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The Notorious GOP: A Series on the History of the Republican Party and the Black Vote: Part 1

When the liberal and conservative political bubbles clash online over the issues of anti-black racism several tropes are bound be texted, memed or gifed. The King Kong Aint Got Nothin’ On Me of these troublesome tropes is: “the democrat party started the KKK” followed closely by “The GOP freed the slaves (you ungrateful, uppity, negra.)” Beside the need of my inner grammarian to jump through the screen and throttle the writer with a copy of Strunk & White, the sheer ignorance and constant repetition of these tropes as a legitimate point of debate makes me want to holla Marvin Gaye style. A cursory glance into any history textbook not published in the great confabulating state of Texas illustrates that the history of the Grand Old Party is not that simple. While the KKK was most certainly founded by southern men who were members of the Democratic Party, the nation’s most prolific terrorist organization was not an official paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party. That is a leap that even D. W. Griffith wouldn’t make. While Lincoln did enact the Emancipation Proclamation, the GOP was hardly unified by their desire for the full abolition and equality of the nation’s human chattel.

These oft repeated racial conservative tropes have three rhetorical aims: to “educate” black people on the “history” of the GOP, to chide us uppity blacks about our lack of gratitude for magnanimity of Republicans and “enlighten” our poor, simple, uninformed minds that have no ability to discern how we are being manipulated by liberal whites. Racially liberal commenters dutifully respond to this claptrap by explaining that the parties swapped their racial ideology in the 1960’s. The southern reaction to the passage of the Civil Rights bills is usually used as a point of reference. The major ammunition in this comment arsenal is an infamous quote from the GOP political operative, Lee Atwater. This human garbage was responsible for formulating the policy known as the Southern Strategy. Atwater’s bigot bonafides include serving as a political aide for Strom Thruman, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Atwater recanted his racism on his deathbed, but no last minute confession can wipe away the stench of his 1981 interview:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Sadly, quoting the bigot who crafted and implemented one the vilest political policies in recent history isn’t enough of a racial patronous to defend against your average racially conservative GOP commenter. He or she will continue to squawk that their party has always had the best interests of black folks in mind and that we are too lazy and intellectually bereft to see that shining nugget of truth and break free from the “democrat plantation.” Many will  come up a quote from their limited stable of famous black people whose quote backs up their position. Morgan Freeman  and Charles Barkley or the most recent political Negro de jure Ben Carson are often used, but the Big Kahuna of racial internet comment dodgeball is “the content of their character” sentence from Martin Luther King’s March on Washington speech. It is clear racial conservatives have never read the whole speech or they would recoil in horror at this quote:

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.  We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

The birth of the Republican Party inspired the hope that blacks would receive the riches of  freedom and security of justice, but the end of Reconstruction greatly diminished out the section of the Republican party who fiercely worked for the post-Emancipation legal, political and social equality for the freedman. The election of Republican president Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 ushered a decades long waxing and waning quest to recruit the Southern white voter and an expand their influence throughout the predominantly white areas of the country.

After Reconstruction divisions in the GOP grew and by 1888, the party was split between the “black and tans” who favored black inclusion in the the party and the “lily whites” who wanted to restrict party membership to whites only. The lily whites won in Southern states and initiated the swift annihilation of the black political power base in the South. George Henry White, was the last black GOP Southern Congressman seated for the 1898-1901 term. The next black Congressmen from the South would not grace the House of Representatives until 2013. With the victory of the Lily Whites every southern state instituted de facto Jim Crow despite the fact that these laws were flagrant violation of the 15th Amendment.  Another tidbit unbeknownst to your average republican Internet commenter is that many Midwestern and Western Republican state parties had very cozy relationships with Klu Klux Klan. By the 1920’s Indiana had the largest KKK Klavern in history and its leader was a republican political operative, D. C. Stephenson. Republican politicians affiliated with the KKK were also active in Colorado, Washington and several other states. This series will take a closer look at the Grand Old Party between it’s founding and the implementation of the Southern Strategy that will help you reclaim your time the when the next racist rube comes up in your mentions spitting the same tired set of smelly, old, soggy, cheeto colored tropes.

Next Friday: The Notorious GOP Part 2: The Founding of the GOP and the Politics of Compromise

Daily Kos: Black People Do Not Have the Luxury of Being Strangers: Renisha McBride was Killed by the White Gaze

by chaunceydevega

In the post civil rights era, the colorline is beset by many paradoxes.

The United States finally elected its first black president. There is a multicultural elite class. In this same moment, African Americans are harassed and racially profiled by \”stop and frisk laws\” and the experience known as “shopping while black”.

Black people are subjected to extrajudicial murder and violence by gun mad vigilantes, operating under onerous stand your ground laws, who shoot and murder young black people for the “crime” of walking down the street, in a neighborhood “where they don’t belong”, not being duly submissive, and carrying a bag of Skittles and iced-tea.

Full citizenship involves the presumption that one belongs to a political community. By virtue of that fact, citizenship also means that a person is entitled to safety and security in their person without qualification, exception, or justification. Full citizenship is not contingent or precarious.

African-Americans are not allowed such protections by the White Gaze. They are viewed as guilty until proven innocent, a criminal Other who is a priori categorized as “suspicious” and “dangerous”. While formal racism and Jim and Jane Crow were shattered and defeated by the Black Freedom Struggle, this ugly cloud continues to hover over the United States, some 400 years after the first black slaves were brought to the country.

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Daily Kos: Black People Do Not Have the Luxury of Being Strangers: Renisha McBride was Killed by the White Gaze.

Russel Simmons Makes Harriet Tubman into a Video Ho

Harriet Tubman

Hi folks long time no write. It took a disgusting offense to black womanhood get back on my blog hustle. A few days ago I was defending Russell Simmons on twitter against the racist tatulogy of Don Lemon and sexual harassment king Bill O’Reilly. Both of whom sited lascivious single black mothers and their naturally criminal male spawn for Trayvon Martin’s death. Simmons wrote a piece calling out Lemon’s  sophistry.  I thought he words were powerful. While I was defending his good name, Simmons was preparing for the debut of his youtube channel called All Def Digital. The channel’s first video called Harriet Tubman Sextape” in which Harriet Tubman conspires with another enslaved person to blackmail their way into freedom by producing a sex tape. While the other slave hides in the closet with a video camera,  Tubman aggressively pursues sex with her master. But before doing so, she refers to being raped in the past by saying. “All these years, I’ve been actin’ like I didn’t love our special time together. But tonight that’s all gonna be different.” See Harriet didn’t mind being raped at all!

Russell Simmons prides him self on his Buddhist practice. He has called for compassion for Donald Trump, Roger Ailes and Mayor Michael Bloomberg despite their deeply racist stances. His Foundation for Ethnic Understanding aims “to promote understanding and cooperation between and among ethnic groups and to reduce the existing tensions among diverse racial and ethnic communities.” Yet on the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death, Russell made her into an angry, aggressive, black whore who used her vagina for liberation.

Let’s just list some the facts of Tubman’s life to get the bitter taste of Simmon’s misogyny out of our mouths:

1. Harriet Tubman born Araminta Harriet Ross was born in Dorchester County, Maryland around 1820. She began working at the age of five. She was beaten by masters to whom she was hired out and suffered a severe head wound when she was hit by a heavy metal weight. The injury caused disabling seizures, narcoleptic attacks, headaches, and powerful visions and revelatory dreams.

2 – In 1849, Tubman escaped  to Philadelphia and immediately began risking her own life by making 19 trips to the south to recover hundreds of enslaved Blacks.

3 – At the height of her campaign $40,000 bounty was placed on her head. At one point, she overheard some men reading a wanted poster, which stated she was illiterate she read from a newspaper to fool the men into thinking she was not the fugitive they were looking foe. In case any of the slaves she was leading to freedom had second thoughts, she carried a gun which she threatened to use on anyone who wanted to return to the plantation.

4- When the American Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. She was first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

5- After the war, she retired to the family home in Auburn, New York, and became active in the state’s women’s suffrage movement. Near the end of her life, she lived in a home for elderly African Americans that she had helped found years earlier.

Does this sound like a woman who would Kim Karsdashian her way to freedom? For the past few decades too many black men have taken over the mantle of defaming, evaluating and dehumanizing black men from white men.  After over 350 years of legalized sexual assault black women worked together to finally made the rape of black women a crime, yet many black men began calling us bitches and whores. Today we work to end the violence in our communities, stop and frisk and the school to prison pipeline that overwhelmingly effects black men, too many black rappers, athletes and actors praise non-black women and defame us. Simmons’ flippant apology  and tweets illustrate how little thought he gave to how this work would affect his mother, sister-in-law and nieces and the other black women in his life. Is this how he wants his daughters to learn about this great American hero or does their mixed race ancestry render them immune from this dehumanization of black womanhood? The video was taken off All Def Digital but not before it was posted all over the internet.  Google it if you want to see it, I will not link to it. If Russell had paid attention to other black internet content providers he would would know that a wonderful series of videos called Black Moses Barbie already exists. It is hilarious and celebrates her courage. Please check it out.

The British Slavery Bailout

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Since I have ancestry from Jamaica and Grenada, was born in England  and lived in Canada and America, I have a tendency to think of the black experience as global. The English are known for their obsessive record keeping and lately they have been using these resources to examine the scope of the empires involvement in the institution of chattel slavery. A database will be available this Wednesday that details how much British slave owners were paid to compensate them for their loss of property. Slaves did not get a farthing and were compelled into indentured slavery scheme that was one step up from slavery. The documents indicate that at least 1/5 one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived all or part of their fortunes from the slave economy.

Current descendants of slave compensation include Prime Minister, David Cameron, former minister Douglas Hogg, authors Graham Greene and George Orwell, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the new chairman of the Arts Council, Peter Bazalgette. Other prominent names which feature in the records include scions of one of the nation’s oldest banking families, the Barings, and the second Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, an ancestor of the Queen’s cousin. Some families used the money to invest in the railways and other aspects of the industrial revolution; others bought or maintained their country houses, and some used the money for philanthropy. George Orwell’s great-grandfather, Charles Blair, received £4,442, equal to £3m today, for the 218 slaves he owned.

I for one cannot wait to see, how much my ancestors were worth. My mother”s maiden name is Dawkins. Her father’s family was owned by the family that produced world famous atheist and pompous ass, Richard Dawkins. In it’s hayday the Dawkins’ owned over 1,000 slaves. Dawkins’ MP ancestor James Dawkins voted against Wilberforce’s proposal to abolish the slave trade, helping to defeat it by just four votes. George Hay Dawkins Pennant was another defiant slavery supporter. In 1831, two years before the act abolishing slave ownership in the Empire, he signed a circular which insisted: “the speedy annihilation of slavery would be attended with the devastation of the West India Colonies … with inevitable distress and misery to the black population.'” What an arrogant sod!

“Cousin” Richard claims he doesn’t benefit from slavery since he only has “400 acre country estate which barely makes a profit.” I can’t wait for more arrogant excuses from those who still benefit from the ill gotten gains of slavery and indentured servitude. You may ask why do I call this man “cousin.” The Consolidated Slave Act 1792 rewarded slave owners and overseers who increased their slave stock. The easiest way to do this was to was to supply your own seed. Rape and concubinage was rampant in the Caribbean, the diary of Thomas Thistlewood’s sexual escapades detail the sexual brutality that black female slaves lived under. How does one amass such a large amount of slave without doing your duty for King and Country? The database will be available at the  Legacies of British Slave-ownership website on 27 February 2013.

 

Pottery by David Drake, a Slave Craftsman in Edgefield, S.C. – NYTimes.com

Newly discovered vessels by David Drake, an enslaved 19th-century potter in Edgefield, S.C., keep emerging, either whole or in shards. He signed his pots “Dave” and added witty couplets that sometimes praised the very “noble jar” on which they were inscribed or expressed his longing to see the stars or lost family members. He helped run his owners’ kilns, each of which measured about 100 feet long and required 10 tons of firewood a day.

A nearly complete documentary, “Discovering Dave — Spirit Captured in Clay,” from Scrapbook Video Productions in Augusta, Ga., is based partly on a smashed 1862 Drake pot that the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program excavated near Augusta.

The vessel has been reassembled, and the research program’s coordinator, George Wingard, brings it to lectures and lets the public touch the signature. Drake also left traces of his presence along the rim.“You can see the markings where his hands, his fingers, were in there,” said Mark Albertin, a producer of the film with Mr. Wingard. Archaeological studies around Edgefield, led by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have yielded ghosts of kilns and bagfuls of pottery shards. When students were cleaning one ordinary-looking fragment, it revealed the word “you,” etched in Drake’s firm cursive.

via Pottery by David Drake, a Slave Craftsman in Edgefield, S.C. – NYTimes.com.

Chris Rock ‘White People’s Day’ July 4th Tweet Sparks Controversy

Chris Rock’s tweet about the fact that American blacks did not secure any freedoms on July 4th has caused a lot of white racial butt hurt. Minimizing slavery nothing new and the drama around Rock making a joke about historical fact is an excellent opportunity to examine the multiple ways that some whites minimize the history of racial oppression in this country. White apologists for slavery, Jim Crow and institutional racism need to have a convention to come up with some new talking points. The ones they repeatedly circulate are time worn, ignorant and twist history beyond all hope of recognition they use really needs an update. Here a ten nifty ways to debunk these tired tropes.

1 – Other nations had slaves what’s the big deal?
America is the only nation that espoused freedom for all citizens while legally denying people of color the same rights. The Constitution specifically marked blacks and Native Americans as non-citizens. Native Americans did not become citizens until 1924 and blacks did not receive full citizenship until 1968.

2 – Africans sold slaves, so blame them.
First of all Africa is a continent, which is composed of hundreds of ethnic groups. Can you get a little more specific? The African empires that supported the slave trade had many communities within them who fought against enslavement. Empires like Dahomey were in a state of constant civil war over this practice. Many seem to forget that whites bought slaves, created the chattel slavery industry in the Americas and continued it by making a child’s condition depend on the status of their mother. White men created their own slave stock and sold their own offspring. Antebellum white men where the original dead beat dads. Whites get so busy blaming Africans for slavery they forget the the Greek and Roman ancestry captured and sold slaves for a millennium. Historical amnesia is not your friend.

3- Blacks owned slaves too!
Mulattos in Louisiana had slaves but they were considered a different racial category by state law. In other slave owning states, free blacks bought their relatives but were unable to free them. It became illegal for recently free slaves to stay in Southern states so they could not manumit their wives, parents or children. No black slave owner maintained plantations with hundreds of slaves. No black slave owners rallied to keep chattel slavery the law of the land.

3- Mentioning anything slavery, Jim Crow and institutional racism or anything about blacks is racist.
Most whites have a habit of seeing whiteness universal and generic. They do not notice that most whites live in all white neighborhoods, go to predominantly white schools, work at all white jobs and socialize with whites only. When a crime is reported on TV a caucasian suspect is always described as male or female without a racial designation. You can look at any mainstream magazine and you will see a dearth of people of color. The majority of films, TV shows, books and plays produced in this country have all white casts despite the fact that over 36% of Americans are not caucasian. When this is mentioned it drives white apologists into a frenzy! The rant usually ends with a mention the fact that there is not a WET, because that would be racist! Those who deny the long history of legalized white supremacy in this country fail to recognize than traditional black institutions havenever banned whites from inclusion. Acknowledging these facts is recognizing history not racism.

4- The Civil War was not about slavery. Whites died to free blacks. Why do blacks always have to make things about them?
The Ordinances of Session of every Confederate state prominently mentions the hostility the North has toward the slave owning states. The Conerstone speech given by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens states that the “natural state of the Negro is slavery” and proudly declares that the institution is an essential part of the new nation. Apologists also fail to consider the thousands of black union soldiers who fought for less pay and substandard equipment and faced being killed on the spot if the were captured by the Confederate military. Despite these facts many cannot see that ending the slavery of black slaves the most important outcome of the Civil War, even though this was not the President Lincoln’s intention.

5- Slavery is over! Get over it! Why do blacks have to live in the past?
Millions of whites run around in Confederate garb while flying the battle flag of a treasonous nation. Tea Partiers dress up in gear from 1776, yelling “I’m taking my country back.” Some of the post popular shows on TV (Mad Men, Game of Thrones, The Tudors, The Borgias) take place in the past. White Americans go to renaissance fairs and participate in battle reconstructions. Apologists seem to forget that the Civil War was followed a hundred years of legal segregation and racial terrorism. Yet, its blacks that are living in the past?

6- But the Irish were slaves too!
From an approximately 1600 to 1699 many Irish as well as criminals and debtors from all over the United Kingdom were sold into indentured servitude (there goes that blacks sold blacks excuse)and sent to America and Caribbean. There were abuses of this system and many suffered. But in 1664 blacks were made slaves in perpetuity in Virgina. Other states quickly followed especially after the leader Bacon’s Rebellion promised freedom to slaves and indentured servants who would join their cause in 1676. The threat of interracial rebellion led to legal enforcement of indenture contracts. When indentured servants were freed, many in the South joined the slaved based economy by buying chattel, becoming overseers or paddy rollers, informal bands of whites that patrolled their communities and captured runaway slaves. After emancipation in the British Caribbean former white indentures servant purchased Asian indentured servants, black Caribbean people did not. Some apologists claim that the Irish were treated worse than Africans because the black slaves costed more. I wish they would read slave narratives and then dare to tell me white servants were treated worse than slaves.

7- Blacks would be worse off if they all stayed in Africa.
This one is a favorite because it twists history like a pretzel. Most of Africa was devastated by the Trans-Sahara and Trans-Atlantic slave trade. This was exacerbated by the Scramble for Africa, where Europeans divided the Continent like it was a cake, destroying traditional empires and ties between ethnic groups. That did not work so well in post-communist Eastern Europe, so why is this so hard to understand what happened in Africa? The United States undermined African independence by killing political leaders & and supporting tyrants who supported the West’s political & economic ideology. The neocolonialist strategies of the IMF and World Bank has kept the wealth of Africa flowing into white hands. African countries would be major players on the world stage if whites had not landed on their shores.

8- If the Founder’s did not write the Declaration of Independence, blacks would have never been feed.
History is your friend get to know it. If America had remained an English colony the importation of slaves would have ended in 1792, America ended it in 1807. There was still an illegal slave trade in this country until the Civil War, while the British Army detained slave ships & sent captured blacks home. British ended slavery in 1834 31 years before the last American slaves were finally freed in Texas in 1865. The British never legalized segregation after ending slavery. Britain is not a racial paradise but since the majority of the Founder’s had a history of owning slave the idea that they were abolitionists (except for John Quincy Adams) is absolutely ridiculous.

9- Blacks are lazy, hypersexual, criminal immoral beasties who life off entitlements like welfare and affirmative action.
This must give white apologists a boner since they use it so often. It serves to disguise centuries of white affirmative action and the fact that affirmative action was put in a coma before its 45th birthday. It also serves as an excuse for white dysfunction which is on the rise. More whites are being jailed for meth related crimes and the majority of births by white women who do not go to college are to single mothers.
Whites lead the criminal pack in child rape & sexual abuse, serial, mass & spree killing, bank robbery, embezzlement & fraud. White men tanked the global economy playing dice with America’s savings yet none of them are in jail. Which leads to….

10- Blacks are more racist than whites!
This is usually followed by a sob story of a black kid took their lunch at recess 30 years ago. There is also the false moral equivalency rope a dope to put some punch into their crazy claim. Al Sharpton & Jessie Jackson Sr. are the same as Hitler, the NAACP is the same as the KKK and Ben Jealous is the same as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of that racial terrorist organization. There is also the idea that every black person knows and supports the New Black Panthers a group that consists of four black men whose principle income comes from scaring white viewers FAUXNEWS. Very few whites want to have a substantive conversation about race in America. The live in fear of being called the “R-word.” Even former Grand Dragon & Presidential candidate says he is not racist, but a white civil rights activist! Neo Nazi/White Supremacist/KKK groups are much more brazen since the election of President Obama (who completes the Hitler trilogy). Just ask the good Reverend William Collier, who is hosting an All White Christian Conference in Alabama this weekend complete with KKK attendance and a “cross lighting ceremony” for religious purposes. Even a Middle Eastern Jew Like Jesus couldn’t get into this shindig!

Please feel free to use any of these facts the next time there is an outbreak of white whine & check out Derailing for Dummies for more ammunition against the racist trolls who spew their venom in cyberspace.

Tea Party Groups In Tennessee Demand Textbooks Overlook U.S. Founder’s Slave-Owning History

The race to the bottom for Tea Party infested states continues with greater degrees of whackadoodleness. In an attempt to outdo Arizona and Texas’ efforts to keep history as white as the finest grade of meth sold in said states, Tennessee Tea Party Politicians is seeking to remove references to slavery and mentions of the country’s founders being slave owners. The nutters are demanding for the second time that Tennessee lawmakers change state laws governing school curricula. The group called for textbook selection criteria to include: “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

That means Slavery is out, Jim Crow is out, Lynching out (except Leo Frank and the mass Italian lynchings in 1891), Native American genocide and the Trail of Tears is out, Chinese Exclusion Act is out and the Japanese internment & The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is out. I could go on but, but I think you have the picture. 49% of 55 men at Constitutional Convention owned slaves. This doesn’t include Ben Franklin, Richard Bassett and John Dickinson who owned slaves for the majority of their lives and manumitted them before 1776. Therefore, the majority of the Founders were slave owners.This doesn’t fit in with Michelle Bachmann’s deluded fever dream that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery and that black children were better off as chattel. Many apologists like to point out the faux abolitionist sentiments of Thomas Jefferson as proof of the Founder’s disdain for slavery. Who can really accept the words of a man who made a 13 year old slave his concubine, produced six black kids and said that black women are the preferred lover of orangoutangs?. White supremacists still use this quote today, dreaming of the days when they could rape black women with impunity.

I think part of the anxiety multicultual education the desire to keep the idea that individual whiteness equals greatness. One can always think “I may live in a trailer park, be on meth with three fatherless children but at least I am white.” The vast majority of African Americans have whites ancestry & 10% of whites have African ancestry. Science has proven that skin color is not an accurate barometer of whiteness. If much of your identity is tied up with the fact that your European ancestry ties you to the Founding Father’s, you need to let that go because most African Americans do too.

Tea Party Groups In Tennessee Demand Textbooks Overlook U.S. Founder's Slave-Owning History.

ABWW Heroine of the Day: Bridget Biddy Mason

Bridget “Biddy” Mason, was a slave who moved to California with her owner in the 1850s. She eventually petitioned the court for her freedom — and that of her children— and was emancipated. She worked as a nurse and a midwife while simultaneously purchasing real estate and growing a fortune that she used for philanthropic endeavors, including founding an elementary school for black children and helping black women agitate for the vote.

In 1847, Brigham Young was starting a Mormon community in California. Robert Smith, a follower of Young and Biddy’s also moved his household and slaves (90 people in all), to Utah Territory. On this arduous 2,000-mile trek across the country, Biddy’s responsibility was to herd the cattle, prepare meals, act as a midwife, and take care of her own children. (She had three daughters, Ellen, Ann and Harriet, whose father was reputedly Smith.) In 1851, Smith moved everyone again to San Bernardino, California, where Brigham Young was starting another Mormon community.

Biddy learned through friends in the African-American Los Angeles community that California had been admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state; slavery was prohibited. But such slave owners were rarely challenged, and if they were, they rarely lost the case. In the winter of 1855, Smith decided to move once again, to Texas, a slave state. Their departure was interrupted by the Los Angeles sheriff, who served Smith a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Biddy.

Biddy’s daughter Ellen had been dating a free black man, Charles Owens, the son of an esteemed business owner in Los Angeles’ African-American community. Charles and his friend Manuel Pepper, who was dating the daughter of another of Smith’s slaves, helped Biddy file her petition with the court for her freedom. Since California law at the time prohibited blacks, mulattos and Native Americans from testifying in court, Biddy could not speak on her own behalf, but the judge did meet with her privately to hear her story. Robert Smith did not appear in court so, on January 19 (another source says January 21), 1856, the judge granted Biddy her freedom, as well as that of her three daughters (some sources say all the other slaves of Robert Smith were freed as well).

Biddy moved to Los Angeles, accepting the invitation to live with the Owens family. (Her daughter Ellen later married Charles.) She quickly became well regarded as a nurse and midwife, assisting in hundreds of births to mothers of all races and social classes. A couple sources say she was immediately offered a job after the trial by Dr. John S. Griffin, a Los Angeles doctor who had become interested in the case. What is certain is she soon became financially independent, saving her money and living frugally. Ten years later, in 1866, she bought a house and sizeable property on Spring Street for $250 — becoming one of the first black women to own land in Los Angeles. She instructed her children to never abandon it.

Mason was one of the first black women to own land in Los Angeles. This site is now in the center of the commercial district in the heart of Los Angeles. In 1884, she sold a parcel of the land for $1500 and built a commercial building with spaces for rental on the remaining land. She continued making wise decisions in her business and real estate transactions and her financial fortunes continued to increase until she accumulated a fortune of almost $300,000. Her grandson, Robert Curry Owens, a real estate developer and politician, was the richest African-American in Los Angeles at one time. Was the wealthiest African-American in Los Angeles at one time.

Biddy became known as Grandma Mason — generously donating money to charities (she would occasionally pay the expenses of both Black and white churchs), visiting prison inmates with gifts and aid, and giving food and shelter to the poor of all races. Needy people often lined up in front of 331 South Spring Street. One source says she also ran an orphanage in her house.

In 1872, Biddy and her son-in-law, Charles Owens, founded and financed the Los Angeles branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black church in Los Angeles. It is now known as 8th and Townes, and is presently housed in a modern building at 2270 South Harvard Street.

In 1851, Smith moved his household again, this time to San Bernardino, California, Smith probably did not know that California had been admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state and that slavery was forbidden there. Mason petitioned the court and in 1856 won freedom for herself and for her daughters. She moved to Los Angeles and found employment as a nurse and midwife. Hard work and her nursing skills allowed her to become economically independent.

Biddy Mason also gave generously to various charities and provided food and shelter for the poor of all races. Lines of needy people were often forming at 331 South Spring Street. She also remembered the jail inmates whom she visited often. In 1872 she and her son-in-law, Charles Owens, founded and financed the Los Angeles branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal church, L.A.’s first black church.

Biddy Mason died January 15, 1891 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Evergreen cemetery in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. Nearly a century later, on March 27, 1988 a tombstone was unveiled which marked her grave for the first time in a ceremony attended by Mayor Tom Bradley and about three thousand members of the First African Methodist Episcopal church.

Thursday, November 16, 1989 was declared a Biddy Mason Day and a memorial of her achievements was unveiled at the Broadway Spring Center located between Spring Street and Broadway at Third Street.

ABWW History Lesson of the Day: Ruby McCollum and Paramour Rights

Contrary to what many non-blacks think black people do not spend a lot of time talking about our history in this country. My opinion is that it is simply too painful and many do not know enough about our history to know that along with the terrorism, the are stories of resilience and triumph. This sadly is not one of them. Paramour rights is a term coined by the great writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Huston. During her studies of turpentine camps in the 1930’s she found that white men would pick black women out for sexually coercive relationships whether they were married or not. This practice which many like to think ended with slavery was alive and well in the 1950’s when of Ruby McCollum, a middle class, married black woman who murdered her white lover and father of two children, Dr. C. Leroy Adams, in Live Oak, Florida, in 1952. When McCollum testified during her 1954 trial she stated that her doctor had forced her to bear his child, and then threatened to kill her if she refused to bear him a second child. The all-white jury convicted her of murder and McCollum was sentenced to die in the electric chair while still pregnant with Adams’ child. She appealed, and three months ago the State Supreme Court ordered a new trial on the ground that the jury had inspected the murder scene without the judge and Ruby McCollum being present. But Ruby was pronounced insane and, instead of being retried, was sent to Florida State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee and was not released until 1980. McCollum was unable to recall most of the events the led up to her institutionalization since her “illness” was treated with Electroconvulsive therapy and anti-psychotic medication.

The era between the Civil War and the modern civil rights is marked with the untold abuse of black women, that I contend contributes to the intensification of black woman hateration over he last 40 years. In this period black women fought to live up to the standards of mainstream white femininity, but how could they do that when white men could debase them at anytime without any fear of legal consequences? Most black women did not have the luxury to be full time homemakers like the standards of femininity required, they were in the homes of white men that still saw his access to a black woman’s body was a God given right? Black men were not economically capable of giving their women the protection of a stay at home wife and risked his life and his family if her attempted to defend his woman’s honor. This phenomenon was on the wane but still in practice during the civil rights movement yet we never discuss it and the impact that decades this abuse may had on black families? Did the pain, anger, frustration of black men who were unable to protect their wives contribute to the contempt many black men have for us today

There are several books and a play about this case available at Amazon Check it out if you want to know more about this vital yet forgotten piece of American history.

ABWW Health Alert: Racism shapes African-American women’s views on depression care

Another study that supports the idea that the “strong black woman” act is destroying our health.
If you are feeling depressed don’t believe the hype! Get help, depression is a treatable illness.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tamara Hargens-Bradley
African-American women’s beliefs about depression and depression care are consistently and systematically influenced by racism, according to a new study conducted at Oregon Health & Science University. The results are published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

To be eligible for the study, participants had to be 18 or older, consider themselves African-American, have a score of 15 or higher on Patient Health Questionnaire Depression scale and have experienced intimate partner violence at some time in their lives. Thirty women participated in four private focus groups facilitated by African-American female community members of the research team.

Study participants were asked about their experiences and beliefs surrounding the relationship between violence and health in general, mental health, depression, and depression treatments. They also were asked to discuss their recommendations for improving depression care. The researchers found one issue dominated discussions about depression care — the participants’ deep mistrust of what they perceived to be a “White” health care system.

“These women were extremely wary of most depression treatments and providers they associated with ‘White’ systems of care. Although they acknowledged that violence, depression and substance abuse adversely affected their health, discussions about health care revolved around their perceptions of racism,” said Christina Nicolaidis, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator and an associate professor of medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics), and public health and preventive medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Based on our findings, we recommend health and mental health providers endeavor to better understand and acknowledge how racism informs the experiences and perceptions of their patients.”

The expectation of being a “strong Black woman” also was a significant barrier to recognizing depression and seeking care. Co-investigator S. Renee Mitchell has used this finding to launch a campaign asking: “Strong Black woman – what are you burying, your feelings or the myth?” The research team also has organized several community depression and violence awareness events titled “Redefining the Blues.” An additional event is planned for the fall.

Study participants expressed a desire for community-based depression programs that addressed violence and drug use and are staffed by African-Americans with “real-life experiences.” In response to this request, the research team used their study data to create a community-based, culturally tailored depression-care program, which they currently are pilot-testing at Bradley-Angle House’s Healing Roots Center, a drop-in center for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

The researchers make clear that their results aren’t reflective of all African-American depressed women, especially those who live in places with larger African-American populations, those with higher incomes and those who have not experienced intimate partner violence.

“Future study is needed to test the generalizability of our findings, as well as the effectiveness of culturally specific interventions in reducing depressions severity and improving depression care among African-American women,” the researchers concluded.

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