Category Archives: History

Bayer and Monsanto: A Marriage Made in Hell

Today, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that, "Bayer, Monsanto said to be moving closer to a merger deal". Considering the history of Black people being victimized by medical experimentation and the history of Bayer's participation in the Holocaust while part of IG Farben, the merger is not welcome news to me.

On December 25, 1925 six companies Bayer, BASF, Hoechst including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle, Agfa, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm merged to form IG Farben. 

The IG Farben Trial concluded that IG Farben had committed war crimes including active participation in the Holocaust. IG Farben had constructed a plant next to the concentration camp  Auschwitz, with the clear intent to use inmates as slave workers. The indictment against IG Farben included:

  • Planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and invasions of other countries.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

The Soviet Union seized most of IG Farben's assets located in the Soviet occupation zone. However, because of the company's large investment of American companies, the idea of destroying IG Farben was quickly abandoned in the western occupation zone. In 1951, the company was split into its original companies and the four largest including Bayer quickly bought the smaller ones. IG Farben was officially put into liquidation in 1952, however, as of 2012, it still existed as a corporation in liquidation.

It's important to consider a company's past history and consider what it may be capable of in the future. The article below provides information concerning the history of both Bayer and Monsanto.

By Martha Rosenberg, Ronnie Cummins

The two multinationals that teamed up during the Vietnam War to poison millions of people with its Agent Orange herbicide—St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer AG—are looking to become one. 

Bayer has announced a bid  to buy Monsanto in a deal that would expand Bayer's GMO and pesticide holdings and add drugs to Monsanto’s global portfolio. Monsanto has rejected the latest bid, but the two are still in talks.

If Monsanto, perhaps the most hated GMO company in the world, joins hands with Bayer, one of the most hated Big Pharma corporations on Earth (whose evil deeds date back to World War I and the Nazi era), the newly formed seed-pesticide-drug behemoth would have combined annual sales of $67 billion.

That’s a staggering figure. But here’s another, even more alarming: Combined, the new mega-chemical/seed company would control 29 percent of the world’s seed market and 24 percent of the pesticide market. 

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is the third recent proposed consolidation in the agriculture markets in just months, following on the heels of proposed mergers between chemical and agritoxics titans Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.  

"All of a sudden we have three major transactions at the same time," Matt Arnold, an Edward Jones analyst, told the News Journal. "One would think that would prompt regulators to really dial up the scrutiny and think long and hard about whether that much consolidation is in the best interest of farmers and consumers."

Indeed, reports the Journal, all three proposed mergers face antitrust reviews by agencies in the U.S., Europe and China, reports the Journal, including by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and stockholders of the publicly traded companies.

Already shareholders have spoken out, terming the move "arrogant empire-building," reported Reuters. Shareholders also worry that the takeover would dilute Bayer’s core drug business currently flush with sales of its blood-thinner Xarelto and Eylea, a drug to treat blindness.

As noted, this is not the first time Bayer and Monsanto will have teamed up, if the deal goes through. “During the Vietnam war, Bayer was involved in the development of Agent Orange production….carried out at the firm Mobay, founded jointly by Bayer and Monsanto,”says Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. The defoliant herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed over millions of acres in Vietnam for over a decade in “Operation Ranch Hand,” despite numerous scientific studies and thousands, later millions of medical cases linking the toxic chemical to birth defects and stillbirths in animals and humans.

Bayer, a history of unsafe drugs

Bayer and Monsanto both sell controversial toxic agricultural chemicals and GMO seeds. But if Bayer’s bid to take over Monsanto goes through, it would mark Monsanto’s first entry into Big Pharma. 

Last year, Bayer was named the ninth largest drug company in the world on the basis of its yearly revenue of $25.47 billion. The drug giant, though, has been beset with drug safety scandals, including deaths, for at least three decades. Here are just a few of the scandals that made the news,

•    Blood clotting drug spread AIDS

In the 1980s, Bayer sold Factor VIII concentrate, a blood-clotting medicine acquired from Cutter Laboratories in 1978. Though Factor VIII carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS and Bayer knew, Bayer continued to sell the drug in Asia and Latin America while selling a new, safer product in the West. 

In Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. and "many have since died, "reported the New York Times. Cutter's "financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory," said William Heisel of the Center for Health Reporting. "Cutter continued to sell the contaminated AHF to markets willing to accept it, including overseas markets in Asia and Latin America, without the recommended precaution of heat treating the product to eliminate the risk."

•    Statin Baycol recalled

In 2001, Bayer withdrew its lucrative new statin drug Baycol because more than 50 people had died and more than six million patients were at risk from the deadly side effects of rapidly dissolving of muscle tissue. Bayer removed the drug from pharmacy shelves in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and U.S. and German lawyers announced that they are planning an amended class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would allow European victims to seek damages.

As deaths grew, Bayer stuck to its story "that there is currently no proof that the drug is the cause of the deaths" and assured shareholders that "Our sales this year will increase even though Baycol will now be absent." Recently, Bayer was sentenced to pay damages to Baycol victims in in Argentina and Italy. "Internal documents show that Bayer’s management was aware of the serious health risk for patients and even ignored warnings from within the company," . 

•    Yaz birth control pill causes deaths

Bayer's Yaz birth control pills promised to clear up acne and treat severe PMS in addition to preventing pregnancy. But soon after the Yaz launch in 2006, there were reports of associated blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. The Bayer birth control pills contained drospirenone, a drug that was never before marketed in the U.S. and likely caused the heart problems through elevated potassium, and a change in acid balance of the blood.

TV ads for Yaz in 2008 were so misleading, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in a rare move, ordered Bayer to run correction ads. Thousands of injuries and approximately 100 deaths were linked to Yaz in law filings that followed. 

•    Xarelto, shady approval of a dangerous drug

In 2012, the New York Times reported on a class of new anti-clotting drugs which have no antidote and can cause alarming bleeding deaths. Xarelto is one of them. Even as 379 deaths have been linked to Xarelto, there are reports of hidden and falsified data and faulty technology that helped win the controversial drug FDA approval. Trials were conducted by Duke's Robert Califf, who later became the new FDA Commissioner. No conflict of interest there. 

•    Baytril, animal antibiotic blocked by FDA

2015 Bayer brochure, coinciding with public awareness of antibiotic abuse in livestock, says Bayer Animal Health "objects" to "routine prophylactic use in healthy animals" of fluoroquinolones, a type of antibiotic. 

Yet it was just such "prophylactic use" that got Bayer's fluoroquinolone Baytril blocked by the FDA a decade ago.  The FDA said  the routine use of Baytril in chickens "has made it difficult for doctors to treat human patients who have food poisoning." Union of Concerned Scientists called the decision a "big victory for public health." The FDA Commissioner at the time, Lester Crawford, remarked that Baytril "has not been shown to be safe for use in poultry." The FDA continues to struggle against the powerful lobbying of drug companies selling livestock antibiotics, often by the ton.

The devil’s chemist

Many people have heard rumors about Bayer’s roles in WWI and WWII. Sadly, they are true and sometimes worse than have been reported. “Carl Duisberg, the Bayer General Director for decades, was personally involved in the development of poison gas such as ‘Mustard Gas’ in World War I and pushed for its use on the front–contrary to international law,”reports Coalition against Bayer Dangers. Duisberg demanded the deportation of tens of thousands of Belgian forced laborers, according to the Coalition, and “strongly supported the merging of the German chemical industry to create the Ig Farben” implicated in Nazi atrocities.

“The Ig Farben cartel was crucial to the Nazi war effort by supplying synthetic fuel, rubber, and other chemicals,” reports Natural News. The cartel also manufactured Zyklon-B, the nerve gas used to kill millions at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and elsewhere. Later known as the Devil's Chemists, Ig Farben used unwilling inmates of the concentration camps as slave laborers and guinea pigs to test chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines. Tens of thousands died, and those who became too ill to be of any use were murdered in the gas chambers, according to a Natural News report. 

It is hard to believe a company linked to the Holocaust, including grisly human experiments conducted on concentration camp victims, would be thriving in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and GMO sectors. But it’s true, as evidenced by this correspondence between an Auschwitz camp commander and Bayer Leverkusen, which cites the “sale” of 150 female prisoners for experiments:

With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal (…)" – "We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women (…)" – "We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible (…)" – "Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments (…)" – "The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment (…)"

From chemical warfare to “crop science”

Bayer is in agrochemicals and GMOs as deeply as Monsanto, the company it seeks to buy. In 2008, the German Coalition against Bayer brought a charge against the Bayer Board of Management with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany) accusing Bayer of contributing to the mass death of bees all over the world through its aggressive pesticide marketing. Since then, the bee debacle has only grown worse, with thousands of hives collapsing after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin, producing a worldwide crisis.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, one of the world’s best-selling insecticides. Imidacloprid is used to pre-treat genetically engineered corn, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) seeds, despite evidence seeds with insecticides is ineffective. Imidacloprid was one of Bayer´s top pesticides, exported to more than 120 countries. When its patent expired, Bayer brought a similarly functioning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market in 2003. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

In 2006, the Washington Post reported that Bayer’s GMO rice, LLRICE 601 rice, endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weed killer made by the agricultural giant Aventis, was spreading out of control. U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with the rice not approved for human consumption, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. 

The following year, Bayer admitted it was unable to control the spread of its genetically-engineered organisms despite “the best practices [to stop contamination],” demonstrating once again that all outdoors field trials or commercial growing of GMO crops must be stopped

Europe has been way ahead of the U.S. in acknowledging the dangers and banning GMOs and dangerous pesticides.

Is merger a sign of decline?

While a Bayer-Monsanto deal (like a DuPont-Dow deal or ChemChina-Syngenta deal) certainly threatens the world food supply with domination by GMOs and destructive agrochemicals, there may be an underreported bright side: Industries that are doing well generally spin off; industries that are performing poorly generally merge and consolidate.

Recent reports suggest the stock of large agricultural, biotech and seed companies, including Monsanto, is foundering, –a likely reflection of the growing, world-wide rejection of their products.  Moreover, even though the long-awaited, industry-friendly National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report did not find human “dangers” in eating GMOs, it also definitively did not find they produced greater crop yields. Wait—wasn’t that the justification given for creating GMO crops? 

Thanks in large part to the global anti-GMO and Millions Against Monsanto movement, the Biotech Tech Bully from St. Louis is on the ropes. By changing its name, Monsanto hopes we’ll forget its evil deeds.

Not a chance, On October 14-16, merged or not with Bayer, the OCA and the global grassroots will expose Monsanto’s crimes against humanity and the environment at the Monsanto Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal which will take place in The Hague, Netherlands. 

Perhaps it’s time to put Bayer and Big Pharma on trial as well and build an even larger global united front: Billions Against Bayer-Monsanto.

Republished with permission under license by CommonDreams

DOJ report on Baltimore echoes centuries-old limits on African-American freedom in the Charm City

Police armored cars drive down a Baltimore street following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Jessica Millward

African-American rights in Baltimore have always been in jeopardy. The recently released report from the Department of Justice on the Baltimore Police Department is sobering, but not surprising.

As a scholar of early African-American history in Maryland, I see similarities between laws regarding enslaved and free blacks living in Baltimore prior to the Civil War, and the overpolicing of African-Americans today. African-Americans in antebellum and contemporary Baltimore share the same problem: limits on black freedom.

Antebellum foundations for unequal treatment

On the eve of the American Revolution, Maryland was second only to Virginia in the number of people it held in bondage. By the beginning of the 19th century, the number of free blacks began to rise. Baltimore had a significant free black population well before the 14th Amendment made blacks citizens. According to the 1790 U.S. census, 927 free blacks resided in the county that included Baltimore city. By 1830, Baltimore city and the surrounding county was home to some 17,888 free African-Americans.

Historian Barbara Field notes that the increase of free blacks in Maryland was a direct result of replacing tobacco harvesting, which required a full-time labor source, to wheat. Harvesting wheat did not require a year-round labor supply. Between the change in labor demands and African-Americans protesting their condition, the free black community in Virginia and Maryland grew.

Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland
Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland – an everyday scene. Library of Congress/Frank Leslie

This was a concern for lawmakers. Laws such as the 1790 Act Related to Freeing Slaves by Will or Testament were designed to extract the maximum amount of labor from the enslaved before they were awarded freedom, or their free black relatives could purchase it for them. This meant enslaved men were freed only when they ceased to be in peak physical condition, and enslaved women were freed after their childbearing years.

Once freed, African-Americans had to show “proof of a sufficient livelihood,” affirming their ability to care for themselves, or otherwise end up in the city jail or re-enslaved. The irony of this proclamation was that once freed, African-Americans found ways to stave off poverty by working in trades similar to the jobs they had while enslaved. If they avoided the county jail, free blacks were subject to curfews and sanctions against traveling. Many counties in Maryland passed laws requiring free blacks to move out of the state for fear they would incite the local enslaved population to rebel.

Perhaps the most alarming attempt to address the problem of black freedom was the development of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and its chapters in antebellum cities such as Baltimore. Under the guise of Christianity and missionary work, the ACS promised enslaved African-Americans all the rights and privileges of freedom, so long as they relocated to Liberia. Organized by white slaveholders, politicians and religious organizations, the ACS offered a solution to both slavery and the rise in free blacks in the United States – resettle blacks outside the country.

Black intellectuals of the time were divided over resettlement campaigns. Abolitionist newspapers published countless articles protesting the efforts of the colonization society. Historian Robert Brugger notes that a group of free blacks surrounded the gangplanks in the Baltimore harbor in an attempt to stop the forced removal of their friends and family to Liberia.

As these 19th-century examples demonstrate, policing African-American freedom has a long history in Baltimore. African-Americans could escape slavery, but they were not truly free. New laws were continually passed to limit, if not completely dismantle, the very few rights they possessed.

Baltimore today: DOJ report documents violations of civil rights

The findings in the DOJ report echo the restrictions on lives of antebellum free blacks in key ways. African-Americans were arrested in greater proportion than their nonblack peers. According to the report:

BPD made roughly 44 percent of its stops in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American – were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.

African-Americans were frequently arrested for loitering. If their presence became a problem, whether real or perceived, Baltimore police exercised a zero-tolerance policy when it came to African-Americans resulting in unlawful searches, seizures and arrests. As in the 19th century, the mere presence of African-Americans provided grounds for arrest.

People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland.
People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

In the 19th century, attempts were made to remove blacks from society by, among other means, sending them to Liberia or forcing them to move away. Today, arresting and detaining African-Americans quarantines them from the rest of society. If the arrest sticks and the individual is prosecuted and found guilty, he is incarcerated. If convicted of a felony, he is not allowed to vote.

African-Americans make up 44 percent of the Baltimore police force and 63 percent of the population of Baltimore city. As the New York Times points out, “Baltimore’s police department has a lower percentage of blacks than the population it serves. But in contrast to other cities that have been wracked by tension and protests over police confrontations with black men, the city’s mayor, its police commissioner, the state’s attorney are all black, giving a somewhat different tenor to clashes between the power structure and its critics.” Indeed, arguments about policing that exclusively point to racism or bias among officers as the root of the problem don’t hold for cities like Baltimore. I believe the problem is also tied to anti-black aspects of the laws they are tasked with enforcing.

The DOJ report provides a critical opportunity to assess and reform disparities in the legal system, especially as we continually bear witness to the almost daily death dance between African-Americans and the police. It makes clear that African-American rights are in jeopardy. The key difference between African-Amerians in Baltimore then and now is that blacks are now citizens. They are entitled to, among other things, the right to due process under the law.

However, the DOJ findings make clear that African-Americans in Baltimore are disproportionately harassed, searched, detained and, in the case of Freddie Gray, murdered. The fear is not that the DOJ report has unmasked truths that we prefer to deny. The fear is that there will be a failure to reform the system in light of these findings. Greater than the fear is the reality that policing black citizens will continue to include practices that are eerily reminiscent of the past.

Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Jessica Millward is an Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Dr. Millward's first book, Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black women in Maryland was published in Fall 2015 as part of the Race in the Atlantic World series, Athens: University of Georgia Press. She is also working on two additional projects. The first is centered on migration and citizenship in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1860. The other focuses on African American women's experiences with sexual assault and intimate partner violence through the end of the 19th century.

Millward writes commentary on topics related to slavery, African American women and US History.

Are Black People Stuck in the Past?

Some people have commented that slavery happened a long time ago and that black people are stuck in the past and need to forget about slavery. People often state that no one alive today has ever experienced slavery and that white decendants are not responsible for the sins of their ancestors. Had white decendants not benefited from the inheritance those sins produced, I might agree with those statements, but when you accept the benefits, you must also accept the liability and responsibility. 

Slavery in what is now the U.S. began in 1619 and ended in 1865. While it is true that slavery ended 150 years ago, it was replace by Jim Crow, a system in many regards very similar to slavery. Jim Crow began at the end of the Reconstruction Period around 1877 and didn't begin to end until the 1950's with the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and, by extension, that ruling was applied to other public facilities. However, it took another decade of protest before the civil rights act and the voting rights act provided meaningful relief.

The continued legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and institutionalize racism is  continued discrimination, economic and other forms of oppression. The effects were long term and some have argued African-Americans suffer from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

The video below does a good job of explaining some of the horrors of slavery and demonstrates some of the lingering affects.

Buck Breaking

The video below describes a little known slave breaking technique where male slaves were beaten and raped in front of their family and other slaves on the plantation.

Some of the scenes depicted in the video above were from the movie "Amistad' and  "Goodbye Uncle Tom", a 1971 movie based on historical documents and revealed horrors and hidden evils of slavery.

There are some who claim that sex farms never existed and the concept is black propaganda. An 1849 publication titiled, "A Few Words, on the Encouragement given to Slavery and the Slave Trade, by recent measures, and chiefly by the Sugar Bill of 1846", by Stephen Cave, ESQ, M.A. Barrister at Law; states on page 17:

"It is scarcely profitable here to allude to the quadroons of the slave states; ladies, who in complexion, education, and refinement, might vie with the fairest and most favoured daughters of Europe; who are yet sold as the negroes, into hopeless slavery. Their case, though one of the foulest blots on the American Institutions, is not one of those, encouraged by our commercial policy; their life is a very different one to that of the labouring slaves; but in their case, as on the slave breeding farms of Virginia, are to be found instances of fathers selling their own children, making merchandize of their own flesh and blood."

Another publication, "Letter to Louis Kossuth concerning Freedom and Slavery in behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society" published in 1852 mentions "breeding plantations" on pages 27-28. The publication, "Lincolniana", published in 1865, mentions slave breeding farms on page 25

Now that we have provided documentary proof that slave breeding farms existed, we now remind you to use common sense and deductive reasoning. During the 1800's, homosexuality was considered socially unacceptable, taboo and in many cases illegal. You wouldn't expect men who participated in this sort of behavior to publicize it, would you? However, think about how effective a technique this would be to make male slaves submit. I can think of no greater method to strip a man of his dignity, sense of manhood and will to fight. I can't begin to imagine the humiliation those men felt who were victims of this breaking techique.



Should the U.S. provide reparations for slavery and Jim Crow?

By Carlton Mark Waterhouse – Professor of Law and Dean's Fellow, Indiana University

photo of a Woman with slave girl in the mid 19th century, New Orleans
Woman with slave girl in the mid 19th century, New Orleans.

The debate over reparations in the United States began even before slavery ended in 1865.

It continues today. The overwhelming majority of academics studying the issue have supported the calls for compensating black Americans for the centuries of chattel slavery and the 100 years of lynching, mob violence and open exclusion from public and private benefits like housing, health care, voting, political office and education that occurred during the Jim Crow era.

Despite this academic support, the nation is arguably no closer to consensus on this issue than it was 150 years ago. Not surprisingly, my research has shown that the idea remains widely unpopular with white Americans and overwhelmingly supported by African-Americans.

The example of a Founding Father

The debate over reparations began not long after the country was founded.

In 1790, Benjamin Franklin committed to instruct, employ and educate the children of those he had set free from bondage. Franklin saw this as a way to “promote the public good, and the happiness of these our hitherto too much neglected fellow-creatures.”

After slavery ended, Senator Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania proposed the reparations bill in 1867. It provided 40 acres of land to each adult male and to each female who was the head of a family. In addition, it called for funding to construct a homestead on the land. Stevens saw reparations as necessary to avoid racial hatred, inequality and strife.

Callie House, who was born enslaved, took up the charge in the 1890s under the auspices of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association. She was arrested and ultimately imprisoned for her efforts in 1917. She was accused of raising money to support a cause that the government argued was so implausible as to constitute fraud. The organization had built a membership in the tens of thousands from 1897 to 1898, and continued to grow thereafter.

Scholars pick up the cause

photo of Slave market in Atlanta, Georgia in 1864
Slave market in Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.

The case for reparations for African-Americans was taken up in academic and popular circles more than 40 years ago.

Yale Law Professor Boris Bitkker gave the first significant academic treatment of the issue in his book “The Case for Black Reparations” in 1972. The book followed the public demand for US$500 million in reparations from white churches and synagogues by civil rights leader James Foreman.

The issue remained on the political agenda of some black nationalist organizations like the the Nation of Islam and later the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations. It was also part of the research agenda of scholars such as Bernard Boxxil and Howard McGary. Boxill and McGary provided a basis in moral philosophy for black reparations that future scholars expanded into other disciplines.

In 2001, well-known anti-apartheid activist Randall Robinson published his book “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks.” After its publication and popular success, a new group of academics began to give significant attention to the issue.

A popular movement also arose that sparked lawsuits relating to slavery and state-supported racial violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma (see Race Riots). All of the suits were dismissed by the courts, causing many to conclude that legislative action was the only possibility for redress.

The legislative approach had succeeded previously in one instance. Years earlier, the Florida legislature enacted legislation that made Florida the first and only state to provide reparations for state-supported mob violence against African-Americans during the 1923 Rosewood massacre.

A number of cities and universities began investigating their historic relationship to slavery. Several states issued apologies for slavery. The United States House of Representativesfollowed suit in 2008. The Senate joined in the following year. The 2014 article by Ta Ne-hisi Coates in The Atlantic represents a recent resurfacing of the issue.

My current research explores the commonality between the views held by the majority of American whites on this issue and the views of dominant ethnic and racial groups who oppose redress for injustices and harms inflicted in other countries.

Social hierarchy and reparations globally

Following World War II and the extermination of Roma peoples alongside Jews in death and concentration camps, the Federal Republic of Germany refused redress to the Roma at the same time it provided extensive reparations to Jewish victims.

Australia’s rejection of reparations in response to the theft of over 100,000 indigenous children over the course of 60 years under federal and state laws provides another example. Japan’s refusal to provide redress to the Korean woman forced into sexual slavery during World War II is one more.

In each case, the rejection of redress corresponds to the low social status of the victims. This reflects a phenomenon social psychologists identify as “social dominance.” It describes a state in which certain groups have a disproportionate share of a society’s “negative social value” such as incarceration, poverty and substandard housing. Others in the same society have a disproportionate share of “positive social value” including education, political power, wealth and quality housing.

Groups enjoying the benefits of social dominance often reject claims by subordinate groups, even when they are rooted in horrible and well-established historic injustices.

The reasons for rejecting these claims vary, but they ultimately flow from the perceived flawed character of the group members. Following World War II, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer identified the Roma as a “race of criminals” who in no way deserved reparations. In Australia, former Prime Minister John Howard rejected reparations based on the idea that “contemporary Australians should not be held responsible for mistakes of the past.” An interesting position in light of the continuation of the practice into the 1970s.

photo of A ledger recording the sale of slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.
A ledger recording the sale of slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Japan, the claim was made that the issue of the “Korean comfort women” was settled at the end of the war by the agreement to end hostilities. It is worth noting that in Germany and Australia, both groups had disproportionately high incarceration and poverty rates and were broadly viewed as having cultural and moral deficits. In Japan, a similar view is illustrated by the recent remarks of a government official that the victims of the years of enslavement were actually Korean prostitutes who “volunteered.”

Uprooting racial subordination in America

In the same way, white Americans' rejection of reparations has little to do with the oft-repeated challenges that “my family did not own slaves” or that “the debt was paid in the blood of the Union and Confederate soldiers.”

African-Americans fall at the bottom of America’s racial and social hierarchy. That reality has routinely and popularly been explained as a result of their inferiority. Initially the claim was rooted in genetics. Today it is based primarily on a theory of cultural deficiency.

Until these ideological bases of racial subordination are acknowledged and rejected, no “case for reparations” will convince the majority of white Americans that reparation are due African-Americans. A clear example of this can be found in the hundreds of comments to my recent New York Times editorial on the issue. The comments reflect the negative views of African-Americans held by many readers as well as an intense emotional rejection of reparations.

My proposal looks at slavery and the Jim Crow era separately. I draw the distinction to prevent the memory of the enslaved from being overshadowed by the more recent injustices of the Jim Crow era. I believe each group of victims warrants specific attention and an appropriate response.

Compensatory reparations should be limited to the harms of the Jim Crow era.

For slavery, I suggest that reparations take the form of monuments, museums, memorials and educational programs that are currently lacking in this country. One early step would be the creation of commissions at the state and local level that would identify the enslaved, their owners, and any role they played in the development of the state and its industries. This information would be used along with existing research and funded grants to develop appropriate projects to honor the enslaved and to demarcate the contributions they made.

A comparable examination should be made at the federal level to note persons of national significance. In light of the centuries-long history of slavery that took place here, we have a great deal to learn and illuminate about this aspect of our shared history.

This approach provides the focus needed on the lives of the enslaved, their humanity, and their indispensable contribution to America’s growth and development. At the same time, the proposal attends to the survivors of the governmental abuses inflicted over the course of 100 years following slavery’s end who remain without recognition or redress.

Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

Professor Carlton Waterhouse has served at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law since 2010. He is nationally recognized for his work on environmental justice and is known internationally for his research and writing on reparations for historic injustices and state human rights violations. His views have been published in the Wall Street Journal online and his articles have appeared in prestigious law journals including the Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, the Fordham Environmental Law Review, and the Rutgers Law Review. He attended college at the Pennsylvania State University where he studied engineering and the ethics of technology before deciding to pursue a legal education. He is a graduate of Howard University School of Law, where he was admitted as one of its distinctive Merit Fellows. While in law school, he was selected for an internship with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where he participated in the preliminary formation and development of the Civil Rights Act of 1992. Professor Waterhouse currently serves as a member of the Indiana Advisory Committee to the United States Civil Rights Commission

After law school, he began his career as an attorney with the United States Environmental Protection Agency where he served in the Office of Regional Counsel in Atlanta, Georgia and the Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C. At the EPA, he served as the chief counsel for the agency in several significant cases and as a national and regional expert on environmental justice, earning three of the Agency’s prestigious national awards. His responsibilities at the EPA included enforcement actions under numerous environmental statutes, the development of regional and national policy on Environmental Justice and the application of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the EPA permitting actions. Following a successful nine-year career with the EPA, Professor Waterhouse enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the Emory University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as one of the select George W. Woodruff Fellows. The previous year, he graduated with honors from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University with a Master of Theological Studies degree. In 2006, he graduated from Emory with a Ph.D. in Social Ethics.

“What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?” And African American Secularism

"To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed." … "Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it." – John Henrik Clarke

Also see the page, Slavery isn't over, they just changed what they called it

By Chris Cameron,

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave one of the most powerful antislavery speeches of the 19th century, an effort that historian David Blight refers to as “the rhetorical masterpiece of American abolitionism.”[1] Douglass’s speech in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall is rightfully viewed as an important enunciation of black abolitionist thought and black political theory. Indeed, when I have taught the early U.S. history survey or advanced courses on American intellectual history to the Civil War, that is how I have presented the work. I’d like to suggest another reading for the speech, however, namely as one of the first articulations of African American secularism.

Douglass begins his speech by praising the Founding Fathers and the ideas articulated in the Declaration of Independence. He quickly moves to a critique of America’s civil religion, however, noting that “this Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”[2] After blasting America’s civil religion, Douglass goes on to offer one of the strongest critiques of American Christianity among 19th century black abolitionists.

James Earl Jones reads an excerpt from Douglass' speech below. The full text of Fredrick Douglass' speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" is near the bottom of the page.

Douglass notes first that because American churches support the Fugitive Slave Act, “that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards men.” If ministers throughout the North were to treat the Fugitive Slave Act as a violation of Christian liberty, he argues, there is no way the law would stand. At the same time that the church is indifferent to the sufferings of the slave, he posits, it also “takes sides with the oppressors. It had made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slavehunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system.” For his part, Douglass thundered that he would “welcome infidelity! Welcome atheism! Welcome anything! In preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines.”[3]

Douglass’s strident anticlericalism articulated in this speech would be a key feature of African American secularism from the mid-19th century to the present. African American secularism can be defined as a commitment to promoting liberty, equality, and economic justice through a focus on reason and human rights rather than the authority of God. This commitment has most often been present among atheists and agnostics, however one’s specific theological orientation is not as important as one’s commitment to fostering the public good by relying on reason and not faith. While Douglass’s religious views, in his words, “pass[ed] over the whole scale and circle of belief and unbelief, from faith in the overruling Providence of God, to the blackest atheism,” for most of his career after the speech on the Fourth of July, he articulated humanistic and secularistic viewpoints when it came to freedom for slaves and equality for blacks.[4] As he notes in his speech before the final meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1870, while many people have thanked God for freeing the slaves, “I like to thank men…I want to express my love to God and gratitude to God, by thanking those faithful men and women, who have devoted the great energies of their soul to the welfare of mankind. It is only through such men and such women that I can get a glimpse of God anywhere.”[5]

[1] David W. Blight, ed. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, with Related Documents 2nd edition (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003), 146.

[2] Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?,” ibid, 156.

[3] Ibid, 163, 164.

[4] Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, in The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Two: Autobiographical Writings, Volume 2, ed. John W. Blassingame, et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 130.

[5] Quoted in Herbert Aptheker, “An Unpublished Frederick Douglass Letter” in Anthony B. Pinn, ed. By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism(New York and London: New York University Press, 2001), 79.

Article text by Chris Cameron re-published under license from the African American Intellectual History Society.

The Vernon Johns Story

Vernon Johns (April 22, 1892 – June 11, 1965) was an American minister at several black churches in the South. He is best known as the pastor 1947-52 of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama. He was succeeded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Vernon Johns was the civil rights era version of Frederick Douglas because he challenged the status quo and accepted norms of his day. An excerpt from his story is below and Johns is also portrayed by James Earl Jones as was Douglass above.

Vernon Johns biography at The Vernon Johns Society

"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" – Full Text

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory…. 

…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? 

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart." 

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people! 

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth." 

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just. 

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man! 

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men! 

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him. 

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply. 

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed. 

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. 

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. 

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival…. 

…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other. 

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it: 

God speed the year of jubilee 
The wide world o'er! 
When from their galling chains set free, 
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee, 
And wear the yoke of tyranny 
Like brutes no more. 
That year will come, and freedom's reign, 
To man his plundered rights again 

God speed the day when human blood 
Shall cease to flow! 
In every clime be understood, 
The claims of human brotherhood, 
And each return for evil, good, 
Not blow for blow; 
That day will come all feuds to end, 
And change into a faithful friend 
Each foe. 

God speed the hour, the glorious hour, 
When none on earth 
Shall exercise a lordly power, 
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower; 
But to all manhood's stature tower, 
By equal birth! 
That hour will come, to each, to all, 
And from his Prison-house, to thrall 
Go forth. 

Until that year, day, hour, arrive, 
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive, 
To break the rod, and rend the gyve, 
The spoiler of his prey deprive — 
So witness Heaven! 
And never from my chosen post, 
Whate'er the peril or the cost, 
Be driven. 

Muhammad Ali’s Memorial Service – Tributes of Greatness

Dr. Kevin Cosby set the tone and delivered an outstanding and fitting eulogy to Muhammad Ali.

My brother and uncle attended the Muhammad Ali memorial service in Louisville yesterday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but I was able to watch it thanks to Bounce TV's live coverage. Bounce TV is majority owned and operated by African Americans. We need more stations like Bounce to overcome the racial bias of white media.

World leaders, stars and regular people from all over the world of all faiths and stations in life were inspired and in awe of Mr. Ali's greatness not as a boxing champion, but as a person and humanitarian. Muhammad Ali's memorial included speakers of many religious faiths. Rabbi Michael Lerner's eulogy was a remarkable example of Ali inspired activism.

Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali's wife, displayed tremendous poise and strength with her remarkable tribute to her husband.

As I watched Muhammad Ali's memorial service, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the other great inspiring American Black men and women who transcended their circumstances or professions and helped changed the world such as Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Height, W.E.B. Dubois, Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelo, Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Barack Obama, St. Louisans (Annie Malone, Frankie Muse Freeman, my uncle Dick Gregory) and many others. As a people, we are capable of amazing feats and humanity, especially considering the history of our circumstance.

Billy Crystal Eulogy Speech at Muhammad Ali Memorial Funeral:

Bill Clinton Delivers Eulogy at Ali Funeral FULL Speech

Although, President Barack Obama couldn't attend the funeral of Muhammad Ali because his daughter was graduating the day of the funeral, President Obama paid a moving tribute.

Use Ali's example of intelligence, wisdom, courage, humility, and humanity to inspire you to see through the lies of history and stand up for yourself and others.

See our post, "Muhammad Ali: Humanity's Champion

Thanksgiving Fairy Tale and Myth

Like millions of other Americans, I will sit down and enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving meal and count my blessings; but in the back of my mind will sit the irony and hypocrisy of the celebration.

Most of us were taught an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event’s Native American
participants. History of the Thanksgiving holiday often sugar coats crimes committed against Natives by British and American white men in order to protect their image. The American Indians are oftentimes depicted as 'ignorant' and 'non civilized' in order to excuse any wrongdoing in by European invaders.

As a child, I didn't know any Indians, and I certainly didn't understand that the name "Indian" was based on a Columbus' mistake;  thinking he had reached India when he had actually reached the Caribbean. Sadly, the images I saw on television is how I thought of Indians during my childhood, now I know better.

Unfortunately, African Americans have endured the same sort of irony, hypocrisy, negative depiction and imagery as Native Americans. Many white people in this country do not have regular contact with black people, so television often forms their opinion of who were are.

Fairy Tale Myth

The myth usually goes a little something like this:

Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn’t long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End.

From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. First, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Second, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this “great American nation.”

Most history books portrayed Native Americans at the gathering as supporting players. They are depicted as nameless, faceless, generic “Indians” who merely shared a meal with the intrepid Pilgrims. The real story is much deeper, richer, and more nuanced. The Indians in attendance, the Wampanoag, played a lead role in this historic encounter, and they had been essential to the survival of the colonists during the newcomers’ first year.

Betrayal and Genocide

So let’s take a look at a different version of history; a fuller version:

One day, the Wampanoag people of the Eastern coast of the Americas noticed unfamiliar people in their homelands. These unfamiliar people were English pilgrims, coming to a new land which they dubbed “America,” in order to settle and create a new life.

The Wampanoag were initially uneasy with the settlers, but they eventually engaged in a shaky relationship of commerce and exchange. Also, in observing that the pilgrims nearly died from a harsh winter, the Wampanoag stepped in to help.

The Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, eventually entered into agreements with the pilgrims, and, on behalf of the Wampanoag Nation, decided to be allies while each nation coexisted in the same space together. At one time, the Wampanoag and pilgrims shared in a meal of wildfowl, deer, and shellfish.

After Massasoit’s death, the Wampanoag nation became weakened as a result of disease contracted from the English. It wasn’t long before the pilgrims began tormenting surrounding tribes, burning entire villages to the ground, while indigenous men, women, and children lie sleeping.

Uneasy with the growing cruelty, greed, and arrogance of the new people in their homelands, the Wampanoag began to distrust the pilgrims. The pilgrims soon demanded that the Wampanoag submit to them, and give up all their weapons.

Shortly after, the pilgrims and Wampanoag were at war, and in the end, the pilgrims rose victorious. At the close of the war, the Wampanoag were nearly decimated, and the son of Chief Massasoit, Metacom, was killed by the pilgrims, dismembered, beheaded, and his head impaled on a spear outside of Plymouth. Metacom’s young son was sent to the West Indies as a slave, along with numerous other Wampanoag and surrounding tribes.

A day of Thanksgiving was declared, and to celebrate, the pilgrims kicked the heads of dead Indigenous peoples around like soccer balls.

As indigenous nations throughout America were continually betrayed by European settlers, killed by disease, germ warfare, hunted for bounties, sent overseas as slaves, and ultimately pushed out of their homelands and onto prison camps (now commonly known as reservations), few survived the depressing conditions. As a result of centuries of historical trauma, indigenous nations today have staggering rates of depression, mental health disparities, suicide, and deaths due to alcohol and drugs. Indigenous people continue to struggle to cope with historical trauma, and heal deeply imbedded wounds which stem directly from colonialism.

The Wampanoag were a people with a sophisticated society who had occupied the region for thousands of years. They had their own government, their own religious and philosophical beliefs, their own knowledge system, and their own culture. They were also a people for whom giving thanks was a part of daily life.

Like the Wampanoag, thousands of Native American nations and
communities across the continent had their own histories and
cultures. Native Americans have lost almost everything– their ancestral lands, dignity, and even their culture.

Before the Wampanoags met the English colonists, they
had interacted with other Native people politically,
socially, culturally, and economically. They had exchanged
goods and materials, as well as foods, food technologies, and
techniques for hunting, gathering, and food preparation. So when
the Wampanoag came into contact with the English, they already
had a long history of dealing with other cultures.

The first interaction with the Wampanoags  in 1620
enabled the English colony’s survival. Although the English were
interlopers, the Wampanoags shared their land, food, and
knowledge of the environment. Early cooperation and respect
between the two groups were short-lived, however, as
white settlers wanted to expand their land holdings. This would be the history of most relationships between Natives and non-Natives for the next two hundred years.

Even so, Native American contributions continued to be
essential to the survival of Europeans. If not for the generosity
and knowledge of the Native peoples who met the explorers
Lewis and Clark during their travels in the Northwest from
1804 to 1806, their expedition probably would have ended in

Ultimately, Native encounters with Europeans resulted
in the loss of entire Native communities, traditional ways of life,
indigenous knowledge, and access to foods that had sustained
Native people for thousands of years. War, genocide, disease,
dispossession of lands, and deceitful federal policies
profoundly affected American Indian communities and their

While glossing over the very real consequences of colonialism, the mythical version of Thanksgiving creates a fairytale of land theft, betrayal, brutality, and genocide, virtually functioning to erase the very real and traumatic experiences of entire indigenous nations. This phenomena of whitewashing and outright erasure of indigenous history, in many instances, is not only inhumane and oppressive to the indigenous people, but it is also unfair to all Americans who stand to learn from rich and equally tragic history.

Without question, colonialism is great for the colonizer, and disastrous for the colonized. Colonization reduces entire populations, and leaves generational wounds that linger stubbornly for centuries. This is a lesson that all Americans must heed.

As a result of propagating the mythical version of Thanksgiving, American children and adults alike, become confused about history, and moreover the Thanksgiving lie outright prevents a collective American understanding of the contemporary struggles of Native American people today.

Excerpts from an Indian Country article were used in this post.

Columbus Day: Celebrating Slavery & Genocide

Once again, it's time to celebrate Columbus Day. Yet, the stunning truth is: If Christopher Columbus were alive today, he would be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Columbus' reign of terror, as documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam Hussein look like a pale codfish.

Question: Why do we honor a man who, if he were alive today, would almost certainly be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution?

Columbus' Jewish Secret

Columbus Day was conceived by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal organization, in the 1930s because they wanted a Catholic hero. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the day into law as a federal holiday in 1937, the rest has been history. The irony is that Christopher Columbus was not Catholic, but was secretly Jewish and was in search of a land far from persecution. But Columbus became a persecutor.

During Columbus' lifetime, Jews became the target of fanatical religious persecution. On March 31, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella proclaimed that all Jews were to be expelled from Spain. The edict especially targeted the 800,000 Jews who had never converted, and gave them four months to pack up and get out.

The Jews who were forced to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism were known as "Conversos," or converts. There were also those who feigned conversion, practicing Catholicism outwardly while covertly practicing Judaism, the so-called "Marranos," or swine.

Tens of thousands of Marranos were tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. They were pressured to offer names of friends and family members, who were ultimately paraded in front of crowds, tied to stakes and burned alive. Their land and personal possessions were then divvied up by the church and crown.

On the second Monday of October each year, Native Americans cringe at the thought of honoring a man who committed atrocities against Indigenous Peoples.

Columbus Never Landed on American Soil

Not in 1492, Not Ever. Columbus didn’t land on the higher 48—ever. Columbus quite literally landed in what is now known as the Bahamas and later Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Hispaniola (Haiti)

The natives living on the island that would come to be called Hispaniola were peaceful and not trained in military tactics. In the Pre-Columbian era, other Caribbean tribes would sometimes attack the island to kidnap people into slavery. However when Columbus arrived in 1492, slavery on the island turned into a major business: colonists quickly began establishing sugar plantations dependent on slave labor. The practice of slavery was so devastating to the native population that the Spanish began importing African slaves. In the Spanish New World colonies would become so large scale in Spain's colonization of the Americas that imports of African slaves outnumbered Spanish immigration to the New World by the end of the 1500s.

When Columbus arrived in what is today Haiti in December 1492 and met the native Taino Arawak people, they were friendly, exchanging gifts with the Spaniards and volunteering their help. When Columbus first saw the Native Arawaks that came to greet him and his crew he spoke with a peaceful and admiring tone.

“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Columbus was already planning to enslave them. He wrote in a letter to Queen Isabella of Spain that the natives were "tractable, and easily led; they could be made to grow crops and build cities".

When Columbus returned to Europe in 1493, 30 of his soldiers stayed to build a fort there called La Navidad. They began stealing from, raping, and enslaving the natives—in some cases they held native women and girls as sex slaves. Finding gold was a chief goal for the Spanish; they quickly forced enslaved natives to work in gold mines, which took a heavy toll in life and health. In addition to gold the slaves mined copper, and they grew crops for the Spaniards. In response to the brutality, the natives fought back. Some Taino escaped into remote parts of the island's mountains and formed communities in hiding as "maroons", who organized attacks against Spaniards' settlements. the Spanish responded to the native resistance with severe reprisals, for example destroying crops to starve the natives. The Spaniards brought to the island dogs trained to kill the natives and unleashed them upon those who rebelled against enslavement. In 1495 Columbus sent 500 captured natives back to Spain as slaves, but 200 did not survive the voyage, and the others died shortly afterwards. In the late 1490s he planned to send 4000 slaves back to Spain each year, but this expectation failed to take into account the rapid decline the native population would soon suffer and was never achieved.

It is not known how many Taino people were on the island prior to Columbus's arrival—estimates range from several thousand to eight million—but overwork in slavery and diseases introduced by the Europeans quickly killed a large part of the population. Between 1492 and 1494, one third of the native population on the island died. Two million had been killed within ten years of the Spaniards' arrival, and by 1514, 92% of the native population of the island were killed by enslavement and European diseases. By the 1540s the culture of the natives had disappeared from the island, and by 1548 the native population was under 500.

The rapid rate at which the native slaves died necessitated the import of Africans, for whom contact with Europeans was not new and who therefore had already developed some immunity to European diseases. Columbus's son Diego Columbus started the African slave trade to the island in 1505. Some newly arrived slaves from Africa and neighboring islands were able to escape and join maroon communities in the mountains. In 1519 Africans and Natives joined forces to start a slave rebellion that turned into a years-long uprising which was eventually crushed by the Spanish in the 1530s.

Spanish missionary Bartolomé de las Casas spoke out against the enslavement of the natives and the brutality of the Spaniards. He wrote that to the natives, the Christianity brought by the Spaniards had come to symbolize the brutality with which they had been treated; he quoted one Taino cacique (tribal chief), "They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters."

Las Casas commented that the Spaniards' punishment of a Taino man by cutting off his ear "marked the beginning of the spilling of blood, later to become a river of blood, first on this island and then in every corner of these Indies." Las Casas' campaign led to an official end of the enslavement of Tainos in 1542—however it was replaced by the African slave trade. As Las Casas had presaged, the Spaniards' treatment of the Tainos was the start of a centuries-long legacy of slavery in which abuse such as amputating body parts was commonplace.

Excerpts taken from the Huffington Post, Indian Country, CNN and Wikipedia.

President Obama’s 50th Anniversary ‘Bloody Sunday’ Selma Speech

President Obama delivered a magnificent speech at the 50th aniversary of  'Bloody Sunday' in Selma, Alabama at the Edmond Pettus Bridge. The President mentioned the Ferguson Protest in the same spirit as Selma and discussed the DOJ Ferguson Investigation report.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., John Lewis returned to Selma to speaks at the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”. 50 years after John Lewis was beaten, he introduced President Obama on the very bridge where he was beaten.

The History of "Bloody Sunday"

The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement and led to the passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression.

A series of discriminatory requirements and practices disenfranchised most of the millions of African Americans across the South since the turn of the century. The African American group known as The Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) launched a voters registration campaign in Selma in 1963. Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters. Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February.

On February 26, 1965, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper during a peaceful march in Marion, Alabama. To defuse and refocus the community's outrage, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965. Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others helped organize it. The march recently gained the nickname "Bloody Sunday" (a term more commonly applied to an analagous incident in Northern Ireland dating from 1972) after its 600 marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge after leaving Selma; state troopers and county posse attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious; media publicized a picture of her lying wounded on the bridge worldwide.

The second march took place March 9. Troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church. He was seeking protection by a federal court for the march. That night, a white group beat and murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalis minister from Boston, who had come to Selma to march in the second march. Many other clergy and sympathizers from across the country also attended the second march.

The violence of "Bloody Sunday" and of Reeb's death led to a national outcry and some acts of civil disobedience, targeting both the Alabama state and federal governments. The protesters demanded protection for the Selma marchers and a new federal voting rights law to enable African Americans to register and vote without harassment. President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration had been working on a voting rights law, held a televised joint session of Congress on March 15 to ask for the bill's introduction and passage.

With Governor Wallace refusing to protect the marchers, President Johnson committed to do so. The third march started March 21. Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, the marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the "Jefferson Davis Highway". The marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights.

The route is memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, and is a U.S. National Historic Trail.

For those that think it's too much trouble to protect and preserve your rights in court, consider how much trouble those that came before us went through that fought and died so that you could have privileges that you now take for granted.

Eight days after "Bloody Sunday", President Lyndon Johnson addressed Congress and the American People and delivered his Voting Rights Speech.


Friendship Nine

The Friendship Nine was a group of African American men who went to jail after staging a sit-in at a segregated McCrory's lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1961. The group gained nationwide attention because they followed an untried strategy called "Jail, No Bail", which lessened the huge financial burden civil rights groups were facing as the sit-in movement spread across the South. They became known as the Friendship Nine because eight of the nine men were students at Rock Hill's Friendship Junior College. They are sometimes referred to as the Rock Hill Nine.

Today, after 54 years of being labled as "Felons", The Friendship Nine were officially exonerated in court. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "Justice too long delayed, is justice denied". Although, I am glad that these men's names have finally been cleared, the fact that it took so long to do so is a complete failure of justice. Most likely in the future, say 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, there will most likely be a story of someone wrongly convicted in 2015 finally getting justice.

There are too many stories of men, some of whom have spent half of their lifetime in jail, because they have been wrongly convicted of crimes. Learn to fight for your rights and get justice today, so people won't have to celebrate 50 years from now that justice has finally reached you.