Within the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) we recognize the southeast region of the United States Empire as New Afrikan National Territory. In specific, we claim, as the core minimum, the five states presently known as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. And there is a historical basis with this claim. First, the New Afrikan Nation was born in this territory; born of a medley of Afrikan nationalities and ethnic groups during the period of our colonial bondage (“slavery”). Secondly, we not only made this territory habitable through our labor, but we also made up the majority population prior to our self-driven exile and dispersion throughout this settler empire. Hence the name of this region as “the Black Belt.” In 1860, it is recorded that some 90% of the 4-million Afrikans in America resided in the Black Belt South.
-II –
New and improved ways of national oppression were implemented over one hundred years ago with the hoax of “Reconstruction.” And it is from this point that we should begin our study of the colonialism that is prefixed with “Neo.” …we must begin our study of this ”new and improved” form of colonialism from 1865. ~Sanyika Shakur {1}
Historian Eric Foner begins the era of ”Reconstruction” in 1863 with the signing of the ”Emancipation Proclamation.” Other historians start it in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution. And, yet, while there may be differences as to when it began, it is clear to all that “Reconstruction” ended in 1877 with the “compromise” between Rutherford B. Hayes and southern settler whites; the “compromise” being a deal between former Confederates and the Union North, whereby the ex-Confederates would support the presidency of Hayes providing that he honor his promise to remove Union troops out of the South. Following the Civil War victory of the North, the Union maintained a military presence in the South primarily to prevent Confederates from re-organizing their military capacity. By removing the Union troops, it enabled the southern Confederates to forcibly re-claim plantations and other land that was seized under the Confiscation Acts and reallocated, a significant portion of it to the newly “freed” New Afrikans. The re-ascendancy of the Confederates also led to the organization of numerous white supremacist terrorist organizations with intentions of re-subjugating New Afrikans to their former status. {2}
New Afrikans emerging from colonial bondage sought self-determination. Historian Lerone Bennett Jr.. described the period of ”Reconstruction” as an era of “Black Power.” And, indeed, it was a clear manifestation of New Afrikans struggling to harness their social capacity to realize their will towards self-determination, towards independence, during the entire period of the so-called “Reconstruction.” And whereas the opposition to this “Black Power” – i.e., the white settler population of the South – contended that Afrikans could not support themselves without the guidance and support of white folks, one formerly enslaved New Afrikan challenged the basis of this contention: “We used to support ourselves and our masters too when we were slaves, and I reckon we can take care of ourselves now.” {3}
Afrikans in America had long seen themselves as distinct from settler America and had from the earliest period of our experience in the West struggled to free the nation as a nation. And with I.AND being the basis of all true national independence, we mustn’t presume that this was lost on New Afrikans during ”Reconstruction.” As historian Nell Irving Painter points out, with the ending of colonial bondage “the issue of land remained one of the most crucial [matters in new race relations in the South], to both blacks and whites.” {4} The white settlers did not want New Afrikans to have the capacity far self-determination, and so to allow the land to fall into New Afrikan hands would mean a confirmed end to the colonial form of New Afrikan national oppression. And as one New Afrikan fresh out of colonial bondage articulated: “Gib us our own land and we take care of ourselves, but widout land, de ole masses can hire us or starve us as dey please.” {5}
In the decade or so of “Reconstruction” a significant portion of land ended up in New Afrikan hands. Whether it was through General Sherman’s Field Order #15 or other government-sponsored land distribution programs, or through the thrift and purchases of New Afrikans themselves, New Afrikans came to possess vast portions of land. And where New Afrikan labor had previously benefited white settlers, production began to benefit the New Afrikan people themselves, who were struggling to be self-reliant and self-determining. All sorts of cooperative enterprises (ujamaa) arose during the “Reconstruction” period, expressing the growing national consciousness among New Afrikans. And even though this effort towards self-determination was taking place while still under the colonial rule of settler America, the sentiment of the New Afrikan masses had always leaned towards distancing themselves from their former enslavers who continued to express violent hostility towards them. The goal was separation on their own land and the governing of their own lives. Still, this brief period of “Black Power” in the National Territory came to an end when the Union soldiers packed-up and left the South, leaving New Afrikans subject to the whims of the white supremacist ex-Confederates.
-III-
In 1867, the Ku Klux Klan held its first national meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. This same year the Knights of White Camellia, another paramilitary white supremacist group, was founded in Louisiana, to be followed in 1874 by the White League. With these groups and others, before and after them, came organized violence against New Afrikan self-determination. The terrorism was so rampant, so brutal, that in 1871 some 930 settlers were actually indicted in the Mississippi federal court KKK trials; included among those indicted were many prominent doctors, lawyers, ministers and college professors. In South Carolina, some 1,180 indictments were handed-out, and 1,849 in North Carolina. And, yet into the next century, the casualties of New Afrikans – victims of lynchings and ”race riots” initiated by white settlers – mounted. {6 }
You see, I was in debt, and the man I rented land from said every year I must rent again to pay the other year, and so I rents and rents, and each year I gets deeper and deeper in debt. ~John Solomon Lewis, 1879 {7}
Physical terrorism was rampant to deter New Afrikans from becoming self-determining, but economic exploitation (the original basis for kidnapping Afrikans and bringing us here) was a means also to keep New Afrikans in a subjugated, colonial relationship to the ever-expanding United States Empire.
When John Solomon Lewis “in a fit of madness” confronted the white settler who was exploiting him, to inform him that he would “go somewhere else and try to make headway,” the settler replied: “If you try that job, you will get your head shot away.” The settler didn’t want Solomon or any New Afrikan to become self-reliant, but neither wanted him to go anywhere. Even if colonial law prevented white settlers from claiming personal ownership to any New Afrikan, they could and would lay claim to our labor, not omitting violent and extralegal means. Yet, in this particular case, at the suggestion of John Lewis’ wife, the Lewis family took to the woods at night and fled towards Kansas in the mass exodus of 1879. {8 }
From the earliest to the latest period of colonial bondage New Afrikans were known for fleeing from the National Territory to the North and West; we have “always been moving from one part of the country to another, and also out of the country, looking far freedom and opportunity.” {9} The Underground Railroad developed as a result of the need to escape the daily rigors and brutalities and super-exploitation of New Afrikans by the settler slave institution. Harriet Tubman – a.k.a. General Moses – pioneered this organized Underground Railroad, delivering more than 300 New Afrikan refugees to the North (many of whom continued northwards into Canada). {10} The settler government developed a series of “fugitive slave laws” that enabled settler slave-owners to “legally”‘ re-kidnap escaped refugees and re-subjugate them. {11} This, however, was during the period of colonial bondage, preceding the Civil War and “Reconstruction,” before the neo-colonial era started.
After politically castrating and economically subjugating New Afrikans in the National Territory, after the spell of attempted “Black Power” was undermined, many New Afrikans saw no use in remaining in the Black Belt. Not much different than the Vietnamese who fled war-tom Vietnam in order to re-establish their lives elsewhere – some even ”migrated” to the enemy of their homeland, the United States! In 1879, there began a mass ”migration” out of the National Territory into Kansas and towards the west. Thousands of New Afrikans left at a time. And yet the terror continued against New Afrikans. In 1883, there were 53 lynchings of New Afrikans reported. In 1893, ten years later, the number had arose to 118 for that year. “Race riots” and other clashes between southern settlers and New Afrikans continued, with New Afrikan casualties reaching yet higher and higher numbers. {12} Political historian Manning Marable says of settler lynchings:
Lynching is a peculiarly American tradition. From the nineteenth to the late twentieth century, the modem auto-de-fe parallels the development and maturation of capitalism in an oppressive, biracial society. Technically, the term is often used to describe the hanging of a person outside the legal sanction of the police and criminal justice system. Historically, and in actual practice, it is the ultimate use of coercion against Blacks to insure white supremacy. The form it assumes – hanging by the neck, shooting, castration, burning at the stake, or other spontaneous and random forms of violence – is secondary to the actual terror it evokes among the Black masses, and the perverse satisfaction that it derives for white racists. Lynching is neither irrational nor illegal, in the sense that the white power elite tolerate and encourage its continued existence. Lynching in a racist society becomes a legitimate means to check the activities of the entire black population in economics, culture and politics. {13 }
The mass “migrations” of 1879 and onward slowed down by the end of the century. Yet by 1917 the urge to leave the Black Belt re-emerged in full force. The Chicago Defender newspaper, owned by a New Afrikan with neo-colonial sentiment, encouraged New Afrikans to leave the National Territory and to settle in the North, enticing them with false promises of ”better opportunities” being available for “the race.” {14} And in some of the responses to the Defender’s Northern enticements, New Afrikans in the South openly expressed their feelings of despair, dissatisfaction and fear of living in the National Territory:
After twenty years of seeing my people lynched for any offense from spitting on the sidewalk to stealing a mule, I made up my mind that I would tum the prow of my ship toward the part of the country where the people at least made a pretense at being civilized. You may say for me, through your paper, that when a man’s home is sacred; when he can protect the virtue of his wife and daughter against the brutal lust of his alleged superiors; when he can sleep at night without fear of being visited by the Ku-Klux because of refusal to take off his hat while passing an overseer – then I will be willing to return to Mississippi. {15 }
Mobile, Alabama. April 26, 1917 …There is nothing here for the colored man but a hard time which these southern crackers gives. We has not had any work to do in 4 wks. and everything is high to the colored man so please let me hear from you by return mail. Please do this for your brother.·
Augusta, Georgia. May 12, 1917 Dear Sir: Just for a little information from you i would like to know whether or not i could get in touch with some good people to work for with a firm because things is awful hear in the south let me here from you seat as poseable. what ever you do dont publish my name in your paper but i think people as a race ought to look out for one another as Christian friends. i am a [chauffeur] and I cant make a living for my family with small pay and the people is getting bad with us black people down south hear. now if you ever help your race now is the time to help me get my family away. food stuff is so high. i will look for answer by return mail. dont publish my name in your paper but let me hear from you at once.
..Nearly the whole of the south is getting ready for the drive or excursion as it is termed. Please write at once. We are sick to get out of the solid south. {16}
After 1901 the number of reported lynchings began to decrease. {17} But, again, as Dr. Marable points out, it was the threat and not the lynching itself that terrorized New Afrikans: ”Terror becomes real in one’s mind only when a person recognizes that, at any moment and for any reason, he/she can be brutally tortured. Slavery left many Black people and their descendants unafraid of death. But there are many things that are indeed worse than death. It is the random, limited and spontaneous use of coercion that tends to afflict the mind and spirit of the oppressed. It is the omnipresent fear of a fate worse than death itself that creates the terror.” {18}
Various studies and reports from that period helped to explain the overall driving motive for New Afrikans to abandon the National Territory. George Edmund Haynes, one of the founders of the Urban League, reported in 1912 that some 47.1% of the New Afrikan so-called ”migrants” – actually refugees – in New York City sought better jobs. A 1917 study by the U.S. Secretary of Labor gave mostly economic causation to the “migrations,” listing low-wages, injustice and evils of tenant farming, bad treatment from whites, and more dissatisfaction with those conditions than before. The Crisis magazine of the NAACP gave poor pay as the leading reason for “migration” out of the National Territory in a 1917 survey, with bad treatment, bad schools, discrimination, and oppression (in general) following on the list. And, so, as historian Florette Henri summed it up, ”most blacks left the South simply to be able to feed themselves and their families.” {19}
It is estimated that between 1890 and 1910 that around. 200,000 New Afrikans left the South to the North. In 1900 the total New Afrikan population in the U.S. was 8,834,000 (or 11% of the total U.S. population); of these, 7,923,000 lived in the National Territory. Yet, over the years the pursuit for a safe refuge outside the white supremacist South continued to increase: {20}
Years of Migrations Number of Refugees
1910-1920 454,000
1920-1930 749,000
1940-1950 1,599,000
In choosing where to migrate, many New Afrikans simply followed the popular train routes. Those from Mississippi typically ended up in Chicago, whereas folks from Alabama fled to Detroit, and if you hailed from Georgia you generally landed in Harlem.
-IV-
The cities of amerikkka are full of New Afrikan refugees who entered then during the ’30s and ’40s, escaping the klan and the southern prison. One step ahead of the hounds, a few minutes ahead of the lynch mob is how many New Afrikans came north. Refugees from the National Territory. ~Atiba Shanna {21}
The Black Belt South is the National Territory for Afrikans in America (New Afrikans), for citizens of the Republic of New Afrika. the Black Belt South is “down home,” where Granny and Great-Granny still live. No, not all New Afrikans fled, many persevered, tried to hold on to the farm; that is why many of us – descendants of refugees – still have aunts, uncles, and cousins in Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, Baton Rouge, and in the small ”Black Towns” that stretch across the rural South. Our people fled the National Territory seeking refuge from economic deprivation and exploitation, social degradation and racist/colonial terrorism; and for “better educational and employment opportunities, for “‘where a man will Be anything Except a Ker … where a man is a man.” {22}
Still, freedom is not outside of home. And leaving the Black Belt South didn’t/don’t mean that we were becoming free or that We are even free today. Further, if “down home” is home – and if we have succeeded in getting ”better” education and regaining our lost dignity in the generations since we first began to seek refuge away from home – then We should return home now and continue the struggle for political self determination and economic self-reliance; in a word, for National Independence.
As Owusu Yaki Yakubu (a.k.a. Atiba Shanna) reminded us, We are simply refugees, and not yet free.
REFERENCES
1. “Neo-Colonialism: The Conquest Continues,” Sanyika Shakur in Human Rights Held Hostage, Fall 1994.
2. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner, Harper & Row 1988, passim.
3. ibid., pg. 102
4. Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction, Nell Irving Painter, Alfred A. Knopf 1977, pg. 6
5. Reconstruction, pg. 103
6. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, Lerone Bennett Jr., Penguin Books 1981, passim.
7. Exodusters, pp. 3-4
8. ibid.
9. Black Migration: Movement North, 1900-1920, Florette Henri, Anchor Press 1975, pg. 49
10. Before the Mayflower
11. See U.S. Constitution.
12. Before the Mayflower, passim.
13. How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, Manning Marable, South End Press 1983, pg. 115
14. Black Migration, pp. 62-66
15. ibid., pp. 130-131
16. Black Protest: History, Documents and Analysis, 1619 to Present, edited by Joanne Grant, Fawcett Publications, 1968, pp. 178-182
17. Before the Mayflower, passim.
18. How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, pp. 118-119.
19. Black Migration, pg. 53
20. Black Migration; Before the Mayflower.
21. “From One Generation to the Next” in Notes From a New Afrikan P.O.W. Journal, Book Three
22. Black Migration, pg. 56

Source & Credit Kwa Kwamu 3-22-51ADM_20160415_004203

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