Tag Archives: John Henrik Clarke

Black History: Dr. John Henrik Clarke

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nJohn Henrik Clarke was one of the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. He was born January 1, 1915, in Union Springs, Alabama and died July 16, 1998, in New York City. His mother was a washerwoman who did laundry for $3 a week, and his father was a sharecropper. As a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley “long before they became Generals or President,” Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.

Ms. Harris, his third-grade teacher, convinced him that one day he would be a writer, but before he became a writer, he became a voracious reader inspired by Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” about a veteran who enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Master Sergeant. After mustering out, Clarke moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters.

His literary accomplishments are very significant, but he was best known as a historian. He wrote over two hundred short stories with “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” being his best known. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.

Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited “Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A”. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron’s “portrait” of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke’s work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.

What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence. Thereby, offering an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. Clarke understood the necessity for us to affirm our belief in and respect for radical leaders such as Malcolm X and Nat Turner. It is interesting to note that Clarke’s work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past; he also was proactively involved with history in the making.

As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited “Africa, Lost and Found” (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and “African People at the Crossroads”, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations, he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist historian, he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was “Who Betrayed the African Revolution?”

In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.

During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophiles. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert. All of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.

From the sixties on, John Henrik Clarke stepped up and delivered the full weight of his own intellectual brilliance and social commitment to the ongoing struggle for Black liberation and development. Clarke became a stalwart member and hard worker in (and sometimes co-founder of) organizations such as The Harlem Writers Guild, Presence Africaine, African Heritage Studies Association, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the National Council of Black Studies and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.

Formally, Clarke lectured and held professorships at universities worldwide. His longer and most influential tenures were at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and in African and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City. He received honorary degrees from numerous institutions and served as consultant and advisor to African and Caribbean heads of state. In 1997, he was the subject of a major documentary directed by the noted filmmaker Saint Claire Bourne and underwritten by the Hollywood star Westley Snipes.

John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of the self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary, he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted “little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. …they called me ‘Bubba’ and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the ‘e’ to the family name ‘Clark’ and change the spelling of ‘Henry’ to ‘Henrik,’ after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.”

I like his spunk and the social issues he addressed in ‘A Doll’s House.’ …My daddy wanted me to be a farmer; feel the smoothness of Alabama clay and become one of the first blacks in my town to own land. But, I was worried about my history being caked with that southern clay, and I subscribed to a different kind of teaching and learning in my bones and in my spirit.”

Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us with a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration born out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his black people through knowledge. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Black History is American History
“Just a Season”

Dr. John Henrik Clarke Explains Religion

Most people only believe what they are told about religion and dare not question the validity of what some preacher or white man says is truthful or not. Let’s be honest the purpose of religion is to control your mind and ultimately take your money. I will tell you what your preacher will not “Jesus I not coming back to save you”. Research the origins and you will find the answer and that answer is within you. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


The Book Of Knowledge: Break The Chains

1004795_10201334073855180_857894681_nA season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life and life as we know is a journey. It could also be called history. Once this thing called time moves beyond the present, it is simply a memory. If you look at it this way: “We only have a minute, didn’t choose it, can’t refuse it. It’s just a tiny little minute but an eternity it!” The question then becomes – what are you going to do with it?

The prolific French writer-historian and philosopher Voltaire said, “History is a pack of tricks we play upon the dead.” Ask yourself, if someone were to tell the story of your life; what might they say? The European has told a story about Black people that is the most shameful representation and the most factless stories ever written about our history and used the word of God to do so. I call that His-Story, which is nothing more than a pack of lies. Now, is that the way you want our history remembered.

Dr. John Henrik Clarke says, “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells the story of a people, where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. Most important, history tells a people where they still must go, what they still must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child.”

What I have learned from my experiences is that a good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention, and then he can teach the lesson. The lessons have been taught to us, Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois told us how to build our community. Marcus Garvey told us how to be self-sufficient and to take care of our own needs. Elijah Muhammad taught us how to carry ourselves with dignity and respect. Dr. King gave us faith and Brother Malcolm told us to do it by “Any Means Necessary! I believe education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. We can save the world but first we must change ourselves.

With that said, a follower of Thought Provoking Perspectives sent me a message asking; what are you trying to accomplish with your words. My first thought was she did not realize that I want my words to be a potent source of empowering knowledge to broaden the information base with those who share my passion for the written word. I view myself as a history fanatic because if you don’t know where you’ve come from – you will never get to where you’re going.

The great Dr. Clarke asked a series of questions that each of us must ask ourselves. The questions asked: “I think every person that calls themselves a leader, a preacher, a policy-maker of any kind should ask and answer the question in his own lifetime, how will my people stay on this earth? How will they be educated? How will they be schooled? How will they be housed? And how will they be defended? The answer to these questions will create the concept of enduring nationhood because it creates the concept of enduring responsibility. I am saying whatever the solution is, either we are in charge of our own destiny, or we are not. On that point we got to be clear, you either free or you a slave.”

As a Black man who lived in and through the Jim Crow Era. I learned very early that powerful people cannot afford to educate the people they oppress, because once you are truly educated; you will not ask for power. You will take it! Educate and empower your children, build your family, and thereby, your community in order to live life to the fullest. Sadly, as I look at the world today I felt safer during segregation than I do today.

BLACK PEOPLE IT IS WAY PAST TIME – OPEN YOUR EYES AND WAKE UP!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Sunday Morning Truth

Religion is the world’s biggest problem facing mankind, not only because most them are created by man himself, but designed to control what you think so they know what you are thinking. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with “faith” or “belief system”, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect.

Therefore, I say religion was hijacked for monetary reasons. Most wars were and are fought because of some religion; the age old adage good versus evil! We need to come to realize that most of what we are taught is propaganda and brainwashing, which has nothing to do with spirituality.

The world would be a better place; if people were to write a new covenant and seek a new reality, studied the history of what you are taught, which means from its root and begin to think for him or herself as God intended. Look at it this way; religion is the opiate of people! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Words Of Wisdom

I am a proud member of the common sense party. Neither of the other mainstream parties have done anything for black people nor has the larger white community – ever and got sense enough to it. This year’s election for president is merely a choice between evil and less evil. The woman candidate has hoodwinked black folk and the others by saying she will be the first woman president and the other guy might do to us as Hitler did to the Jews.

I have seen this game enough to know it does not matter who is chosen that black people will get not more than what they had and never got. America has never been great for black people, it has been a nightmare! These two great men sums up what history has shown. List to Malcolm:

Now listen the master teacher Dr. John Henrik Clarke:

And that’s is my thought provoking perspective…


Revolutionaries: On The Shoulders Of Giants

Throughout the history of America, the World, and dare I say the black experience, there have been many outstanding and courageous soldiers who took a stand against racism and injustice. We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude, respect and honor to those known and unknown!

Today, let’s give praise to the many who stood up, fought back, and although His-Story has erased most of them from memory and the pages of history. I say, it is up to you and me to memorialize the memories of those who sacrificed, and in many cases their lives. So let’s bring these might soldiers into remembrance.

Say It Loud and add a name to the list those giants you honor and respect to pay homage for their tenacity, bravery, and commitment to the struggle!

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Master Teacher: Dr. John Henrik Clarke

Listen to Dr. John Henrik Clarke give a powerful history lesson on the subject of Slavery and Resistance from 1776-1865. One of Dr. Clarke’s most powerful statements: To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed.

This is a history lesson I am sure you have never been taught.

YOU MUST LISTEN!!!


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