Six historians weigh in on the biggest misconceptions about Black history, including the Tuskegee experiment and enslaved people’s finances.

Reprinted with permission from Vox

  • Karen Turner
  • Jessica Machado

To study American history is often an exercise in learning partial truths and patriotic fables. Textbooks and curricula throughout the country continue to center the white experience, with Black people often quarantined to a short section about slavery and quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. Many walk away from their high school history class — and through the world — with a severe lack of understanding of the history and perspective of Black people in America.

In the summer of 2019, the New York Times’s 1619 Project burst open a long-overdue conversation about how stories of Black Americans need to be told through the lens of Black Americans themselves. In this tradition, and in celebration of Black History Month, Vox has asked six Black scholars and historians about myths that perpetuate about Black history. Ultimately, understanding Black history is more than learning about the brutality and oppression Black people have endured — it’s about the ways they have fought to survive and thrive in America.


Myth 1: That enslaved people didn’t have money

Enslaved people were money. Their bodies and labor were the capital that fueled the country’s founding and wealth.

But many also had money. Enslaved people actively participated in the informal and formal market economy. They saved money earned from overwork, from hiring themselves out, and through independent economic activities with banks, local merchants, and their enslavers. Elizabeth Keckley, a skilled seamstress whose dresses for Abraham Lincoln’s wife are displayed in Smithsonian museums, supported her enslaver’s entire family and still earned enough to pay for her freedom.

Free and enslaved market women dominated local marketplaces, including in Savannah and Charleston, controlling networks that crisscrossed the countryside. They ensured fresh supplies of fruits, vegetables, and eggs for the markets, as well as a steady flow of cash to enslaved people. Whites described these women as “loose” and “disorderly” to criticize their actions as unacceptable behavior for women, but white people of all classes depended on them for survival.

 

In fact, enslaved people also created financial institutions, especially mutual aid societies. Eliza Allen helped form at least three secret societies for women on her own and nearby plantations in Petersburg, Virginia. One of her societies, Sisters of Usefulness, could have had as many as two to three dozen members. Cities like Baltimore even passed laws against these societies — a sure sign of their popularity. Other cities reluctantly tolerated them, requiring that a white person be present at meetings. Enslaved people, however, found creative ways to conduct their societies under white people’s noses. Often, the treasurer’s ledger listed members by numbers so that, in case of discovery, members’ identities remained protected.

During the tumult of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Black people sought refuge behind Union lines. Most were impoverished, but a few managed to bring with them wealth they had stashed under beds, in private chests, and in other hiding places. After the war, Black people fought through the Southern Claims Commission for the return of the wealth Union and Confederate soldiers impounded or outright stole.

Given the resurgence of attention on reparations for slavery and the racial wealth gap, it is important to recall the long history of black people’s engagement with the US economy — not just as property, but as savers, spenders, and small businesspeople.

Shennette Garrett-Scott is an associate professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi and the author of Banking on Freedom: Black Women in US Finance Before the New Deal.


Myth 2: That Black revolutionary soldiers were patriots

Much is made about how colonial Black Americans — some free, some enslaved — fought during the American Revolution. Black revolutionary soldiers are usually called Black Patriots. But the term Patriot is reserved within revolutionary discourse to refer to the men of the 13 colonies who believed in the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence: that America should be an independent country, free from Britain. These persons were willing to fight for this cause, join the Continental Army, and, for their sacrifice, are forever considered Patriots. That’s why the term Black Patriot is a myth — it infers that Black and white revolutionary soldiers fought for the same reasons.

 Painting of the 1770 Boston Massacre showing Crispus Attucks, one of the leaders of the demonstration and one of the five men killed by the gunfire of the British troops. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

First off, Black revolutionary soldiers did not fight out of love for a country that enslaved and oppressed them. Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting for freedom — not for America, but for themselves and the race as a whole. In fact, the American Revolution is a case study of interest convergence. Interest convergence denotes that within racial states such as the 13 colonies, any progress made for Black people can only be made if that progress also benefits the dominant culture — in this case the liberation of the white colonists of America. In other words, colonists’ enlistment of Black people was not out of some moral mandate, but based on manpower needs to win the war.

In 1775, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia who wanted to quickly end the war, issued a proclamation to free enslaved Black people if they defected from the colonies and fought for the British army. So in response, George Washington revised the policy that restricted Black persons (free or enslaved) from joining his Continental Army. His reversal was based in a convergence of his interests: competing with a growing British military, securing the slave economy, and increasing labor needs for the Continental Army. When enslaved persons left the plantation, this caused serious social and economic unrest in the colonies. These defections were encouragement for many white plantation owners to join the Patriotic cause even if they previously held reservations.

Washington also saw other benefits in Black enlistment: White revolutionary soldiers only fought in three- to four-month increments and returned to their farms or plantation, but many Black soldiers could serve longer terms. The need for the Black soldier was essential for the war effort, and the need to win the war became greater than racial or racist ideology.

Interests converged with those of Black revolutionary soldiers as well. Once the American colonies promised freedom, about a quarter of the Continental Army became Black; before that, more Black people defected to the British military for a chance to be free. Black revolutionary soldiers understood the stakes of the war and realized that they could also benefit and leave bondage. As historian Gary Nash has said, the Black revolutionary soldier “can best be understood by realizing that his major loyalty was not to a place, not to a people, but to a principle.”

Black people played a dual role — service with the American forces and fleeing to the British — both for freedom. The notion of the Black Patriot is a misused term. In many ways, while the majority of the whites were fighting in the American Revolution, Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting the “African Americans’ Revolution.”

LaGarrett King is an education professor at the University of Missouri Columbia and the founding director of the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education.


Myth 3: That Black men were injected with syphilis in the Tuskegee experiment

A dangerous myth that continues to haunt Black Americans is the belief that the government infected 600 Black men in Macon County, Alabama, with syphilis. This myth has created generations of African Americans with a healthy distrust of the American medical profession. While these men weren’t injected with syphilis, their story does illuminate an important truth: America’s medical past is steeped in racialized terror and the exploitation of Black bodies.

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male emerged from a study group formed in 1932 connected with the venereal disease section of the US Public Health Service. The purpose of the experiment was to test the impact of syphilis untreated and was conducted at what is now Tuskegee University, a historically Black university in Macon County, Alabama.

The 600 Black men in the experiment were not given syphilis. Instead, 399 men already had stages of the disease, and the 201 who did not served as a control group. Both groups were withheld from treatment of any kind for the 40 years they were observed. The men were subjected to humiliating and often painfully invasive tests and experiments including spinal taps.

Deemed uneducated and impoverished sharecroppers, these men were lured by free medical examinations, hot meals, free treatment for minor injuries, rides to and from the hospital, and guaranteed burial stipends (up to $50) to be paid to their survivors. The study also did not occur in total secret, and several African American health workers and educators associated with the Tuskegee Institute assisted in the study.

By the end of the study in the summer of 1972, after a whistleblower exposed the story in national headlines, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. From the original 399 infected men, 28 had died of syphilis, 100 others from related complications. Forty of the men’s wives had been infected, and an estimated 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.

As a result of the case, the US Department of Health and Human Services established the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) in 1974 to oversee clinical trials. The case also solidified the idea of African Americans being cast and used as medical guinea pigs.

An unfortunate side effect of both the truth of medical racism and the myth of syphilis injection, however, is it tangibly reinforces the inability to place trust in the medical system for some African Americans who may not choose to seek out assistance, and as a result put themselves in danger.

Sowande Mustakeem is an associate professor of History and African & African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.


Myth 4: That Black people in early Jim Crow America didn’t fight back

It is well-known that African Americans faced the constant threat of ritualistic public executions by white mobs, unpunished attacks by individuals, and police brutality in Jim Crow America. But how they responded to this is a myth that persists. In an effort to find lawful ways to address such events, some Black people made legalistic appeals to convince police and civic leaders their rights and lives should be protected. Yet the crushing weight of a hostile criminal justice system and the rigidity of the color line often muted those petitions, leaving Black people vulnerable to more mistreatment and murder.

 An unidentified member of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party stands guard with a shotgun on December 11, 1969. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

In the face of this violence, some African Americans prepared themselves physically and psychologically for the abuse they expected — and they fought back. Distressed by public racial violence and unwilling to accept it, many adhered to emerging ideologies of outright rebellion, particularly after the turn of the 20th century and the emergence of the “New Negro.” Urban, more educated than their parents, and often trained militarily, a generation coming of age following World War I sought to secure themselves in the only ways left. Many believed, as Marcus Garvey once told a Harlem audience, that Black folks would never gain freedom “by praying for it.”

For New Negroes, the comparatively tame efforts of groups like the NAACP were not urgent enough. Most notably, they defended themselves fiercely nationwide during the bloodshed of the Red Summer of 1919 when whites attacked African Americans in multiple cities across the country. Whites may have initiated most race riots in the early Jim Crow era, but some also happened as Black people rejected the limitations placed on their life, leisure, and labor, and when they refused to fold under the weight of white supremacy. The magnitude of racial and state violence often came down upon Black people who defended themselves from police and citizens, but that did not stop some from sparking personal and collective insurrections.

Douglas J. Flowe is an assistant professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis.


Myth 5: That crack in the “ghetto” was the largest drug crisis of the 1980s

The bodies of people of color have a pernicious history of total exploitation and criminalization in the US. Like total war, total exploitation enlists and mobilizes the resources of mainstream society to obliterate the resources and infrastructure of the vulnerable. This has been done to Black people through a robust prison industrial complex that feeds on their vilification, incarceration, disenfranchisement, and erasure. And the crack epidemic of the late 1980s and ’90s is a clear example of this cycle.

Even though more white people reported using crack more than Black people in a 1991 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey, Black people were sentenced for crack offenses eight times more than whites. Meanwhile, there was a corresponding cocaine epidemic in white suburbs and college campuses that compelled the US to install harsher penalties for crack than for cocaine.For example, in 1986, before the enactment of federal mandatory minimum sentencing for crack cocaine offenses, the average federal drug sentence for African Americans was 11 percent higher than for whites. Four years later, the average federal drug sentence for African Americans was 49 percent higher.

Even through the ’90s and beyond, the media and supposed liberal allies, like Hillary Clinton, designated Black children and teens as drug-dealing “superpredators” to mostly white audiences. The criminalization of people of color during the crack epidemic made mainstream white Americans comfortable knowing that this was a contained black-on-black problem.

It also left white America unprepared to deal with the approach of the opioid epidemic, which is often a white-on-white crime whose dealers will evade prison (see: the Sacklers, the billionaire family behind Oxycontin who has served no jail time; and Johnson & Johnson, which got a $107 million break in fines when it was found liable for marketing practices that led to thousands of overdose deaths). Unlike Black Americans who are sent to prison, these white dealers retain their right to vote, lobby, and hold on to their wealth.

Jason Allen is a public historian and facilitator at xCHANGEs, a cultural diversity and inclusion training consultancy.


Myth 6: That all Black people were enslaved until emancipation

One of the biggest myths about the history of Black people in America is that all were enslaved until the Emancipation Proclamation, or Juneteenth Day.

In reality, free Black and Black-white biracial communities existed in states such as Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio well before abolition. For example, Anthony Johnson, named Antonio the Negro on the 1625 census, was listed on this document as a servant. By 1640, he and his wife owned and managed a large plot of land in Virginia.

 A group of free African Americans in an unknown city, circa 1860. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

Some enslaved Africans were able to sell their labor or craftsmanship to others, thereby earning enough money to purchase their freedom. Such was the case for Richard Allen, who paid for his freedom in 1786 and co-founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church less than a decade later. After the American Revolutionary War, Robert Carter III committed the largest manumission — or freeing of slaves — before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, freeing his 100 enslaved Africans.

Not all emancipations were large. Individuals or families were sometimes freed upon the death of their enslaver and his family. And many escaped and lived free in the North or in Canada. Finally, there were generations of children born in free Black and biracial communities, many who never knew slavery.

Eventually, slave states established expulsion laws making residency there for free Black people illegal. Some filed petitions to remain near enslaved family members, while others moved West or North. And in the Northeast, many free Blacks formed benevolent organizations such as the Free African Union Society for support and in some cases repatriation.

The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 — and the announcement of emancipation in Texas two years later — allowed millions of enslaved people to join the ranks of already free Black Americans.

Dale Allender is an associate professor at California State University Sacramento.

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A Collection of Political Cartoons by John Slade











































































































See the video below








































It happens everyday in America!

By Jeff Thomas

Black men kill each other at alarming rates all across America every day. Nearly every city’s daily news casts reports, “Today in our city three (or thirty depending on the size of your city) men were shot and killed in three (or thirty) separate shootings.  Police have no suspects in any of the cases.”  And immediately and innately you know that the people killed were black and the killers were black.  This has been going on for the last 30-40 years and no end is in sight.  New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates nationally.  Why do black men kill each other?

First Let’s Dispel a Racist Myth

First thing you have to know is that 99.999% of black men do not commit murder ever in their lives.  That is a fact!  This is not a black man issue.  There is nothing genetically or intrinsically wrong with black men. But the fact remains that daily hundreds of black men across this country are murdered everyday by another black man.  Why does this happen with this subset?

Common factors to Black men murdering other black men

RACE

The first thing about murder is that people usually kill people who are similar to them in many ways, particularly race.  White men normally murder other white men and black men normally murder other black men. 

PROXIMITY

In the black community, these killings are normally city events.  Rarely do you hear of a drive by in the country.  Most of these daily killings occur on the city streets.  People kill others who they interact with.

AGE

Young men engage in risky and violent behavior.  Most of the men dying on our streets are between the ages of 17-35. 

EDUCATION

Nearly 95% have not graduated from college and 65% have not completed high school.   

Socioeconomic Status

100% were not upper class in America. The links between poverty and crime are well documented.  And black men have lived in depression level economic conditions for the last 50 years.

But these are often cited, unsurprising factors.  More salient is what goes into the psyche of a guy who can look into the eyes of another man and pull the trigger at close range or jab a knife with the intent to murder another man?  What are the other factors that contribute to becoming a murderer? Why do Black men kill each other

Habitually Hostile Men

The guy who ain’t never scared and always looking to escalate a situation.  Down for whatever.  Nothing to live for and anticipating the day he will either kill or be killed.  This mindset is cultivated in a limited option, few chances, success deprived life.  This guy has had a number of arguments and fist fights throughout his life.  He hates authority and frequently feels angry or resentful towards people.  He often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.  This guy is a walking heap of rage.  He is always nothing but a gun and an argument away from murder.

The Disrespected Man

A man who feels like everybody but him gets respect.

For this guy, respect is everything and options to express anger or refutation are often limited.   He often seeks to overcome a feeling of impotence. If another who seems unworthy of disseminating criticism or scorn or generally crosses the line of imagined respect, then a high level of response will be meted out.

The Wannabe

When challenged by a non-believing skeptic, this man often acts in unnecessarily violent ways in unnecessarily violent situations.  Often seeks to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.

Self-Hate

The daily feeling of isolation, powerlessness and impotence is like being a prisoner of war.  One reason black men grab their genitals is to stress their vitality.  Men who have been literally stripped of the ability to display their manhood – great jobs, big houses, educational attainment and all the other accoutrements of modern society- are literally killing to express their power in life.  Twisted but true.

By AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines or computer programs to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as speech recognition, computer vision, natural language processing, and decision making. AI has many benefits for society and humanity, as it can help us solve complex problems, improve productivity, enhance creativity, and provide new services and products. Some of the benefits of AI are:

– AI can help us save time and resources. AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, such as data entry, customer service, accounting, and quality control. AI can also optimize processes and systems, such as logistics, manufacturing, transportation, and energy. And AI can reduce human errors and increase efficiency and accuracy.

– AI can help us improve health and well-being. AI can assist doctors and nurses in diagnosing diseases, recommending treatments, monitoring patients, and conducting research. AI can also enable personalized medicine and preventive care, such as wearable devices, chatbots, and telemedicine. Also AI can improve access and affordability of health care for everyone.

The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

– AI can help us foster innovation and creativity. AI can generate new ideas and insights from large amounts of data and information. AI can also collaborate with humans in co-creating novel products and solutions. AI can inspire us to explore new possibilities and domains.

– Also AI can help us enhance learning and education. AI can provide personalized and adaptive learning experiences for students of all ages and backgrounds. AI can also augment teachers and educators in creating engaging and interactive content, providing feedback, and assessing performance. And AI can facilitate lifelong learning and skill development for everyone.

– And AI can help us address global challenges and opportunities. AI can help us tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity, such as climate change, poverty, hunger, inequality, and security. AI can also help us seize some of the most exciting opportunities for humanity, such as space exploration, biotechnology, and social good.

AI has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives for the better. However, AI also poses risks and ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed. Therefore, it is important to develop and use AI responsibly and wisely, with respect for human dignity, rights, values, and diversity.

by Dan Neuharth Ph.D., MFT

How to accept aging and embrace opportunities in later life.

KEY POINTS

The “midlife crisis,” which can occur between our late 30s to mid-50s, is well-researched (though not universally agreed upon). There is also anecdotal evidence of a “quarter-life crisis” facing some in their mid-20s to early 30s.

Now, with the U.S. population over 65 projected to increase 50% in the next 15 years, and with over-60 becoming the fastest-growing age group worldwide, attention is being paid to whether a “three-quarter-life crisis” awaits some of us as we reach our early 60s into our mid-70s.

The concepts of these three crises — or transitions, as many researchers prefer to term them — draw from stage theories of adult development of Erikson, Levinson, and others. Stage theories posit that we move through predictable phases of cognitive, social, and physical development which can stimulate us to adjust our life structure and goals, sometimes with turmoil and upheaval.

Life transitions can arrive without warning and feel unnerving. For some, reaching the three-quarter mark of life expectancy can be associated with increased distress.

For example, one 2020 survey of more than 5,000 Australians found that a third had experienced a three-quarter-life transition. They reported feeling remorse, boredom, discouragement, and they questioned their legacies.

This transition may feel like a crisis when it includes pervasive feelings of:

  1. Pessimism about the future
  2. Apathy
  3. Regret
  4. Resentment, irritability, or bitterness
  5. Uncertainty about one’s priorities
  6. Disillusionment
  7. Emptiness, grief, or loneliness

The challenges of a three-quarter-life crisis differ from those of midlife and quarter-life transitions.

In a midlife transition, key challenges may include:

In a quarter-life transition, central issues can include:

Unique factors spark a three-quarter-life transition. By our early 60s, concerns about health, safety, independence, and isolation can arise. These may feel more pressing than the questions of identity, purpose, or mortality which are characteristic of earlier life transitions.

We face retirement and an empty nest. We may need to learn to live with less. Our parents may have passed on or be in steep decline. Changes in cognition, hormones, appearance, and fitness, once subtle, seem to accelerate. As the torch passes to younger generations, older adults may feel less visible or held in less regard.

Our peers increasingly face health challenges. Prior to age 40, fewer than 4 in 10 people have a serious health condition. By age 60, three-quarters of us face at least one serious health challenge. By the mid-70s, more than four out of five will have one or more serious health conditions.

While these shifts can be challenging, life after 65 also brings opportunities.

By several measures, life satisfaction and subjective well-being increase through our 60s well into our 80s, reaching levels higher than in our 40s. We tend to become more resilient. By age 80, a higher percentage of people report feeling prepared for the inevitability of death than at any time earlier in life, according to a 2022 survey by AARP and National Geographic.

Many pass through the 60s and 70s embracing and accepting the changes of aging. In the study cited earlier of Australian seniors, two-thirds of those who reported having a three-quarter-life crisis said it ultimately turned out to be a healthy process.

Life transitions tend to have three phases:

  1. An initial period of loss. External events or internal processes can plunge us into recognizing that what we have taken for granted may be changing or vanishing for good. This can initially spark unease, denial, and a reluctance to change.
  2. A middle period of disorientation. Having lost our bearings, we may seek distractions, withdraw, or act impulsively. In time, however, this turmoil can provide an impetus for newfound self-exploration.
  3. A final period of consolidation and new beginnings. We come to accept what we have lost and focus more on who we want to become.

This model can be useful to those facing a three-quarter-life crisis. If you are experiencing some of the seven signs listed above, it may help to view these signs as messages from within. It may be that a deeper, wiser part of you is trying to get your attention.

In any transition, we have the opportunity to move beyond what we have outgrown. If we do so, our lives can continue evolving. To the extent we fail to adapt, we may be constrained by a life structure that no longer fits us.

For those in their 60s and 70s, adapting may include:

Of course, debilitating emptiness, regret, loneliness, and apathy may signal depression, not just a life transition. Depression is best treated actively with psychotherapy, medication, and other forms of support.

To date, there is primarily anecdotal evidence of a three-quarter-life crisis. This area offers fertile ground for new research, particularly given the increasing number of people reaching this age.

In New Orleans, we need strong Black businesses. Black owned business growth is the key to New Orleans’ success. New Orleans has a crime problem.  The solution is not more police.  The solution is more and better jobs.  In New Orleans, that means more and better black owned businesses. Black businesses create better jobs for African Americans.  And that is because black businesses hire African Americans at a higher rate and pay them more money.  Our community needs more black jobs.  Those are jobs for us by us. 

We Need Strong Black Businesses

Black jobs by definition are offered by African American businesses to African American people.  Black companies hiring black people. Strong African American companies create generational wealth.  People with good jobs are good tax paying citizens.  Our city council must create meaningful pathways to black jobs.  Creating access to contracts and the capital to fulfill them is the proper role of our city council.  Some states offer free land or no taxes to attract businesses.  The New Orleans City Council must offer contracts and capital.  That creates Black jobs – African American companies hiring African Americans people to do work.

Black jobs are the key to our city’s future. Growing an African American business class provides long-term stability for our families.  Hiring African Americans and providing good paying jobs has immediate impacts.  People with good jobs are much less likely to engage in crime.  If you got a good job – paying all your bills and have some left over – you don’t need to be on the corners involved in street crime.  If you have a good paying job, you will not be angry all the time.  You will have something to live for.  And you won’t shoot the guy next door over “disrespect!”  And having an African American company to offer the jobs means better jobs.

The best employers for young African American men are African American businesses.  A reason white owned companies hire more white employees is because people like to work with people who are like them. Cohesive happy environments foster creativity, productivity and profitability. Yes diversity is very important.  But we just do not have enough successful African American businesses. This dearth contributes to the troubled neighborhoods. We must do better in New Orleans. We must develop, support an grow more African American businesses.  Creating business opportunities in our communities strengthens our communities.  Good jobs help young men develop into good citizens.  And growing Black businesses promote other ancillary Black businesses. Those will also hire African Americans.  Black jobs are the best jobs.

For our existing African American owned businesses, we need to support and protect them. Bigger companies want their valuable contracts.  But the city council must protect these contracts.  We need successful African American companies to support our communities.  The profits stay here and are multiplied when the companies are New Orleans based.  New Orleans based African American companies help reduce crime, grow the tax base and create more business opportunities.  More black jobs make New Orleans a better city.

We Need Strong Black Businesses

We must support our local businesses.  Our political leaders must contribute to their success.  If they need help, that is precisely the role of government.  Instead of tax breaks to attract big businesses, we need tax incentives that support local businesses.  Support our local African American owned businesses. They create black jobs.  Black jobs are the best jobs. 

Belonging: A Daughter’s Search for Identity Through Loss and Love by Michelle Miller

            I never expected Michelle Miller’s new book Belonging to affect me so deeply. On the day of Michelle’s birth, her mother, a Chicana who looks white, handed Michelle to the Black married physician she was having an affair with. Raised mostly by her paternal grandmother, her very existence was a carefully guarded secret kept by her mother. Her mother clings tenaciously to that secret to this day.

            Growing up without a mother, or even a story about a mother – the Black side of the family kept that secret – left this brilliant, inquisitive child with incessant questions and insecurities about her place in a family. Indeed, her light brown skin and sharp features left her insecure for many years about her place just about anywhere.

            Michelle tells her story in an intimate, descriptive way. You feel like you are in the room with the rambunctious 5-year-old. Like you are eavesdropping on the conversation of the out-spoken 9-year-old. Or are reading the diary of the teenager with its embarrassing confessions, are experiencing the rush of her first crush.  I breathe a sigh of relief as Michelle slides successfully into adulthood. She creates a stellar career as a journalist, marriage, and motherhood. She shares her mistakes and missteps with honesty and forgiveness. The book is the kind of loving lesson that I would want a best friend to confide in me.

            There’s history in it, too. Her father was the first physician to kneel at Robert F. Kennedy’s side as he lay mortally wounded. Michelle rode a school buss to integrate wealthy white schools. During her decades as a journalist she weaves our nation’s ongoing and imperfect racial reckoning into her struggle to understand her own racial identity.  She covers Rodney King’s beating, George Floyd’s death, and the Black Lives Matter movement. She attends a state dinner at the Obama White House. And she marries a handsome and charismatic New Orleans mayor.

            The gift of the book for me is that it connects me – very belatedly – with my own grief of motherlessness. As a teenager I lost my mother to a mental illness that made me decide, at the time, that  I didn’t really need her or miss her. But I did, of course. And now, as a grandmother, I finally realize that I still do. Michelle, in her longing for and search for her mother, gave me the courage to acknowledge my own grief and longing.

Book Review- Michelle Miller’s Belonging

            By an accident of birth, I was spared Michelle’s racial identity quandaries. But what impressed me mightily in this book is how precious and fragile is this thing called family, and how vulnerable it is to accidents of birth, to social position, to health and disease, to history, to cultural norms of beauty, and to the hue of the skin. Vulnerable, yes. But not completely at the mercy of. Michelle has demonstrated how we can create and re-create our families as we grow into a knowledge of how to love and trust and move confidently in the world.  With humility and an adventurous spirit, not to mention fear and trembling, all of us can figure out where and to whom we belong.

Book Review- Michelle Miller’s Belonging

Orissa Arend is author of Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans

Meet State Treasurer John Schroder. He’s very conservative. In case you forgot, you were reminded on WBOK last Friday. Wait, who’s John Schroder? A candidate for governor, no less. He’s seeking your support, your vote specifically. And he treated you to a reality check on WBOK’s The Reality Check, ironically.

About 30 minutes into the interview, attorney Suzette Bagneris asked Schroder the blackest question in the country at the moment. And he proceeded to give the whitest of answers. The question went: Mr. Schroder, as governor will you support the anti-CRT bills that are banning the teaching of black history in schools across the country?

Loaded question? Absolutely! But there were all kinds of placating answers Schroder could’ve given, like: There are aspects of CRT that I disagree with, but the fact remains that black history is American history. And as governor I can’t imagine signing a bill that excludes it from our text books.

But that is not what he said. Instead, after much hemming and hawing, Schroder said this: “This is a divisive issue…but we have much bigger issues to deal with than these divisive issues. I’m for putting those aside, alright, and let’s get back to the basic things we’re doing.” Those basic things being reading, writing, and rithmetic. After a commercial break, he then proceeded to say, “Look, CRT is just something we’ll have to agree to disagree about.”

If Fred Sanford was around, that answer would’ve garnered a “you big dummy.” George Jefferson would’ve called him something more crass.

Schroder Had A You Big Dummy Moment

Imagine it. A CRT bill is put on his desk. What would he do? Put it aside? Say “hey look this bill will have to be something we just agree to disagree about”?

 If you deemed his answer a cop-out, you are not wrong. If you deemed his answer, a nonchalant way of saying yes I sure will, then you are also not wrong.

Maybe Schroder didn’t think he’d be asked that question. Or maybe he thought black people would appreciate his honesty. I imagine his campaign manager would’ve appreciated that he’d been a lil less honest. After all, what was his point of being on the show, if it wasn’t courting black voters? Clearly, that wasn’t the way to go about it. “You big dummy.”

Schroder has some decisions to make, though, mainly what direction is he going. Clearly, he’s not going to out-MAGA Jeff Landry, our Attorney General, who’s not only the front runner for governor, but who’s also got the endorsement of Captain MAGA, Trump.

Schroder Had A You Big Dummy Moment

So if Schroder went on WBOK thinking he’d make a name among black voters, he had to leave disappointed. Besides the CRT flop, he seemed to forget his own position on crime. When asked about crime, he said, “If you think the governor of the state is going to fix crime in New Orleans, then you just don’t know the law.” But he’s already on record with a crime plan — longer prison sentences, which is lock’em up and throw away the key. As governor of the state, what is he intending to fix? If you are confused, you are not alone.

Another real possibility is Schroder’s whole purpose of going on WBOK is to show his base that he could flex on black people on their own turf. A true champion. But nope. This was just another example of a politician not reading the room. As a result, he took the initial step into not hearing his name when we announce Louisiana’s next governor.

But they Do not Oppose Funding Corporations

By Pat Bryant*

Floridians are shocked. Americans are shocked. Youth are shocked. Gays and transgender are shocked. Christians are shocked. Labor Unions are shocked. Teachers are shocked. There is general shock and awe at quick changes that have become law in one short year in Florida. The Florida Chamber of Commerce led its members. companies you spend money with daily, like Amazon, Publix Super Markets, Sun Trust Bank, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, State Farm Insurance Company, Florida Power and Light, Allstate, Duke Energy, Coca Cola, AT&T and the list includes more than 100 companies used by most Americans daily.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce through its Secure Florida’s Future Inc invested more than $8.5 million. Their money helped Republican candidates to achieve a super majority. They now control the Florida legislature. With that  super majority and a willing Governor Ron DeSantis dramatic shifts occurred

Unlimited funding by corporations has exploded in Florida since Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission case in 2012. In the case, the US Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional for corporations to make unlimited political contributions. And those contributions are shielded by third parties.

Floridians Shocked, Unhappy with DeSantis

The Nazification of Florida, is almost complete. Now anyone can can arm themselves and shoot an “undesirable”. Three white men are accused of doing that two weeks ago in the Jacksonville killing of a Black man in the wee hours of the morning. And with radical Republican well-funded legislators, this Florida Nazification may be hard to turn around.

Governor Ron DeSantis gets the notoriety for these changes. In fact these are the most in any period of Florida history, including period ending the first Reconstruction around 1900. But these changes could not have been made without the money. And citizens gave McDonald Corporation, Burger King, Publix Super Market and other members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce millions.

So far there has been a reluctance of Florida’s progressive leaders to challenge DeSantis funders. DeSantis is readying a run for president of the United States as Republican Party nominee or from a third party. Many are protesting though. There have been several marches to the legislature, demonstrations, arrests at DeSantis office. Even our youth had a coordinated walkout of high school and college students for anti-DeSantis and anti-legislature rallies. But not a peep at the businesses that gave the money that made Nazification of Florida possible.

Floridians Shocked, Unhappy with DeSantis

Florida branches of the NAACP recommended that it National Organization ask its members not to come to Florida. Tourism is it major industry in the state. The Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Equality Florida, that represents LBGTQ have called for a national travel boycott of Florida.  But none of these organizations target directly the companies that have created Nazification of Florida. This shift is spreading across the nation through affiliates of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

This writer texted several Florida leaders with the following text: “The crying shame is there is opposition to DeSantis, but very little opposition to the corporations that fund him and Trump”. Only one elected leader Senator Shevrin Jones, Democrat of Broward County that includes Fort Lauderdale, replied. “I actually agree with you.”

*Pat Bryant is a southern journalist who covers the Southern Freedom Movement

By David Soublet, Sr.

Starbucks operates a retail store in the Pan Am building on Poydras Street in New Orleans with 20 or so non-management workers (referred to as “partners”).  The employees at this location, and several around the country, have recently filed to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Per Forbes magazine the Starbucks movement began in late 2021 when a Buffalo, NY store voted to unionize.  

The website for Starbucks Workers United lists 15 so called “non-economic proposals” to ownership. They claim to already have 6,500 nationally organized workers. Most of the demands are common and realistic (e.g. guaranteed schedules, better benefits for full- and part-time workers).  Others are, perhaps, indicative of hostile work environments at Starbucks. One proposal is a work environment “free of unlawful discrimination, harassment and bullying” and a “zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment and abuse”. Are these policies not already documented and posted prominently in the work sites? The workers also seek the right to defend themselves against customer aggression without retaliation. Seems pretty reasonable based on the multitude of videos circulating showing customers going bonkers in retail establishments.

Union members pay dues. Louisiana is a “right-to-work” state which presents disincentives to unionizing not found in other states. In right-to-work states, employees in unionized workplaces may refuse to join the union. But they still may enjoy the benefits of union membership, including the compensation negotiated by union officers.  So, at a unionized Starbucks in Louisiana, one dues-paying barista could be preparing a $ 5 cinnamon dolce latte right next to a non-dues paying one whipping up a $ 5 iced caramel macchiato.

Last August 2022, Starbucks reportedly raised the minimum hiring wage in all U.S. stores to a $15/hour. Later last year they also implemented credit card / debit card tipping technology. That enables customers to further recognize their favorite coffee makers.

Daily retail coffee drinkers are amongst the most loyal customer base in the beverage industry. Starbucks reportedly grosses more than $ 32 billion in world-wide revenue, and boasts a 37% share of the U.S. market.  Starbucks owns and operates about 9,300 in the U.S. Louisiana has 84, with 46 in the metro New Orleans area. Its big business by any measure, but its not an irreplaceable product.  Those who must have it would probably make their own and bring it to work with them if they can’t buy it retail. Well, maybe not a macchiato.

Paying union dues while working in coffee retail at minimum wages doesn’t seem like the best move you could make to enhance your career.  The path to decent wages in retail generally involves taking on managerial responsibilities. But, aren’t managers normally charged with many of the complaints lodged by the people they supervise? They must manage things like poor work schedules, inadequate staffing, discrimination and harassment. Perhaps lower-level employees at places like Starbucks would be better served by viewing their jobs more like short-term employment, and not worthy of paycheck deductions for union dues.

And now a word from our candidates for governor:

Black people, crime, crime, black people, enough is enough, lock’em up, throw away the key, hold everybody accountable, take back our streets. What about the T word? Can we break it out? Is it too early? Thug that is. Their dog-whistled name. Not yet? Okay. Let’s wait until election day gets closer.

Even Shawn Wilson (former Secretary of Transportation And Development Shawn Wilson, a democrat) has gotten in on the act, though in more holistic terms. Besides being tough on crime, he talks of working together with police, judges, social workers, psychologists, kids, and parents “to help solve the problems in communities where the crime actually exists.”

Apparently, going hard on crime has become the cost to get into the game. State Attorney General Jeff Landry has set the tone. “I’m holding everybody and I mean everybody accountable,” says Landry. State Treasurer John Schroder says, “We cannot allow criminals to cripple our communities.” And soon expect the rest of the field to ante up with their own stale rhetoric. Who’d want to be known as a softee on crime? Tough on crime gets people elected in the South.

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Sean Wilson

Luckily, besides Landry and Schroder there’s no other major Republican contenders with stakes in the game. Otherwise, when it became apparent that some candidate was on the verge of wasting millions of dollars of other people’s money, this mild mannered lock’em up and throw away the key might’ve escalated into desperate heaves of bring back the firing squad or electric chair.

Governor’s Race Is Off to A Stereotypical Start

But unluckily for us, there’s no other major Republican contenders in the game to stake an alternate or nuanced approach to crime. Louisiana, the on-again-off-again capitol of incarceration, has thrown away a whole generation of keys, and yet crime still remains. Maybe, just maybe, the criminals aren’t getting the message. Or they aren’t responding to it in the way the Lock’em ups would like.

Cue in the definition of insanity. Maybe, just maybe, the approach shouldn’t be to keep doing the same thing over and over again. The last time Lock’em up we saw the state realize that it couldn’t afford to house an endless amount of people in jail. Any candidate vowing to go forth as governor with the same failed approach should be appropriately judged as archaic, or uumm insane?

Some would say that the candidates are just echoing public sentiment. And that’s probably true. But how did that sentiment come about? Is that how we naturally respond to people who commit crimes or is that the way politicians have conditioned us to feel? Does it matter, though, if either way that approach, lock’em up and throw away the key, has turned out to be completely ineffective?

Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder

Governor’s Race Is Off to A Stereotypical Start

Ironically, this race would be better for citizens if current Governor, John Bel Edwards, was doing a terrible job. Then the candidates could focus on budgets, coastal erosion, insurance, and diversifying our economy. But besides the Ronald Greene calamity, Edwards has been pretty hum-drum throughout his term. That has caused this race to initially devolve into which Republicans love to spout – tough on crime.

Expect that to continue. Expect candidates to go hard on drag queens and transgenders. Also expect vows to wage a war on woke, CRT, and all other types of pandering. Just don’t expect them to show a shred of originality. And by all means don’t expect them to veer from the crowd and do something courageous like lead. 

Six historians weigh in on the biggest misconceptions about Black history, including the Tuskegee experiment and enslaved people’s finances.

Reprinted with permission from Vox

To study American history is often an exercise in learning partial truths and patriotic fables. Textbooks and curricula throughout the country continue to center the white experience, with Black people often quarantined to a short section about slavery and quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. Many walk away from their high school history class — and through the world — with a severe lack of understanding of the history and perspective of Black people in America.

In the summer of 2019, the New York Times’s 1619 Project burst open a long-overdue conversation about how stories of Black Americans need to be told through the lens of Black Americans themselves. In this tradition, and in celebration of Black History Month, Vox has asked six Black scholars and historians about myths that perpetuate about Black history. Ultimately, understanding Black history is more than learning about the brutality and oppression Black people have endured — it’s about the ways they have fought to survive and thrive in America.


Myth 1: That enslaved people didn’t have money

Enslaved people were money. Their bodies and labor were the capital that fueled the country’s founding and wealth.

But many also had money. Enslaved people actively participated in the informal and formal market economy. They saved money earned from overwork, from hiring themselves out, and through independent economic activities with banks, local merchants, and their enslavers. Elizabeth Keckley, a skilled seamstress whose dresses for Abraham Lincoln’s wife are displayed in Smithsonian museums, supported her enslaver’s entire family and still earned enough to pay for her freedom.

Free and enslaved market women dominated local marketplaces, including in Savannah and Charleston, controlling networks that crisscrossed the countryside. They ensured fresh supplies of fruits, vegetables, and eggs for the markets, as well as a steady flow of cash to enslaved people. Whites described these women as “loose” and “disorderly” to criticize their actions as unacceptable behavior for women, but white people of all classes depended on them for survival.

 

In fact, enslaved people also created financial institutions, especially mutual aid societies. Eliza Allen helped form at least three secret societies for women on her own and nearby plantations in Petersburg, Virginia. One of her societies, Sisters of Usefulness, could have had as many as two to three dozen members. Cities like Baltimore even passed laws against these societies — a sure sign of their popularity. Other cities reluctantly tolerated them, requiring that a white person be present at meetings. Enslaved people, however, found creative ways to conduct their societies under white people’s noses. Often, the treasurer’s ledger listed members by numbers so that, in case of discovery, members’ identities remained protected.

During the tumult of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Black people sought refuge behind Union lines. Most were impoverished, but a few managed to bring with them wealth they had stashed under beds, in private chests, and in other hiding places. After the war, Black people fought through the Southern Claims Commission for the return of the wealth Union and Confederate soldiers impounded or outright stole.

Given the resurgence of attention on reparations for slavery and the racial wealth gap, it is important to recall the long history of black people’s engagement with the US economy — not just as property, but as savers, spenders, and small businesspeople.

Shennette Garrett-Scott is an associate professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi and the author of Banking on Freedom: Black Women in US Finance Before the New Deal.


Myth 2: That Black revolutionary soldiers were patriots

Much is made about how colonial Black Americans — some free, some enslaved — fought during the American Revolution. Black revolutionary soldiers are usually called Black Patriots. But the term Patriot is reserved within revolutionary discourse to refer to the men of the 13 colonies who believed in the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence: that America should be an independent country, free from Britain. These persons were willing to fight for this cause, join the Continental Army, and, for their sacrifice, are forever considered Patriots. That’s why the term Black Patriot is a myth — it infers that Black and white revolutionary soldiers fought for the same reasons.

 Painting of the 1770 Boston Massacre showing Crispus Attucks, one of the leaders of the demonstration and one of the five men killed by the gunfire of the British troops. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

First off, Black revolutionary soldiers did not fight out of love for a country that enslaved and oppressed them. Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting for freedom — not for America, but for themselves and the race as a whole. In fact, the American Revolution is a case study of interest convergence. Interest convergence denotes that within racial states such as the 13 colonies, any progress made for Black people can only be made if that progress also benefits the dominant culture — in this case the liberation of the white colonists of America. In other words, colonists’ enlistment of Black people was not out of some moral mandate, but based on manpower needs to win the war.

In 1775, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia who wanted to quickly end the war, issued a proclamation to free enslaved Black people if they defected from the colonies and fought for the British army. So in response, George Washington revised the policy that restricted Black persons (free or enslaved) from joining his Continental Army. His reversal was based in a convergence of his interests: competing with a growing British military, securing the slave economy, and increasing labor needs for the Continental Army. When enslaved persons left the plantation, this caused serious social and economic unrest in the colonies. These defections were encouragement for many white plantation owners to join the Patriotic cause even if they previously held reservations.

Washington also saw other benefits in Black enlistment: White revolutionary soldiers only fought in three- to four-month increments and returned to their farms or plantation, but many Black soldiers could serve longer terms. The need for the Black soldier was essential for the war effort, and the need to win the war became greater than racial or racist ideology.

Interests converged with those of Black revolutionary soldiers as well. Once the American colonies promised freedom, about a quarter of the Continental Army became Black; before that, more Black people defected to the British military for a chance to be free. Black revolutionary soldiers understood the stakes of the war and realized that they could also benefit and leave bondage. As historian Gary Nash has said, the Black revolutionary soldier “can best be understood by realizing that his major loyalty was not to a place, not to a people, but to a principle.”

Black people played a dual role — service with the American forces and fleeing to the British — both for freedom. The notion of the Black Patriot is a misused term. In many ways, while the majority of the whites were fighting in the American Revolution, Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting the “African Americans’ Revolution.”

LaGarrett King is an education professor at the University of Missouri Columbia and the founding director of the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education.


Myth 3: That Black men were injected with syphilis in the Tuskegee experiment

A dangerous myth that continues to haunt Black Americans is the belief that the government infected 600 Black men in Macon County, Alabama, with syphilis. This myth has created generations of African Americans with a healthy distrust of the American medical profession. While these men weren’t injected with syphilis, their story does illuminate an important truth: America’s medical past is steeped in racialized terror and the exploitation of Black bodies.

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male emerged from a study group formed in 1932 connected with the venereal disease section of the US Public Health Service. The purpose of the experiment was to test the impact of syphilis untreated and was conducted at what is now Tuskegee University, a historically Black university in Macon County, Alabama.

The 600 Black men in the experiment were not given syphilis. Instead, 399 men already had stages of the disease, and the 201 who did not served as a control group. Both groups were withheld from treatment of any kind for the 40 years they were observed. The men were subjected to humiliating and often painfully invasive tests and experiments including spinal taps.

Deemed uneducated and impoverished sharecroppers, these men were lured by free medical examinations, hot meals, free treatment for minor injuries, rides to and from the hospital, and guaranteed burial stipends (up to $50) to be paid to their survivors. The study also did not occur in total secret, and several African American health workers and educators associated with the Tuskegee Institute assisted in the study.

By the end of the study in the summer of 1972, after a whistleblower exposed the story in national headlines, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. From the original 399 infected men, 28 had died of syphilis, 100 others from related complications. Forty of the men’s wives had been infected, and an estimated 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.

As a result of the case, the US Department of Health and Human Services established the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) in 1974 to oversee clinical trials. The case also solidified the idea of African Americans being cast and used as medical guinea pigs.

An unfortunate side effect of both the truth of medical racism and the myth of syphilis injection, however, is it tangibly reinforces the inability to place trust in the medical system for some African Americans who may not choose to seek out assistance, and as a result put themselves in danger.

Sowande Mustakeem is an associate professor of History and African & African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.


Myth 4: That Black people in early Jim Crow America didn’t fight back

It is well-known that African Americans faced the constant threat of ritualistic public executions by white mobs, unpunished attacks by individuals, and police brutality in Jim Crow America. But how they responded to this is a myth that persists. In an effort to find lawful ways to address such events, some Black people made legalistic appeals to convince police and civic leaders their rights and lives should be protected. Yet the crushing weight of a hostile criminal justice system and the rigidity of the color line often muted those petitions, leaving Black people vulnerable to more mistreatment and murder.

 An unidentified member of the Detroit chapter of the Black Panther Party stands guard with a shotgun on December 11, 1969. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

In the face of this violence, some African Americans prepared themselves physically and psychologically for the abuse they expected — and they fought back. Distressed by public racial violence and unwilling to accept it, many adhered to emerging ideologies of outright rebellion, particularly after the turn of the 20th century and the emergence of the “New Negro.” Urban, more educated than their parents, and often trained militarily, a generation coming of age following World War I sought to secure themselves in the only ways left. Many believed, as Marcus Garvey once told a Harlem audience, that Black folks would never gain freedom “by praying for it.”

For New Negroes, the comparatively tame efforts of groups like the NAACP were not urgent enough. Most notably, they defended themselves fiercely nationwide during the bloodshed of the Red Summer of 1919 when whites attacked African Americans in multiple cities across the country. Whites may have initiated most race riots in the early Jim Crow era, but some also happened as Black people rejected the limitations placed on their life, leisure, and labor, and when they refused to fold under the weight of white supremacy. The magnitude of racial and state violence often came down upon Black people who defended themselves from police and citizens, but that did not stop some from sparking personal and collective insurrections.

Douglas J. Flowe is an assistant professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis.


Myth 5: That crack in the “ghetto” was the largest drug crisis of the 1980s

The bodies of people of color have a pernicious history of total exploitation and criminalization in the US. Like total war, total exploitation enlists and mobilizes the resources of mainstream society to obliterate the resources and infrastructure of the vulnerable. This has been done to Black people through a robust prison industrial complex that feeds on their vilification, incarceration, disenfranchisement, and erasure. And the crack epidemic of the late 1980s and ’90s is a clear example of this cycle.

Even though more white people reported using crack more than Black people in a 1991 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey, Black people were sentenced for crack offenses eight times more than whites. Meanwhile, there was a corresponding cocaine epidemic in white suburbs and college campuses that compelled the US to install harsher penalties for crack than for cocaine.For example, in 1986, before the enactment of federal mandatory minimum sentencing for crack cocaine offenses, the average federal drug sentence for African Americans was 11 percent higher than for whites. Four years later, the average federal drug sentence for African Americans was 49 percent higher.

Even through the ’90s and beyond, the media and supposed liberal allies, like Hillary Clinton, designated Black children and teens as drug-dealing “superpredators” to mostly white audiences. The criminalization of people of color during the crack epidemic made mainstream white Americans comfortable knowing that this was a contained black-on-black problem.

It also left white America unprepared to deal with the approach of the opioid epidemic, which is often a white-on-white crime whose dealers will evade prison (see: the Sacklers, the billionaire family behind Oxycontin who has served no jail time; and Johnson & Johnson, which got a $107 million break in fines when it was found liable for marketing practices that led to thousands of overdose deaths). Unlike Black Americans who are sent to prison, these white dealers retain their right to vote, lobby, and hold on to their wealth.

Jason Allen is a public historian and facilitator at xCHANGEs, a cultural diversity and inclusion training consultancy.


Myth 6: That all Black people were enslaved until emancipation

One of the biggest myths about the history of Black people in America is that all were enslaved until the Emancipation Proclamation, or Juneteenth Day.

In reality, free Black and Black-white biracial communities existed in states such as Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio well before abolition. For example, Anthony Johnson, named Antonio the Negro on the 1625 census, was listed on this document as a servant. By 1640, he and his wife owned and managed a large plot of land in Virginia.

 A group of free African Americans in an unknown city, circa 1860. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images 

Some enslaved Africans were able to sell their labor or craftsmanship to others, thereby earning enough money to purchase their freedom. Such was the case for Richard Allen, who paid for his freedom in 1786 and co-founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church less than a decade later. After the American Revolutionary War, Robert Carter III committed the largest manumission — or freeing of slaves — before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, freeing his 100 enslaved Africans.

Not all emancipations were large. Individuals or families were sometimes freed upon the death of their enslaver and his family. And many escaped and lived free in the North or in Canada. Finally, there were generations of children born in free Black and biracial communities, many who never knew slavery.

Eventually, slave states established expulsion laws making residency there for free Black people illegal. Some filed petitions to remain near enslaved family members, while others moved West or North. And in the Northeast, many free Blacks formed benevolent organizations such as the Free African Union Society for support and in some cases repatriation.

The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 — and the announcement of emancipation in Texas two years later — allowed millions of enslaved people to join the ranks of already free Black Americans.

Dale Allender is an associate professor at California State University Sacramento.

Everything we know is wrong. Because there’s smoke doesn’t mean there’s fire. Just because you have two in one hand and two in the other doesn’t mean you have four. Just because you’re peeing on my leg doesn’t mean that it’s not raining. And just because a rich Republican donor paid for Clarence Thomas’ mama’s house, his grand-nephew’s tuition, and flew and sailed Thomas all around the world on a private jet and yacht doesn’t mean anything shady was going on. So there. That’s that.

So we should cease with all our common senses, and causes and effects, and two plus twos equal fours. Contrary to common sense, Clarence Thomas was in fact not some type of rent-a-Justice that Harlon Crow, the donor, had on retainer so that he and his friends or friends’ friends could pimp out. Sometimes nice people just do extraordinarily nice things for people.

Justice Clarence Thomas has done nothing wrong

Yes, I know if somebody does one extraordinary favor after another for someone, common sense tells us that that someone would feel indebted. Not Clarence Thomas though. He belies common sense. From the moment Thomas put on that robe, all the trappings and emotions that cloud the judgment of mere mortals left his body. He became heartless, a super Stoic, able to stomach lavish favors and gifts without it penetrating his steely, docile reserve.

Common sense may be pushing you to ask commonsensical questions like: why would this billionaire be showering Clarence Thomas with all these gifts in the first place? I mean, after all, it’s Clarence Thomas of all people. He doesn’t come off as that cool of a guy. But despite all outward appearances maybe it’s that we just don’t know Clarence Thomas like Harlon Crow does.

Beneath that aforementioned steely, docile reserve, Clarence Thomas may be an outgoing socialite, the life of the party. According to Clarence Thomas himself, he’s not the grumpy guy in the robe. He says he’s a “regular stock” loving guy who likes hanging out in RV parks and Walmart parking lots. Just think, if he’s a hoot in a RV, he just might turn into Richard Pryor once he gets on a jet or a yacht. And that’s just the older version of Clarence Thomas.

In his younger days, Anita Hill once testified about how wild young Clarence Thomas was. Let Hill tell it, young Clarence Thomas was heavy into sex, porn, and pubic hairs in his coke. While at work. And this was when he wasn’t walking around the office bragging that he had a penis like Long Dong Silver.

Justice Clarence Thomas has done nothing wrong

So maybe he’s just that cool, so cool that a billionaire can’t help but shower him, his mama, and grand-nephew with gifts.

But let’s just imagine for a second that all this is not on the up and up. Let’s imagine that common sense is right. Somehow these gifts resulted in some type of favoritism before the court, whether it’s for something or someone Crow had a vested interest in or just a casual one. Even if this were true, Clarence Thomas still wouldn’t have done anything wrong based on Supreme Court’s ethical standards. That’s because the Court has no clear ethical standards.

Apparently when concocting this concept of a body of judges holding the supreme legal say so for a lifetime appointment, nobody stopped to include clear ethical boundaries they’d have to live up to during this appointment. Apparently, the thought was that being gifted a position for a lifetime would remove the temptations that betray those who have to cyclically seek re-election. So much for that type of common sense.

But back to reality. We’re now under a new paradigm of logical thinking. Up is down. Left is right. And just because somebody buys somebody’s mama a house, pays for their grand-nephew’s tuition, treats that person to all kinds of lavish trips, then vows to build a museum in that person’s honor, it doesn’t under any circumstances mean anything shady is going on.  That’s a lesson we all need to learn. Thanks for that, Clarence Thomas. You’ve truly treated us to a teachable moment. Class dismissed.