Tag Archives: emancipation proclamation

The Underground Railroad: The Invisible Rails

462_160I have repeatedly expressed the evils of slavery, in spite the fact that white folk tries to claim “it wasn’t that bad” or claim those living today had nothing to do with it. We know they have changed history to make it appear as if they are Christian and not of the devil. Malcolm told us they were devils and most would call them savages.

Try to imagine how horrible slavery was, being beaten, raped, and sold. Thankfully, during those times there were slaves brave enough to create the Underground Railroad, which was a network of secret routes and safe houses established during the early-to-mid 19th century, and used by African American slaves to escape into free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.

The term is also applied to the abolitionist movement were both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives on their journey. Most don’t know that there were various other routes that led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until shortly after the American Revolution. However, the network generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the early 1800s, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. Estimates suggest that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the “Railroad”.

Canada, where slavery was prohibited, was a popular destination, as its long border gave many points of access. More than 30,000 people were said to have escaped there via the network during its 20-year peak period, although U.S. Census figures account for only 6,000. Numerous fugitives’ stories are documented in the 1872 book The Underground Railroad Records by William Still, an abolitionist who then headed the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee.

At its peak, nearly 1,000 slaves per year escaped from slave-holding states using the Underground Railroad – more than 5,000 court cases for escaped slaves were recorded – much fewer than the natural increase of the enslaved population. The resulting economic impact was minuscule, but the psychological influence on slaveholders was immense. Under the original Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, officials from free states were required to assist slaveholders or their agents who recaptured runaway slaves, but citizens and governments of many free states ignored the law, and the Underground Railroad thrived.

With heavy lobbying by Southern politicians, the Compromise of 1850 was passed by Congress after the Mexican–American War. It stipulated a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law; ostensibly, the compromise addressed regional problems by compelling officials of free states to assist slave catchers, granting them immunity to operate in free states. Because the law required sparse documentation to claim a person was a fugitive, slave catchers also kidnapped free blacks, especially children, and sold them into slavery. Southern politicians often exaggerated the number of escaped slaves and often blamed these escapes on Northerners interfering with Southern property rights.

The law deprived suspected slaves of the right to defend themselves in court, making it difficult to prove free status. In a de facto bribe, judges were paid a higher fee of $10 for a decision that confirmed a suspect as a slave than for one ruling that the suspect was free. Many Northerners who might have ignored slave issues in the South were confronted by local challenges that bound them to support slavery. This was a primary grievance cited by the Union during the American Civil War, and the perception that the Northern States ignored the fugitive slave law was a major justification for secession.

The Underground Railroad inspired cultural works. For example, “Song of the Free”, written in 1860 about a man fleeing slavery in Tennessee by escaping to Canada, was composed to the tune of “Oh! Susanna”. Every stanza ends with a reference to Canada as the land “where colored men are free”. Slavery in Upper Canada was outlawed in 1793; in 1819, John Robinson, the Attorney General of Upper Canada, declared that by residing in Canada, black residents were set free and that Canadian courts would protect their freedom. Slavery in Canada as a whole had been in rapid decline after an 1803 court ruling and was finally abolished outright in 1834.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in the U.S., many black refugees left Canada to enlist in the Union Army. While some later returned to Canada, many remained in the United States. Thousands of others returned to the American South after the war ended. The desire to reconnect with friends and family was strong, and most were hopeful about the changes emancipation and Reconstruction would bring.

Black History Month is designed for you learn and know your history! So as our ancestors did keep you eye on the north star and free you mind and your ass will follow! And that is my thought provoking perspective…


Did You Know The Origins Of Watch Night Had Nothing To Do With Religion

6I love history mainly because it is like a clock that tells the story of time traveled. However, history and truth are two very different things when compared to the way His-Story tells it. What we have been told is not, in most cases, true at all in any respect. For example, most people have no idea where or why we celebrate most traditions. This is to include the “greatest stories ever told” – Christmas and Easter! The construct of religion drives our thinking as it relates to the direction of our lives.

Regardless of what we are told; our faith causes us to believe. Let me just add that faith is believing true that which is unseen. I only need to remind you of the representation of the deity you probably worship because, in our heart of hearts, we know that this person represented could not have come out of that region of the world where they said he was born. Yet, our faith tells us to believe, and most do without question as to what we are told. I know that made you go hmmm!

Here is another example: This year Americans will celebrate another anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is another one of those misconceptions of America’s past. The fact is Lincoln did not free anyone with this proclamation. It was issued for and to the Negro’s held in bondage in the Confederacy and not the slaves of the Northern States under his authority. Coming out of this came what has become known as “Watch Night” on New Year’s Eve that follows an African American tradition dating back more than a hundred and fifty years.

The first Watch Night occurred on Dec. 31, 1862, as abolitionists and others waited for word via telegraph, newspaper or word of mouth that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. “A lot of it, at least, the initial Watch Night was really celebrated in the newly freed black community. Yet for a people largely held in bondage, freedom is a powerful idea — and that’s what the Watch Night tradition embodies” says Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Most of us don’t know that part of the historical tradition. It has somehow been connected to religion and not its original origin that was the hope of freedom for people of African descent held in bondage. So at midnight, many congregations will pray the old year out and the New Year in asking for God’s blessings. The truth is Watch Night is deeply rooted in the history of blacks in America; it is especially relevant at a time when the community is still struggling with sermons that should be designed to address the progressive and regressive moves we have been through as a people.

I remind you that the proclamation did not free anyone. The document that was supposed to free the slaves was the 13th Amendment, but it did not do that either. However, Lincoln’s goal was accomplished as the proclamation did change the character of the conflict from a war to preserve the union to a war for human liberation. In reality, it was a way to obtain the manpower by using black in what to that point was a losing effort. The cultural bandits have rewritten the truth. You are the holders of the light, and the light is the truth.

It was recorded that an enslaved person had a wonderful reminiscence of the event by saying, “I was on Master Johnson’s plantation and a soldier came, and he took out a little piece of paper and suddenly said we were free”. Now I ask whose plantation are you on! So I suggest that you know what it is you believe because it is more often than not – not true. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving.


Remembering Sojourner Truth

22Throughout our existence in this place, the slaves called “merica”. If you follow this blog you know I love to celebrate the ghosts of the greats, which include many dynamic heroines to which I remember one of the greatest -Sojourner Truth. A woman whose exact date of birth was not recorded. What we do know is in the year 1797, among Dutch immigrants in the region now known as Ulster County, New York, an African child was born on the estate of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh.

One of 13 children born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, she was given the name Isabella Baumfree. As the story goes, this name gave her no hint of her mission and, therefore, years later she renamed herself Sojourner Truth. Her life was a testament to this mission as a truth-teller. In 1851, Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before the Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio. Several ministers were in attendance. Truth rose from her seat and spoke the following words before the audience:

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the White men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

In 1864, she worked among freed slaves at a government refugee camp on an island in Virginia and was employed by the National Freedman’s Relief Association in Washington, D.C., according to Women in History: Living vignettes of notable women from U.S. history. In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s article “The Libyan Sibyl” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly; a romanticized description of Sojourner.

At the end of the Civil War, Truth worked on behalf of the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington through the Freedman’s Relief Association. In 1867, she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. While unsuccessful in her efforts, for several years she lobbied the U.S. federal government for land in the Western states for former enslaved Africans. Illness began to reduce her speaking tours. In 1879, she spent a year in Kansas City to help to settle African migrants she called “Exodusters”. In addition to racial and gender equality issues, Truth campaigned against capital punishment and called for temperance.

On November 26, 1883, Sojourner Truth was surrounded by her family at her death bed. She was 86 years old when she died surrounded by her family in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, next to her grandson’s gravesite. More than 200 years later, her legacy as a truth-keeper continues to ignite the imagination of the new nation for which she found herself in service. Sojourner Truth lived during times of great change.

First Lady Michelle Obama said of her at the April 28, 2009 commemorative ceremony unveiling the Sojourner Truth bronze bust in the US Capitol – “I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America. Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them.”

In the spirit of one of the greatest women to live, your concrete place in history is greatly appreciated. And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Why America Refuses To Face Up To Slavery’s Past

260_160Did you ever wonder why white folk can’t face up to slavery and the sins of their fathers. First, let’s understand that they benefited greatly on the backs of slavery. Therefore, we should understand that slavery and racism is all about economics. Not to mention it is as American as apple pie! They, white people, know full well the wretchedness of what they have done; then and now but they can’t teach the truth. It is simply the devil and evil within them that won’t allow it because it is the foundation of White Supremacy!!!

This is an article re-blogged – written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

This news item shocked some. Two unnamed Academy members said they picked “12 Years a Slave” as their choice for best picture of the year. It subsequently got the award.

The shock, though, was that the unnamed members candidly admitted that they did not see the film. They minced no words why. It was just too painful and disturbing to watch this kind of film. But this really shouldn’t be much of a shock.

Facing the horror of slavery is a tough nut to crack not simply because it entails facing an inconvenient truth about past racial dehumanization, but because it entails facing the real truth that slavery still corrodes in big and little ways American life. This starts with the truth of why and how slavery became a respected and legitimate part of American life in the first place.

The U.S. government encoded slavery in the Constitution and protected and nourished it for a century. Traders, insurance companies, bankers, shippers, and landowners made billions off of it. Their ill-gotten profits fueled America’s industrial and agricultural might. For decades after slavery’s end, white trade unions excluded blacks and confined them to the dirtiest, poorest paying jobs.

While it’s true that many whites and non-white immigrants came to America after the Civil War they were not subjected to the decades of relentless racial terror and legal segregation, as were blacks. Through the decades of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, African-Americans were transformed into the poster group for racial deviancy. The image of blacks as lazy, crime- and violence-prone, irresponsible, and sexual predators has stoked white fears and hostility and served as the standard rationale for more than 4,000 documented lynchings between 1890 and 1945, as well as the countless racial assaults and acts of hate crime violence.

Though some blacks earn more and live better than ever today, and have gotten boosts from, social and education programs, civil rights legislation, and affirmative action programs, the hideous legacy of slavery is still ever present. The National Urban League in its annual State of Black America reports yearly continually finds that young blacks are far likelier than whites to be imprisoned, serve longer terms, and are more likely to receive the death penalty even when their crimes are similar.

Blacks continue to have the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, violence victimization rates, and health care disparities than any other group in America. They are still more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods and be refused business and home loans. Their children are more likely to attend failed public schools than any other group, and more likely to be racially profiled on America’s urban streets.

The U.S. government admitted it was legally liable in 1997 to pay the black survivors and family members of the two-decade long syphilis experiment begun in the 1930′s by the U.S. Public Health Service that turned black patients into human guinea pigs. The survivors got $10 million from the government and an apology from President Clinton. They were the victims of a blatant medical atrocity conducted with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. government.

The state legislature in Florida in 1994 agreed to make payments to the survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives and property when a white mob destroyed the all-black town of Rosewood in 1923. This was a specific act of mob carnage that was tacitly condoned by some public officials and law enforcement officers. Florida was liable for the violence and was duty bound to apologize and pay. The Oklahoma state legislature has agreed at least in principle that reparations and apology should be made to the survivors of the dozens of blacks killed, and the hundreds more that had their homes and businesses destroyed by white mobs with the complicity of law enforcement in the Tulsa massacre of 1921.

A bill by Michigan Congressman John Conyers that has been kicked around Congress since 1989 to establish a commission to study the impact of slavery and the feasibility of paying reparations to blacks has gone nowhere in Congress. Reparations is simply too risky, divisive, and distracting for Congress to seriously consider. President Obama, however, has spoken at times about the need to spend more on education, job and housing programs as the best way to deal with the ills of the black poor.

The brutal truth is that a mainstay of America’s continuing racial divide is its harsh and continuing mistreatment of poor blacks. This can be directly traced to the persistent and pernicious legacy of slavery. But from the comments and actions of at least some Academy members even watching a movie about slavery that’s set a century and a half ago is too much too take. And that tells why America still refuses to face up to its slave past.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson


What Would Jesus Say?

It is safe to say that most people believe Jesus is coming back and/or think he is the savior of mankind. Whether you are a believer or not, as a result of the conditions of man might be the reason he has not returned. I’ll tell you that if I were him and see the sad state of affairs man has created, I would seek out a Noah and start all over again!

When I look at the senseless murders due to wars, be it in the streets or against nations or this divided nation whose views on feeding the homeless, the lack of healthcare, poverty, the murders and other acts against religious thinking proves civilization is in despair. Hippocrates use as justification their support of such evil by adding scripture in God’s name. My sense they believe their view is the natural order of things or maybe God’s plan for life. I cannot and will not speak for God, but I do not believe this is what God planned.

When it comes to the wretchedness of government and its leaders, it shameful to see the actions and hateful diatribes about race, the least of thee, and religion. As you know, all of these issues are commonly used by the right-wing nuts to vilify the poor. Admittedly, and shamefully, race is and has always been a stain on the soul of America. As I began to ponder just what kind of country we would have without a government that mandates laws for civilization to exist. What would Jesus or you higher power think!

More disturbing is that religion, God, and Jesus have become little more than instruments of the wicked. For example, on any given Sundays between the hours of 9 AM – 1 PM is the most-segregated hours in the country. I can’t speak to what is in the mind of others except for what they say, and some of the vitriol gives a good indication as to what’s in their hearts. I, in good conscience, rail against the racially charged political environment, and for sure the teabaggers designed declaration of “taking back their country.”

Finally, on the issue of justice and racial justice in particular; maybe understanding that Jesus came from that region of the world where his hue had to be of color could more likely be one of the reasons why he had to be crucified! Just as was the case with the murder of Jesus; there are people who are killing the messenger of truth now.

What I think Jesus would say, as his mission was for the salvation of the least of thee, I think he would say – “Thou shalt not Kill.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.


Stand Your Ground Against Injustice

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History has proven there is only one way to get the attention of unmovable ideologies to achieve change. Matching and protests are strategies, which is nothing more than a good show for the cameras. For example, the March on Washington and the Million Man March produced little in terms of measurable results. On the other hand, BOYCOTT’s work – the Birmingham Bus Boycott and the Martin Luther King Holiday Boycott on the state of Arizona – WORKED! It is time to stop BS-ing and BOYCOTT INJUSTICE and the system that supports connected to it. We will then get change. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remembering Juneteeth

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We must never forget Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Many attempts to explain the two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.

The story often told is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Then there is yet another story that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version, could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. Regardless, the conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.

North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants.

The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in the tradition today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in, and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, who wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed brightens our future – and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth. So lest not forget!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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