Category Archives: African-American History

WHY I AM SERIOUSLY CONCERNED WITH THE BLACK HISTORY COURSE OFFERING AT SURRY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Although I would love to support the recent decision by Surry Community College to offer a course on African-American History, I have grave concerns regarding a decision that many of my contemporaries are immediately celebrating. Now please do not mistake my ambivalence to the addition of the course as a sign that I have lost my desire for African-American studies, because I haven’t, however, this issue raises a host of questions that sit at the core of the education of the next generation of African-American activists. The alluded to questions are rarely posed in a culture of political correctness that causes African-Americans to obsess over a consideration of the feelings of others instead of a desperate pursuit of uplifting the race. At the present moment, Race is an arena where “fools rush in, and Angels fear to tread.”

The Surry Community College course addition will be taught by Rick Shelton, a white male instructor who plans to have “students analyze how the African-American identity, born in bondage, changed with the rise and fall of slavery in the United States, they will also be pushed to view blacks beyond the traditional stereotype simply as victims and will explore the ways in which black women and men took control of their lives to leave a lasting impact on America’s history and future. Upon completion of the class, students should be able to analyze significant political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments in the history of African-Americans.” My considerable consternation regarding this course being a representation of African-American Studies is found in this statement.

It ‘s not hard for me to pinpoint my reservations regarding this matter, I simply take significant issue with African-American Studies courses that defang the discipline via curricular offerings that recall Black America’s storied past without any intention of preparing the next generation of black activists for action. Put simply; I abhor courses that are little more than academic exercises whose objectives could be achieved via trivia cards. At the core of my fear is that if African-American studies courses are not led in the correct vein, they are minstrel-like, meaning white history courses in Blackface that no longer serve as training grounds for the next generation of “Race men and Race women.” The continuing need for politically astute and historically knowledgeable African-American youth to lead the struggle for “the liberation and salvation of the black nation” leads me to cringe at the Surry Community College course offering.

Mr. Shelton’s hope that “upon completion of the class, students should be able to analyze significant political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments in the history of African-Americans” falls well-short of the activist training ground that is African-American studies at its best. Make no mistake about it, the failure to use African-American studies programs as a training ground for the next generation of social activists’ works against any future progress toward the advancement of Black America.

I hope that you comprehend why I look at this situation as a double-edged sword. I do take delight in the appearance of an African-American studies course on yet another collegiate campus; however, I also cringe at the fact that it is in no way intended to be used for the uplift of Black America.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.

COUNTEE CULLEN (10:30)

INCIDENT

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me
.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,

And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger.’

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.

LANGSTON HUGHES (8:00)

The Weary Blues

 

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,

Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,

I heard a Negro play.

Down on Lenox Avenue the other night

By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light

He did a lazy sway. . . .

He did a lazy sway. . . .

To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.

With his ebony hands on each ivory key

He made that poor piano moan with melody.

O Blues!

Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool

He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.

Sweet Blues!

Coming from a black man’s soul.

O Blues!

In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone

I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—

“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,

Ain’t got nobody but ma self.

I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’

And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

 

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.

He played a few chords then he sang some more—

“I got the Weary Blues

And I can’t be satisfied.

Got the Weary Blues

And can’t be satisfied—

I ain’t happy no mo’

And I wish that I had died.”

And far into the night he crooned that tune.

The stars went out and so did the moon.

The singer stopped playing and went to bed

While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.

He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

 

Langston Hughes (1926)

WHY DID FBI DIRECTOR J. EDGAR HOOVER ORDER HIS MEN TO ATTACK THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY FOR SELF-DEFENSE?

We were saying that poor people should rally and organize against an oppressive government which oppressed us because we were poor, not just because we were black, but because we were poor. See, they could hear all the buy black, do black, think black, be black, black on, and black power. They could hear that, they didn’t care about that part. It was when poor niggers started talking about class struggle that they got frightened. And not just talked about it, but did something…No. They were worried about ignorant, poor niggers on the streets with guns talking about the haves and the have-nots.

(Ericka Huggins)

It is most certainly a daunting proposition to be born black in a schizophrenic nation whose creation was made possible by the enslavement of stolen Africans yet steadily reminds its citizenry that racial matters are relatively inconsequential. Despite what American powerbrokers have repeatedly attempted to assert over the past several centuries, race still somewhat matters.

In many ways, it is surprising that in a nation where an elite class of white power-brokers has risen to power by exploiting all non-elites regardless of racial classification or ethnic identity that racial struggle and pride has not been abandoned by all. Nonetheless, Race remains the rallying point for American groups. Considering the overwhelming influence of Race in America, one is hard-pressed to dispute one of Malcolm X’s most truthful assertions of U.S. racial matters. In an often forgotten moment of commentary regarding the melting of new immigrants into the American fabric of whiteness, Malcolm X remarked that “the first word that European immigrants learn when they come to Ellis Island is Nigger!” From the perspective of Black America, “Nigger” was the secret password that allowed the Irish, Polish, and every other new immigrant group to cloak themselves in a socially constructed and politically expedient cover of bland whiteness. Unfortunately, whites have much company in allowing Race to serve as a rallying point for politico-economic solidarity.

Consider for a moment that racial matters are so central to the vision of black leaders’ that their followers would certainly abandon their camp if they ever de-emphasized racial issues for another variable such as Class. Put simply; within the African-American freedom struggle, any discussion not exclusively focused on Race is not only ridiculed but also dismissed as utter foolishness by an unproductive revolutionary cadre fixated on Race. Black America’s so-called revolutionary class fails to realize that their obsessive focus on Race significantly marginalizes their status as revolutionaries seeking to liberate their person from the misery and sorrow that attaches itself to the economically exploited in any Capitalist nation. Although Black revolutionaries must for their mental comfort resist the insinuation that their efforts to liberate Black America from its centuries-long marginalized status are not only futile but also poses no threat to power-brokers, the fact that power-brokers rarely respond to their efforts should serve as a major indicator of they being on the incorrect path. If they were engaged in the revolutionary process, power-brokers would react in a real manner to their activities. Just ask the remaining leadership of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense if my words are correct.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of my having studied the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense for the past twenty years has been the internal angst that occurs when I engage groups and individuals who have convinced themselves that they are some way a continuation of the original Panthers that Huey Percy Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded on October 15, 1966, in Oakland, California. After the publication of my book on the Black Panther Party titled Creating Revolution as they Advance was completed, I received the honor of being invited to participate in panel discussions and deliver lectures over the Black Power Era and the vaunted Panther Party; the Vanguard of America’s highly-volatile sixties protest culture.

Although I wish that I could say otherwise, the vast majority of the panel discussions that I have participated in have only highlighted how little many of the individuals who have desperately attempted to seize the Panther’s revolutionary mantle know about organizational principles and philosophies.

One of the most telling signs that many of the modern reiterations of the Black Panther Party are uninformed regarding Panther philosophies is their disproportionate focus on racial matters and utter silence regarding far more impacting class issues. This current cadre of Panthers fails to realize that the path to revolution is not found in the arena of Race, rather class warfare. Despite their inability to recognize it, the poverty that has enveloped so many Americans should be the rallying call to action, not a clumsy attempt by one group of poor people to take the limited resources that other poor people have gained temporary access to.

The failure to accentuate Class over Race reveals present-day Panthers as intellectual lightweights who have yet to find their way to the revolutionary road; such individuals remain mesmerized by icons and symbols such as guns, leather jackets, and berets that mean very little in regards to revolutionary struggle. Contemporary Panthers are seemingly enchanted by the seductive siren known as Race.

Consider for a moment why J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, directed the overwhelming majority of Bureau resources toward the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s destruction. Is the answer to this query found in the Panther’s carrying weapons? Most certainly not! If that were the case, then the Deacons for Defense and Justice or Revolutionary Action Movement — two other black groups that openly carried weapons in defense of their community — would have received similar treatment. The answer to why the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was singled out over their activist contemporaries is ironically their decision to de-emphasize racial matters and accentuate class issues that are more meaningful in a capitalist society.

Consider for a moment the following recollection of Panther leader Ericka Huggins regarding why J. Edgar Hoover’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) singled-out the Panthers for the brunt of their repressive activities. Huggins recalls that,

We were saying that poor people should rally and organize against an oppressive government which oppressed us because we were poor, not just because we were black, but because we were poor. See, they (the FBI) could hear all the buy black, do black, think black, be black, black on, and black power. They (the FBI) could hear that, they didn’t care about that part. It was when poor niggers started talking about class struggle that they got frightened. And not just talked about it, but did something…No. They (the FBI) were worried about ignorant, poor niggers on the streets with guns talking about the haves and the have nots.

If nothing else, J. Edgar Hoover understood the inherent dangers that would eventually manifest from Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale’s teachings regarding the exploitative nature of capitalism and the need for an inter-racial coalition of like-minded organizations to combat this odd beast that threatened all of humanity.

American power-brokers realized that the Panthers pursuit of like-minded groups interested in overthrowing Capitalist America was a unique and significant threat to their existence. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that Huey P. Newton’s manifestation as a revolutionary theoretician that managed to emphasize class issues without totally dismissing the impact of racial matters made him the most dangerous man in America, one capable of being a messianic figure capable of unifying not only the black movement, but also creating productive coalitions with like-minded groups of varying races and ethnicities.

To the chagrin of his opponents, Newton displayed an uncanny willingness to forge alliances with groups seeking to destroy American Capitalism, regardless of their race/ethnicity or sexual orientation. Therein lays the reason that J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO selected the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense for the bulk of their repressive activities. Unfortunately, contemporary “revolutionaries” are still entangled in a “racial bag” that limits their ability to conceive innovative activities. One thing is for certain until the new Panthers are able to unlearn the draconian lessons of their oppressor, they will never reach, let alone travel down the revolutionary road.

ALL POWER TO ALL PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

“Organized Resistance Is Our Best Remedy”

I fully realize the delicacy of the position I occupy in this discussion and know too well that those who are to follow me will largely benefit by what I shall have to say in respect to the application of force as one of the means to the solution of the problem known as the Negro problem. I am not unmindful of that fact that there are those living who have faith in the efficacy of submission, who are impregnated with the slavish fear which had its origin in oppression and the peculiar environments of the slave period…Agitation is a good thing, organization is a better thing. The million Negro voters of Georgia, and the undiscovered millions in other Southern states—undiscovered so far as our knowledge of their number exists—could with proper organization and intelligent leadership meet force with force with most beneficial results. The issue upon us cannot be misunderstood by those who are watching current events…The man who will not fight for the protection of his wife and children is a coward and deserves to be ill treated. The man who takes his life in his hand and stands up for what he knows to be right will always command the respect of his enemy.

Submission to the dicta of the Southern bulldozers is the basest cowardice, and there is no just reason why manly men of any race should allow themselves to be continually outraged and oppressed by their equals before the law . . .

Under the present conditions of affairs the only hope, the only salvation for the Negro is to be found in a resort to force under wise and discreet leaders. He must sooner or later come to this in order to set at rest for all time to come the charge that he is a moral coward…

The Negro must not be rash and indiscreet either in action or in his words but he must be very determined and terribly in earnest, and of one mind to bring order out of chaos and to convince Southern rowdies and cutthroats that more than two can play at the game with which they have amused their fellow conspirators in crime for nearly a quarter of a century…let the Negro require at the hands of every white murderer in the South or elsewhere a life for a life. If they burn our houses, burn theirs, if they kill our wives and children, kill theirs, pursue them relentlessly, meet force with force everywhere it is offered. If they demand blood, exchange it with them, until they are satiated. By a vigorous adherence to this course the shedding of human blood by white men will soon become a thing of the past. Wherever and whenever the Negro has himself to be a man he can always command the respect even of a cutthroat. Organized resistance to organized resistance is the best remedy for the solution of the vexed problem of the century, which to me seems practical and feasible, and I submit this view of the question, ladies and gentleman, for your careful consideration.

John E. Bruce (October 5, 1889)