Why Didn't They Tell You?

Dr. FRANK MARTINS COMMENTARY ON HISTORICAL, SOCIAL & ECONOMIC ISSUES OF OUR TIME

… that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part IV – the Cultural Impact

The Africans who came to America before Columbus, over a period of 2,500 years or more, had a profound influence on American culture. The following are some of the probable areas of influence:

  1. Pyramid building
  2. Hieroglyphic writing
  3. Religious practices
  4. Language
  5. Agriculture
  6. Smoking

Before talking about the contributions, I invite you to view at the end of this essay the samples of “Negroid” individuals depicted by Ancient Americans. Some of these representations from Latin America precede Columbus by more than 2,000 years.

Pyramid Building

Interestingly the appearance of the pyramids and hieroglyphic writing in Mexico among the Olmecs is associated with the appearance of the massive Negroid heads. Van Sertima very effectively established the connection between Mexican pyramid building and Egypto/Nubian pyramid building. I discussed this in my previous blog post. Generally when scholars discuss the Central American pyramids, they will also mention Egyptian pyramids without making a connection because of the obvious similarities between the two.  

Hieroglyphic Writing

A few examples of actual Egyptian hieroglyphs writing have been found in Mexico. Obviously Egyptian and Nubian flora, fauna, and other symbols were replaced by American flora, fauna, and symbols. Cheikh Anta Diop tells us that most of the animals and plants used in Egyptians hieroglyphs are from Nubia.  

Religious Practices

Van Sertima makes the following observation:

“Some ritual practices that are almost identical in America and Egypt, which we may safely date from the Olmecs onward and which point to an outside influence, are the wearing of false beards by high priests, the ritual use of purple as an exclusively royal and priestly color, incest between royal siblings and a complex of royal paraphernalia, such as the ceremonial umbrella and litter and the bird-serpent motif in coats of arms and royal diadems.” (They Came Before Columbus, p. 164)

Thus the plumed serpent, or bird-serpent, motif (a part of religious symbolism of Mexican religious practices going back to the Olmec civilization), appears to be an African import from Egypt. Van Sertima posits that the bird-serpent motif comes from inner Africa where we find the secretary bird who is the mortal enemy of snakes. Eagles, and probably other birds of prey, kill snakes but none can approach the ferocity and deadliness of the African secretary bird in dealing with snakes. In Egyptian symbolism, the Horus Falcon or Hawk (one of the titles of the pharaoh was Hawk of Nubia) replaces the secretary bird. The fight between Horus and Seth may be viewed as the battle between the hawk (or falcon) and the serpent, the representation of evil. In the end Horus wins, good overcomes evil. This motif is incorporated into Egyptian royal symbolism in the winged sun disc.1

As we come up to the time of the Aztecs, the Middle Ages, we see the bird-serpent motif associated with the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Indeed, quetzal means bird or plume and coatl means serpent. An eagle killing a snake at the spot where Tenochtitlan (center of Mexico City) was founded is part of the founding legend for the modern state of Mexico. Hence the coat-of-arms of Mexico incorporates an eagle standing on a cactus fighting a rattle snake (See Featured Image at the top of this post).

Because Emperor Ababukari and his Mandingos landed on the shores of Mexico exactly six cycles after the last appearance of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs took him to be the reappearance of that god. The fact that as the Emperor’s ship came in “they could see quite clearly the outlines of a great golden bird” (p. 74) served as further confirmation that this black man from a land burning in the white heat of the sun must be the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl. This explain why Quetzalcoatl was sometimes represented as black.

While doing research for a work for a comparative grammar on American languages, Leo Wiener noticed that some American words had a foreign origin, some European and some African. In the area of magic and religion, he claimed to show “… by documentary evidence to what extraordinary extent the Indian medicine-man owes his evolution to the African medicine-man …”2

Language

Wiener demonstrates that the American words for banana, yam, sweet potato, manioc (cassava), and tobacco in American languages are of foreign origin. He shows that the word for tobacco was introduced to the Americans by Africans and is of Arabic origin and conclude that “Indeed, when we turn to the appellations of the sweet potato yam in America, we find nothing but African forms.” (Wiener, p. 262).  Van Sertima reinforces Wiener’s conclusions. The linguistics analysis of these transfers is quite complicated. I refer you to Van Sertima and Wierner for some very illuminating discussions.

Agriculture

The following are some of the crops introduced to America from Africa.

  1. An African species of cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) was introduced to America during the 4th millennium (between 3,000 and 4,000) B.C. and crossed with a wild New World cotton “to form the New World tetraploid cotton…” This was accomplished by an “… African man, bearing cotton seed, made the drift journey to the Americas in the fourth millennium B.C.” (Van Sertima, p. 193). Scientific experiments proved that the cotton seed could not have gotten here by floating in the ocean. That is why Van Sertima concluded that an African man had to have brought the G. herbaceum cotton seed to America. Additionally this is indirect evidence of a very early African contact with the Americas.
  2. We know for certain that the cultivation of the yam originated in Africa, probably West Africa, and, therefore, was a transplant to the Americas.
  3. Wiener concluded that “Indians learned the cultivation of manioc (cassava) from the Congo Negroes … “(p. 248).
  4. In her seminal work, Black Rice: African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas, Judith Carney argued for, and conclusively demonstrated, the primacy of African rice and skills in rice’s development in the Americas. She noted that “A knowledge long practiced in West Africa was brought with slaves across the Atlantic” (p. 2). It stands to reason that this same knowledge was transferred by Africans who came to America before Columbus, especially since the Mandingos are prominently mentioned as one of the African people who came to places such as Veracruz in Central Mexico. The Mandingos, being descendants of the people of the West African medieval empire of Mali, would have had intimate knowledge of rice cultivation. The village that Carney accidently discovered south of Veracruz is called Mandinga and the villagers were Afro-Mexicans living in an areas where rice had been grown.

Smoking

Wiener first notes that “there arose in Africa the habit of smoking.” (p. 112) In other words, Africans invented the habit of smoking but did not domesticate tobacco; domestication is attributed to Arabs. Wiener goes on to say that “… there can be little doubt that the pipe was equally introduced by them [Africans] into America, and that the Arawaks and Negroes carried it north, to Florida, together with tobacco.” (p. 177). Van Sertima comes to the same conclusion, namely, that Africans introduced the Native Americans to pipes and the smoking of tobacco. The Africans made pipes with an artistic flair, usually decorated with animals. The fact that some of the early pipes in American were decorated with elephants was further proof that these pipes were made or inspired by Africans. No elephants are native to America.    

This brief list of African contributions to the culture of the Americas is by no means exhaustive. It does not address transfers such as iron-working that undoubtedly occurred during the slave era.

Notes and References

  1. Below is an example of an Egyptian winged sun disc
  • 2 . African Medieval Pipes
  • Von Wuthenau, Alexander (1975). Unexpected faces in Ancient America: The historical testimony of Pre-Columbian artist (1500 B. C. – 1500 A. D.).
  • Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They came before Columbus: the African presence in Ancient America. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, pp.145-155.
  • Wiener, Leo (1920). Africa and the discovery of America. Philadelphia: Innes & Sons, Forward.Carney, Judith A. (2001). Black rice: African origins of rice cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Harvard University Press.

1. Three Terracotta heads


92.  a. Terracotta head from Morelos, Mexico, Pre-Classic. This piece shows an African hair style and nose ring. b. Terracotta head from La Venta, Tabasco, showing kinky hair, Museum Villahermosa, Tabasco. Height 7 cm.  c. Pre-Classic head from Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala.
Source: Von Wuthenau

2. Tattoo with Scarification Tattooing

106. Veracruz Classical terracotta head with scarification tattooing. The eye technique resembles earliest Nock-style terracotta from Nigeria, Africa. Height 11 cm.
Source: Von Wuthenau

3. Mountain Rock Face at Morelos

Source: von Wuthenau
Von Wuthenau makes the following observations about this rock carving, “Recently an incredible rock carving was discovered on a mountaintop in the state of Morelos, Mexico … For us the most unexpected surprise was a big stone face carved out of the living rock, situated above all the other reliefs in the same place. For almost 3,000 years this face has been gazing over the vast valleys of Morelos in the direction of the snow-covered peak of Pococatepetl, Mexico’s famous volanco. The features of the face are indisputably Negroid.” (p. 136)

4. Magician from Honduras

Source: von Wuthenau

5. Terracotta Heads from Tlatilco

Source: von Wuthenau

6. Monumental Head from Tres Zapotes

Source: von Wuthenau

7. Early Negroid Representation at Morelos

Source: von Wuthenau

8. Classic Olmec Head

Source: von Wuthenau

9. Head from Veracruz

Source: von Wuthenau

 10. Classic Terracotta

Source: von Wuthenau

11. Veracruz Terracotta

Source; von Wuthenau

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part III – The Mayas

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part III – The Mayas

In an extraordinary documentary called Unearthed: Lost City of the Maya, the narrator shows scenes from a mural from Central Mexico of soldiers marching from Teotihuacan (about 30 miles northwest of Mexico City) to the Mayan City of Tikal, Guatemala (a 600 mile trek from the west) who overthrow the Mayan King Jaguar Paw and replace him with the Mexican King Spear Thrower Owl. All of the Maya king’s attendants are killed and Jaguar Paw’s head is cut off. This happened in the year 378 A.D. The dates and events are known because they are recorded in the Mayan calendar and hieroglyphic writing. As the narrator points out, this date is associated with the meteoric rise of Tikal and is the most celebrated date in Mayan history. The city’s population would grow to 100,000 at its peak. Along with the growth in population would be tremendous economic growth, including building of massive monuments and temples.

The narrator goes into some detail in describing the overthrow of Jaguar Paw and his replacement with Spear Thrower Owl, but he never comments on the thing about the mural that grabs the eye immediately. The deposed Maya king and his guards are pale white with blond hair but the king that replaces him is black. (See the camera snapshots of the murals below). The Mexican soldiers are brown, not red, but their King Spear Thrower Owl is darker than they are; he is black. It would seem that this stark contrast in the appearance of the conquered and the conqueror would have elicited some comment but there is none. It is not just the blackness of Spear Thrower Owl that should have elicited comment or explanation but also the paleness of the Maya king. Clearly the typical Guatemalan of today is not as pale as Jaguar Paw and his guards and the typical Mexican from Central Mexico is not as dark as Spear Thrower Owl. The commentator chose to just let the sleeping dog lie; he did not want to open that can of worms. Von Wuthenau informed us that Caucasoid types found their way to the Americas on numerous occasions many centuries before Columbus arrived. But let us examine the dark Mexicans from Teotihuacan.

These dark warriors with their black king come from Central Mexico, Teotihuacan, center of the Olmec civilization, the mother of Mesoamerican civilization, going back some 3,000 years, and of the medieval Aztec civilization. When the soldiers of Spear Thrower Owl march on Tikal, Classic Olmec civilization has been over for about 700 years. Recall that the colossal African heads appear at the beginning of Classic Olmec period, some 3,000 years ago. But that was not the end of African appearance in Mexico and the Americas. Indeed, Van Sertima reminds us that, “Africans move through all their major periods, from the time of the Olmec culture around 800 B.C., when they rise in massive stone sculptures, through the medieval Mexico of the Mayas.”1 The fact that these appearances are in Central Mexico, not far from the Mexican state of Vera Cruz, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico to the east, is not accidental, though their landing there may have been an accident. It’s the ocean winds and currents.

There are winds and currents between Africa and America that can take hold of an ocean vessel leaving   Africa, be it West Africa or northeast Africa, and cause it to drift into American lands. Alphonse de Quatrefages has noted, “We only see these black men in America in those places washed by the Kouro-Sivo [a Pacific current known as the black stream] and the Equatorial of the Atlantic or its divisions.”2 (See map below). One of the Atlantic currents can take a ship or a boat right to Central Mexico to the part that borders on the Gulf of Mexico. Van Sertima makes the case that Africans have been making seaworthy vessels for several millennia. Using paintings and reliefs in Egyptian burial chambers as models, Thor Heyerdahl hired boat builders living near Lake Chad in central Africa to build his reed boat the Ra which was used to demonstrate that such a boat could make the Atlantic crossing to America from North Africa. A few days before reaching the New World, the crew of the Ra ran into trouble because they had left off a rope running down the middle of the boat in Egyptian painting. They found out that the rope was essential to the boat staying together, made the correction, and successfully made the journey in Ra II.3

Most Americanists (those who specialize in Ancient American studies) still will not acknowledge that any Africans came to America before Columbus, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is important to keep in mind why the traditional Americanist scholar will not accept the evidence. It is because they have been inculcated with a point of view that denies that African are capable of the things that are attributed to them, even if the crossing was accidental. Also some may stick to the dogma that all Native Americans are descended from the Mongols who crossed the Bering Strait into America 40,000 years ago. They disregard the testimonies of Columbus and early Portuguese and Spanish who found Africans here when they arrived.

There is evidence in Spanish and Portuguese records that the Portuguese received reports from African mariners on the Guinea Coast that if one went due west from the Guinea Coast, one would arrive at a new land. Columbus had visited the Guinea Coast before he set sail for America. Furthermore, there is also evidence that there was trade going on between West Africa and the Americas.4   

Van Sertima relates the following account of a meeting between King Don Juan of Portugal and Christopher Columbus (after his first voyage to America):

“It became clear that Don Juan’s real concern was not with the chain of islands Columbus claimed to have discovered in the Gulf of the Ganges. Beyond them, beyond the mainland of Asia [Columbus thought he had found a new route to Asia], to the south and southeast, lay another world. The king was certain of this. Africans, he said, had traveled to that world. It could be found just below the equinoctial line, roughly on the same parallel as the latitudes of his domain in Guinea. In fact, “boats had been found which started out from Guinea and navigated to the west with merchandise.” He was a fool not to have sent an expeditionary fleet into these waters in spite of persistent rumors and reports.”5

Whether you buy the arguments I have presented or are skeptical, I suggest that you examine the evidence for yourself by going beyond these vignettes I have provided. Someone can tell you there is evidence and even describe it for you but you may not be completely convinced until you investigate and see the evidence for yourself, such as Alexander von Wuthenau’s volumes of pre-Columbian art depicting black Africans, Negroid types. I urge you to do that.

Notes and References

  1. Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They came before Columbus: the African presence in Ancient America. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, p. 27.
  2. de Quatrefages Alphonse (1905). The human species. Appleton: New York, p. 200. Quoted in Van Sertima, They came before Columbus, p. 25.
  3. Van Sertima, p. 59.
  4. Van Sertima, pp. 12-15
  5. Van Sertima, pp. 7-8

Images

Map is taken from The Came Before Columbus, p. 132

The five scenes are phone snapshots from Unearthed: Lost City of the Maya

Scene 1: Spear Thrower Owl’s Soldiers marching to Tikal
Scene 2: Jaguar Paw sitting on throne before arrival of soldiers from Teotihuacan

Scene 3: Killing of Jaguar Paw’s guards
Scene 4: Decapitation of Jaguar Paw
Scene 5: Spear Thrower Owl sitting on Jaguar Paw’s throne

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part II

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus? – Part II

My last post was meant to whet your appetite by dropping a few ironic gems such as my storing in memory the photo of a black Aztec dancer from high school Spanish book and my being president of a high school Spanish honor society called Quetzalcoatl, an important Aztec-Mexican god. In the next couple of posts, I will give more detail and explanations of the African contacts with Ancient Americans over a period of some 3,000 years.

I realize that these assertions about the presence of Black Africans in pre-Columbian America may seem, to many, if not most, to be “fantastic” romanticizing or speculation on the part of the advocates of these assertions. Therefore, I find it necessary to lay out very clearly the logic of and evidence for these “fantastic” assertions. I need to remind the reader of the obstacles to fairly judging or assessing this issue. The obstacle is a type of “genteel” racism that is a legacy of slavery; this racism is found in the most unlikely of places, our academic institutions. It is the paternalistic type of racism espoused by those who, on the surface, appear to be friends of Black People but who, in actuality, view Black People as not having the ability to measure up to other races. It is not red-neck racism but a type of racism that views Black People as hapless, weak victims who have never been able to compete with the superior white and yellow races. Do they come right out and say this? No. But read between the lines.

This is a legacy of slavery that caused African Black People* to be viewed as somehow inferior to whites and, therefore, enslaving them was a net benefit in exposing them to white civilization, thereby assuaging the guilty conscience of the slave owners and a country which allowed slavery. Before the advent of modern slavery, this was probably not the view held by most Europeans. What I am saying is that racism did not bring about slavery but that slavery brought about racism§. When such thinking has become unconsciously embedded in the mind, it dictates what the mind will and will not allow. Anything that contradicts this unstated axiom will be thrown out.

In light of the above considerations, three tasks are before us:

  1. Establish that Black Africans were in America going back some 3,000 years.
  2. Demonstrate how these Africans impacted the culture of Ancient America in significant ways, not as subservient individuals but as rulers and/or individuals of high position.
  3. Establish how the Africans got here.

None of what is said in this post is meant to denigrate the wonderful achievements of the Ancient Mexicans and other Ancient Americans who built marvelous civilizations. It is to say that at certain points, they were helped along or impacted by Africans over a long period of time. This does not diminish the achievements of Ancient Americans no more than acknowledging that the Greek alphabet is derived from the Phoenician alphabet which as derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs diminishes the great and wonderful achievements of Europeans. Indeed, practically all modern writing systems, with possible exception of the Chinese writing systems, ultimately go back to the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Yet this great modern civilization of the Western world is an achievement the Europeans can rightly be proud of. You cannot separate the civilization from the genius of the Europeans, notwithstanding the outside contributions.

Proof of African Presence in Pre-Columbian America

The most compelling proof of the African presence in Ancient America is found in the representations of Ancient American artists. This essay and the other essays that follow draw heavily upon the work of the late historian Ivan Van Sertima and the German Art Historian turned archaeologist, Alexander von Wuthenau. When viewing the Ancient American representations of Africans, keep in mind the admonition of von Wuthenau speaking about how the Ancient American artists saw things, “…they possessed and still possess two remarkable abilities. To begin with they can see without looking; and what they see they do see, and nobody can tell them that they did not see what they did see.”1 Von Wuthenau found it necessary to issue this admonition because he saw how expert Americanists (those who study the culture and history of the Americas) more often than not refuse to acknowledge what their eyes see. To illustrate this point, von Wuthenau recalls a young graduate student saying, after he had looked at photographs for his book, “They look like Negroes but they aren’t.” Wuthenau comments that his thinking was the “result of university training.”2 Von Wuthenau did not argue with the young man.  

Though there is ample proof of the pre-Columbian African presence throughout the Americas, this essay concentrates on the heartland of early Mexican civilization which encompasses the Southeastern Mexican states of Vera Cruz, Tabasco, Puebla, Mexico, and Oaxaca. The states of Guerrero, Chiapas, and Campeche also come into play.

Let us now view one of the types of evidence the Ancient Mexican artists left us, the huge stone heads found at San Lorenzo, Tres Zapotes, and La Venta which are located in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. One of the large heads from San Lorenzo is shown as the Featured Image of this post. View below photographs of several other huge Olmec heads.  Altogether, seventeen of these huge heads have been found, 10 at San Lorenzo, 4 at La Venta, 2 at Tres Zapotes, and 1 at Lacobata.They range in height from 5 to 11 feet and weigh between 6 and 50 tons. All but 4 were found in the state of Veracruz.3 They go back approximately 2,500 years ago, having been estimated as being made between 800 B.C. and 600 B.C.4 These heads are not simply stylized productions; each one is different facially and each may be considered to be a portrait of a living individual. Also their helmets are different. An unbiased observer would conclude that these faces are Negroid, without hesitation.

Many, if not most, historians and archaeologists either do not talk about the racial/ethnic identity of the heads or deny that they are African. Those who touch on the racial aspect of the heads will say the physical features are common to people who live in the areas where the heads were found. If these features are common to the people still living in the areas, perhaps it is because they carry the genes of those ancient Africans. Consistent with the aforementioned suggestion is the fact that the Afro-Mexican population of 1.8 million tends to be concentrated in the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero where most of the heads were found.5 Some have labelled these heads as accidental creations of the artists. I guess you could call this the “Oops Theory”!6

Though some question what they see, there seems to be pretty much agreement that the individuals sculptured were rulers. However, starting with José Melgar y Serrano, who first brought these colossal heads to the world’s attention, many authoritative scholars have acknowledged the “Africanness” of the heads. Melgar described them as Ethiopian (meaning African, not Abyssinian) in appearance in the 1870’s. Wuthenau described Melgar’s reaction this way: “Melgar’s mind, not yet tainted by certain currents of modern (and perhaps not so modern) anthropology, reacted quite normally to this newly found evidence of black man’s presence in Ancient America.”7

Von Wuthenau gives a summary of the evidence in the following words: “…the startling fact is that in all parts of Mexico, from Campeche in the east to the south coast of Guerrero, and from Chiapas, next to the Guatemalan border, to the Panuco River in the Huastecas region (north of Veracruz), archaeological pieces representing Negro or Negroid people have been found, especially in archaic or pre-Classic sites. This also holds true for large sections of Mesoamerica and far into South America – Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.”8 The pre-Classic period is before Olmec culture was fully developed, before it had fully come into its own. In short, the Africans were there at the beginning of Olmec civilization.  

Based on illustrations in his book, von Wuthenau concluded that “the finest sculptural efforts of San Lorenzo came first, with not the slightest indication of an artistic evolution leading up to the masterpieces. The implications of the second fact are prodigious. Several distinguished Negro personages and at least one, or several, first-rate artists, complete with well-developed stone sculpture techniques, appeared, so to speak, out of the blue on the American continent 3,000 years ago! Up to now absolutely no reasonable explanation has been given by any scientific professional for this startling event”9. To my knowledge, that is pretty much where the state-of-knowledge stands now.

Further developing von Wuthenau’s statement, how can we determine what the Africans found upon arrival and what did they bring with them? To answer that question, we now turn to Van Sertima who developed the following guidelines for determining what is a loan and what is native.

  1. Be time-specific and culture-specific.
  2. Cite evidence, where possible, of a long evolution of the habit, artifact, system or technique, in the area of the donor.
  3. Demonstrate a lack of known antecedents in the area of the recipient.
  4. Consider levels of identity in complexity as against superficial stylistic similarity,
  5.  Think not in terms of single traits but of complexes or clusters of interlocking parallels.10

Van Sertima applies his guidelines to come to a position on whether the Egypto-Nubians (the Black Africans represented by the colossal heads) brought the knowledge of pyramid building to Mexico.

  1. There was a very long history of pyramid building in Egypt, Nubia (Cush), and Western Asia (Babylon) but there were no pyramids in America before the “contact period” (800-680 B.C.).
  2. “The first American pyramids appear at La Venta along with the colossal Negroid heads. Suddenly in the “contact period” the Ziggurat or stepped temple (a particular kind of Babylonian/Egyptian pyramid) begins to appear in America, and not only is the design identical but, like its presumed prototype, it is sun-star oriented and encircled by a precinct [fenced enclosure]. Not only are the shape and religious functions the same but also the astronomical and spatial relationships.”11
  3. During the period under consideration, the Nubians (Cushites) were still building stepped pyramids.

Based on numerous considerations, Van Sertima concluded that the Egypto-Nubians who landed on the Gulf were sailing on Phoenician vessels in search of metals when they got caught up in currents that caused them to drift into the Gulf of Mexico, eventually ending up in Mexico. The Phoenicians were the merchant Marines of the Egyptians who for centuries maintained close ties with Phoenicians who at times were essentially a colony or vassal state of Egypt. This is plausible because the Ancient American artists created a statue of a Semite alongside the colossal Negroid heads and who appears to be Phoenician based on his dress, something there seems to be pretty much agreement on. The “contact period” postulated by Van Sertima falls within the 100-year period of the 25th Dynasty, the last Cushite dynasty to rule Egypt, and fits with the carbon-dating of the heads and the pyramids. Additionally it is almost certain that Semites from Western Asia and Japanese drifters made contact at numerous times with the Americas and Mexico in particular, centuries before Columbus.

Von Wuthenau and Van Sertima are generally in agreement except for the contact period. Von Wuthenau accepts R. A. Jairazbhoy’s thesis that the “the Olmecs were transatlantic emigrants from Egypt who had been sent on an Expedition by Rameses III”.12 Jairazbhoy puts the date of the expedition at around 1187 B.C. Van Sertima rejects that date because it is too early relative to when the colossal heads and the first pyramids were built. Furthermore, he points out that the Egyptians had stopped building stepped pyramids, or pyramids period, centuries before but the Nubians were still building them.

It is right and proper that I should end this post with the words of a Mexican scholar and investigator, Alfonso Medellin Zanil, who as Director of the Archaeological Museum of the State of Veracruz in Jalapa, said,

“Kinky hair, broad chubby noses, thick lips and other less definable corporal features, belong to the ethnic group of Negroes, alien to Amerindian man. It is possible that at the end of the pre-Classic a small group of Negroes arrived on the Atlantic shores of America, though they could not perpetuate their biological inheritance, on account of their small numbers. Memory, legend and myth would surely deify them or endow them with the character of cultural heroes depicted in terracotta figurines and who were immortalized in monumental stone sculptures”.13

In other words, the physical characteristics of the individuals shown below (broad chubby noses and thick lips. We cannot see their kinky hair because it’s covered up) are alien to the Ancient Native American (the Amerindian). The numbers may have been more significant than he thinks.

Can we drop the mike?

Notes

*I specify “African Black People” because Black People from Asia and the Pacific (Papuans (New Guineans), Native Australians, Fijians, and other Melanesian people) are viewed somewhat differently. For instance, the Mormon Church doctrine that Black People could not be part of the Mormon Priesthood (which they changed recently) applied only to African Blacks, not to Fijians and other black Melanesians.

§Interestingly during the first half of the 1600’s, before the institution of slavery became entrenched in the English colonies in America, black indentured servants interacted with white indentured servants on the basis of equality as evidenced by black-white unions and marriages not being proscribed. This would change during the latter half of the 1600’s as chattel slavery became entrenched and legalized.

References & Citations

  1. Von Wutheran, Alexander (1975). Unexpected faces in Ancient America: The historical testimony of Pre-Columbian artist (1500 B. C. – 1500 A. D.), p. xiv
  2. Von Wuthenau, p. 70.
  3. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec_colossal_heads
  4. Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They came before Columbus: the African presence in Ancient America. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, pp.145-155.
  5. Love, David (December 14, 2015). Mexico officially recognizes 1.38 million Afro-Mexicans in the National Census, as Black People fight against racism and invisibility throughout Latin America. Atlanta Black Star. Accessed at https://atlantablackstar.com/2015/12/14/mexico-officially-recognizes-1-38-million-afro-mexicans-in-the-national-census-as-black-people-fight-against-racism-and-invisibility-throughout-latin-america/.
  6. Von Wuthenau, p. 136.
  7. Von Wuthenau, p. 58.
  8. Von Wuthenau, p. 77.
  9. Von Wuthenau, p. 146.
  10. Van Sertima, pp. 156-157.
  11. Van Sertima, p. 157.
  12. Von Wuthenau,  p. 195.

                                        There are 7 different faces here. The helmets they are wearing are Egyptian.                                        

Found at San Lorenzo, Veracruz
Found at La Venta,Tabasco
Found at San Lorenzo, Veracruz
Side View of Previous Photo
Found at San Lorenzo, Veracruz
Found at Tres Zapotes, Veracruz
Found at San Lorenzo, Veracruz
Found at San Lorenzo, Vera Cruz

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus?

that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus?

As a 15 year old boy, I remember gazing at and pondering on a full-page picture of an Aztec Indian in my second year Spanish book, El Camino Real. He was a black man or as I would have said in 1958, he was a Negro. For many years I never talked to anyone about this black Aztec but I stored the image in my memory bank. It remained a puzzle for many years. The only thing that I was certain of was that he was a Negro, the conclusion I came to at the first glance. How did this Negro Aztec Indian get to be in Mexico? Sixty-two years later, I decided I needed to find the book to make sure that I remembered correctly. Therefore, I did an internet search for this textbook and found it on eBay.

Once I flipped through the first few pages on the book, I was gratified to see that my memory was correct except for one important detail. He was, according the caption, an Aztec dancer, not an Aztec chieftain as I had been thinking all these years. I have attached a camera shot of that photograph as the Featured Image at the beginning of this post.

Since I took Spanish for four years, ninth to the twelfth grade, my association with things Spanish and Mexican continued throughout high school. I was a member of the Spanish Club (Los Cardenales) and every year participated in the Language Field Day Contest at San Bernardino Valley College. All of this was under the auspices of our Spanish teacher, La Senora Maria Florencia Rivera, a great lady. Before I left high school, Mrs. Rivera established a Spanish Honor Society which we named Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl was an Aztec (Mexican) god, one of Mexico’s major gods and a very complex figure. In my senior year, I was President of Quetzalcoatl. (See graphic below). The word Quetzalcoatl comes from two Aztec words, quetzal meaning bird and coatl which means serpent. Thus throughout the years, Quetzalcoatl has been associated with the plumed-serpent motif.     

Over the 62 years since I first saw the picture of the black Aztec dancer, I have acquired some information that may throw light on how he might have gotten there. And thus I return to write about the enigmatic figure I first encountered as a 15-year old boy. There are essentially two ways Africans could have ended up in Mexico: the African slave trade and migration.  

From the beginning of the 1500’s to the end of the 1700’s, Spain imported about 200,000 Africans into Mexico; most were brought in during the 1500’s and the 1600’s, and a few at the beginning of the 1800’s. By the end of the eighteenth century (1700’s), the majority of them had become mixed with the white and Indian populations.1 In short, the Africans who came into Mexico came much earlier than the ones who were brought into North America. Our Aztec dancer could have been a descendant of those enslaved Africans. However, that is not the only possibility.

First I would note that many authors and scholars have documented the fact that black Africans made contact with the Americas over a period spanning 2,000 years before Columbus came in 1492. The earliest contacts have been documented to have occurred between 800 B.C. and 600 B.C. (more than 2,500 years ago), at the latest, and the latest contacts during the late Middle Ages, around 1311 A.D., only 200 years before the first enslaved Africans were brought into Mexico. The contacts spanned the length of Latin America, an area extending from the southern United States to deep into South America. Focusing on Mexico, we know Africans made contact with the Olmecs over 2,500 years ago and the Aztecs during the middle ages in Central Mexico.

The late historian Ivan Van Sertima presents convincing evidence that Mandingos from the West African Kingdom of Mali made contact with the Aztecs around 1311 A.D.2 Van Sertima maintains that the Emperor of Mali, Abubakari himself, made the voyage, though he never returned to Mali. Some of you will be familiar with the name of someone connected to Emperor Abubakari, namely, Emperor Kankan Musa, the brother of Abubakari, who made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 and spread so much gold throughout the Middle East that it took years for the area to recover from the inflation it caused. Abubakari told his brother to assume his position if he did not return. These events are recorded in the courts of Mali and in Cairo and by Arab historians. Evidently he did not return to West Africa but it seems that he did make it to America. Another voice presenting convincing evidence of these contact is Art Historian turned Archeologist Alexander von Wuthenau.3 He too presents incontrovertible evidence of contacts between Africans and Americans, and Mexicans in particular, over a period of hundreds of years. In my next blog, I will present some of the details of the evidence of Van Sertima and von Wuthenau.

 One more piece of evidence connecting the Africans who came to Central Mexico with the Mandingos of West Africa is supplied by Judith Carney in her book Black Rice, an amazing piece of work that conclusively demonstrates that Africans from the rice producing areas of West Africa brought rice and the culture of rice cultivation to South Carolina and other areas of the Americas. In other words the Africans taught the white planters how to grow rice. As regards the Mandingoes in Mexico, I give you the words of Judith A. Carney, “On a research trip along the [Mexican] Gulf Coast in 1988, I came across a road sign south of Veracruz that caused me nearly to veer off the road. The name of the approaching hamlet was Mandinga (Italics added), the same as that of the rice-growing ethnic group with whom I had worked in Gambia. A stop in the village revealed a Mexican population of mixed African descent and the presence of some abandoned rice fields.”4

Many have heard of the Mandingos due to a series of novels by writer Lance Horner. The first of this series was made into the movie Mandingo, starring Ken Norton. Every description I have read of the Mandingos describes them as well-built, big in size, and above average in height. They evidently are impressive physical specimen. Explorer Mungo Park who visited Senegambia in 1794-95 said, “The Mandingoes, generally speaking, are of a mild, sociable, and obliging disposition. The men are commonly above the middle size, well shaped, strong, and capable of enduring great labour; the women are good-natured, sprightly and agreeable. The dress of both sexes is composed of cotton cloth, of their own manufacture.”5 The Mandingos live over a large area in West Africa which includes Gambia. During the time of Mungo Park’s visit, the Mandingo language was spoken throughout large areas of Senegambia and other parts of West Africa.

Returning to the Aztec dancer, he looks to be a tall, big man. My wife, who is an artist, says that he is about 8 head spans tall, which means that he is probably quite tall. He very well may be a descendant of one of the Mandingoes who landed along the coast of Veracruz in the early 1300’s.

References and Sources

  1. Franklin, John Hope (1967). From slavery to freedom: A history of Negro Americans, 3rd edition. New York: Alfred A Knopf, pp. 113-114.
  2. Van Sertima, Ivan (1976). They came before Columbus: the African presence in Ancient America. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.
  3. Von Wuthenau, Alexander (1975).  Unexpected faces in ancient America. New York: Crown Publishers.
  4. Carney, Judith A. (2001). Black rice. Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Harvard University Press:, p, xi.
  5. Park, Mungo (2000, first published in 1799). Travels in the interior districts of Africa. Edited with an Introduction by Kate Ferguson Marsters. Durham and London: Duke University Press, p. 80.

1961 school picture of the Spanish club (Los Cardenales) and the Spanish Honor Society (Quetzalcoatl), San Bernardino High School, San Bernardino, CA

… that you are blessed to be living in the USA today?

that you are blessed to be living in the USA today?

There is an old hymn called “Count Your Blessings” which admonishes us to take stock of the good things God has provided us with. With all of the unsettling things going on, I believe it is right and proper for we Americans to look around and count our blessings.

Being the 14th child of my parents’ 17 children, I have been blessed to have attained the age of 77 and to be in reasonably good health, with a sound mind. Before the end of the last century, I recall reflecting on the fact that by the year 2000, I would be 57! Twenty years later, that doesn’t seem so ancient anymore. My five surviving siblings have each attained three score and ten years or more (70, 75, 81, 84, and 86) and still have sound minds.  One of my brothers died at the age of 12 from an accidental gunshot wound. Five of the rest attained three score and ten years or better (73, 74, 74, 78, 84, and 87), one died in his forties, and the other three in their sixties. Though none of us have achieved the longevity of our great grandmother Jane (107+) or our Cousin Dora Leonard Brown (108), God has blessed us with reasonably long life. I am blessed to have five siblings still in the land of the living.

Though we have experienced tragedy such as the recent untimely death of my niece Tasha Sams Saucier, my siblings, nieces and nephews, and I can look back upon where we came from and truly say, “Thank you God”. Sixty to seventy years ago in the month of July with its stultifying heat, many of us were working in cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta from sunup to sundown with only an hour break in the middle of the day. We returned home to houses with no running water, no electricity, outdoor toilets, no radio, no television, and no air-conditioning. Sometimes the only transportation we had was mules hitched up to a wagon! This scenario describes the situation of millions of other families (black and white) in the rural South of the United States in the middle of the 20th century.

Today everybody has running water, air-conditioning, electricity, microwave ovens, cellphones, and televisions in almost every room. Most families have at least one car. Besides these creature comforts, we are free to worship as we please, regardless of our religious affiliation. We are free to express our opinions. We are free to start businesses; many who start out with nothing become millionaires. Today we have Black Billionaires (Oprah Winfrey, Jayz, and Kanye West are three examples); Dr. Dre and Sean Combs are very close to being billionaires. With the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States for two terms, any doubt about the possibilities for people of color in the political arena should have been shattered. In short, we Americans are blessed because we are living in the land of great opportunity, and millions are taking advantage of it.

Poor people have access to food stamps and many receive money directly from the government. Various types of financial aid for college is available to poor students. Ivy League colleges and other elite colleges do not award merit scholarships, only need based scholarships, if the student has the proper academic preparation.

Though we are in the midst of this terrible Corona Virus Pandemic, hope is on the horizon. More treatments are becoming available, and promising vaccines are also being developed. I consider treatments to be more pressing than vaccines since so many of the people who are already infected need help right now in overcoming this vicious disease. There is no doubt that we are going to overcome this ugly, nasty virus, hopefully very soon.

 Fellow Christians, you have something at your disposal regardless of you circumstances, and that thing is prayer. You must believe James 5:16b: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (KJV). I like the way the Amplified version puts it: “The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].” You don’t have to be a bigshot to touch the Heart of God. Your prayers matter and will have an effect when sincerely offered up. Pray for speedy treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Pray for the homeless, especially seeking God on how to address the mental health issues of the homeless. Ask the Father for direction that you may pray according to his will.

Prayer is not a substitute for action. They go together. If you see someone in need and have the means to help them, then you are obligated to do so. Ask God to give you wisdom and guidance in all your endeavors and He will do it.

And lastly, look around and count your blessings. Focus on the half full jar, not the half empty jar.

that the Russians influenced voting in U. S. presidential elections of 1932 and 1936?

that the Russians influenced voting in U. S. presidential elections of 1932 and 1936?

The Mueller Report concluded that there was no evidence that Russia colluded with or conspired with the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump or that voting was affected by Russian interference, which did happen. Indeed, Russia has been meddling in American domestic politics for almost a century, and there was a time when Russian meddling may have affected voting in two presidential elections, in 1932 and 1936.

In his classic work, The Negro and the Communist Party, Wilson Record spends most of his time trying to explain why, after three decades (1920-1950) of trying, the Communists never made any significant inroads among Negroes, i.e., Americans of African Heritage. Their attempts to recruit Americans of African heritage into the Communist Party, for the most part, were abysmal failures. Though the Communists had not been successful in recruiting Americans of African Heritage for membership in the Party, they evidently were successful in the 1930’s in putting more cracks in what had been an almost monolithic attachment of Black People to the Republican Party, the reverse of present circumstances.

It is important to understand that the Communist Party in the United States was an arm of the Communist Party in Russia, certainly from the 1920’s to the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s. The American Party got its marching orders from the Kremlin in Moscow. Speaking of “boring from within” as an ineffectual strategy, Wilson notes that, “No one was more aware of this than the men in the Kremlin who directed the activities of the Communist International and of the American section”.1 In short, any influences attributed to the American Communist Party during the era under consideration must ultimately be connected to Russia.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first run for President as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party was in 1932, against incumbent Herbert Hoover, when the country was in the depth of the Great Depression; he won the election by a landslide. His 1936 victory was also a landslide. Though their loyalty to the Republican Party had been diminishing since the late 1920’s, the majority of Americans of African Heritage still voted for Hoover in 1932. Nonetheless, 1932 seems to have been an important turning point.2 Thus in 1934, Arthur W. Mitchell, who had served four years in the U. S. House of Representatives as a Republican, switched party affiliation and was elected to the U. S. Congress as the “first Negro Democrat”3.

Wilson attributes this change in party affiliation partly to the activities of the Communist Party in noting that “Communists played a role in weaning Negroes away from the Republican Party in 1932 and in piling up the black vote for Roosevelt in 1936.”4, when Roosevelt received 71% of the black vote.5 This was done through putting “… their canvassers and precinct workers at the disposal of the Democratic Party machines. … By 1936 the [Communist] Party had dropped much of its criticism of Roosevelt and the New Deal, redirecting its vitriol almost exclusively towards Roosevelt’s detractors.”6 Since Roosevelt’s victory was so lopsided, it is doubtful that the black vote affected the election outcome. Nonetheless, if Wilson is right, the Russians did impact voting in American Presidential elections going back more than 80 years. Obviously, the Russians felt that the Democratic Party’s world view was more sympathetic to their agenda than that of the Republican Party.

Since 1936, a majority of the black vote in every presidential election has gone to the Democrats. Another breaking point occurred in 1964 when the Democratic nominee Lyndon Johnson received 94% of the black vote. Black Demographics concluded that it was “… the association of civil rights legislation with John F Kennedy and Lyndon Banes Johnson that solidified Black loyalty to the Democratic Party for good. JFK proposed and LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed public discrimination.  LBJs Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, opposed it garnering Johnson 94% of the black vote that year, which was a record until 2008. Johnson later signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” Interestingly, though the Democrats had a supermajority in both the House and the Senate, it was the Republican minority that carried the day in approving the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In 1964, Democrats held 253 of the 431 seats (four seats were evidently vacant) in the House of Representatives and 67 of the 100 seats in the Senate. In other words, the Democrats had enough votes to pass any legislation without any Republican support and had enough votes to override a presidential veto. However, in the voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, only 153 Democrats (60% of all Democrats) voted for the bill which fell short of the 216 votes needed to pass the legislation. Republicans made up the difference with 136 (76% of all Republican in the House) votes for the legislation. In the Senate 46 Democrats voted for the legislation, thus falling short of the 51 needed. With 27 of the 33 Republicans voting for the bill, the required number of votes was assured. However, given Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the legislation, the overwhelming Republican support for the civil rights legislation in both the House and the Senate was not enough to fend off the Democratic landslide among black voters.7

In 2004 when George W. Bush ran for re-election, fifteen percent (15%) of Americans of African Heritage identified as Republicans, the highest since 1960. Eleven percent (11%) identified as independent, and eleven percent (11%) voted for George W. Bush in 2004. By 2016, only three percent (3%) identified as Republicans while 23% identified as Independent. Donald Trump received 8% of the black vote in 2016.8 In short, the black vote is not as monolithic as we may assume it is. It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote goes to Donald Trump in 2020.

Featured Image of Communist Party protest of 1930’s accessed at https://www.google.com/search?q=great+depression&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiy5eO-1IHrAhUSca0KHXxLAnoQ_AUoAnoECBwQBA&biw=1920&bih=871

  1. Record, Wilson (1951). The Negro and the Communist Party. Atheneum: New York, p. 52.
  1. U. S. House of Representatives, “Party Realignment and The New Deal”. Accessed at https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Party-Realignment–New-Deal/
  2. Franklin, John Hope (1967). From slavery to freedom: A history of Negro Americans, 3rd edition. New York: Alfred A Knopf, p. 528.
  3. Wilson, p. 311
  4. Black Demographics. Accessed at https://blackdemographics.com/culture/black-politics/
  5. Wilson, p. 131
  6. Information on voting accessed at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/88-1964/h182
  7. Black Demographics.

that recent protests have been anything but peaceful?

that recent protests have been anything but peaceful?

As I have listened to the reporting on the protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, invariably the protests were, and still are, described by reporters as mostly peaceful; however, the scenes shown of the protests more often than not showed protesters setting fires, breaking windows in buildings, fighting with or taunting police officers, painting graffiti on buildings or sidewalks, or pulling down statues. All of these actions constitute violent behavior.

Mischaracterization of Protests by Media

There often has been a disconnect between the descriptions of the protests and the scenes actually shown or described. An example of this disconnect is the reporting on a protest in Sacramento by the Sacramento Bee as, “A peaceful protest turned briefly into a tense standoff with police on a highway overpass. Demonstrators threw water bottles, trash, and other objects at officers, who then fired pepper bullets and flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd …” Was that a peaceful protest? Of twenty-two (22) protests, in as many cities, in late May/early June, listed and described by the news website nj.com, only two (Memphis and Boston) were peaceful. When I think of peaceful protests, I think of the non-violent marches and sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. The protesters in that peaceful, non-violent movement never engaged in any of the above mentioned violent behaviors. They were trained to accept abuse and even beatings without retaliating. These current protesters are aggressively confronting and physically attacking police officers and committing other acts of violence. The current funeralizing of Congressman John R. Lewis should be a reminder of what truly peaceful protests look like.

Cities in Turmoil

The protests have continued in cities like Seattle and Portland, Oregon. In actuality, what’s going on in Portland and some other cities is rioting, not protesting. Innocent bystanders, police officers, and protesters have been killed or injured. The turmoil has continued unabated in Portland for the past two months (61 days). During all of this, too often the police have been told to stand down by the mayors of these cities where this rioting is occurring. As a result crime is soaring, including homicides with the killing of innocent children in New York, Chicago, and other cities. Some of these places are in turmoil, and local officials and governors are not doing very much, if anything, to stop it. Many citizens are living in fear in certain areas.

Reaction to Federal Government Intervention

What is most disconcerting is that many public officials, from city mayors up to the Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives seem to take the side of the lawbreakers while denigrating law enforcement officials and efforts of the President to protect Federal property. The Seattle City Council tied the hands of the police in dealing with violent demonstrations, to the dismay of the Police Chief. In Portland, demonstrators launched an assault on the Federal Courthouse and other Federal installations in that city. Therefore, the President ordered additional federal officials to be dispatched there to protect the buildings. Federal law enforcement officials right away arrested some of the perpetrators. A fence was constructed around the building. Demonstrators immediately began to try to tear down the fence. The following statement issued by the Portland Police Bureau and reported in the New York Post describes what happened Saturday night/Sunday morning (July 25-26),

“Throughout the night some people in this crowd spent their time shaking the fence around the building, throwing rocks, bottles, and assorted debris over the fence, shining lasers through the fence, firing explosive fireworks into the area blocked by the fence, and using power tools to try to cut through the fence,” the bureau said in a statement.

“People wore gas masks, carried shields, hockey sticks, leaf blowers, flags, and umbrellas specifically to thwart police in crowd dispersal or attempt to conceal criminal acts. People against the fence sprayed unknown liquids through it toward the courthouse. People tied rope to the fence and attempted to pull it down,” the bureau said.

“At about 1:03 a.m. people in the crowd attached a chain to the fence and with many people pulling managed to pull a section of it down,” the bureau said, with protesters also lighting fires in the street.

“People climbed over the fence to get close to the federal courthouse. People continued to launch mortar style fireworks at ground level that were exploding near others.”

Lasers aimed at Federal officers resulted in the possible permanent blindness of three individuals. The Portland Police Bureau declared a riot in the early hours of July 27 which marked the 60th straight day of violent demonstrations in Portland.

There was a time when such actions would have brought forth unanimous condemnation from elected officials but not in this case. Last week, the mayor of Portland went to the protest site and told the rioters that he was on their side. Their response was to demand that he quit his job. Mayors of other cities have made it clear that they do not want help from the President and have asked him not to send in additional federal officials. In a statement condemning President Trump’s acting to protect Federal buildings, Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, called the federal officers “storm troopers”.  Meanwhile Federal buildings in Portland are being destroyed. Evidently the aim is to burn down the Federal Courthouse.

Antifa and BLM

Who are the leaders of these riotous protests? Who are the drivers? Some of the demonstrators in these crowds are legitimate protesters who are concerned about police misconduct. However, the protests have been hijacked by radical groups. Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) seem to be the primary instigators. Most of the rioters appear to be white. Literally Antifa means anti-fascist. It is a somewhat elusive organization of groups who coalesce for disruptive and usually violent protests. They oppose fascism and white supremacy but do not stop there. They are anti-capitalist, anti-American, anti-conservative, anti-Christian, and anti-Trump; ditto for BLM. Both Antifa and BLM are hard-core revolutionaries bent on tearing down the United States of America and remaking it according to their Marxist/Socialist image of what they think is the good society. At a gathering of BLM near a Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles in support of the rioting taking place in Portland, the spokesperson urged, “…  unity against President Trump, as well as fascism and capitalism.”1 (Italics added)

They are not interested in reform. Hence they do not want to reform the police but abolish the police. After they have taken down statues of every Confederate, they will concoct reasons to take down the statues of each and every historical figure they target. They also are working on undermining the Church and the Family. In the final analysis, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence must go. The Declaration of Independence must go because it declares that our rights come from God. They want a clean slate.

The Consequences of Antifa and BLM Having Their Way

The Radical Left’s getting in control would spell the end of freedom as we know it. One of the tenets of those who adhere to Marxist/Socialist doctrine is equality of outcomes, not equality of opportunity. It seems that the primary reason for the Left’s assertion of the existence of systemic racism is the inequality of outcomes. Thus the fact that the median family income of African-American families is less than that of whites is prima facie evidence of discrimination and racism, even if the differences can be explained by differences in productivity factors. Some people earn more than others because they have more education or more marketable skills. Egalitarian socialism has always failed. A few examples will suffice to illustrate the point.

The Pilgrim Experiment

Initially the Pilgrims tried to implement a system of egalitarian socialism. All that was produced by the community was put into one pot and redistributed to everyone based on the principle, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” What was the result? Eminent starvation. There were the freeloaders who worked very little or none at all. Some young men resented widows with children receiving more than they who had worked to produce the goods. William Bradford, their leader, saw that this was not working. Therefore, he instituted changes by assigning land to individuals who were allowed to keep the fruit of their labor. In short order, they had plenty. The system of socialism destroyed incentives to work, thereby impoverishing the whole community.

The Chinese Reset

When Mao Zedong and his supporters took over China in 1949, they set up a Marxist/Leninist system of socialism. Almost 20 years later, the wife of Chairman Mao unleashed the young Red Guards on the population in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, creating much chaos. The Chinese had tried to implement a system of egalitarian socialism that did not allow anyone to become rich; there were no millionaires. During the Cultural Revolution, highly trained scientist had been pulled out of their labs and put in the rice fields. The result was disastrous. Eventually Madame Mao’s youngsters were reigned in. Though still communist, the Chinese government allowed some free enterprise to emerge. Market forces were allowed to operate. Individuals were allowed to get rich. The unleashing of the creative energies of the Chinese people led to the Chinese miracle we know about. Chinese communism had to be modified to allow individuals to benefit from the fruit of their labor. Imposing equal outcomes did not work.  

Which Way America?

I hope that my readers see that there is more at issue here than race. Indeed, all of the turmoil right now is not primarily about race or racism. Racism is a ruse. Playing the race card is the means to another end. Socialist revolution is the end objective. This is an especially critical time because the American public attitude toward socialism has softened. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 42% of Americans had a positive view of socialism. The subtitle of this section is the title of a publication by my classmate from Tulane University, W. Michael Cox, Which Way America, 2011 Annual Report, O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, SMU Cox School of Business. The way of socialism is: big government, equality [of outcomes], redistribution, taxes, dependence, decline, and poverty while the way of capitalism is: economic freedom, opportunity, production, incentives, responsibility, progress, and wealth. Venezuela is a good example of the decline that may ensue when a previously prosperous country opts for socialism.  

Which way America?

Sources

  1. Black Lives Matter Protesters Gather at LA Federal Building In Solidarity With Portland. https://laist.com/2020/07/26/protesters_gather_at_la_federal_building_in_solidarity_with_portland.php
  2. Featured image of flag being burned at Federal Courthouse in Portland, OR accessed at https://www.google.com/search?q=riots+in+portland&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjnsZ3EgfHqAhURXlMKHSDWBwMQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=riots+in&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQARgAMggIABCxAxCDATICCAAyAggAMgIIADICCAAyAggAMgIIADICCAAyAggAMgIIADoECAAQQzoFCAAQsQM6BwgAELEDEENQvIIGWKicBmCAsAZoAHAAeACAAX-IAdEFkgEDNi4ymAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWfAAQE&sclient=img&ei=2qggX-fcO5G8zQKgrJ8Y&bih=871&biw=1920&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894

that God has already judged America for the sin of slavery?

… that God has already judged America for the sin of slavery?

The Civil War (1861-1865) can be legitimately viewed as the price paid by America for the institution of slavery, whether viewed from a Christian or a secular point of view because slavery was the cause of the war. Except for slavery, there would have been no Civil War. There was no other issue that could have led the Confederate States of America to take up arms against the United States government. It was the “costliest and deadliest war ever fought on American soil, with some 620,000 of 2.4 million soldiers killed, millions more injured and much of the South left in ruin.”1. That number of 620,000 equals the number of Americans killed in World War I (116,516), World War II (405,399)2, the Korean War (40,000), and Vietnam War (58,220) which adds up to 620,135. In short, it was, by far, the deadliest war fought on American soil or foreign soil.

Gettysburg Address Lays Bare the Blatant Contradiction of Slavery

After the Declaration of Independence and the ensuing Revolutionary War, the Civil War could be viewed as the most important event in American history if put in the context of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Lincoln saw the war as a test of whether the American experiment would work as expressed in the first two sentences of his address,

 “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

In 1863, the year Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address,  “four score and seven years ago” takes us back to 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence which stated that a self-evident truth is, “all men are created equal.” According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a thing is self-evident if it is “so clear or obvious that no proof or explanation is needed”. Slavery flew in the face of that self-evident truth. The contradiction had to be resolved if the nation was to “endure”. How did Lincoln’s contemporaries view this conflict? Was it seen as God’s judgment of the nation? Was it God’s wrath?

Thomas Jefferson’s Prophetic Utterance

First let us consider the almost prophetic statement of Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers who died more than three decades before the Civil War began:

 “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.”  —Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781.3

Clearly if Jefferson had been living when the Civil War broke out, he would not have been surprised and would have seen it as the wrath of God falling on the nation because of the sin of slavery.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

After visiting an army camp near Washington, D. C. in late 1861, Julia Ward Howe was inspired to write the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She awakened in the wee hours of the morning and could not go back to sleep until she had penned the words to the now famous hymn. It was set to the tune of a marching song, “John Brown’s Body”. Below are the first four lines of the first and last stanzas of the hymn:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

The first stanza of this hymn is clearly saying that the Civil War is God’s judgment on the land; He was loosening the “fateful lightening of his terrible swift sword”. The last stanza makes it clear that the goal of the war was to get rid of slavery. You might say that this is what the Spirit of the Lord was speaking to Julia Ward Howe. For more than 150 years, this hymn has been performed by many choirs and symphony orchestras. Interestingly in some versions of the song, the last part of line three of the last stanza has been changed from “let us die to make men free” to “let us live to make men free”. What a difference one word makes. Substituting the word “life” for the word “death” changes the whole point of the hymn, namely, that blood had to be spilled to atone for the sin of the nation.

Views of the Church during the Civil War

While the Civil War was going on, almost every Christian denomination expressed the opinion that the Civil War was the wrath of God falling on the nation for the sin of slavery. It was judgment. A sampling of some of the expressions taken from the Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States by Benjamin F. Morris are shown below:

  1. “…beseeching Almighty God that, if in his justice he chastise us, his mercies may so temper his wrath that we may not be wholly destroyed.” The Methodist Episcopal New York Conference, March 1861, p. 865.
  2. “…our sins have called for thy righteous judgments”. Episcopalian Churches of Minnesota, April 17, 1861, p. 859.
  3. “… Believing the institution of Slavery to have been the fruitful source of the great trouble upon us, we cannot but pray and hope that the present war may be overruled by Divine Providence for the ultimate removal of human bondage from our land.” Massachusetts Congregational Association, July. 1861. p. 876.
  4. “…we acknowledge the Divine hand in our present troubles, and that we discover in them a sign of righteous indignation, on the one hand, at the iniquity which has so cruelly degraded the bondman …” General Conference of the Congregational Churches of Ohio, June, 1861 p. 881.
  5. “…implore him, in the name of Jesus Christ … to turn away his anger from us…” Old School General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, May, 1861, p. 884.
  6. “…we recognize in the defeats and disasters of our forces in the beginning of the conflict a deserved visitation of God’s wrath upon us for our complicity in the sin of slavery…” United Presbyterian Assembly, May, 1862, p. 915.

Was this what the Spirit of the Lord was speaking to the Church at that hour?

The above quotations are just a small sampling of the many statements from churches and religious organizations expressing the belief that the Civil War was an expression of God’s displeasure over the institution of slavery in the United States of American.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural address, said that the war looked like divine judgment to him. The next to the last paragraph of this address, filled with Biblical quotations, is all about divine judgment. That paragraph reads as follows:

“The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” [Matthew 18:7]. If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” [Psalm 19:9]

The scriptural references in brackets were not part of Lincoln’s address but were inserted by this author to identify the scripture that Lincoln quoted. Though he did not dogmatically state so, it is clear that Lincoln felt that the Civil War was God’s wrath on the whole country, North and South, for the national sin of slavery. The whole tenor of the speech conveys that conviction. As noted above, the blood of 620,000 soldiers was spilled in that war. It is by far the bloodiest war America has fought.

Bought with a Price

We Americans of African heritage have been bought with a price two times.4 Jesus spilled his blood to buy us out of the bondage of sin and spiritual bondage. And in the natural, we were bought with a price when the blood of 620,000 was spilled to free us. God saw us. He heard the cries of our ancestors and delivered us. This is holy and sacred stuff! It’s enough to make one tremble!

If God has already punished America for the sin of slavery, does she need to be punished again?

References and Sources

  1. Civil War, History.Com Editors. https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/american-civil-war-history#section_1   
  2. (Google.com, https://www.google.com/search?q=Number+of+americans+killed+in+w.w.+ii&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894&oq=Number+of+americans+killed+in+w.w.+ii&aqs=chrome..69i57.19096j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  3. Quoted in Msgr. Charles Pope, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic as Bible Hymn of the Republic”. Accessed at http://blog.adw.org/?s=battle+hymn+of+the+republic
  4. I Corinthians 6:20.  

Clip art in the Featured Image at beginning of post taken from: https://www.google.com/search?q=civil+war+clipart&tbm=isch&hl=en&chips=q:drawing+public+domain+civil+war+clipart,g_1:drawing:Ibasqd7oyq4%3D,online_chips:public+domain,online_chips:american+civil&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894&hl=en&ved=2ahUKEwi4v_HT7-PqAhULiFMKHepQDm8Q4lYoCHoECAEQIQ&biw=1903&bih=871#imgrc=UncvGpgsQ-anpM

that the Black National Anthem is a Christian, patriotic song of Hope?

that the Black National Anthem is a Christian, patriotic song of Hope?

The song dubbed the Black (Negro) National Anthem is Lift Every Voice and Sing.  Written by a true Renaissance man of many talents (writer, poet, educator, lawyer, diplomat, and civil rights leader), James Weldon Johnson and put to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson, an accomplished musician, as the 19th century was ending. It, indeed, became the Black People’s National Anthem. This black man James Weldon Johnson was appointed U. S Consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua by President Theodore Roosevelt whose statues are being toppled. It is truly an uplifting, Christian, patriotic song of hope. The last two lines of the song are:

True to our God
True to our native land

Clearly the native land referenced is the United States of America.

Having learned Lift Every Voice and Sing while a child in school in the Jim Crow South of the Mississippi Delta, I have always thought it was one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Many, many artists have recorded this song, but it is most beautiful to me when sung by a church congregation or a united crowd of some kind. At the end of this essay, I have attached YouTube links to three of my favorite renditions (Diva Leontyne Price, the Roxbury Latin Glee Club, and the Winston Salem State University Choir). It was first performed in Florida in 1900 and would be performed thereafter whenever Black People congregated for important events.

In those segregated schools of the 1940’s and 1950’s, we learned the lyrics and sang the Black National Anthem along with other patriotic songs such as This is My Country, The Battle Hymn of The Republic, the Marine Hymn as well as the Star-Spangled Banner. Interestingly we also learned the lyrics and sang I Wish I Was in Dixie (Dixie). Thinking about the music and the songs we learned brings to mind two outstanding women who taught me during that era of Jim Crow: Miss Theresa Williams, a cheerful, light-complexioned lady of great character and Miss Young, a beautiful, very dark, almost completely black, lady who wore her hair in long flowing curls (not a wig).

Miss Theresa (she was really a Mrs., but Southerners called all women Miss) was my first teacher at Freewill School and was the only teacher of nine (9) grade levels in a one room school house with a partition in the middle. She played the piano and would at times bring all the students together to sing at the end of the school day. She taught us music along with the three R’s (Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic). She had to have been a good teacher because after three years there, I was fairly proficient in the three R’s. It must have been during the Korean War when she whipped me and Grover (with a rawhide strap) for fighting since she said, “If you think you’re men, maybe you ought to be fighting in the war” or something to that effect. By the way, we were fighting because Grover snatched my pencil and threw it in a ditch!

Miss Young was my music teacher in the 7th grade at Mound Bayou Consolidated School. In the 7th grade, you changed classroom and teacher every hour. One hour was devoted to music. She was a great teacher. No teacher I had during my entire student career at San Bernardino High School, Michigan State University, University of Chicago, and Tulane University was greater than she. Santa Lucia was one of the many songs she taught us. Patriotic songs were surely part of the repertoire.

Up through the 6th grade, we were taught songs by our homeroom teachers or by someone who came to the homeroom. I remember in the 4th grade when Miss Jacques taught us the music and lyrics to School Days and how she had corrected some of us who wanted to say “arithmetic” instead of “rithmetic”, as it is written in the song.

The Star-Spangled Banner comes out of the War of 1812, called by some the Second American War for Independence because had the British won, America would have lost its independence. The United States went to war with Great Britain because of economic sanctions imposed on America by the British, the western expansion issue, and because of the British practice of impressment of Americans on the open seas. This practice entailed the British taking men from American ships and drafting then into the British Navy. The combatants on the British side were the British themselves, a Confederacy of Native Americans led by Chief Tecumseh, and black slaves who escaped to British lines with the hope of being freed after the war was over. On the American side were the white Americans, Native American allies, free People of Color, and slaves who had escaped to the American lines with the hope of being freed after the war was over. Black sailors and soldiers at the Battle of Lake Erie and at the Battle of New Orleans fought valiantly and bravely for the American side. Initially being dubious of the fighting ability of the black soldiers sent to him, Commodore Perry changed his tune after witnessing their heroism and bravery in action in the Battle of Lake Erie with the words, “…they seemed absolutely insensible to danger.”1 Andrew Jackson recruited free “Negroes” for the Battle of New Orleans and promised them the same bounty and pay as the white soldiers. After preliminary campaigns leading up to the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson told his black soldiers that “the President would be informed of their conduct and that the “voice of the representatives of the American nation shall applaud your valor, as your general now praises your valor””2 Jackson’s statues are being toppled or are being called for toppling.

Neither the British nor the Americans completely lived up to their promises. Some of the slaves who fought were sent back to the owners because part of the armistice agreement required that “property” be returned.

By 1814, things had not gone well for the Americans, especially with the sacking of Washington, D. C. and the burning of the White House in August of 1814. Just before the British attack on Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott key was negotiating with the British in an attempt to free some American war prisoners when he ended up being detained by the British during the 25 hour-long bombardment of Fort McHenry which commenced on September 13 and lasted into the early morning of September 14. He observed the whole bombardment from the British side. To his surprise, he saw the American flag still standing and waving as the day dawned. Thus he penned the words of a poem Defence of Fort M’Henry. Later the name was changed to Star-Spangled Banner. Very soon the poem was set to the music that we now recognize as the melody of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Francis Scott Key was a slave owner, supporter of the system of slavery, anti-abolitionist, and a strong supporter of the colonization, namely, resettling blacks in Africa. However, it is not clear that he was a Negrophobe, that is, he did not necessarily hate Black People. I say this because as one of the executors of the will of John Randolph Roanoke, he fought, for a whole decade, to enforce the provisions of the will that freed Roanoke’s four hundred (400) slaves and that provided land for the slaves to support themselves. Additionally he represented slaves seeking their freedom. On the other side, he also represented slave owners seeking return of runaway slaves. Evidently he was a stickler for the law. That being said, there is nothing that can make slavery ok.

By the time of the Mexican-American War (1844-1848), The Star-Spangled Banner had become the de facto National Anthem of the United States. Woodrow Wilson by executive order in 1916 made it the official National Anthem and in 1931 Congress approved it as the National Anthem.

There is presently a call for the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing, to replace the Star-Spangled Banner as the United States’ National Anthem. The NFL plans to play Lift Every Voice and Sing at every NFL game for the first week of the season. Francis Scott Key’s statue in San Francisco was toppled almost a month ago (June 20). His offenses were being a slave owner and a line in the third stanza of his poem, wherein he says, “… No refuge could save the hireling and slave.” The slave fighting for the British and the hireling are enemy combatants from the vantage point of those on the American side. Moreover, it appears that the escaped slaves made a significant contribution to the British war effort as they did for the American side.  

You have probably noticed that generally only the first stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner is sung. I do not remember ever hearing the second, third, or fourth stanzas sung. Keeping in mind the circumstances under which the poem was written, the first stanza is very appropriate as our national anthem. Stanza three is certainly inappropriate. Therefore, let us discard the third stanza. Furthermore, there are several other traditional patriotic songs that could be performed, and, indeed, they are, depending on the event and circumstances: Battle Hymn of the Republic, God Bless America, This Is My Country, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and Lift Every Voice and Sing are some of them. There are other less traditional songs such as God Bless the USA that can be appropriate under certain circumstances. Americans who are not of African heritage may not empathize with the lyrics of Lift Every Voice and Sing to the same extent as we Americans of African heritage. But at times it is appropriate to play it for a broader audience. There is no need to force it on others who do not feel it with the same intensity we do.

I believe we are cancelling and overturning too many things too fast. One example just came to my mind. Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Dixie Beer, has made the decision to get rid of the name Dixie. Yet I wonder if she realizes where the name Dixie comes from. It originated in New Orleans before the Civil War. The Citizens State Bank located in the French Quarter issued a ten-dollar note with dix – the French word for ten – written on one side. Therefore, “The notes were known as “Dixies” by Southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the French-speaking parts of Louisiana came to be known as “Dixieland”3. And of course, Dixieland Jazz originated in New Orleans. Thus we had a connection between a beer company and an early French Quarter bank. Do we want to throw all of that away?

The period under discussion is the era of unregulated banking (sometimes called “Wildcat Banking”) when individual commercial banks could, and did, issue their own currency. In short, there was nothing unusual about Citizen State Banking issuing 10-dollar notes.   

  1. Franklin, John Hope (1967). From slavery to freedom: A history of Negro Americans, 3rd edition. New York: Alfred A Knopf, p. 169.
  2. Franklin, pp. 169-170.
  3. Songfacts, https://www.songfacts.com/facts/daniel-decatur-emmett/dixie

Lift Every Voice and Sing

James Weldon JohnsonJ. Rosamond Johnson

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast

God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land

 Star-Spangled Banner

Oh! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

  What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;

  Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

  O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

  And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

  Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

  Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

  O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

  On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

  Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

  What is that which the breeze o’er the towering steep

  As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

  Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam;

  Its full glory reflected now shines on the stream;

  ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh! long may it wave

  O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  And where is the band who so vauntingly swore,

  ‘Mid the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

  A home and a country they’d leave us no more?

  Their blood hath washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution;

  No refuge could save the hireling and slave

  From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,

  And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

  O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

  Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;

  Blessed with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land

  Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

  Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,

  And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”:

  And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

  O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

… the truth about the founding of America?

the truth about the founding of America?

For those of you who have been following my blog, you may notice that my writing about the events and issues coming out of the George Floyd protest is seemingly a deviation from my previous theme of correcting misconceptions or making known some unpublicized facts about the history of Africans and People of African heritage/descent. I will get back to that theme but due to the urgency of the crisis our country is going through, I feel compelled to make further comments on some of the pertinent issues, as I see them. However, there is a common theme in all that I have written and am writing: getting at the truth.

In this blog, I want to return to the founding of the United States of America. There is a persistent attempt to brand the U. S. Constitution as a racist document that excluded Black People along with a constant drum beat that the Declaration of Independence was not intended for Black People. Hence many people of African descent no longer celebrate Independence Day, July 4. The pulling down of statues has now come to include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant (the general who led the Union to victory over the Confederacy), all former Presidents of the United States. Andrew Jackson is now in their crosshairs. The reason they have become pariahs is because they owned slaves, with the exception of Theodore Roosevelt who became president after slavery was over. This is just the beginning because other Founding Fathers owned slaves also (They pulled down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant because somebody gave him one slave). If the statues of the founders of the country have to be torn down, the next logical step is to discredit and tear down the things they created, the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution; that process has already begun. If the whole edifice (the country) is built upon these two documents, it then follows that the whole country must come down so that they can start all over and set up a new system based on their vision of the just society with two of its cornerstones being socialism (Marxism) and atheism. Please understand socialism, Marxism, and atheism go together. There is no pretense at wanting to preserve capitalism and a market economy. Christianity also has to go. That is why the rioters had no compunction in setting fire to and vandalizing St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the church of presidents. What an exquisite symbolic gesture, attacking a place of worship that slave-owning and reprobate presidents attended! One would have expected a hue and a cry to rise up against such a desecration, but it did not happen because the media controlled the narrative. Indeed, when the President took action to protect the church and the White House, he was attacked.

What we are witnessing is a move to delegitimize the United States of American as a country and as a civilization. Again I want to emphasize that if the people in the Black Lives Matter movement were really concerned about black lives, they would pay more attention to the carnage that is occurring every day in major metropolitan areas of the country, killings that blacks are inflicting upon blacks, and there seems to be no end to it.

Writers often grope for the right words to express an idea, a concept, or a thought. I groped for the right words to express the wrongness of judging and condemning people from the past by our contemporary standards for things that happened 250 years or more ago. Fortunately other writers have given me some appropriate language. There are “inherent constraints of circumstances” (a phrase attributed to Edmund Burke and referenced by Thomas Sowell in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals1) that circumscribe the actions that can be taken at the time. Arthur Schlesinger called it “self-righteousness in retrospect” when we judge people in the past by our standards of today. We are today condemning the Founding Fathers for not abolishing slavery when the U. S. Constitution was drafted. I have dealt with this issue in a previous blog. In a sense, the founders were faced with a binary choice. They either formed a Constitution and a country with slavery recognized for the time being or try to abolish slavery then and get no Constitution, and the fragile country probably falls apart. The fact that they chose the former does not mean most of them were at peace with the compromise. One indication of this is the provision in the Constitution that the slave trade would be abolished in 1808, 20 years after the Constitution was drafted. If they had been at peace with the compromise, why put such a provision in the Constitution? Since they did not want to enshrine slavery in the Constitution, the word “slavery” does not appear in the original document. I assert this inference (that the framers deliberately did not use the word slavery in the Constitution) on the authority of none other than John Quincy Adams who was there when the Constitution was formed. The assertion that the Constitution defined a Black Person as three-fifths of a person is absurd and seems to reflect an inability to understand plain English. The provision applied to slaves, not all Black People; at least 60,000 Black People were, in fact, free at the time the Constitution was drafted, and they were part of “We the People” who ordained and established the Constitution, in the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis in a brilliant dissenting opinion in the Dred Scott case. Why do some people want to exclude those 60,000 Black People from “We the People” when the Constitution includes them when it specifies in Article 1, Section 2 that “the whole Number of free Persons” would be counted in determining a state’s representation? It says nothing about race or color.

Around the time of the drafting of the U. S. Constitution, something was happening in America and Great Britain that had not happened before in the whole history of humanity, namely, the questioning of the legitimacy of the institution of slavery. Throughout history, slavery had been a feature of most societies.  It had been more important in some than others and had differed markedly through time and space. In the documentary Liberty and Slavery (2016), one commentator observed that, “Only during the past 250 years was slavery questioned as an institution, over a period of 10,000 years”. This began to happen in America in the latter half of the 18th century (1750-1800). However, it would be almost 150 years later (the first half of the 1900’s) before Africans came around to this way of thinking, i.e., questioning the institution of slavery2.

Though winning independence and adoption of the Constitution did not result in the abolition of slavery, a new dynamic had been created. John Hope Franklin concluded that the War for Independence brought about movements and actions to abolish slavery. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of black slaves were manumitted (freed) after the war. Petitions for freedom increased because the ideology of the struggle against slavery had broadened. Manumissions and anti-slavery societies became more widespread. The debate over slavery intensified. Also the opposition intensified. Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852 and dealt an enormous blow to the institution of slavery. People were emboldened to engage in actions which pushed the nation closer and closer to war. Various acts of Congress (the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act) sought to address the issue of the spread of slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act said that Kansas and Nebraska would be organized as territories and the territorial governments would decide whether or not the territory would become slave or free.3

Out of the opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act came the Republican Party in 1854. As stated by John Hope Franklin, this new Republican Party was “unalterably anti-slavery in its point of view”4.  In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican President. Lincoln’s anti-slavery position was a matter of record. For southern slave-owners, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The war was on. After achieving success in ridding the country of slavery, this party became the advocate for and protector of the rights of Americans of African Heritage, as laid out in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U. S. Constitution.

While these things were going on in America, slaving and slavery were alive and well in Africa, and the institution was not being questioned. Much has been written about slavery and slaving in Africa. One of the most comprehensive treatments of the subject is the book by Sean Stilwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History. He documents that not only was African slavery widespread throughout the Continent, it was not always mild and benign. Africans were willing participants in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Several African nations such as Dahomey were built on slavery and slaving. Often they initiated wars to capture people who would be sold into slavery. They (the African states and their rulers) were not innocent victims; of course, those who were enslaved were innocent victims.  In his above referenced book on slaving and slavery in Africa, Stilwell puts it his way:

“Until the nineteenth century, Africans generally had the upper hand (with the exception perhaps of the Kingdom of Kongo). Europeans were militarily weak, remained vulnerable to tropical diseases, and were always at risk of having their food supplies cut off by angry Africans. Africans also demanded rent for the small parcels of land that Europeans occupied. Africans were in a commanding position to negotiate good terms of trade for commodities, and the prices of slaves rose accordingly.” (p. 48).

The Africans were the ones who captured the people who were sold into slavery. In other words, the Africans were willing participants in this evil enterprise. The Europeans could have done nothing without the help and consent of the African rulers and big men. The fact that the Africans had the upper hand for such a long time means that they could have kicked the Europeans out at any time during the first few centuries of the slave trade, if they had wanted to. But they did not want to. Why? Quite simply it was a lucrative business for the African leaders as well as for the European slavers. It was greed, the love of money. Africans are like any other humans; they too are capable of being driven by greed. The Bible is true when it states that “For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10, AMP). No race has a monopoly on evil, just as no race has a monopoly on good.

Should we condemn Africans forever and a day for having been willing and enabling participants in the evil enterprise of slaving and slavery? God forbid! We who are Christians are commanded to forgive. Additionally, we should not, and must not, forget the many wonderful contributions to humanity of Africans from the areas of the slave trade. They created well organized and stable societies that were not driven by slavery. The reports of early Europeans visitors to Africa tell of countries teeming with people and well organized down to the minutest detail. They domesticated crops, many of which were exported to Asia and the New World. They were known for their artisanry; they knew how to do things. All African people knew how to smelt iron ore and create wonderful works of iron. The Guinea Coast was initially known as the Grain Coast because of the abundance of grain produced by countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, and Senegal, going back to the middle ages. These were successful societies. The trans-Atlantic and Saharan slave trade was a major, if not the major, factor in the downfall of these civilizations, if for no other reason than the depopulation of areas that previously had teemed with dense populations.  

The bottom line is this. If we are going to condemn America for slavery and slaving, consistency requires that we do the same for Africa. The Africans were knowing accessories to the crime. I suggest that we condemn neither. America paid the price with the Civil War and has repented for the 100 years of discrimination and oppression after the Civil War. We Americans of African descent need to forgive our country, the United States of America. Yes, I said “our country” for America is indeed our country. We are free to pursue happiness. Freedom to worship as we please is a very important part of the freedom we now enjoy. We also must forgive our brothers and sisters on the African Continent and pray that they repent for deeds of the ancestors, who are also our ancestors, so that God may heal the land.

The fight being waged by the Radical Left to destroy our country is not our fight. I believe it is still the case that we Americans of African descent simply want an equal opportunity to be able to partake of the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution, and I believe that we have that. Ben Marquis presciently stated in a 2017 article, “Today it is Confederate generals. Tomorrow it will be slave-owning presidents. How soon after that before they take down the “slave-built” White House, rip up the “slave-owner written” Constitution and Declaration of Independence, or — perhaps not as far-fetched as it may sound — start calling for the detainment or deaths of descendants of slave owners?”5 Three years ago he predicted what is happening today. It has already gone beyond Confederate generals. Do we want all of that which may ensue if the Radical Left has its way?

1. Sowell, Thomas (2005). Black rednecks and white liberals. Encounter Books: New York.

2. Stilwell, Sean (2014). Slavery and Slaving in African history. Cambridge University: New York, p. 178.

3. Franklin, John Hope (1967). From slavery to freedom: A history of Negro Americans, 3rd edition. New York: Alfred A Knopf, pp. 265-67.

4. Franklin, p. 167.

5. Marquis, Ben (2017). “1984” eerily sums up BLM, Antifa, and statue destroyers”. Accessed at http://conservativetribune.com/quote-1984-sums-up-blm-antifa/.