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    A Time For Slave Revolts

    Many students of human behavior and historians have wondered why black slaves suffered such inhumane treatment for so many centuries and attempted so few revolts. People do not typically revolt when conditions are so oppressive that they have no hope of succeeding. The slavery system was comprehensive and effective. They were not only heavily outnumbered, but they had no weapons to speak of, or training to use them. Confined to plantations, they had little knowledge of the physical terrain of the South. Few could read or write. Their skin color made them highly visible targets for the white militias that patrolled the roads night and day to quell potential unrest. Most of the North was still allied with southern slaveholders, and blacks did not have irate African nations crossing the Atlantic seeking revenge and to free their enslaved people.

    Even though slaves often considered themselves little more than the working dead, they knew that a failed revolt meant certain death. In both direct and indirect ways, many slaves found ways to resist, even under the most treacherous of circumstances. Most slaves were overwhelmed by the magnitude of their situation that they preferred to withdraw from reality or psychologically join their white oppressors. At a subtle level of resistance, slaves nonetheless responded to white oppression by feigning illness, crippling themselves, committing suicide, poisoning their masters, and setting fire to properties on which they labored. More aggressive slaves escaped to “maroon” settlements and Indian communities in the wilderness, where they often plotted against their oppressors. Maroons were groups of escaped slaves who established their own communities. They routinely raided slave plantations for food, supplies and to liberate other slaves.

    While most slave revolts in America were small and ineffective, at least three chilled the hearts of southerners. The three key revolts were led by Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), and Nat Turner( 1831). These revolts set the stage for the ultimate revolt, the Civil War of the 1860s, that ended slavery as an institution.


    The Struggle Continues and The Struggle is Real


    Remember the Alamo?

    Annexing Mexican land to extend slavery and grow cotton were key factors that led to the Texas War and the fall of the Alamo. Beyond the textbooks, movies, and Saturday morning television myths, the freedom for which Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and the hundreds of Alamo defenders were fighting, was the freedom to own black slaves. Mexico had outlawed human slavery, but white planters had moved onto and set up squatter rights on Mexican lands. Having been warned by Mexican authorities not to hold slaves on Mexican lands, white planters sought to circumvent the law by pretending their slaves had voluntarily signed lifetime service contracts. The Mexican government rejected the white settlers’ argument that their black workers were not slaves, but contracted, lifetime servants. General Santa Ana attacked and killed all the white settlers inside the Alamo. The battle triggered a Mexican-American War that lasted only a matter of weeks. After America won its war with Mexico, it annexed Texas and the southwestern territory. Surprisingly when the Alamo is remembered, black slavery, the cause of the war, is never mentioned.


    Harriet Tubman

    Without a doubt, Harriet Tubman was a barenuckled freedom fighter and liberator of her people. As the progenitor of the Underground Railroad, a metaphor for helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada or free states, Tubman did a man’s work and bore the lash. Although her spirit was strong as her body, she carried a pistol and was prepared to use it to engender respect from whites and intestinal fortitude from cautious blacks. At great risk to her own life,Tubman made repeated trips into hostile southern areas to draw enslaved blacks out of captivity. Over a 30-year period, she led more than 300 escaping black slaves to freedom in the North.

    According to legend, Tubman announced her departure times on the Underground Railroad at least twice a day by singing the hymn “Steal Away “ and “Follow the Drinking Gourd” within ear shot of slave cabins. To guide the runaway slaves, the songs suggested that they follow the tail of the Big Dipper constellation to the North Star. After escorting hundreds of runaways to freedom, Tubman was finally able to entice her own parents into the Underground Railroad and guide them North as well to “freedom’s land.”

    She supported John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid and would have accompanied him had she not been ill. Later, during the Civil War, she served as a nurse and spied for the North. For over a generation after the Civil War, she cared for poverty-stricken freed slaves. After a 40 year fight with the United States government, she finally received a Civil War pension in early 1900s, just before she died.


    Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017)

    In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

    As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.

    In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

    by Ibram X. Kendi

    Get it here

    Ibram X. Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning historian. He is Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. 

    A frequent public speaker, Kendi specializes in the history of racism and antiracism. He is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation, 2016), which won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction. He is also the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement (Palgrave, 2012). Kendi’s writings have appeared in Black Perspectives, Salon, The New York Times and more.

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    “On July 31, 1968, a young, black man was reading the newspaper when he saw something that he had never seen before. With tears in his eyes, he started running and screaming throughout the house, calling for his mom. He would show his mom, and, she would gasp, seeing something she thought she would never see in her lifetime. Throughout the nation, there were similar reactions.

    What they saw was Franklin Armstrong’s first appearance on the iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” Franklin would be 50 years old this year.

    Franklin was “born” after a school teacher, Harriet Glickman, had written a letter to creator Charles M. Schulz after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death outside his Memphis hotel room.

    Glickman, who had kids of her own and having worked with kids, was especially aware of the power of comics among the young. “And my feeling at the time was that I realized that black kids and white kids never saw themselves [depicted] together in the classroom,” she would say.

    She would write, “Since the death of Martin Luther King, ‘I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.‘”

    Glickman asked Schulz if he could consider adding a black character to his popular comic strip, which she hoped would bring the country together and show people of color that they are not excluded from American society.

    She had written to others as well, but the others feared it was too soon, that it may be costly to their careers, that the syndicate would drop them if they dared do something like that.

    Charles Schulz did not have to respond to her letter, he could have just completely ignored it, and everyone would have forgotten about it. But, Schulz did take the time to respond, saying he was intrigued with the idea, but wasn’t sure whether it would be right, coming from him, he didn’t want to make matters worse, he felt that it may sound condescending to people of color.

    Glickman did not give up, and continued communicating with Schulz, with Schulz surprisingly responding each time. She would even have black friends write to Schulz and explain to him what it would mean to them and gave him some suggestions on how to introduce such a character without offending anyone. This conversation would continue until one day, Schulz would tell Glickman to check her newspaper on July 31, 1968.

    On that date, the cartoon, as created by Schulz, shows Charlie Brown meeting a new character, named Franklin. Other than his color, Franklin was just an ordinary kid who befriends and helps Charlie Brown. Franklin also mentions that his father was “over at Vietnam.” At the end of the series, which lasted three strips, Charlie invites Franklin to spend the night one day so they can continue their friendship.

    There was no big announcement, there was no big deal, it was just a natural conversation between two kids, whose obvious differences did not matter to them. And, the fact that Franklin’s father was fighting for this country was also a very strong statement by Schulz.

    Although Schulz never made a big deal over the inclusion of Franklin, there were many fans, especially in the South, who were very upset by it and that made national news. One Southern editor even said, “I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.”

    It would eventually lead to a conversation between Schulz and the president of the comic’s distribution company, who was concerned about the introduction of Franklin and how it might affect Schulz’ popularity. Many newspapers during that time had threatened to cut the strip.

    Schulz’ response: “I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklin – he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”

    Eventually, Franklin became a regular character in the comic strips, and, despite complaints, Franklin would be shown sitting in front of Peppermint Patty at school and playing center field on her baseball team.

    More recently, Franklin is brought up on social media around Thanksgiving time, when the animated 1973 special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” appears. Some people have blamed Schulz for showing Franklin sitting alone on the Thanksgiving table, while the other characters sit across him. But, Schulz did not have the same control over the animated cartoon on a television network that he did on his own comic strip in the newspapers.

    But, he did have control over his own comic strip, and, he courageously decided to make a statement because of one brave school teacher who decided to ask a simple question.

    Glickman would explain later that her parents were “concerned about others, and the values that they instilled in us about caring for and appreciating everyone of all colors and backgrounds — this is what we knew when we were growing up, that you cared about other people … And so, during the years, we were very aware of the issues of racism and civil rights in this country [when] black people had to sit at the back of the bus, black people couldn’t sit in the same seats in the restaurants that you could sit … Every day I would see, or read, about black children trying to get into school and seeing crowds of white people standing around spitting at them or yelling at them … and the beatings and the dogs and the hosings and the courage of so many people in that time.”

    Because of Glickman, because of Schulz, people around the world were introduced to a little boy named Franklin.” (Source: The Jon S. Randal Peace Page, Facebook)

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