Tag Archives: history

Remembering: Muhammad Ali

The Greatest of All Times

thMuhammad Ali, known as the greatest boxer of all times and viewed by most as the “Champ,” retired as the first three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the elder of two boys in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr., who was named after the 19th-century abolitionist and politician, the owner of Clay’s ancestors. Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Clay was directed toward boxing by a white Louisville police officer whom he encountered as a 12-year-old fuming over the theft of his bicycle. After an extremely successful amateur boxing career, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Ali said in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant.

Not only was the Champ a fighter in the ring, but he also had the courage to fight the U.S. Government in 1967 when he refused to be inducted into the U.S. military based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was successful.

Standing tall at 6 feet, 3 inches, Clay had a highly unorthodox style for a heavyweight boxer. Rather than the normal style of carrying the hands high to defend the face, he instead relied on foot speed and quickness to avoid punches and carried his hands low. He coined a new technique called the rope-a-dope where he rested on the ring ropes and let the dope, his opponent, punch himself out. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would “trash talk” opponents on television and in person before the match and often with rhymes.

These personality quips and idioms, along with an unorthodox fighting technique, made him a cultural icon. Ali built a reputation by correctly predicting, with stunning accuracy, the round in which he would “finish” an opponent. While still Cassius Clay, he adopted the latter practice from “Gorgeous” George Wagner, a popular professional wrestling champion who drew thousands of fans. Often referred to as “the man you loved to hate,” George could incite the crowd with a few heated remarks, which Ali used to his advantage.

As Clay, he met his famous longtime trainer Angelo Dundee during a light heavyweight fight in Louisville shortly after becoming the top contender to fight Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. Despite his impressive record, he was not widely expected to defeat Liston, who was considered a more sinister champion than Iron Mike Tyson. In fact, nobody gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the fight against such a dominant champion.

The fight was scheduled for February 25, 1964, in Miami, Florida, but it almost never happened because the promoter heard that Clay had been seen around Miami and in other cities with the controversial Muslim Leader, Malcolm X. The promoters perceived this association as a potential gate killer to the fight where Liston was overwhelmingly favored to win. However, it was Clay’s colorful persona and nonstop braggadocio that gave the fight its sole appeal.

The ever-boastful Clay frequently taunted Liston during the buildup to the bout by dubbing him “the big ugly bear” among other things. During the weigh-in on the day before the bout, acting like a wild crazy man, Clay declared for the first time that he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” He summarized his strategy for avoiding Liston’s assaults this way: “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”

By the third round, Clay was ahead on points and had opened a cut under Liston’s eye. Liston regained some ground in the fourth, as Clay was blinded by a substance in his eyes. It is unconfirmed whether this was something used to close Liston’s cuts or deliberately applied to Liston’s gloves. What is clear, boxing historians and insiders have recalled, is that in at least two other Liston fights a similar situation occurred, suggesting the possibility that the Liston corner deliberately attempted to cheat.

By the sixth, Clay dominated Liston and was looking for a finish. Then Liston shocked the boxing world when he failed to answer the bell for the seventh round, claiming his shoulder was injured. At the end of the fight, Clay boasted to the press that doubted him before the match, proclaiming, “I shook up the world!” When Clay beat Liston at age 22, he became the youngest boxer ever to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion, a mark that stood until the Mike Tyson’s reign began.

What is significant about Clay winning the bout is this: he said, “I am pretty, I can’t be beat” as he yelled into the cameras for the world to see. In the early sixties, this was not the language Negro’s were using to describe themselves. Those words and that brash act was the catalyst for the black is beautiful movement, Afro-American, and black power. So from that perspective, yes, he shook up the world.

After winning the championship, Clay revealed that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. It was the movement’s leader Elijah Muhammad who gave Clay the name Cassius X, discarding his surname as a symbol of his ancestors’ enslavement, as had been done by other Nation members. On Friday, March 6, 1964, Malcolm X took Clay on a tour of the United Nations building where he announced that Clay would be granted his “X.” That same night, Elijah Muhammad recorded a statement over the phone to be played over the radio that Clay would be renamed Muhammad – one who is worthy of praise, and Ali – rightly guided.

The rematch with Liston was held in May 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. Ali, who had changed his name by this time, won by knockout in the first round as a result of what came to be called the “phantom punch.” Many believe that Liston, possibly as a result of threats from Nation of Islam extremists or in an attempt to “throw” the fight to pay off debts, waited to be counted out. However, most historians discount both scenarios and insist that it was a quick, chopping punch to the side of the head that legitimately fell Liston. Ali would later call the punch an “anchor punch” used by the Great Jack Johnson.

Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era’s most recognizable and controversial figures. Appearing at rallies with Elijah Muhammad and declaring his allegiance to him at a time when mainstream America viewed Black Muslims with suspicion and outright hostility made Ali a target of outrage, as well as suspicion. Ali seemed at times to provoke such reactions with viewpoints that wavered from support for civil rights to outright support of separatism.

For example, Ali once made this comment in relation to integration: “We who follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad don’t want to be forced to integrate. Integration is wrong. We don’t want to live with the white man; that’s all.” Or this remark about inter-racial marriage: “No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters.” It was clear that his religious beliefs at the time included the notion that the white man was “the devil” and that white people were not “righteous.” Ali would also make claims that white people hated black people.

In early 1966, Ali was reclassified to be eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army during a time when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. When notified of this status, he declared that he would refuse to serve in the Army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector. Ali believed “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”

Ali also famously said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them, Viet Cong … They never called me Nigger.” It was rare for a heavyweight boxing champion in those days, or now, to speak at Howard University where he gave his popular “Black Is Best” speech in 1996. Ali was invited to speak by Howard’s sociology professor Nathan Hare on behalf of the Black Power Committee, a student protest group. The event of 4,000 cheering students and community intellectuals was surely another step toward his iconic stature.

Appearing shortly thereafter for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967, in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested and on the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title as did other boxing commissions, for being unpatriotic.

At Ali’s trial, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ali guilty; the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction; the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, the public began turning against the war and support for Ali began to grow. Ali supported himself by speaking at colleges and universities across the country, where opposition to the war was especially strong. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed by unanimous decision his conviction for refusing induction. The decision was not based on, nor did it address the merits of Clay’s/Ali’s claims per se; rather, the government’s failure to specify which claims were rejected and which were sustained constituted the grounds upon which the Court reversed the conviction.

The legacy of the “Greatest” is the stuff movies are made of – Muhammad Ali defeated every top heavyweight in his era, which has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing. Ali was named “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter and was involved in more Ring Magazine “Fight of the Year” bouts than any other fighter. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees.

He is also one of only three boxers to be named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as one of the most recognized athletes, out of over 800 dead or alive athletes, in America.

I have met Muhammad and was so impressed I named my only son after him, hoping his example of courage and fortitude would be shared. He is my hero, and I say: thank you for your example and sacrifice. You are the Greatest of All Times. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Black History is American History


Black History: The Founder Of Ebony And Jet Magazine

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nJohn Harold Johnson, the grandson of slaves, rose to become one of the greatest African American entrepreneurs. Mr. Johnson was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company and became the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400. This businessman and publisher created the most important media source for the black community ever. It is an honor for me to pay homage to Mr. Johnson for his devotion to the African American community and the pride his publication instilled.

In my view, his greatest and most important accomplishment occurred in 1955 when he made the profound decision at Emmett’s mothers request to publish young Emmett’s open casket photograph mangled and brutally beaten. If it had not been for Mr. Johnson’s JET Magazine, the world would never have known of this horrific murder. I will give thanks to him because it was this decision that sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Born in the south but after a visit with his mother to the Chicago World’s Fair, they decided that opportunities in the North were more plentiful than in the South. Facing poverty on every side in Arkansas during the Great Depression, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933 to try to find work and for Johnson to continue his education.

Johnson endured much teasing and taunting at his high school for his ragged clothes and country ways, as he encountered something he never knew existed: Middle-class blacks. At DuSable High School, his classmates included Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, and future entrepreneur William Abernathy. This only fueled his already formidable determination to “make something of himself”. Johnson’s high-school career was distinguished by the leadership qualities he demonstrated as student council president and as editor of the school newspaper and class yearbook. This would prove to be valuable later in his life.

Johnson began as an office boy at Supreme Life and within two years had become Pace’s assistant. His duties included preparing a monthly digest of newspaper articles. Johnson began to wonder if other people in the community might not enjoy the same type of service. He conceived of a publication patterned after Reader’s Digest. His work at Supreme Life also gave him the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations of a business owned by an African American and fostered his dream of starting a business of his own.

Once the idea of The Negro Digest occurred to him, it began to seem like a “black gold mine”, Johnson stated in his autobiography Succeeding against the Odds. He remained enthusiastic even though he was discouraged on all sides from doing so. Only his mother, a woman with biblical faith and deep religious convictions, as well as a powerful belief in her son, supported his vision and allowed him to use her furniture as collateral for a $500 loan. He used this loan to publish the first edition of Negro Digest in 1942.

Johnson expanded his business interests to areas other than his magazines. He became chairperson and chief executive officer of the Supreme Life Insurance Company. He developed a line of cosmetics, purchased three radio stations, started a book publishing company, and a television production company, and served on the board of directors of several major businesses, including the Greyhound Corporation.

Johnson Publishing Company also has a book division and employs more than 2,600 people, with sales of over $388 million. In addition, Johnson Publishing owns Fashion Fair the world’s number one makeup and skin care company for women of color, and Supreme Beauty products such as hair care for men and women, and is involved in television production and produces the Ebony Fashion Fair the world’s largest traveling fashion show, which has donated over $47 million to charity. The show visits more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

On January 31, 2012, the United States Postal Service honored John H. Johnson with a commemorative stamp as the newest addition to its Black Heritage Series. The John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University is named in his honor. Therefore, I send the highest praise to this great champion of the world.

Your publishing the open coffin pictures of little Emmett Till opened the eyes of the world to the brutality inflicted upon our people was the spark that started the modern Civil Rights Movement. If I may speak for all African American’s – thank you, Sir, for having the vehicles that uplifted and inspired us all with so much pride. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Media Kit


Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

1There have been so many horrors inflicted upon the least of thee, black people, at the behest of the US Government. One of the most atrocious atrocities was the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. This was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the US Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis on rural African American men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government. This evil plan hatched in Tuskegee was transplanted to Guatemala after the experiment was shut down in Tuskegee.

Investigators enrolled a total of 600 impoverished sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama from a pool of 399 of black men who had previously contracted syphilis before the study began. However, 201 did not have the disease. The men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance, for participating in the study. But they were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the subjects were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term for various illnesses that include syphilis, anemia, and fatigue.

The study was controversial for reasons related to ethical standards lasted for forty- years. The government personnel involved knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure for the disease they were studying. The revelation of study failures by a whistleblower leaked led to major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection of participants in clinical studies.

The scientists also prevented participants from accessing syphilis treatment programs available to others in the area. The study continued, under numerous US Public Health Service supervisors, until 1972, when a leak to the press eventually resulted in the program’s termination. The victims of the study included numerous men who died of syphilis, wives who contracted the disease, and children born with congenital syphilis.

Physicians in this time were fixated on African American sexuality, and the willingness of African Americans to have sexual relations with those who were infected led them to believe that the responsibility for the acquisition of the disease was solely upon the individual. This need to place blame blinded the physicians to find ways to help the innocent infants born with the disease through no fault of their own.

In 1974, Congress passed the national Research Act creating a commission to study and write regulations governing studies involving human participants. On May 16, 1997, President Bill Clinton formally apologized and held a ceremony for the Tuskegee study participants: “What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry … To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.”

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study significantly damaged the trust of the black community toward public health efforts in the United States. The study may also have contributed to the reluctance of many poor black people to seek routine preventive care. Distrust of the government because of the study contributed to persistent rumors in the black community that the government was responsible for the HIV/AIDS crisis by introducing the virus to the black community.

An interview in February on ABC’s Prime Time Live between ABC’s Jay Schadler and Dr. Sidney Olansky, Public Health Services director of the study from 1950 to 1957, further showed why the Tuskegee study had damaged the trust between medical personnel and much of the African American community. When asked about the lies that were told to the study subjects, Olansky replied with “The fact that they were illiterate was helpful, too, because they couldn’t read the newspapers. If they were not, as things moved on they might have been reading newspapers and seen what was going on.”

John Heller, Director of the Public Health Service’s Division of Venereal Diseases, said, “For the most part, doctors and civil servants simply did their jobs. Some merely followed orders; others worked for the glory of science.” My question is how many of these so-called civil servants are just doing their jobs today. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Black History: The Good Ship Jesus

1As white folk celebrated their holidays and honor the remembrance of the lies they told. Black people have many sad reminders of their dastardly deeds and we should never forget the evils they inflicted upon us either. Therefore, I thought I’d offer this reminder about our stolen past to which there was nothing more horrifying than the “Middle Passage”. Coincidentally, most of you don’t know that the first registered slave ship was named the “Good Ship Jesus”! The African has overcome some adversity since being stolen from Africa but none worse than the removal of the culture and spirituality the practiced.

Try to imagine, if you can, being kidnapped, forced march hundreds of miles shackled, beaten, put into pins, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months. I believe this was the first step in the process of stealing the souls and culture of the stolen people of African and the beginning of the creation of a new people they would call Negro.

The ride on the Good Ship Jesus codified the end for millions of souls who made that horrible journey into the unknown interned in the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks of this wretched practice as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic, which took many months to be slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was commonly organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members. The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, women and children, on the other hand, may have had somewhat more room. The captives were fed one meal a day, with water, like animals with foods such as beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Of course if the food was scarce, the slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting the indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished. However, many historians say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths.

Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments. The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in every imaginable manner. Although, they were fed enough to stay alive and supplied with water. This was only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long or any unforeseen circumstances on the voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would say the effects of the loss of land, knowledge of a geographical origin, our history resulting from this wretched crime as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and wonder if the descendent of the stolen Africans will ever “overcome”. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


The Mis-Education Of The Negro

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nWe have been hoodwinked and led astray when it comes to what we have been taught. False information is as dangerous as no information. Remember black people were denied by law to read! This is significant because we know most whites are marginal at best! If by chance, either statement is true I often wonder why the liberty of black people has been so long in coming – over 400 years.  We know “they” don’t want us and no longer see a need black people in America. So the question for them is – what to do with black people? It appears the answer is TO KILL THEM by any means necessary. I call it genocide!

I would have loved to sit with some of the great black minds to learn from their wisdom in their lifetime.  People like Garvey, Brother Malcolm, or even Nate Turner. However, my favorite would be the great visionary, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, to marvel as he composed “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” This novel in my view is the most profound novel ever written concerning the African American Diaspora. It is profound and amazing because of powerful messages revealed within the pages; especially, when you consider this great literary work was originally published in 1933. Dr. Carter G. Woodson is known as and considered the father of Black History Month. This book should be mandatory reading for all African Americans – young and old.

I continue to be struck by the fact that we have not understood the potent message left for us. The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that Negroes of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught in American schools; actually, not even given the advantage of education. This conditioning, he claims, causes African Americans to become dependent, seeking out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. This assertion is clearly evident – over eighty years later.

He challenged his readers to become empowered by doing for themselves, regardless of what they were taught:

History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and had to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.

Today with all the advantages concerning educational opportunities, business exposure, social networking, and a president who looks like us; we are in the best position to succeed than at any time in our history. So the obvious question is “why are we not?” Every other ethnic community takes advantage of their options to strengthen and empower their communities while, sadly, robbing black communities in the process. We will let anybody set up shop in our communities and take our money.

My point is: Black people must learn to do business with each other in order to gain wealth by keeping our money in our communities. Some say we spend trillions annually, and nearly all of it leaves our community within 15 minutes. Let me remind you that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same things and expect different results. We can change the world, but first, we must change ourselves.

Here is a quote from the “The Mis-Education of the Negro”:

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door he will cut one for his special benefit.”

This book is as relevant today as it was as it was the day of its first printing. It is time to build on what was left for us. More importantly, “know where you came from to know where you’re going if we are ever going to get there.” This begs the question, do black people know where they are heading or just continue being hoodwinked and led like lambs to slaughter! And that is my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Education as a Weapon


The Middle Passage

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nWe cannot talk about Black History without remembering that horrible journey across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. Imagine if you can, being captured, put on a forced march, beaten, put into pins while shackled, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months, as you suffer a horrible journey into the abyss of the unknown. Now, look at what they call this today “The Trans-Atlantic Voyage,” as if it was a pleasure cruise Shocking!!!

These were the conditions leading to that horrible journey into the unknown for millions of Africans forcibly interned into the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks to this wretched practice as part of the Atlantic slave trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members.

The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, with women and children having somewhat more room. The captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were fed one meal a day with water, but if food were scarce slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished, but some say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century, however, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American anyway, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths. Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments.

The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in almost every imaginable manner. While they were generally fed enough food and water to stay alive only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long, unpredictable voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would call the loss of land, soul, and our history as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Media Kit


Honoring El-HAJJ MALIK SHABAZZ AKA Malcolm X

012_1000Remembering the prophet and revolutionary on the day he was taken from us. Although your message and words are still with us; we miss you and need you now. On February 27, 1965, Ossie Davis gave this moving eulogy at the Faith Temple Church of God in Harlem, NY. Your greatness will never die.

RIP Brother Minister!

Here, at this final hour, in this quiet place, Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes, extinguished now and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought. His home of homes where his heart was and where his people are. And it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again in Harlem to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who loved her, have fought for her and have defended her honor even to the death.

It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us, unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to: Afro-American. Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over the minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a ‘Negro’ year’s ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted so desperately that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans, too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee even, from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain. And we will smile. Many will say turn away, away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man. And we will smile. They will say that he is of hate, a fanatic, a racist who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him:

Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man but a seed which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is. A prince; our own black shining prince who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.

And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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