Thursday, February 11, 2010
Hard Work and a Dream
Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 to two former slaves and sharecroppers, on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana. A yellow fever epidemic killed her parents when she was seven, and she and her sister fled to escape the dpidemic and failing crops to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they worked the cotton firlds. Walker married at age 14, largely to escape the abuse of her sister's husband, and her daughter Lelia was born in 1885. Her husband died (lynched by a white mob according to some accounts) two years later, and Walker moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where her four brothers worked as barbers. There she toiled for 18 years as a cook and laundress, earning enough to educate Lelia at public school and college. During this time she also became invoved wih the National Association of Colored Women and the St. Paul American Methodist Episcopal Church, broadening her horizons.
In the early 1890s, Walker developed a scalp ailment that caused her to lose much of her hair. She experimented widely with homemade cures and commercial hair producs, including those marketed by black entrepreneur Annie Malone. In 1905, she then worked as a sales agent for Malone's company in Denver. By Walker's own account, her breakthrough preparation came to her in a dream, in which a "...big black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up for my hair." Regardless of its origins, the product was successful enough to cause her own hair to regenerate quickly, proof enough of its effectiveness. She created a commercial version, the "Walker Method," which included a shampoo, a pomade "Hair Grower," vigorous brushing, and heated iron combs, and was reputed to make lusterless hair shiny and impove the health of hair and scalp. It proved to be immediately popular with Walker's circle of acquaintances and beyond.
Walker married again in 1906, to a newspaperman named Charles Joseph (C.J.) Walker. From him, she took her business name to which she added "Madam," as well as his insights and instincts for marketing. Together they advertised in black newspapers, and launched an automobile tour to promote the product. Walker traveled for over a year through the African American population centers of the south and southeast, selling door-to-door, speaking at churches and conventions and refining sales and marketing techniques. Daughter Lelia took responsibility for running the business, assisted by otehr black women. When her husband wanted to stop growing the enterprise, claiming Walker was too ambitious, she divorced him instead and kept working. The company moved its base to Pittsburgh in 1908, and established Lelia College to train "hair culturists" in support of the corporate mission. They in early 1910, Walker built a five-story factory in Indianapolis, Indiana, then the nation's largest inland manufacturing center at the nexus of eight major railroad lines.
The combination of high-quality products geared to the needs of black women, a door-to-door sales strategy with highly trained field representatives, and Walker's own constant marketing presence proved to be phenomenally effective. The company developed multiple product lines, employed thousands of women as "Walker Agents" organized into regional units, and Walker expanded her domain to include the Caribbean and Latin and America. She also promulgated a strict code of hygiene for all sales represenrtatives that presaged the development of state standards for cosmetologists.
The Walkers began a shift east to New York in 1913, when Lelia (by then known as A'Lelia) moved to a townhouse designed by the first registered black architect, Vertner Tandy, in Harlem. She was followed in 1916 by Walker herself, who would continue to oversee the main operations in Indianapolis from her own base in Manhattan, where she became active in the NAACP's anti-lynching movement after the horrible race riots of 1917 in East St. Louis, Illinois, and was one of the largest financial contributors to that and other programs. As her business grew, Walker tied her business and social concerns together by awarding prizes at annual conventions to the sales units that gave the most to charity, as well as those that sold the most merchandise. She constantly encouraged her employees' political activism and sense of social justice, while seting an example through her actions.
Walker moved to a palatial estate, Villa Lewaro, built at a cost of over $250,000 in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, in 1917. Her neighbors included the famously successful industrialists Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller. But Walker was one of the first American women of any race social background to become a millionaire through her own efforts. Asked for the secret to her success, Walker said, "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it - for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard." Unfortunately, her dedication contributed to her decline as well as her success: she was warned by physicians to reduce her load because of hypertension, but continued at her usual pace. Walker died on May 25, 1919, from hypertension, kidney failure, and complications. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.
Through hard work, diligence and commitment, she played a decisive part in creating the role model of a successful black woman entrepreneur, philanthropist, and advocate for social justice. She left a large part of her estate to philanthropic causes, and the factory building in Indianapolis today houses a cultural arts center, a beauty salon, and organizational and professional offices.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” On July 4, 1776 the now United States of America officially issued its Declaration of Independence to the world, but most notably to King George III of England. Paradoxically the majority of men who offered these words, our founding fathers, were themselves slave-owners. It is a laughable absurdity that men who wrote this document could not see the illegitimacy of their words, to fight for their own freedom, while concurrently denying black African slaves theirs. John Locke, the philosopher who helped author the aforementioned passage of the Declaration Independence and the hereditary enslavement of Africans in South Carolina is central to this conflict of ideals – and one of its biggest offenders. He is touted as a champion of liberty while unashamedly participating in the commoditization of other human beings. I can neither reconcile these two antithetical notions nor absolve this purely racist behavior with a clear conscience. However some have tried to exonerate this immense contradiction, to which I will refute.
South Carolina permits us to understand the relationship between white supremacy and freedom. Lord Ashley sought the help of John Locke to write the Fundamental Constitution of a group of eight landowners known as the Lord Proprietor, who owned the majority of colonial settlements in South Carolina. This document sought to manage and maintain the social hierarchy of the feudalist agrarian society. It stated in more words that landowners, “landgraves” & “caziques”, would perpetually lord over indentured servants, “leet-men”. Moreover the document stated that the colony would also be built upon the hereditary enslavement of Africans. Whilst indentured servants (whites) could repay debt through their labor and receive a plot of land at the conclusion of their servitude, slaves (blacks) were to be in bondage from birth until death. This creation of a class and primarily racially-stratified system was also supported by John Locke’s idea of the ownership of Private Property.
He developed a theory of property rights grounded upon labor. Such rights entitled the technologically and economically advanced to settle and exploit land that was under-exploited by less advanced natives; the failure to protect such rights deprived rulers of their authority to govern.
The foregrounding of property rights did nothing of benefit slaves, who were themselves considered to be property. In setting out the constitution of Carolina, Locke had given “Every Freeman of Carolina…absolute Power and Authority over his Negro Slaves.” Paradoxically, it was writers lodging for the glamour of older, feudal values who entered imaginatively into the horrors of enslavement. Locke’s attack on political absolutism in Britain is an important moment in intellectual and political history, but the European imagination had to develop a long way before his hatred of tyranny could be applied to the condition of black Africans.
Africans were considered property, as shown in this excerpt. Nonetheless there seems to be no direct qualms about this fact illustrated in Locke’s literature, which was not to be expected. David Roediger uses the Carolina episode to explore, as he says “the philosophical connection between white supremacy and freedom.” Roediger argues that we can reconcile his political theory regarding slave holding if we look at him as a colonial functionary and planner. He argues that Locke was simply a benefactor of being an intellectual at the rise of personal whiteness within a slave-based society. I do not contest that Locke was a direct beneficiary of mounting white supremacist fervor in the colonies. However it is not a relevant excuse. Not only was he a colonial planner, he used his role to create racial distinctions and excuse the practice of slavery.
In honoring Christian laws and ethics of the day it was an abomination to enslave other Christians, indeed there were many Africans who had been forcibly converted to Christianity. In fact, the very first slaves imported to America (Jamestown Colony) in 1619 by the Spanish, had been christened or baptized, and thus by that act were enfranchised or set free according to English law and should have been admitted to privileges of a free person. In drafting the Carolina constitution Locke and Lord Ashley gave reasoning for not emancipating converted Africans, “Since charity obliges us to wish well to the souls of all men, and religion ought to alter nothing in any man’s civil estate or right…it shall be lawful for slaves [to] be of what church or profession any of them shall think best, and, therefore, be as fully members as any freeman.” I find it hard for Roediger to reconcile his actions, as Locke undeniably helped white supremacist documents, but also as a man of loose morals. In addition by giving reasoning for the bondage of other Christians they implicitly admit that the institution is wrong, and to that end that by stating that their property has converted – is a testament to the humanity of slaves.
William Uzgalist’s reconciliation of Locke is even more incendiary. He contrasts the idea represented by the intellectual Popkin who argues that Locke's theory justifies and legitimizes the institutions and practices of Afro-American slavery. While the chief reason for writing the book may have been to justify resistance to the King, a subsidiary reason may have been to justify the practices of the Afro-American slave trade. Comparatively Uzgalist argues the theory of slavery explains both why royal autocracy and chattel slavery are wrong -- for they represent 'the same tyrannical principle.' Just as the efforts of the English king to illegitimately enslave his people is wrong, so the efforts of African and English slave traders and slave holders is illegitimate.
Uzgalist does this by arguing many things but primarily two major points: 1. Locke’s Theory is incompatible with African American Slavery; and 2. Locke was not a Racist. In arguing that Locke’s Theory as read in the Second Treatise, was incompatible with slavery and that he was not a racist, Uzgalist highlights that Locke made only one justification for slavery, for captives taken in a just war – engaging in unjust aggression. However, slavery is not benevolent in any form. In addition how would one find that an action was an aggression? It appears that would only be decided by the victor of battle whether they were the instigator or not. John Locke used this justification in 1768 when advising governor Nicholson of Virginia. Locke disputed that “Negro slaves were justifiably enslaved, having been taken captive in a just war thus forfeiting their liberty.”
Furthermore Locke argues the doctrine of equality is evidence that he could not be a racist. Yet, even Uzgalist does not completely believe that Locke is not a racist. “Locke, at least implicitly, would deny the claim that blacks or other peoples of color had the same natural rights as white men.” As he continues to capitulate, he argues that there is a distinction between strong racism and weak racism. However no distinction can be made because racism is racism. Uzgalist does a poor job of defending the seemingly racist ideals that settlers could dispossess Indian land or black Africans from land because they did not make their land “lie waste.” Nonetheless he never acknowledges the fact that on productive white land it was primarily Native Americans and African slaves tending to the land. Also in Locke’s On Human Understanding he described organized fantasies he characteristically treated as fact – of African women giving birth to the children of apes.
Not only did Locke harbor racist attitudes he directly benefited from and participated in the slave trade. Locke was a share holder in The Royal Africa Company, a company which carried on the slave trade for England. Locke, along with Shaftsbury and many others bought shares in the Royal Africa Company. Locke later sold his shares at a profit. Locke also held a significant share in the Bahama Adventurers, another company which traded in slaves in the Bahama Islands. Given his involvement with English colonial policies, commercial ventures involving the colonies and English trade, it is clear that Locke knew as much or more than anyone in England about the colonies, the slave trade, and slavery. Thus, when he wrote his theory of slavery in the Second Treatise he was writing with detailed knowledge of the nature of the slave trade and the practices of Afro-American slavery in the 1670s.
Uzgalist gives many conciliatory arguments as to why Locke is the philosopher of liberation as he is painted in grade school. Farr and Uzgalist’s attempt to save his legacy is even more upsetting. To that end they both embody the air of white supremacy that “our” nation’s founders were heroes. I’m sure they would argue that Thomas Jefferson was a friend of the slave too, or that when the founding fathers wrote all men are created equal that any of their racist actions were an exception or out-of-character.
Both John Henrik Clarke and Anthony Browder conceptualized the domination of White Europeans over Peoples of African descent, their particular focus within a historical frame of reference. For both of these African-centered scholars, White supremacy is inextricably interwoven with the notion and practice of white racism. Therefore White supremacy is not something merely to be associated with White hate groups and the Ku Klux Klan of North America and the British National Party of the United Kingdom. On the contrary, White supremacy manifests in the social, economic, political and cultural history of European expansion and the development of the New World. It is a history and experience that has a life span of more than 5 centuries. At the dawn of a new millennium, it can be confidently stated that the world continues to be maintained by various forms of White supremacy.
Locke effectively managed to empower the landowning white male class by helping to subordinate poor whites, African slaves, and Native Americans. By explicitly distinguishing between the races through legal advising he successfully discerned who was truly free and who was not. This legacy of denying freedom, movement, liberty, and property to certain peoples, and exclusively to white males, not only created and supported the idea of white supremacy, but also helped it endure through the years. For example all of our Founding Fathers were white males who were property owners. So as slaves were undoubtedly unequal under law, so to were women, Native Americans, and poor whites also disenfranchised. This phenomenon shows that white supremacy is just as much about white racism as it is about male supremacy and wealth supremacy.
Farr and Uzgalist give reasons for how we can reconcile Locke’s action in various ways but neither of them can logically explain how he could have been part of writing the Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. They contend that his racism was weak racism instead of strong racism. The idea that John Locke could have been part of institutionalizing slavery and white supremacy, while still being seen as a liberator, is irreconcilable. In addition any attempt to do so embodies a snub sentiment of white supremacy and demonstrates a disregard for the truth and reality.
 Roediger, David How Race Survived U.S. History: from Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon (New York: Verso 2008), p. 8.
 Hughes, Derek Versions of Blackness: Key Texts of Slavery from the Seventeenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press 2007), p. xxvii.
 Roediger, p. 10.
 Higginbotham Jr., A. Leon In the Matter of Color, Race & The America Legal Process: The Colonial Period (New York: Oxford University Press 1978), p. 21.
 Roediger, p. 9.
 Lott, Tommy L. Subjugation and Bondage: Critical Essays on Slavery and Social Philosophy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 1998), p. 60.
 Lott, Tommy L. et. al. A Companion to African-American Philosophy (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2006), p. 131.
 Lott, Tommy L., p. 56.
 Farr, James Political Theory Vol. 14, No. 2 (May, 1986), pp. 263-289 retrieved on internet 2/10/10.
 Roediger, p. 16.
 Roediger, p. 26.
 Lott, p. 55.
 Christian, Mark An African-Centered Perspective on White Supremacy. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, 13th Cheikh Anta Diop Conference Selected Proceeding. Retrieved on the internet on 2/10/10.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Your full glory and happiness... shall never be fully consummated, but with the entire emancipation of your universal brethren all over the world ... For I believe it is the will of the Lord that our greatest happiness shall consist in working for the salvation of the whole body. When this is accomplished a burst of glory will shine upon you, which will indeed astonish you and the world.
- Rap, Race and Revolution, Solutions for our Struggle - Part Two p. 106 by Supreme Understanding
For those who think that revolution is only for Black people, the Spook wanted to share this piece he found that was written 180 years ago.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The Deep South of the late 1950s was another country: a land of lynchings, segregated lunch counters, whites-only restrooms, and a color line etched in blood across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. White journalist John Howard Griffin, working for the black-owned magazine Sepia, decided to cross that line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man.
What happened to John Howard Griffin - from the outside and within himself - as he made his way through the segregated Deep South is recorded in this searing work of nonfiction. Educated and soft-spoken, John Howard Griffin changed only the color of his skin. It was enough to make him hated... enough to nearly get him killed. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity every American must read.
John Griffin wrote this book in the early 60s and published it in 1962. He later wrote an epilogue on his thoughts, entitled: What's Happened since Black Like Me:
"The experiment that led to writing Black Like Me was done at the very end of 1959, before the first "freedom rides" or any other manifestation of national concern about racisl injustice. It was undertaken to discover if America was involved in the practice of racism against black Americans. Most white Americans denied any taint of racism and really believed that in this land we judged every man by his qualities as a human individual. In those days, any mention of racism brought to the public's mind the Nazi suppression of Jewish people, the concentration camps, the gas chambers - and certainly, we protested, we were not like that.
If we could not accept our somewhat different practice of racist suppression of black Americans, how could we ever hope to correct it? Our experience with the Nazis had shown one thing: where racism is practiced, it damages the whole community, not just the victim group....
Were we racists or were we not? That was the important thing to discover. Black men told me that the only way a white man could hope to understand anything about this reality was to wake up some morning in a black man's skin. I decided to try this in order to test this one thing. In order to make the test, I would alter my pigment and shave my head, but change nothing else... "
The Spook read this book nearly 40 years ago. Yet, racism at this same level exists in the Fire Department, the Police Department, the law firms, hospitals and in varied other DC institutions harbored by some white people even today. Racism, sexism and other negative 'isms' are mostly supported by a capitalist economic system that is based on exploitation and supported by its actions to divide and conquer on the basis of class, race and sex, to name a few areas. The Spook commends this book to your attention and reminds you, that To Change Things we must learn things; and to learn things we must change everything.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
In recognition of Black History Month, the Spook will contribute an article by Malcolm X, one of the most misunderstood Americans in history. This, his writing of a history he witnessed (readings), is not an indictment of all European descendants now living in America, for we know there is only one race, the human race. Yet it is well documented the criminal way some Europeans have treated his brothers and sisters who are not European. It is this history recounted by Malcolm X that is featured here that should be read and learned to be better humans and family.
HOW MALCOLM X STUDIED AFRO-AMERICAN HISTORY
Norfolk Prison Colony’s library was one of its outstanding features. A millionaire named Parkhurst had willed his library there; he had probably been interested in the rehabilitation program. History and Religions were his special interests. Thousands of his books were on the shelves, and in the back were boxes and crates full, for which there wasn’t space on the shelves. At Norfolk, we could actually go into the library, with permission – walk up and down the shelves, pick books. There were hundreds of old volumes, some of them probably quite rare. I read aimlessly, until I learned to read selectively, with a purpose…*
I can remember accurately the very first set of books that really impressed me. I have since bought that set of books and have it at home for my children to read as they grow up. It’s called Wonders of the World. It’s full of pictures of archaeological finds, statues that depict, usually, non-European people.
I found books like Will Durant’s Story of Civilization. I read H.G. Wells’ Outline of History. Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Dubois gave me a glimpse into the black people’s history before they came to this country. Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History opened my eyes about black empires before the black slave was brought to the United States, and the early Negro struggles for freedom.
J.A. Rogers’ three volumes of Sex and Race told about race-mixing before Christ’s time; about Aesop being a black man who told fables; about Egypt’s Pharaohs; about the great Coptic Christian Empires; about Ethiopia, the earth’s oldest continuous black civilization, as China is the oldest continuous civilization.
I never will forget how shocked I was when I began reading about slavery’s total horror. It made such an impact upon me that it later became one of my favorite subjects when I became a minister of Mr. Muhammad’s. The world’s most monstrous crime, the sin and the blood on the white man’s hands, are almost impossible to believe. Books like the one by Frederick Olmstead opened my eyes to the horrors offered when the slave was landed in the United States. The European woman Fannie Kimball [Kemble], who had married a Southern white slaveowner, described how human beings were degraded. Of course I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In fact, I believe that’s the only novel I have ever read since I started serious reading.
Parkhurst’s collection also contained some bound pamphlets of the Abolitionist Anti-Slavery Society of New England. I read descriptions of atrocities; saw those illustrations of black slave women tied up and flogged with whips; of black mothers watching their babies being dragged off, never to be seen by their mothers again; of dogs after slaves, and of the fugitive slave catchers, evil white men with whips and clubs and chains and guns. I read about the slave preacher Nat Turner, who put the fear of God into the white slave-master. Nat Turner wasn’t going around preaching pie-in-the-sky and “non-violent” freedom for the black man. There is Virginia one night in 1831, Nat and seven other slaves started out at his master’s home and through the night they went from one plantation” big house” to the next, killing, until by the next morning 57 white people were dead and Nat had about 70 slaves following him. White people, terrified for their lives, fled from their homes, locked themselves up in public buildings, hid in the woods, and some even left the state. A small army of soldiers took two months to catch and hang Nat Turner. Somewhere I have read where Nat Turner’s example is said to have inspired john Brown to invade Virginia and attack Harper’s Ferry nearly thirty years later, with thirteen white men and five Negroes…
Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world’s black, brown, red and yellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation. I saw how since the sixteenth century, the so-called “Christian trader” white man began to ply the seas in his lust for Asian and African empires, and plunder, and power. I read, I saw, how the white man never has gone among the non-white peoples bearing the Cross in the true manger and spirit of Christ’s teachings – meek, humble, and Christlike.
I perceived, as I read, how the collective white man had been actually nothing but a piratical opportunist who used Faustian machinations to make his own Christianity his initial wedge in criminal conquests. First, always “religiously,” he branded “heathen” and “pagan” labels upon ancient non-white cultures and civilizations. The stage thus set, he then turned upon his non-white victims his weapons of war…
Over 115 million African blacks – close to the 1930’s population of the United States – were murdered or enslaved during the slave trade. And I read how when the slave market was glutted, the cannibalistic white powers of Europe next carved up, as their colonies, the richest areas of the black continent. And Europe’s chancelleries for the next century played a chess game of naked exploitation and power from Cape Horn to Cairo …*
I’ll tell you something. The whole stream of Western philosophy has now wound up in a cul-de-sac. The white man has perpetrated upon himself, as well as upon the black man, so gigantic a fraud that he has put himself into a crack. He did it through his elaborate, neurotic necessity to hide the black man’s true role in history.
And today the white man is faced head on with what is happening on the Black Continent, Africa. Look at the artifacts being discovered there, that are proving over and over again, how the black man had great, fine, sensitive civilizations before the white man was out of the caves. Below the Sahara, in the places where most of America’s Negroes’ foreparents were kidnapped, there is being unearthed some of the finest craftsmanship, sculpture and other objects, that has ever been seen by modern man. Some of these things now are on view in such places as New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Gold work of such fine tolerance and workmanship that it has no rival. Ancient objects produced by black hands. . . refined by those black hands with results that no human hand today can equal.
History has been so “whitened” by the white man that even the black professors have known little more than the most ignorant black man about the talents and rich civilizations and cultures of the black man of millenniums ago. I have lectured in Negro colleges and some of these brainwashed black Ph.D.’s, with their suspenders dragging the ground with degrees have run to the white man’s newspapers calling me a “black fanatic.” Why, a lot of them are fifty years behind the times. If I were president of one of these black colleges..I’d hock the campus if I had to, to send a bunch of black students off digging in Africa for more and more proof of the black race’s historical greatness. The white man now is in Africa digging and searching. An African elephant can’t stumble without falling on some white man with a shovel. Practically every week, we read about some great new find from Africa’s lost civilizations. All that’s new is white science’s attitude. The ancient civilizations of the black man have been buried on the Black Continent all the time.
Here is an example: a British anthropologist named Dr. Louis S.B. Leakey is displaying some fossil bones – a foot, part of a hand, some jaws, and skull fragments. On the basis of these, Dr. Leakey has said it’s time to rewrite completely the history of man’s origin.
This species of man lived 1,828,036 years before Christ. And these bones were found in Tanganyika [now Tanzania] . In the Black Continent.
It’s a crime, the lie that has been told to generations of black men and white men both. Little innocent black children, born of parents who believed that their race had no history. Little black children seeing, before they could talk, that their parents considered themselves inferior. Innocent black children growing up, living out their lives, dying of old age – and all of their lives ashamed of being black. But the truth is pouring out of the bag now….*
In the words of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, "Wake up everybody! We need some help y'all. Remember, the world won't get no better if we just let it be; we've got to change it, just you and me.