

We are at the dawn of Urban Farming, where deserted factory buildings can be converted to support 4 story tall vertical farming racks which produce anything from lettuce to carrots. First heard about this being done in Detroit several years ago, and since then it is gradually expanding across the northeastern US urban landscape. The problem with this for prospective black farmers is the high initial costs being a barrier to entry. Setup costs run from $90-200 per square foot, and even with production per square foot being 4-8 times greater than old style farming, it still takes a while (years) to amortize that.

The comeback of black farmers is contrary to a landscape where mega-corporate farming has become the norm. By focusing on organic and naturally grown crops, and bypassing the retail middlemen, farming is profitable again. The market desire for “organic”, not tainted by pesticides or growth hormone food is also a driver. Factory farms at this point cannot meet that need. Fishing is also becoming increasingly farming, and while corporate level farms concentrate on mass production of high demand product like salmon and catfish, the ability to produce contaminant free shellfish is a fast growing industry dominated by small players because the cost to entry is fairly low.

The folks they discuss in this article are very small operators. In my part of the world I am more used to black farmers who have 40 or more acres under till, although they are using the traditional farming methods.

The new faces of farming. The Black Dirt Collective with co-founder Blain Snipstal, second from left.

After a Century In Decline, Black Farmers Are Back And On the Rise

These Black farmers don’t stop at healthy food. They’re healing trauma, instilling collective values, and changing the way their communities think about the land.
A few years ago, while clearing dried broccoli stalks from the tired soil of our land at Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, I received a cold call from Boston. On the other end was a Black woman, unknown to me, who wanted to share her story of trying to make it as a farmer.

Through tears, she explained the discrimination and obstacles she faced in a training program she’d joined, as well as in gaining access to land and credit. She wondered whether Black farming was destined for extinction. She said she wanted to hear the voice of another African-heritage farmer so that she could believe “it was possible” and sustain hope.

The challenges she encountered are not new. For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against Black farmers,excluding them from farm loans and assistance. Meanwhile, racist violence in the South targeted land-owning Black farmers, whose very existence threatened the sharecropping system. These factors led to the loss of about 14 million acres of Black-owned rural land—an area nearly the size of West Virginia.

In 1982, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights extrapolated the statistics on land loss and predicted the extinction of the Black farmer by the year 2000.

They were wrong. While the situation is still dire, with Black farmers comprising only about 1 percent of the industry, we have not disappeared. After more than a century of decline, the number of Black farmers is on the rise.

These farmers are not just growing food, either. The ones you’ll meet here rely on survival strategies inherited from their ancestors, such as collectivism and commitment to social change. They infuse popular education, activism, and collective ownership into their work.

And about that woman who called me from Boston? Years after we first spoke, I called her back. Turns out, she is still at it.

About 80 miles southeast of Baltimore, Black Dirt leases 2 acres that long have been home to the Black freedom struggle. Harriet Tubman once rescued her parents and nine other people from enslavement in this place, which was one of the first stops on the Underground Railroad.

The 10 farming-collective members who work here today revere Tubman’s example and work to continue her legacy of revolutionary social change. In addition to growing natural food for markets in D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, they host hundreds of people each year for activist training programs. They continue the farming practices of their ancestors, such as “going through together,” a southern Black practice of working collectively in neighbors’ plots and sharing the harvest. They are also part of the North Carolina-based Seed Keepers Collective, and focus on preserving seeds of the African diaspora, including millet, sorghum, cotton, and sweet potatoes.

“It’s like jazz music in a sense,” Snipstal explains, referring to Black Dirt’s collaborations with like-minded farmers around the country. “We are always riffing off each other, even if we don’t tell one another.” …Read Other Stories of Black Farmers Here...

 
 

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Letter From a White Guy

Amusing…Basically clarifying the situation of the “Desperation of Demographics”

A letter to my fellow white people

Chris Rock famously riffed on the proposition “I love black people, but I hate n–gas.” Chris Rock is one of the few people who can get away with saying this, since he is a.) black and b.) one of the funniest people alive. I am not 1/48th as funny as Chris Rock, but allow me to say that although I like white people, I’ve about had it with White People.

Don’t get me wrong — some of my best friends are white. In fact all of them are. I myself am a white person, and proud of my white person heritage. (Am I allowed to say that without sounding like a skinhead or klansman?) We are a vibrant people, with a rich cultural heritage in which there is much to celebrate. If you were paying attention during White History Month (March through January) you probably already know about many of our contributions — democracy, the Renaissance, the industrial revolution — and some of our people’s important heroes and role models: Socrates, Newton, Beethoven. I wear the traditional garb of my people, speak our distinctive dialect, and enjoy doing our customary dance, performed only at weddings — a flaccid, spasmodic flailing reminiscent of the inflatable tube-men erected to advertise used car lots.

But for all my pride in our many achievements, I do get sick of White People — a.k.a. Whitey.

You know the White People I’m talking about. They’re the ones who, every time an unarmed black person is gunned down by the cops, come forward to explain yet again that this regrettable incident would not have occurred if the victim had not broken the law, or if they’d simply complied with orders and been polite. These are the White People who, when they denounce “the violence in Baltimore,” are referring not to the breaking of a man’s back but the trashing of a 7-Eleven. The White People who warn that this latest wave of immigrants, is, at last, the one that will take everything from us, rape our women, kill us all, and destroy our civilization. I suspect this must be some sort of case of racial mass projection, since the only wave of immigrants in American history who have ever actually done this was the first one — the White People.

These are the White People who lack all capacity for imagination or empathy, who assume that what life is like for them is what it’s like for everyone else, or would be if they would just behave. They have a Sunday-school faith in an American Dream where everybody has an equal chance if they’re just willing to play by the rules and aren’t afraid of a little hard work. The police are there to protect them; society’s institutions exist to serve them. They see this country as a home and fortress, instead of as a prison, a place where they can only ever be on probation. They believe in law and order, in a level playing field. But “law and order” always serves the status quo, however unjust or cruel it is, and the playing field only looks level to those on the high ground.

“White privilege” is the p.c. slogan for these unacknowledged advantages and entitlement — the freedom to drive around without being pulled out of the car and beaten up, to walk to the store unmurdered, and, mostly, to never have to think about being white. It’s a little unreasonable to condemn White People for what’s basically human nature; pretty much everyone takes for granted whatever advantages they happen to have (being white, male, rich, thin, attractive, American, healthy, alive) and complains about their problems instead. It only starts to seem a little obnoxious when you point this out to White People and they get defensive and angry and adamantly deny having any such thing, insisting that they’ve got it just as hard as anyone else and some people are just whiners.

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to white privilege. In fact, I believe it should be extended to everyone, regardless of their color, ethnicity, or creed. Indeed, White People have been gradually, grudgingly expanding the definition of White People over the centuries: The Irish didn’t used to be white; neither did Italians, or Eastern Europeans, let alone the Jews. Perhaps it is time, at long last, to make everybody honorary White People. (Think how mad ISIS would be if we unilaterally declared them white.) Why shouldn’t we all be equally free to walk the streets without being harassed, beaten up, and jailed for makework offenses by the people we ostensibly pay to protect us? Everyone should experience the heady, illicit thrill of carrying small amounts of drugs around in their pockets, drinking a beer on their own front steps, and occasionally punching it up to 67 miles per hour. White privilege for all!

I try to be patient with White People. But by now, even the very slow ones have done the back-of-the-napkin calculations on the demographics, and they’ve realized that the numbers are not looking good for them. The White Man is taking this very hard. At least some of the paranoid delusions fixated on President Obama — that he is a closet Marxist, Islamic Manchurian Candidate, or late-blooming Antichrist — are symptomatic of a mass hysteria at seeing the darkening face of America embodied in our chief executive. The same syndrome is no small part of the support for would-be autocrat Donald Trump and his Speerian fantasy of a gargantuan bulwark against the invading brown horde.

This situation is, admittedly, not without its little pleasures — it is a delight to see the Republican Party, which has banked on pandering to the angry-bigoted-old-white-man vote for the last half century, now handcuffed to the dead weight of that aging, increasingly demented, and chronically apoplectic bloc. But let’s not get complacent; White People have, historically, proven dangerous, and you never know what they might do now that their numbers are dwindling and their long, cushy position on top is endangered.

White People, please: You embarrass us all. All these histrionics and tantrums, this aggrieved whining about reverse-discrimination, this shameless appropriation of the language of the oppressed — it’s undignified. It ill-becomes the people who calculated the circumference of the Earth, invented the printing press, and successfully exterminated or enslaved half the human race. Let’s let it go gracefully. We had our chance….Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Black Folks on the (confederate) Dollar

Happy darkie slaves working for Massa…Seems back in the “Good Old Days”, white Republicans loved putting black folks on the money when they were slaves.

Now that black folks are free…Not so much.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in American Genocide, Black History

 

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The Racist conservative Myth of White Slavery in America

It has become popular in the past few years among the white racist conservative wing to try and build a case that somehow Irish were enslaved in the US. That case is built upon a purposeful ignorance of both British and Colonial Laws with a big dollop of racism.

First off, the difference between Chattel Slavery (defined by race) as first defined in Virginia in 1662, and Indentured Servitude was the fact that prior to that time both black and whites had the right to sue their “masters” under contract and common law in the courts. Indentured Servants never lost the ability to sue based on mistreatment, or violation of their contract terms. Second, Indentured Servants could not be whipped, or put to death by law and were protected by the very same criminal and tort laws as protected free citizens – whereas Laws after 1662 removed all protections from black slaves, and any penalty for the punishment, torture, or even killing of black slaves.

Whereas the barbarous usage of some servants by cruell masters bring soe much scandall and infamy to the country in generall, that people who would willingly adventure themselves hither, are through feare thereof diverted, and by that meanes the suppli es of particuler men and the well seating of his majesties country very much obstructed, Be it therefore enacted that every master shall provide for his servants compotent dyett, clothing and lodging, and that he shall not exceed the bounds of moderation in correcting them beyond the meritt of their offences; and that it shalbe lawfull for any servant giving notice to their masters (haveing just cause of complaint against them) for harsh and bad usage, or else of want of dyett or convenient necessaries to repaire to the next commissioner to make his or their complaint, and if the said commisioner shall find by just proofes that the said servants cause of complaint is just the said commissioner is hereby required to give order for the warning of such maste r to the next county court where the matter in difference shalbe determined, and the servant have remedy for his grievances. Hening, II, 117-118. Virginia Law

Lastly – the status, or in the case of Indentured Servants, did not accrue to their children. Any children had by Indentured Servants, whether white or black were free – which is why, starting in 1840, the Colonies began passing laws attempting to stem miscegenation, and ultimately connecting the status of the child to that of the mother. Ergo, if the Mother was free so was the child. A child born of a slave mother, was a slave – meaning that any children of the Master by using his slave women sexually was a slave.

‘Irish slaves’: Historian destroys racist myth conservatives love to share on Facebook

White supremacists have been promoting the myth that the first slaves brought to the Americas were Irish, not African — but a historian says there’s simply no evidence to back their racist claims.

Liam Hogan, a research librarian at the Limerick City Library, set about debunking the myth after spotting a widely shared Global Research article in 2013 and realized its potential for misinformation, reported Hatewatch.

“It was quite clear to me then that many would never engage with the history of the transatlantic slave trade when they had this false equivalence to fall back on,” Hogan told the website. “I think that’s what convinced me that I needed to put the record straight.”

The myth essentially equates indentured or penal servitude with racialized perpetual hereditary chattel slavery, Hogan said.

Racists claim the Irish slave trade began in 1612 and was not abolished until 1839, and they insist “white slavery” has been covered up by “politically correct” historians.

“The various memes make many claims including (but not limited to) the following: that ‘Irish slaves’ were treated far worse than black slaves, that there were more ‘Irish slaves’ than black slaves, that ‘Irish slaves’ were worth less than black slaves, that enslaved Irish women were forced to breed with enslaved African men and that the Irish were slaves for much longer than black slaves,” Hogan said.

“This is then invariably followed up by overtly racist statements,” he added. “For example, ‘Yet, when is the last time you heard an Irishman bitching and moaning about how the world owes them a living?’”

Hogan hasn’t isolated the myth’s first appearance on social media, but it’s been a common trope on the white supremacist website Stormfront since at least 2003 and has been trotted out as an argument against reparations for slavery and to attack the Black Lives Matter movement.

He pointed to a 2014 post on Alex Jones’ Infowars website that attacked both Black Lives Matter and reparations by promoting several falsehoods about “Irish slavery.”

“It appropriates the massacre of around 132 African victims of the genocidal transatlantic slave trade in order to diminish it,” Hogan said, referring to the Zong massacre in 1781. “If you look at the Infowars version of the meme you’ll see it has even appended an extra zero, making the number of victims amount to 1,302, while adding that ‘these slaves weren’t from Africa, these forgotten souls were from Ireland.’ This shameless appropriation is then used by Infowars to mock calls for reparatory justice for slavery.”

A Contract for Indenture

The myth has become nearly ubiquitous in social media discussions on slavery and race — and it was even promoted by a blogger on the liberal Daily Kos website.

“There was almost no situation where the meme was not used to derail discussions about the legacy of slavery or ongoing anti-black racism,” Hogan said. “Starting with Ferguson and with almost every subsequent police killing of an unarmed black person from late 2014 through 2015, the meme was used to mock and denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement. It is in a sense the ‘historical’ version of the disingenuous All Lives Matter response to demands for justice and truth telling.”

Hogan has collected hundreds of examples of the fallacious argument, which he has shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and he said some of those memes have been sharedhundreds of thousands of times on Facebook.

The myth is especially popular among Confederate apologists, and Hogan cites several examples of its deployment during the debate over Confederate flag displays in the wake of the fatal shootings of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist.

“This year I’ve tracked the meme being shared by the Texas League of the South, History of the True South, Love My Confederate Ancestors and the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Hogan said. “They seem to believe that this meme somehow negates the fact that the Confederacy fought a war to perpetually enslave millions of African-Americans and their descendants.”

The myth is often supported with citations to the books “To Hell or Barbados,” by Sean O’Callaghan, and “White Cargo,” by Don Jordan and Michael A. Walsh — both of which are historically questionable, according to Hogan, but he said most articles about “Irish slaves” don’t even quote from those sources.

Instead, Hogan said most of those articles rely heavily on an unreferenced blog postand the self-published work of Holocaust denier Michael A. Hoffman II.

Hogan said his concerns are shared by at least 81 academics and historians, and he hopes to set the record straight in his own book.

“I would like to reclaim the history of Irish servitude in the 17th century Anglo-Caribbean and present it in context for a general audience,” he said. “The Cromwellian policy of forced transportation to the colonies in the 1650s (which included an estimated 10,000 Irish people) understandably scars our collective memory and it deserves both respect and close attention from anyone interested in the history of the unfree labor systems in the Atlantic world.”

He said the myth’s appeal reveals an essential element of racist thought — and the way those beliefs are exploited to justify discriminatory laws.

“The racism then flows as these various groups of Neo-Nazis posit why whites can overcome a ‘worse’ situation than blacks and ‘do not whine about it,’” Hogan said. “So the ‘get over it’ racism that so often accompanies the meme is not about history at all. It goes much deeper than that.”

“Their belief is that non-whites can’t move on due to racial inferiority or social pathology,” he continued. “So through false equivalence and erasure, they attempt to remove history as a determinant so that they can claim the current socioeconomic position and mass incarceration of black people in the U.S. is due to racial inferiority.”

 

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Southern Outlaw—And a Slave

Great story of the post Civil War, and America’s blurred lines on race.

My Second Great-Grandmother Was a Southern Outlaw—And a Slave

After Missouri Daniel Blackard—a freedwoman who was born a slave in 1840—witnessed her father’s assassination, she had one thing in mind: vengeance.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1863.

The bushwhackers arrived at dawn, already sufficiently liquored and armed, the moon and the sun still hanging in the sky. Disguised in Union army coats, with kerchiefs covering their faces, three men set upon the house in Johnson County, Arkansas. Packing their saddlebags to the gills, pillaging the preacher’s house and the surrounding fields, one held him at gunpoint while the others took turns raping his wife in front of their children—the youngest, Thomas, just 4 years old.

Then they turned their attention to the minister, who was standing on the wood-plank front porch. His arms spread wide, palms open like the Christ himself, Rev. Vincent Wallace offered no resistance.

One who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

The first bullet took him in the shoulder, another struck his chest. A female slave named Missouri shielded his sons from the horror. The pastor lingered a few hours before he died. When the doctor had left and the preacher’s soul had gone on to Glory, Missouri cleaned and dressed the body. As she wrung the bloody rags over a washbasin and the house filled with shrieking and crying, she had one thing in mind: vengeance.

Missouri—believed to be the preacher’s illegitimate daughter sired with a slave—knew the assassins by name, despite the masks wrapped around their faces. They were young, maybe in their late teens or early twenties. But it was something in their voices, something in their eyes, and something about they way they smelled, and how one of them walked with a pronounced limp. Another was missing two fingers, shot off at the nubs when his gun misfired during a brawl over in Coal Hill.

Their time would come.

When the time was right, nearly a decade later, Missouri helped her half-brother track the killers across county and state lines in a bloody crusade to avenge their father’s death. As one man after another met his Maker, Missouri remained in the shadows while her younger brother Sidney—who was only 11 the day his father died—became a folk hero with a price on his head. …Read the Rest Here

When Sid Wallace was finally arrested and sentenced to death by hanging in 1874, the question became: How much would Missouri sacrifice in his name and could she pull off one last scheme to save him from the executioner’s noose?

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2016 in Black History

 

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