Final Paper: Tupac, The Black Panther Party, and Black Nationalism
“ WE just wanna control the World 🌍 and when i say world i mean OUR World my life is my World your life is your World, I mean controlling OUR World atleast WE can have movie theaters and stores a COMMUNITY, WE don’t even have a COMMUNITY, They got little Italy little everything They don’t got a LITTLE AFRICA, They got The Ghetto and WE think that’s OURS that’s not Even OURS that was what was just left over! “ – TUPAC SHAKUR (New Afrikan Nationalism )
Tupac is acknowledged as one of hip-hop’ greatest rappers to date! Infamous for his thug image and reputation; Tupac’s legacy still lives on years beyond his death and this is evident though his influence on pop culture. His thug image is often imitated in association with a bandana tied on the one’s head, a thug life tattoo across the stomach, and gangster behavior. Although Tupac is greatly known for his thug-life image, Tupac and his legacy are much deeper. Tupac’s persona and lyrical content proves he is heavily influenced by the Black Panther Party and Black Nationalism, through his childhood upbringing and lyrical content.
The Black Panther Party is known as one of, if not the greatest, African American political party to emerge during the 1960’s. The Black Panther Party (BPP) was the first organization to challenge and pose a threat to the U.S. Government. What makes the BPP so revolutionary is their forceful and rebellious approach to eliminating racism and black oppression. The year of 1966 in Oakland, California the Black Panther Party was formed by student of Merritt College, Huey P. Newton and Bobbie Seale. As former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Newton and Seale were influenced by the black nationalistic ideas of Malcolm X and decided to form the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Their objective was to protect the black communities from police brutality, which was very high during the time. The BPP rebellious attitude demonstrated that they would fight and die for what they believed in. Members of the BPP typically wore black leather jackets with black berets while carrying shotguns. For many years prior to the BPP’s existence civil rights movements and organizations approached the racial inequalities with a nonviolent approach; however the BPP believed that violence was the only way to eliminate racism and black oppression.
Make Us Beautiful Black Again Ft 2pac & Shakka – Haki Kweli Shakur
The BPP outlined a Ten Point Platform which called for “the political autonomy of all black communities”. In the Ten Point Platform they make demands for “political freedom, black control of black communities, full employment, and an end to white economic exploitation, better housing, better education, health services, fair trials, exemption of black men from military service, and an end to police brutality”. The BPP also promoted black cultural pride, and beliefs were heavily influenced by the ideology of Black Nationalism.
Black Nationalism is a belief system that stems from the history of the Atlantic slave trade, slavery and capitalism. Black Nationalism is a belief system that “supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political, social, educational, economic, and spiritual needs of black people, independent of nonblacks” along with the “celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism [being] essential components of black nationalism”. Black Nationalism is completely against slavery, and the diaspora as well as the capitalist system that oppresses blacks. The Atlantic Slave trade has stripped Africans from their culture and forced blacks “into a new radicalized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement”. Slavery and racism has affected the black community greatly and has created major obstacles for blacks. Even after slavery being abolished blacks were still denied access to white communities. This racial discrimination helped form the beliefs of Black Nationalism. Slavery has made blacks dependent of the white man for everything while America was practically built on the backs of African slaves. The capitalist system also was a system whose economic development was due to slavery.
Haki Shakur Breaks it Down About The Shakur Tribe & The Revolutionary Struggle – Uncle Drummer Show UK 🇬🇧 & Gambia 🇬🇲
There are many Black Nationalism movements that have formed throughout history such as the Haitian Revolution and leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah. The Haitian Revolution for instance was a revolution in Haiti that was led by Toussaint Louverture in an attempt to push the European powers out. In the late 1700’s Haiti was under the French empire and sugar was France’s source of income. In Haiti there was a full on slave revolt for freedom and liberation from the French government. In 1803 Haiti received its independence. Also leader Kwame Nkrumah believes in Black Nationalism. Kwame Nkrumah was the leading figure for Ghana’s independence, who believed in education and separatism as a means of gaining freedom and liberation from European powers. The Haitian Revolution and the fight for Ghana’s independence are both examples of Black Nationalism because both revolutions wanted the freedom and liberation from their white oppressors. As well as a nation that belonged to its native people. In both cases the Europeans came and took control over their land for some monetary benefit at the cost over others. These blacks were mistreated, discriminated against, and face social, political and economic inequalities. This oppression, mistreatment, discrimination, and inequality are what drive the Black Nationalism system of beliefs.
Tupac Shakur was an infamous rapper and one of the greatest rappers in Hip Hop. Although Tupac is known for thug-life and his gangster image, Tupac was much more than that. Tupac was socially aware and heavily influenced by the Black Panther Party. His childhood and upbringing is reflective through his persona and lyrical content and it speaks volumes about his knowledge and beliefs. On June 16th, 1971 Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in New York City to Afeni Shakur. Afeni Shakur was a well-known and active member of the Black Panther Party, holding a high position. Afeni attended conferences, visited colleges, protested and marched, as well as lecturing about freedom and liberation. A month before Tupac was born, Afeni just returned from jail. At seven months of her pregnancy the police arrested Afeni because of her involvement with the party. During the late 1960’s the government felt highly threatened by the party and by any means wanted to put an end to the revolution. As a child Tupac was taught three key things from his mother, “respect, knowledge, [and] searching for knowledge”, along with being community oriented and respecting women. Growing up Tupac was always surrounded by Panthers; his step father Mutulu Shakur, Aunt Assata Shakur, and godfather Geronimo Pratt. As a result of this Tupac knew about black history, oppression, Black Nationalism and the struggle.
Growing up Tupac and his family were poor, so Tupac understood the struggle that blacks back then and even today face. He lived in Baltimore, Maryland between 1984 and 1988. Baltimore was known to have the highest rate of teen pregnancy, AIDS, black on black crime, and teen suicide. Tupac referred to Baltimore as “ignorance town”. Unlike others Tupac had an escape away from the madness of the hood. Tupac attended the Baltimore School of Arts where he was exposed to new things of diverse subjects. Tupac was exposed to theater, ballet, Broadway, and many other lifestyles aside from the one he was accustomed too. In 1988 Tupac decided to move to Oakland, California. Prior to his fame Tupac was barely making it, smoking weed, partying and hanging out with drug dealers. Tupac didn’t want this lifestyle so he began to rap, and this is what led to the iconic Tupac we know and love today. All Tupac’s childhood experiences and upbringings are what molded him as a man and artist. Tupac knew his history, and understood the struggle not only from knowledge but also from living it. Tupac was well rounded also; he wasn’t just a kid in the hood that never stepped out of a ten mile radius but he was exposed to different subject matters and lifestyles.
Tupac was socially aware, and this is evident in many of his songs. Three that stand out are “Changes”, “Words of Wisdom”, and “White Manz World”. Tupac got the reputation of being a gangster rapper because his lyrical content was detailed, brutal, real, and raw! Tupac says, “…I’m a rapper, this is what I do. I’m an artist. And I rap about the oppressed taking back their place. I rap about fighting back. To me, my lyrics and my verses are about struggling and overcoming, you know? Not gangstas. I don’t rap about sitting up eating shrimp and shit. I rap about fighting back”.
Tupac’s song “Changes’’ for instance speaks about the struggle within the black community, police brutality, and racism. In his opening verse his says,
“I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, “Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?” I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black. My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch. Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero. Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare. First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers. Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other. “It’s time to fight back”, that’s what Huey said. 2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead. I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin’ changes. Learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of 2 distant strangers. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me? I’d love to go back to when we played as kids but things changed, and that’s the way it is”.
The meanings behind these lyrics are very deep. Tupac starts with how there is no progression in the government that consistently oppresses the black community, and questions if life is worth it. Being poor and black on top of that is a struggle here in America so as a result he has to take what he can get even if it means committing theft. But the cops could care less about him because the color of his skin, and not to mention how the LADP are corrupt. The cops also help distribute drugs and guns into the black urban communities to slowly kill off the black population. Tupac then makes reference to Huey P. Newton saying it’s time to fight back. He is tired of the corrupt government and wants to make a change. Then he speaks on the attitude within the black community due to the oppression. Tupac believes that in order to fight back black brothers and sister have to learn to love one another instead of being strangers.
“Words of Wisdom” by Tupac is another song that speaks out against oppression and the corrupt American government. This song is filled with knowledge and wisdom, along with the message of Black Nationalism. Tupac calls out America saying that he is America’s nightmare! He talks about the history of blacks in America and how we were kept from wealth and other privileges in an attempt to make blacks feel inferior when in fact they are superior. Blacks are being wiped out of the population due to drugs, and gun violence and Tupac wants to fight back! Blacks live in a country and follow laws and society codes to a nation that has always been neglecting of blacks! Blacks have been kept from their history, lied to, and deceived. It’s important to speak out and fight against the inequality and injustice of the American government.
“This is definitely words of wisdom AMERIKA, AMERIKA, AMERIK-K- KA
I charge you with the crime of rape, murder, and assault For suppressing and punishing my people I charge you with robery for robbing me of my history I charge you with false imprisonment for keeping me
Trapped in the projects And the jury finds you guilty on all accounts And you are to serve the consequences of your evil schemes Prosecutor, do you have any more evidence?” Tupac goes on further explaining how in order to fight back and conquer the enemy, blacks must educate themselves. Lastly in “White Man’z World” speaks further about the oppression and white America. Being black is this white man’s world is a struggle and constant battle for survival and to succeed. “Remember that, in this white man’s world, they can’t stop us We’ve been here all this time they ain’t took us out They can never take us out No matter what they say, about us bein extinct About us being endangered species, we ain’t NEVER gon’ leave this We ain’t never gon’ walk off this planet, unless Y’ALL choose to Use your brain, use your brain It ain’t them that’s killin us it’s US that’s killin us It ain’t them that’s knockin us off, it’s US that’s knockin us off I’m tellin you better watch it, or be a victim Be a victim, in this white man’s world.. born black, in this white man’s world, no doubt And it’s dedicated to my motherfuckin teachers Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu Jamal Sekou Odinga, all the real O.G.’s, we out” Here Tupac talks out to his black audience encouraging them to wake up and stop being victims of oppression. The violence that has taken place in the black community against each other is only killing the black population and this is what white America wants. Tupac stresses that it is up to “us” to not be the victim and to use “your” brain to end the vicious cycle of oppression that is killing blacks.
Like members of the Black Panther Party Tupac’s image was consistently bashed in the media. Tupac was perceived as a gangster and trouble maker. Tupac like member Huey P. Newton faced charges of false crimes. Huey P. Newton was accused of murder while Tupac was accused of rape. Tupac was a target for the media and police. Tupac also shared the rebellious attitude of the Black Panthers. Tupac wore berets, BPP pins and necklaces, and made a statement without even speaking like the BPP. Tupac Amaru Shakur was one of the greatest rappers and pop culture icons to have graced this earth. He was a rapper that spoke out against the oppression of the black community, the corrupt ways of the American government, and spoke about fighting back. Through his persona and lyrical content it is evident that Tupac is influenced by the Black Panther Party because of his childhood, and shares the same beliefs as the Black Nationalism system.
Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to Present. A-C. Vol. 1. Edited by Cary D. Wintz, Gerald Horne, Graham Rusell Gao Hodges, and L. Dian Barnes. New York: New York, 2009.
Franklin , V.P. “Jackanapes: Reflection on the Legacy of the Black Panther Party for the Hip Hop Generation.” The Journal of African American History. no. 4 (2007): 553-560. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20064233 (accessed Marc 18, 2013). Hoye, Jacob, and Karolyn Ali. Tupac Resurrection 1971-1996. New York: New York, 2003.
Rap Genius, “2Pac – Changes Lyrics .” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013. Rap Genius, “2Pac – Words of Wisdom Lyrics .” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013. http://rapgenius.com/2pac-words-of-wisdom-lyrics..
Rap Genius, “2Pac – White Man’z World Lyrics .” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013. http://rapgenius.com/2pac-white-manz-world-lyrics.
Rap Genius, “2Pac – Words of Wisdom Lyrics .” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013. http://rapgenius.com/2pac-words-of-wisdom-lyrics
West, Michael O., William G. Martin, and Fanon Che Wilkins. From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since the Age of Revolution. Chapel Hill: The University Press of North Carolina Press, 2009. White , Armon. “Dreamin with Tears in My Eyes reviewed by: Lindsay Waters.” Transition. no. 72 (1997): 78-102. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935375 (accessed March 18, 2013).
Franklin and Armfield
By Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
One of the nation’s largest slave trading firms, Franklin & Armfield operated from this townhouse on Duke Street from 1828-1836. Enslaved African Americans awaiting shipment to slave markets in New Orleans and Natchez were imprisoned in walled pens behind the house. At night they slept in a two-story rear wing with grated doors and windows. During their imprisonment, the prisoners feared being sold to the deep south, both because of the resulting separation from their families and because the conditions on the large tobacco and cotton plantations were considered much harsher than their more northern counterparts.
Franklin & Armfield were among the first slave traders to realize they could buy slaves cheaply in the upper South and sell them at a profit further south. “We will give Cash for one hundred likely YOUNG NEGROES,” read one of their ads in the Alexandria Gazette in 1828. “Persons who wish to sell, would do well to give us a call, as the negroes are wanted immediately. We will give more than any other purchasers that are in the market or may hereafter come into the market.”
In mid- to late- summer, slave drivers from Franklin & Armfield, armed with guns and whips, marched a chained and manacled coffle of slaves through Tennessee to the Forks of the Road slave market in Natchez, Mississippi. Every month from October to May, the firm also shipped slaves from Alexandria to New Orleans on their fleet of steamboats and ships, including one named for partner Isaac Franklin.
Franklin managed the sale of slaves in Natchez and New Orleans. John Armfield, his nephew by marriage, bought slaves in Virginia and held them on Duke Street, where he lived. At the firm’s peak in the 1830’s it sold between 1,000 and 1,200 enslaved African Americans a year, making it a key player in the interstate slave commerce that transported enslaved blacks from upper South hubs in Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Norfolk, Nashville and St. Louis to markets further south in Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, Natchez, and New Orleans.
Between 1820 and 1860, the slave trade accounted for a significant portion of the South’s economy. About 650,000 people were sold across state lines; twice as many were sold locally. The slave trade enriched not only slave traders but landlords, provisioners, physicians, insurance agents, and other businesses in the cities and states where they were sold.
In 1846, the Duke Street property was purchased by a Franklin & Armfield agent, George Kephart, and in 1858 to a third slave trading firm, Price, Birch, and Co.
The site was added to the National Historic Landmarks List in 1978; an historic marker was erected at the site in 2005. It was added to the National Historic Register in 2008.
The building was originally constructed in 1812 as a residence for General Andrew Young, but passed into the hands of slave traders from 1828 to 1861. The complex served as a Civil War prison for Union army deserters from 1861 to 1865. It also housed freed “contraband” blacks after Alexandria fell to Union troops in 1861. In 1863, the building provided the first meeting place for Shiloh Baptist Church, founded by formerly enslaved African Americans once housed there. The slave pens were demolished in the 1870s. After the war it housed the Alexandria Hospital from 1878 to 1885. It was converted to apartments and subsequently renovated as offices in 1984.
The Franklin and Armfield office is an L-shaped, Adamesque style, three story structure of gray painted brick. The exterior and interior of the structure have undergone considerable alterations, but the pine flooring and open-well, three flight staircase is original. There were once walled living and eating areas for males and females on either side of the office building.
Geographical and Contact Information
1315 Duke St.
Juneteenth, Celebrate Freedom. Pan-african flag drawn with brush in grunge style
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. It is recognized on June 19th every year. In Texas, where it is a state holiday, slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the initial announcement.
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are free.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Afrikan People are not Citizens of The Empire of The United States , New Afrikans
“Commemorated annually on June 19th, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln Sep. 22, 1862, announced, “that on the 1st day of January A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state…in rebellion against the U.S. shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.” However, it would take the Civil War and passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to end the brutal institution of African America slavery.
After the Civil War ended in April 1865 most slaves in Texas were still unaware of their freedom. This began to change when Union troops arrived in Galveston. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, commanding officer, district of Texas, from his headquarters in the Osterman Building (Strand and 22nd St.) read ‘General Order No. 3’ on June 19, 1865. The order stated, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with the proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.” With this notice, Reconstruction era Texas began.
Freed African Americans observed ‘Emancipation Day,” as it was first known, as early as 1866 in Galveston. As community gatherings grew across Texas, celebration included parades, prayer, singing, and readings of the proclamation. In the mid-20th century, community celebration gave way to more private commemorations. A re-emergence of public observance helped Juneteenth become a state holiday in 1979. Initially observed in Texas, this landmark event’s legacy is evident today by worldwide commemorations that celebrate freedom and the triumph of the human spirit.
Haki Kweli Shakur – New Afrikan Citizenship, William X First Afrikan Child Birth in Virginia, Instagram Live
The Emancipation Proclamation
Read a transcript of the entire Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom for slaves in certain areas of the South, in full here.
The Thirteenth Amendment
The Thirteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery nationwide. It was ratified in December 1865. The full text reads:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
The U.S. never abolished Slavery: United States never actually abolished slavery. The 13th Amendment states:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
“…except as a punishment for crime…” This phrase gets ignored in America’s telling of its slavery story. The 13th Amendment did not abolish slavery but rather moved it from the plantation to the prison. In 2015, the 2 million (largely Black) people incarcerated in America are legally considered slaves under the Constitution. As a result, they can and are forced to work for pennies an hour with the profits going to counties, states and private corporations including Target, Revlon and Whole Foods. In fact, there are more Black people enslaved today than in 1800.
This is no accident. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander lays out how a system of Jim Crow replaced slavery and later how a system of mass incarceration rose to replace Jim Crow. During Reconstruction, Southern states quickly took advantage of the 13th Amendment’s slavery loophole by arresting Black people for minor crimes such as unemployment, loitering or gambling, and selling them to private employers through the convict lease system. Today, the majority of Black people enslaved in prisons were arrested for drug crimes. Even though Black people use drugs at the same rate as White people, they are incarcerated for drug crimes at 20 to 50 times the rate of White people in some states.
This is not to say that we have not made progress since 1865. Through acts of courage and solidarity, African-Americans have fought back against white supremacy for the past 150 years. Incarcerated people have not been hapless victims but rather have organized and actively resisted for decades. Last week, immigrants at a private prison in Raymondville, Texas engaged in direct actions over a two-day period protesting inhumane conditions, forcing a shutdown of part of the prison. The protests build on a tradition of prison activism from the Angola Three in Louisiana to the tragic Attica Prison takeover in 1971.
It is critical that immigrants have joined in resistance to the prison industrial complex. Detention of immigrants facing deportation in jails and private prisons and immigrants prosecuted for attempting to enter the United States are the fastest growing segment of the prison system. Every year, over 400,000 immigrants are detained in an immigration detention system where many work long days sometimes being paid nothing or if they are lucky, 12 cents per hour. Other immigrants work for basic necessities like food, blankets or a few minutes of extra sunlight. This is true even though the 13th Amendment does not permit slavery for people being held for immigration violations, which are considered civil not criminal offenses. In two states, immigrants have sued demanding fair pay and safe working conditions.
Although the prison industrial complex was seemingly designed for the wholesale incarceration of Black communities, Asian Pacific Islanders and other non-Black people of color are trapped in the same system. Southeast Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Latino/s are all incarcerated at disproportionate rates. However, we cannot achieve liberation until we address anti-black racism in our own communities and build connections between our struggles, those of African-Americans, and slavery.
“I didn’t create T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E., I diagnosed it.” – Tupac Shakur.
In 1992, at a cease fire agreement and gang ‘Truce Barbecue’ in Watts, California, Tupac Amaru Shakur was instrumental in getting rival members of the Crips and Bloods to sign a code of ethics, that which is called The Code of Thug Life. He and Dr. Mutulu Shakur had helped write up The ‘Code,’ with other ‘O.G’s’ who came together to bring order to the violence on the street.
Someone must dare put the street life back on track, because it is clear to anybody that can see – that the hustling game has gone stark raving mad.
The short and long range result, will not only be detrimental to the street game, but more importantly, the combination of the self destruction & turf warfare, coupled with the government’s police terrorism, fascist laws designed to capture and keep our Black men and women in prison for the rest of their lives, leaves a defenseless Black community – which will result in our genocide.
For as long as the street game / hustle has existed in our community, which is the result of many factors (and will only be resolved through our liberation), it has been viewed as a necessary tolerance between the legal and illegal economy and culture.
The underground economy has, in many areas, been supportive of the uplifting of the Black community. Although, for a fact, it has been the downfall of individuals, the dynamics of struggle between the do-gooders and the thugs has kept a consistent battle for balance in The Black Community which at least was under our control.
The rules of engagement of the hustle was a code of the thug life. This code was the A, B, C’s of how the street game should and would be played. These rules allowed for money to be made by the crews in the different fields of the game, and determined how disputes between and among the players should be handled.
It also allowed the people who were not in the game to pressure the enemy of our people, and allowed the people who would work in the interest of our people (education, health, housing, legal, etc.) to feel that the effort was worth it.
The game today, as it exists, is a complete violation of the code. Historically, the street hustler was hip to the enemy and would never work in the government’s interest to destroy their own people.
The thug life is a tool of the enemy as it exists today; it must change. The interests of outside forces are being served by the hustlers, because the crew has no dignity or honor – and this must be corrected. A council must be called to put a code to the thug life.
We accept that the game will go on until our liberation. What we won’t accept is that the game will destroy us from within before we get another chance to rumble and rebuild. We will not allow ourselves to be played by the covert operations, COINTELPRO, and low intensity warfare waged by the United States government.
A code must be established. As we look at the West coast, the majority of the life is controlled by gangs (Latin/Chican and of the Black community as well). The gangs are the force behind the underground economy in our hoods.
In the mid-East, the common denominator there is also the gangs, which are responsible for the street life. Politically, culturally, and economically, these forces attempt to put the game back on track and work in the interests of the community and to resist the strategy of the government. They have begun setting down a platform for the street game in full effect – we praise this effort.
The code of the thug life must become a part of East coast street life as well. There must be a common denominator.
The original gangsters behind the walls of the dungeon will take some responsibility to putting force to the council and the code.
We must act now. The Code of the Thug Life will save us to fight another day. If we don’t, then we will lose…
While other forces attempt to bring peace and unity to the gangs and crews of the street life…Although we re down with that, and shout out to those attempts, we have always tried to be real with the people. Some folks may oppose what we say and do.
What we’re putting out here is a code to the true dwellers in the thug life. We don’t see this as an end of the game, or the street game as a real end. What we need is liberation. But what we do see if the bringing of some honor to being true to the life – and being real to our family which is a giant step to being down with the true thug life.
Code OF THUG LIFE: 1. All new Jacks to the game must know: a) He’s going to get rich. b) He’s going to jail. c) He’s going to die.
2. Crew Leaders: You are responsible for legal/financial payment commitments to crew members; your word must be your bond.
3. One crew’s rat is every crew’s rat. Rats are now like a disease; sooner or later we all get it; and they should too.
4. Crew leader and posse should select a diplomat, and should work ways to settle disputes. In unity, there is strength!
5. Car jacking in our Hood is against the Code.
6. Slinging to children is against the Code.
7. Having children slinging is against the Code.
8. No slinging in schools.
9. Since the rat Nicky Barnes opened his mouth; ratting has become accepted by some. We’re not having it.
10. Snitches is outta here.
11. The Boys in Blue don’t run nothing; we do. Control the Hood, and make it safe for squares.
12. No slinging to pregnant Sisters. That’s baby killing; that’s genocide!
13. Know your target, who’s the real enemy.
14. Civilians are not a target and should be spared.
15. Harm to children will not be forgiven.
16. Attacking someone’s home where their family is known to reside, must be altered or checked.
17. Senseless brutality and rape must stop.
18. Our old folks must not be abused.
19. Respect our Sisters. Respect our Brothers.
20. Sisters in the Life must be respected if they respect themselves.
21. Military disputes concerning business areas within the community must be handled professionally and not on the block.
22. No shooting at parties.
23. Concerts and parties are neutral territories; no shooting!
24. Know the Code; it’s for everyone.
25. Be a real ruff neck. Be down with the code of the Thug Life.
26. Protect yourself at all times..
Mutulu Shakur , Mopreme Shakur , Tupac Shakur
The ethics, principles, Self Governance of The Code of Thug Life is needed now more then ever along with a Street Organizations Tribal Council like The United Nations and to Govern Our Communities Accordingly under PGRNA LAWS FREE THE LAND! – Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective NAIM NAPLA 6-13-53 ADM
Mutulu Shakur Website http://mutulushakur.com/site/1992/08/code-of-thug-life/#comment-36482
George Jackson Radio with Guest Haki Kweli Shakur Street Organizations
Michael Vinson William’s Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr seeks to tell the full story of the first nationally known freedom fighter assassinated during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Williams biography opens in Decatur, Mississippi the small predominantly white town where Evers was born in July 25. His parents James & Jessie Evers were business owners devoted to black economics advancement and made integrity courageousness and kindness central elements of their family creed. While most black youths in Mississippi were being taught that obedience to white rule was the surest way to reach adulthood, The Evers children’s primary education included lessons in Defiance to unjust societal norms and tutorials on SELF-RELIANCE.
The Struggle iz For Land PT II ( Organize The South/ Black Belt ) – Haki Kweli Shakur
In 1935 for example the klu klux klan warned African Americans in Decatur not to attend the annual Christmas parade. Defying the warning James Evers took his two sons to see the festivities. And while the Great Depression bankrupted ordinary black and white folk through the United States, Evers prohibited his daughters from engaging in domestic work for whites. However useful the additional money might have been Williams notes: Evers knew white boys and men in Mississippi verbally harassed and physically abused African American Maids and Nannies. Of equal significance Evers was a proud man who refused to allow his children to appear to be at the mercy of whites. Amid the steadily intensifying Depression, James Evers Pledged “ If The Evers Family Got in a Soup Line, I’d kill Everyone of You and Then Kill Myself!
Born July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi, Medgar was one of four children born to James and Jesse Evers. His father worked in a sawmill and his mother was a laundress. Evers’s childhood was typical in many ways of black youths who grew up in the Jim Crow South during the Great Depression of the 1930s and in the years preceding World War II. As a youth, Evers’s parents showered him with love and affection, taught him family values, and routinely disciplined him when needed. The Evers home emphasized education, religion, and hard work.
Among his siblings, Evers spent the most time with Charles, whom he idolized. As Evers’s older brother, Charles protected him, taught him to fish, swim, hunt, box, wrestle, and generally served as a sounding board for many of Medgar’s early experiences. He attended all-black schools in the dual and segregated public educational system of Newton County. Segregated public education meant long walks to school for the Evers children. The schools had few resources and operated with outdated textbooks, few teachers, large classes, and small classrooms without laboratories and supplies for the study of biology, chemistry, and physics.
Besides his under-funded public education, Evers on occasion saw and witnessed acts of raw violence against blacks. On these occasions, Evers’s parents and older brother could not shield him from the realities of a society built on racial discrimination. At about age 14, Evers observed to his horror the dragging of a black man, Willie Tingle, behind a wagon through the streets of Decatur. Tingle was later shot and hanged. A friend of Evers’s father, Tingle was accused of insulting a white woman.
Evers later recalled that Tingle’s bloody clothes remained in the field for months near the tree where he was hanged. Each day on his way to school Evers had to pass this tableau of violence. He never forgot the image.
Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American by Harold Cruse
The BROTHERWISE DISPATCH, VOL.2, ISSUE#1, DEC/2009-FEB/2010
Revolutionary Nationalism and Western Marxism
Many of Western Marxism’s fundamental theoretical formulations concerning revolution and nationalism are seriously challenged by the Cuban Revolution. American Marxism, which, since World War II, has undergone a progressive loss of influence and prestige, is challenged most profoundly. For while most American Marxists assert that the Cuban Revolution substantiates their theories of nationalism, national liberation and revolution, in fact the Cuban success is more nearly a success de circonstance. Orthodox Marxists were unable to foresee it, and indeed opposed Castro until the last minute. One would hope that such a development might cause American radicals to re-evaluate their habitual methods of perceiving social realities; but in the spate of written analyses of the Cuban Revolution one looks in vain for a new idea or a fleeting spark of creative theoretical inspiration apropos of the situation in the United States.
The failure of American Marxists to work out a meaningful approach to revolutionary nationalism has special significance for the American Negro. The Negro has a relationship to the dominant culture of the United States similar to that of colonies and semi-dependents to their particular foreign overseers: the Negro is the American problem of underdevelopment. The failure of American Marxists to understand the bond between the Negro and the colonial peoples of the world has led to their failure to develop theories that would be of value to Negroes in the United States.
As far as American Marxists are concerned, it appears that thirty-odd years of failure on the North American mainland are now being offered compensatory vindication “ninety miles from home.” With all due respect to the Marxists, however, the hard facts remain. Revolutionary nationalism has not waited for Western Marxian thought to catch up with the realities of the “underdeveloped” world. From underdevelopment itself have come the indigenous schools of theory and practice for achieving independence. The liberation of the colonies before the socialist revolution in the West is not orthodox Marxism(although it might be called Maoism or Castroism). As long as American Marxists cannot deal with the implications of revolutionary nationalism, both abroad and at home, they will continue to play the role of revolutionaries by proxy.
Revolutionary Nationalism – Haki Kweli Shakur
The revolutionary initiative has passed to the colonial world, and in the United States is passing to the Negro, while Western Marxists theorize, temporize and debate. The success of the colonial and semicolonial revolutions is not now, if it ever was, dependent upon the prior success of the Western proletariat. Indeed, the reverse may now be true; namely, that the success of the latter is aided by the weakening of the imperial outposts of Western Capitalism. What is true of the colonial world is also true of the Negro in the United States. Here, the Negro is leading the revolutionary force, independent and ahead of the Marxists in the development of a movement towards social change.
The American Negro: A Subject of Domestic Colonialism
The American Negro shares with colonial peoples many of the socioeconomic factors which form the material basis for present-day revolutionary nationalism. Like the peoples of underdeveloped countries, the Negro suffers in varying degree from hunger, illiteracy, disease, ties to the land, urban and semi-urban slums, cultural starvation, and the psychological reactions to being ruled over by others not of his kind. He experiences the tyranny imposed upon the lives of those who inhabit underdeveloped countries. In the words of a Mexican writer, Enrique Gonzales Pedrero, underdevelopment creates a situation where that which exists “only half exists,” where “countries are almost countries, only fifty percent nations, and a man who inhabits these countries is a dependent being, a sub-man.” Such a man depends “not on himself but on other men and other outside worlds that order him around, counsel and guide him like a newly born infant.”
From the beginning, the American Negro has existed as a colonial being. His enslavement coincided with the colonial expansion of European powers and was nothing more or less than a condition of domestic colonialism. Instead of the United States establishing a colonial empire in Africa, it brought the colonial system home and installed it in the Southern states. When the Civil War broke up the slave system and the Negro was emancipated, he gained only partial freedom. Emancipation elevated him only to the position of a semi-dependent man, not to that of an equal or independent being.
The immense wealth and democratic pretensions of the American way of life have often served to obscure the real conditions under which the eighteen to twenty million Negroes in the United States live. As a wage laborer or tenant farmer, the Negro is discriminated against and exploited. Those in the educated, professional, and intellectual classes suffer a similar fate. Except for a very small percentage of the Negro intelligentsia, the Negro functions in a subcultural world made up, usually of necessity, of his own race only. This is much more than a problem of racial discrimination; it is a problem of political, economic, cultural and administrative development.
American Marxists, however, have never been able to understand the implications of the Negro’s position in the social structure of the United States. They have no more been able to see the Negro as having revolutionary potentialities in his own right, than European Marxists could see the revolutionary aspirations of their colonials as being independent of, and not subordinate to, their own. As Western Marxism had no adequate revolutionary theory for the colonies, American Marxists have no adequate theory for the Negro. The belief of some American Marxists in a political alliance of Negroes and whites is based on a superficial assessment of the Negro’s social status: the notion that the Negro is an integral part of the American nation in the same way as is the white working class. Although this idea of Negro and white unity is convenient in describing the American multinational and multiracial makeup, it cannot withstand a deeper analysis of the components which make American society what it is.
Negroes have never been equal to whites of any class in economic, social, cultural, or political status, and very few whites of any class have ever regarded them as such. The Negro is not really an integral part of the American nation beyond the convenient formal recognition that he lives within the borders of the United States. From the white’s point of view, the Negro is not related to the “we,” the Negro is the “they.” This attitude assumes it’s most extreme expression in the Southern states and spreads out over the nation in varying modes of racial mores. The only factor which differentiates the Negro’s status from that of a pure colonial status is that his position is maintained in the “home” country in close proximity to the dominant racial group. It is not at all remarkable then that the semi-colonial status of the Negro has given rise to nationalist movements. It would be surprising if it had not. Although Negro nationalism today is a reflection of the revolutionary nationalism that is changing the world, the present nationalist movement stems from a tradition dating back to the period of World War I.
Negro nationalism came into its own at that time with the appearance of Marcus Garvey and his “Back to Africa” movement. Garvey mobilized large sections of the discontented urban petit-bourgeois and working-class elements from the West Indies and the South into the greatest mass movement yet achieved in American Negro history. The Garvey movement was revolutionary nationalism being expressed in the very heart of Western capitalism. Despite the obvious parallels to colonial revolutions, however, Marxists of all parties not only rejected Garvey, but have traditionally ostracized Negro nationalism.
American Marxism has neither understood the nature of Negro nationalism, nor dealt with its roots in American society. When the Communists first promulgated the Negro question as a “national question” in 1928, they wanted a national question without nationalism. They posed the question mechanically because they did not really understand it. They relegated the “national” aspects of the Negro question to the “black belt” of the South, despite the fact that Garvey’s “national movement” had been organized in 1916 in a northern urban center where the Negro was, according to the Communists, a “national minority,” but not a “nation,” as he was in the Southern states. Of course, the national character of the Negro has little to do with what part of the country he lives in. Wherever he lives, he is restricted. His national boundaries are the color of his skin, his racial characteristics, and the social conditions within this subcultural world.
The ramifications of the national and colonial question are clear only if the initial bourgeois character of national movements is understood. According to American Marxism, Negro movements do not have “bourgeois nationalist” beginnings. American Marxists have fabricated the term “Negro Liberation Movement”-an “all-class” affair united around a program of civil and political equality, the beginnings of which they approximately date back to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. True, the NAACP was, from its inception, and is still, a bourgeois movement. However, it is a distortion to characterize this particular organization as the sole repository of the beginnings of the Negro bourgeois movement. Such a narrow analysis cannot explain how or why there are two divergent trends in Negro life today: pro-integration and anti-integration. That is to say, it does not explain the origins of the nationalist wing, composed of black nationalists, Black Muslims and other minor Negro nationalist grouping, as an outgrowth of basic conflicts within the early bourgeois movements(circa 1900), from which also developed the present day NAACP-Martin Luther King-student coalition. Furthermore, the Marxian version of the NAACP’s origins does not explain why the nationalist wing and the NAACP wing oppose each other, or why the overwhelming majority of Negroes are uncommitted to either one. There is widespread dissatisfaction among various classes of Negroes with the NAACP’s approach to racial problems. On the other hand, in recent years the nationalists have been gaining support and prestige among uncommitted Negroes. This is especially true of the Muslims, the newest Negro nationalist phenomenon.
The rise of free African nations and the Cuban Revolution have, without a doubt, stirred up the latent nationalism of many Negroes. The popular acclaim given Fidel Castro by the working class Negroes of Harlem during his visit in the fall of 1960 demonstrated that the effects of the colonial revolutions are reaching the American Negro and arousing his nationalist impulses. Many Negroes, who are neither nationalists nor supporters of the NAACP, are becoming impatient with the NAACP-Martin Luther King-student legalistic and “passive resistance” tactics. They suspect that the long-drawn-out battle of attrition with which the NAACP integration movement is faced may very well end in no more than Pyrrhic victories. They feel that racial integration, as a goal, lacks the tangible objectives needed to bring about genuine equality. After all, social and racial equality remain intangible goals unless they are related to seizure and retention of objectives which can be used as levers to exert political, social, economic, and administrative power in society. Power cannot be wielded from integrated lunch counters, waiting rooms, schools, housing, baseball teams, or love affairs, even though these are social advances.
There emerges from this dilemma a recognizable third trend, personified in the case of Robert F. Williams. Williams was forced to take an anti-NAACP position, but he was not a nationalist and was critical of Marxists. As a rebel, Williams’ objectives were the same as those of the NAACP; he differed only in his approach. His seemingly “revolutionary” stance is thwarted by the same lack of substance that makes a program of racial integration unsatisfactory to many Negroes. Williams resorted to arms for defense purposes; but arms are superfluous in terms of the objectives of racial integration, and to the seizure of actual centers of social power. The adherents of this third trend – young social rebels who are followers of Williams’ Monroe Movement – are faced with this predicament. They are neither avowed nationalists nor NAACPers. They consider themselves “revolutionary,” but do not have revolutionary objectives. However, they are not yet a force, and their future importance will rest, no doubt, upon how much influence the nationalist wing will exert in the Negro community. The main trends in Negro life are becoming more and more polarized around the issues of pro and anti-integration.
Integration vs. Separation: History and Interpretation
Negro historiography does not offer a very clear explanation of how the American Negro has become what he is today. As written, Negro history appears as a parade of lesser and greater personalities against a clamor of many contending anonymous voices and a welter of spasmodic trends all negating each other. Through the pages of Negro history the Negro marches, always arriving but never getting anywhere. His “national goals” are always receding.
Integration vs. separation has become polarized around two main wings of racial ideology, with fateful implications for the Negro movement and the country at large. Yet we are faced with a problem in racial ideology without any means of properly understanding how to deal with it. The dilemma arises from a lack of comprehension of the historical origins of the conflict.
The problem is complicated by a lack of recognition that the conflict even exists. The fundamental economic and cultural issues at stake in this conflict cannot be dealt with by American sociologists for the simple reason that sociologists never admit that such issues should exist at all in American society. They talk of “Americanizing” all the varied racial elements in the United States; but, when it is clear that certain racial elements are not being “Americanized,” socially, economically, or culturally, the sociologists proffer nothing but total evasion, or more studies on “the nature of prejudice.” Hence problems remain with us in a neglected state of suspension until they break out in what are considered to be “negative,” “antisocial,” “antiwhite,” “antidemocratic” reactions.
One of the few attempts to bring a semblance of order to the dominant trends in the chaos of Negro history was made by Marxist historians in the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, it proved to be a one-sided analysis which failed to examine the class structure of the Negro people. Viewing Negro history as a parade from slavery to socialism, the Marxist historians favor certain Negro personalities uncritically while ignoring others who played vital roles. Major figures, such as Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey, who do not fit into the Communist stereotype of Negro heroes are ignored or downgraded. In the process, Marxist historians have further obscured the roots of the current conflict in racial ideology. Under the aegis of other slogans, issues and rivalries, the pro-integration vs. anti-integration controversy first appeared at the turn of the century in the famous Booker T. Washington-W.E.B. Du Bois debate. Washington’s position was that the Negro had to achieve economic self-sufficiency before demanding his political rights. This position led Washington to take a less “militant” stand on civil rights than did other Negro leaders, such as Du Bois, who accused Washington of compromising with the racists on the Negro’s political position in the South. It is not sufficient, however, to judge Washington purely on the political policies he advocated for the Negro in the South. For Washington gave voice to an important trend in Negro life, one that made him the most popular leader American Negroes have had. The Washington-Du Bois controversy was not a debate between representatives of reaction and progress, as Communist historians have asserted, but over the correct tactics for the emerging Negro bourgeoisie.
From the Reconstruction era on, the would-be Negro bourgeoisie in the United States confronted unique difficulties quite unlike those experienced by the young bourgeoisie in colonial situations. As a class, the Negro bourgeoisie wanted liberty and equality, but also money, prestige, and political power. How to achieve all this within the American framework was a difficult problem, since the whites had a monopoly on these benefits of Western civilization, and looked upon the new aspirants as interlopers and upstarts. The Negro bourgeoisie was trapped and stymied by the entrenched and expanding power of American capitalism. Unlike the situation in the colonial area, the Negro could not seize the power he wanted nor oust “foreigners.” Hence he turned inward toward organizations of fraternal, religious, nationalistic, educational and political natures. There was much frustrated bickering and internal conflict within this new class over strategy and tactics. Finally the issues boiled down to that of politics vs. economics, and emerged in the Washington-Du Bois controversy.
In this context, it is clear that Washington’s program for a “separate” Negro economy was not compatible with the idea of integration into the dominant white economy. In 1907 DuBois complained of Washington that: He is striving nobly to make Negro artisans business men and property-owners; but it is impossible, under modern competitive methods, for working men and property-owners to defend their rights and exist without the right of suffrage.[*Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk(Chicago, A.C. Mclurg, 1907)]
Yet Washington could not logically seek participation in “white” politics in so far as such politics were a reflection of the mastery of whites in the surrounding economy. He reasoned that since Negroes had no chance to take part in the white world as producers and proprietors, what value was there in seeking political rights immediately? Herbert Aptheker, the leading Marxist authority on Negro history, quotes Washington saying: “Brains, property, and character for the Negro will settle the question of civil rights. The best course to pursue in regard to a civil rights bill in the South is to let it alone; let it alone and it will settle itself. Good school teachers and plenty of money to pay them will be more potent in settling the race question than many civil rights bills and investigation committees.”[*E. Davidson Washington, Selected Speeches of Booker T. Washington, Doubleday, New York, p.6] This was the typical Washington attitude – a bourgeois attitude, practical and pragmatic, based on the expediencies of the situation. Washington sought to train and develop a new class. He had a longer-range view than most of his contemporaries, and for his plans he wanted racial peace at any cost.
Few of the implications of this can be found in Marxist interpretations of Negro history. By taking a partisan position in favor of Du Bois, Marxists dismiss the economic aspects of the question in favor of purely political. This is the same as saying that the Negro Bourgeoisie had no right to try to become capitalists – an idea that makes no historical sense whatsoever. If a small proprietor, native to an underdeveloped country, should want to oust foreign capitalists and take over his internal markets, why should not the Negro proprietor have the same desire? Of course, a substantial Negro bourgeoisie never developed in the United States. Although this fact obscured and complicated the problems of Negro nationalism, it did not and does not change the principles involved. Washington sought to develop a Negro bourgeoisie. He failed. But his failure was no greater than that of those who sought equality through politics.
Washington’s role in developing an economic program to counteract the Negro’s social position is central to the emergence of Negro nationalism, and accounts for much of his popularity among Negroes. Yet Aptheker makes the error of assessing Washington purely on political grounds. On this basis, of course, Aptheker finds him not “revolutionary” or “militant” in the fashion that befits a Negro leader, past or present. He rejects the historic-economic-class basis of Washington’s philosophy, although these are essential in analyzing social movements, personalities, or historical situations. Aptheker has not seen Washington in the light of what he was: the leading spokesman and theoretician of the new Negro capitalists, whom he was trying to mold into existence. All that Aptheker has to say about Washington is summed up by him as follows: Mr. Washington’s policy amounted objectively to an acceptance by the Negro of second class citizenship. His appearance on the historical stage and the growth of his influence coincided with and reflected the propertied interests’ resistance to the farmers’ and workers’ great protest movements in the generations spanning the close of the nineteenth and the opening of the twentieth centuries. American imperialism conquers the South during these years and Mr. Washington’s programs of industrial education, ultra-gradualism and opposition to independent political activity and trade unionism assisted in this conquest.[*Herbert Aptheker, A Documentary History of Negro People in the United States (New York: Citadel Press, 1951)]. Thus is the Marxian scheme about the “Negro people” projected back into history – a people without classes or differing class interests.
It is naïve to believe that any aspiring member of the bourgeoisie would have been interested in trade-unionism and the political action of farmers. But American Marxists cannot “see” the Negro at all unless he is storming the barricades, either in the present or in history. Does it make any sense to look back into history and expect to find Negroes involved in trade unionism and political action in the most lynch-ridden decade the South has ever known? Anyone reading about the South at the turn of the century must wonder how Negroes managed to survive at all, let alone become involved in political activity when politics was dominated by the Ku Klux Klan. According to Aptheker, however, the Negroes who supported Washington were wrong. It was the handful of Negro militants from above the Mason-Dixon line who had never know slavery, who had never known Southern poverty and illiteracy, the whip of the lynch-mad KKK, or the peasant’s agony of landlessness, who were correct in their high-sounding idealistic criticism of Washington. These were, Aptheker tells us, within a politically revolutionary tradition – a tradition which in fact had not even emerged when Washington died!
After the Washington-Du Bois debate, Bu Bois went on to help form the NAACP in 1909. Washington died in 1915. The controversy continued, however, in the conflict between the NAACP and the Garvey movement.
In 1916, Marcus Garvey, the West Indian-born nationalist, organized his “Back to Africa” movement in the United States. Garvey had, from his earliest years, been deeply influenced by the racial and economic philosophies of Booker T. Washington. Adopting what he wanted from Washington’s ideas, Garvey carried them further – advocating Negro self-sufficiency in the United States linked, this time, with the idea of regaining access to the African homeland as a basis for constructing a viable black economy. Whereas Washington had earlier chosen an accommodationist position in the South to achieve his objectives, Garvey added the racial ingredient of black nationalism to Washington’s ideas with potent effect. This development paralleled the bourgeois origins of the colonial revolutions then in their initial stages in Africa and Asia. Coming from a British colony, Garvey had the psychology of a colonial revolutionary and acted as such.
With the rise of nationalism, Du Bois and the NAACP took a strong stand against the Garvey movement and against revolutionary nationalism. The issues were much deeper than mere rivalry between different factions for the leadership of Negro politics. The rise of Garvey nationalism meant that the NAACP became the accommodationists and the nationalists became the militants. From its very inception, the Negro bourgeois movement found itself deeply split over aims, ideology, and tactics, growing out of its unique position of contending for its aims in the very heart of Western capitalism. Neither the nationalist side of the bourgeois movement nor the reformist NAACP wing, however, were able to vanquish the social barriers facing Negroes in the United States. The Garvey movement found its answer in seeking a way out – “Back to Africa!” where the nationalist revolution had elbow room, where there was land, resources, sovereignty – all that the black man had been denied in the United States.
The Garvey era manifested the most self-conscious expression of nationality in the entire history of the Negro in the United States. To refrain from pointing this out, as Aptheker does in his essays on Negro history, is inexcusable. In his essay, “The Negro in World War I,” Aptheker says: “What was the position of the Negro people during the years of Wilson’s ‘New Freedom’?” He then mentions the activities fo the NAACP, the National Race Congress of 1915, and the formation in 1915 of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. But in discussing the racial unrest of the time, Aptheker fails to mention the Garvey movement, despite the fact that it had organized more Negroes than any other organization in the three years following its establishment in 1916. The causes for these omissions are, of course, apparent: orthodox Western Marxism cannot incorporate nationalism into its schema.
With the NAACP and the Garvey movement growing apace, the “Negro People” had two “Negro Liberation Movements” to contend with. Never was an oppressed people so richly endowed with leadership; the only difficulty was that these two movements were at bitter odds with one another. Furthermore, within the Negro community, prejudice about lighter and darker skin coloring also served as a basis for class stratification. Thus, when retaliating against Du Bois’ criticisms of his movement, Garvey attacked him on the basis of his skin color, and assailed the assimilationist values of the upper-class Negro leadership. In addition, the Garvey “blacks” and the NAACP “coloreds” disagreed as to which was the true “motherland” – black Africa or white America.
During the period when the Communists looked upon the Negro question as a national question, some Communist writers perceived the positive, as well as the negative, aspects of Garvey’s appeal. Harry Haywood, for example, wrote that the Garvey movement “reflected the widening rift between the policies of the Negro bourgeois reformism and the life and needs of the sorely pressed people.” He sees in Garvey’s “renunciation of the whole program of interracialism” a belief that the upper-class Negro leadership was “motivated solely by their desire of cultural assimilation,” and that they “banked their hopes for Negro equality on support from the white enemy.” Haywood sympathized with this position, seeing in the “huge movement lead by Garvey” a “deep feeling for the intrinsic national character of the Negro problem.”
In 1959, the Communists withdrew the concept of “self-determination” in the black belt, and sidestepped the question of the Negro’s “national character.” Instead, they adopted a position essentially the same as that of the NAACP. Their present goal is to secure “with all speed” the “fullest realization of genuinely equal economic, political and social status with all other nationalities and individual citizens of the United States” – this to be accompanied by “genuinely representative government, with proportionate representation in the areas of Negro majority population in the South.” This position is essentially no different from that supported by the NAACP.
Thus, it is not surprising that it is difficult to understand the present conflict within the Negro movement; the roots of the conflict have been obliterated. While most historians do not attempt at all to bring order to the chaos of Negro history, those who have – the Marxists – find it convenient from a theoretical standpoint to see Negroes in history as black proletarian “prototypes” and forerunners of the “black workers” who will participate in the proletarian revolution. This Aptheker-Communist Party mythology, created around patronizing deification of Negro slave heroes (Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, etc.), results in abstracting them from their proper historical context and making it appear that they are relevant to modern reality. Of course, there will be those Marxists who will argue that their inability to come to terms in theory with Negro nationalism does not arise from an error in their interpretations of the role of the Negro bourgeoisie, of Washington, or Du Bois. They will defend all the historical romanticism and the sentimental slave hero worship of the Aptheker Cult. They will say that all this is past history and has no bearing on the “new situation.” But if one takes this position, then of what value is the Marxist historical method? The flaws in the Marxist theoretical approach lead to the inability to cope with the implications of Negro Nationalism.
Negro Nationalism and the Left
To the extent that the myth of a uniform “Negro People” has endured, a clear understanding of the causes of Negro nationalism has been prevented. In reality, no such uniformity exists. There are class divisions among Negroes, and it is misleading to maintain that the interests of the Negro working and middle class are identical. To be sure, a middle-class NAACP leader and an illiterate farmhand in Mississippi or a porter who lives in Harlem all want civil rights. However, it would be enlightening to examine why the NAACP is not composed of Negro porters and farmhands, but only of Negroes of a certain type.
What we must ask is why these classes are not all striving in the same directions and with the same degrees of intensity. Why are some lagging behind the integration movement, and still others in conflict with it? Where is the integration movement going? Into what is the integration movement integrating? Is the Negro middle class integrating into the white middle class? Are integrated lunch counters and waiting stations commensurate with integration into the “mainstream of American life”? Will the Negro ten percent of the population get ten percent representation in the local, state and national legislatures? –or ten percent representation in the exclusive club of the “power elite”? Why are some Negroes anti-integration, others pro-integration, and still others uncommitted? Why is there such a lack of real unity among different Negro classes toward one objective? Why are there only some 400,000 members in the NAACP out of a total Negro population of some 18 and 20 million? Why does this membership constantly fluctuate? Why is the NAACP called a Negro organization when it is an interracial organization? Why are the Negro nationalist organizations “all Negro”? Why do nationalist organizations have a far greater proportion of working-class Negro membership than the NAACP? Finally, why is it that the Marxists, of all groups, are at this late date tail-ending organizations such as the NAACP (King, CORE, etc.), which do not have the broad support of Negro workers and farmers? To attempt to answer these questions we must consider why the interests of the Negro bourgeoisie have become separated from those of the Negro working classes.
Tracing the origins of the Negro bourgeoisie back to the Booker T. Washington period (circa 1900), E. Franklin Frazier, a Negro sociologist and non-Marxist scholar, came to the enlightening conclusion that “the black bourgeoisie lacks the economic basis that would give it roots in the world of reality.”[*Frazier, Black Bourgeoisie (Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1957)] Frazier shows that the failure of the Negro to establish an economic base in American society served to sever the Negro bourgeoisie, in its “slow and difficult occupational differentiation,” from any economic, and therefore cultural and organizational ties with the Negro working class. Since the Negro bourgeoisie does not, in the main, control the Negro “market” in the United States economy, and since it derives its income from whatever “integrated” occupational advantages it has achieved, it has neither developed a sense of association of its status with that of the Negro working class, nor a “community” of economic, political, or cultural interests conducive to cultivating “nationalistic sentiments.” Today, except for the issue of civil rights, no unity of interests exists between the Negro middle class and the Negro working class. Furthermore, large segments of the modern Negro bourgeoisie have played a continually regressive “non-national” role in Negro affairs. Thriving off the crumbs of integration, these bourgeois elements have become de-racialized and de-cultured, leaving the Negro working class without voice or leadership, while serving the negative role of class buffer between the deprived working class and the white ruling elites. In this respect, such groups have become a social millstone around the necks of the Negro working class – a point which none of the militant phrases that accompany the racial integration movement down the road to “racial attrition” should be allowed to obscure.
The dilemma of the Negro intellectual in the United States results from the duality of his position. Detached from the Negro working class, he tries to integrate and to gain full membership in a stagnating and declining Western society. At the same time, failing to gain entry to the status quo, he resorts to talking like a revolutionary, championing revolutionary nationalism and its social dynamism in the underdeveloped world. But this gesture of flirting with the revolutionary nationalism of the non-West does not mask the fact that the American Negro intellectual is floating in ideological space. He is caught up in the world contradiction. Forced to face up to the colonial revolution and to make shallow propaganda out of it for himself, the American Negro intellectual is unable to cement his ties with the more racial-minded segments of the Negro working class. For this would require him to take a nationalistic stand in American politics – which he is loath to do. Nevertheless, the impact of revolutionary nationalism in the non-Western world is forcing certain Negro intellectuals to take a nationalist position in regard to their American situation.
Although Frazier does not delve into the nature of nationalism or connect the rise of nationalism with the failure of the Negro bourgeoisie to establish the “economic basis” of which he writes, it can be seen that the sense of a need for economic self-sufficiency is one of the causes for the persistence of nationalist groupings in Negro life. The attempt to organize and agitate for Negro ascendancy in and control of the Negro market is expressed in such racial slogans as “Buy Black.” The Negro nationalist ideology regards all the social ills from which the Negroes suffer as being caused by the lack of economic control over the segregated Negro community. Since the nationalists do not envision a time when whites will voluntarily end segregation, they feel that it is necessary to gain control of the economic welfare of the segregated community. Moreover, many Negro nationalists, such as the Black Muslims, actually believe that racial separation is in the best interests of both races. Other maintain this separatist position because of the fact of the persistence of segregation.
When Communists and other Marxists imply that racial integration represents an all-class movement for liberation, it indicates that they have lost touch with the realities of Negro life. The fail to concern themselves with the mind of the working-class Negro in the depths of the ghetto, or the nationalistic yearnings of those hundreds of thousands of ghetto Negroes whose every aspiration has been negated by white society. Instead Marxists gear their position to Negro middle-class aspirations and ideology. Such Marxists support the position of the Negro bourgeoisie in denying, condemning, or ignoring the existence of Negro nationalism in the United States – while regarding the reality of nationalism in the colonial world as something peculiar to “exotic” peoples. The measure of the lack of appeal to the working classes of the Marxist movement is indicated by the fact that Negro nationalist movements are basically working-class in character while the new Negroes attracted to the Marxist movement are of bourgeois outlook and sympathies.
Ironically, even within Marxist organizations Negroes have had to function as a numerical minority, and have been subordinated to the will of a white majority on all crucial matters of racial policy. What the Marxists called “Negro-white unity” within their organizations was, in reality, white domination. Thus the Marxist movement took a position of favoring a racial equality that did not even exist within the organization of the movement itself. Today, the Marxist organizations which advocate racial integration do not have a single objective for the Negro that is not advocated by the NAACP or some other reform organization. It is only by virtue of asserting the “necessity of socialism” that the Marxist movement is not altogether superfluous. It could not be otherwise. For Marxism has stripped the Negro question of every theoretical concern for the class, color, ethnic, economic, cultural, psychological, and “national” complexities. They have no program apart from uttering the visionary call for “integration plus socialism” or “socialism plus integration.”
When Marxists speak of socialism to the Negro, they leave many young Negro social rebels unimpressed. Many concrete questions remain unanswered. What guarantee do Negroes have that socialism means racial equality any more than does capitalist democracy? Would socialism mean the assimilation of the Negro into the dominant racial group? Although this would be “racial democracy” of a kind, the Negro would wield no political power as a minority. If he desired to exert political power as a racial minority, he might, even under socialism, be accused of being “nationalistic.” In other words, the failure of American capitalist abundance to help solve the crying problems of the Negro’s existence, cannot be fobbed off on some future socialist heaven.
We have learned that the means to the end are just as important as the end itself. In this regard, Marxists have always been very naïve about the psychology of the Negro. It was always an easy matter for Marxists to find Negro careerists, social climbers, and parlor radicals to agree with the Marxist position on the Negro masses. However, it rarely occurred to Marxists that, to the average Negro, the means used by Marxists were as significant as the ends. Thus, except in times of national catastrophe (such as in the Depression of the 30’s), Marxist means, suitable only for bourgeois reform, seldom approximated the aspirations of the majority of Negroes. Lacking a working-class character, Marxism in the United States cannot objectively analyze the role of the bourgeoisie or take a political position in Negro affairs that would be more in keeping with aspirations of the masses.
The failure to deal adequately with the Negro question is the chief cause of American Marxism’s ultimate alienation from the vital stream of American life. This political and theoretical deficiency poses a serious and vexing problem for the younger generation who today have become involved in political activity centered around the defense of Cuba. Some accept Marxism; others voice criticisms of Marxist parties as being conservative or otherwise limited in their grasp of present realities. All of these young people are more or less part of what is loosely called the “New Left” (a trend not limited to the United States). It is now the responsibility of these new forces to find the new thinking and new approaches needed to cope with the old problems. Open-minded whites of the New Left must understand that Negro consciousness in the United States will be plagued with the conflict between the compulsions toward integration and the compulsions toward separation. It is the inescapable result of semi-dependence.
The Negro in the United States can no more look to American Marxist schema than the colonials and semi-dependents could conform to the Western Marxist timetable for revolutionary advances. Those on the American left who support revolutionary nationalism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America must also accept the validity of Negro nationalism in the United States. Is it not just as valid for Negro nationalists to want to separate from American whites as it is for Cuban nationalists to want to separate economically and politically from the United States? The answer cannot hinge merely on pragmatic practicalities. It is a political question which involves the inherent right accruing to individuals, groups, nations and national minorities; i.e., the right of political separation from another political entity when joint existence is incompatible, coercive, unequal, or otherwise injurious to the rights of one or both. This is a principle that must be upheld, all expedient prejudices to the contrary.
It is up to the Negro to take the organizational, political, and economic steps necessary to raise and defend his status. The present situation in racial affairs will inevitably force nationalist movements to make demands which should be supported by people who are not Negro nationalists. The nationalists may be forced to demand the right of political separation. This too must be upheld because it is the surest means of achieving Federal action on all Negro demands of an economic or political nature. It will be the most direct means of publicizing the fact that the American government’s policy on underdevelopment areas must be complemented by the same approach to Negro underdevelopment in the United States.
It is pointless to argue, as many do, that Negro nationalism is an invalid ideology for Negroes to have in American life, or that the nationalist ideas of economic self-sufficiency or the “separate Negro economy” are unrealistic or utopian. Perhaps they are, but it must be clearly understood that as long as racial integration remains a built-in characteristic of American society, nationalist ideology will continue to grow and spread. If allowed to spread unchecked and unameliorated , the end result can only be racial wars in the United States. This is no idle prophecy, for there are many convinced Negro nationalists who maintain the idea of the eventual acceptance of the Negro as a full-fledged American without regard to race, creed, or color, is also utopian and will never be realized. Can it be said, in all truth, that nationalist groups such as the Black Muslims are being unrealistic when they reject white society as a lost cause in terms of fulfilling any humanistic promises for the Negro? For whites to react subjectively to this attitude solves nothing. It must be understood. It must be seen that this rejection of white society has valid reasons. White society, the Muslims feel, is sick, immoral, dishonest, and filled with hate for non-whites. Their rejection of white society is analogous to the colonial peoples’ rejection of imperialist rule. The difference is only that people in colonies can succeed and American Negro nationalists cannot. The peculiar position of Negro nationalists in the United States requires them to set themselves against the dominance of whites and still manage to live in the same country.
It has to be admitted that it is impossible for American society as it is now constituted to integrate or assimilate the Negro. Jimcrow is a built-in component of the American social structure. There is no getting around it. Moreover, there is no organized force in the United States at present capable of altering the structural form of American society. Due to his semi-dependent status in society, the American Negro is the only potentially revolutionary force in the United States today. From the Negro himself must come the revolutionary social theories of an economic, cultural, and political nature that will be his guides for social action – the new philosophies of social change. If the white working class is ever to move in the direction of demanding structural changes in society, it will be the Negro who will furnish the initial force.
The more the system frustrates the integration efforts of the Negro, the more he will be forced to resolve in his own consciousness the contradiction and conflict inherent in the pro-and anti-integration trends in his racial and historical background. Out of this process, ne organizational forms will emerge in Negro life to cope with new demands and new situations. To be sure, much of this necessity will be empirical, and no one can say how much time this process will take to work itself toward its own logical ends. But it will be revolutionary pioneering by that segment of our society most suitable to and most amenable to pioneering – the have-nots, the victims of the American brand of social underdevelopment.
The coming coalition of Negro organizations will contain nationalist elements in roles of conspicuous leadership. It cannot and will not be subordinate to any white groups with which it is allied. There is no longer room for the revolutionary paternalism that has been the hallmark of organizations such as the Communist Party. This is what the New Left must clearly understand in its future relations with Negro movements that are indigenous to the Negro community.
“Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American” was originally published in Studies on the Left, Vol.2, No.3, 1962.
Traders operated slave prisons or slave pens. Baltimore, Richmond (VA), Charleston (SC), New Orleans. Washington DC (one of the largest and near the US Capitol) Slaves were chained or roped together and then walked on foot in coffles.
Live on The Richmond Slave Trail – Haki Kweli Shakur
Richmond VA & New Orleans LA ( Connection) the two main Domestic Slave Trade Hubs ( Down River Slave Trade ) Upper South to Deeper South, Franklin & Armfield ( Alexandria VA ), Norfolk VA, The coastal shipping route was of importance in supplying part of New Orleans’s slave importations, but the coastal traffic probably made up only 5 percent of the total interstate trade, and even with New Orleans about half came by land and river. Those arriving by sea originated mostly from Chesapeake ports (Washington, Baltimore and the Virginia cities of Alexandria, Richmond and Petersburg) and from Charleston, South Carolina. Specially equipped ships made month-long journeys carrying up to 150 people from these ports to New Orleans and Natchez. The two largest slave markets of the 1850s, Richmond, Virginia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, both developed significant architectural and economic infrastructure that supported the trade. Scholars of slavery are quite familiar with the firm of Franklin & Armfield, which Isaac Franklin and John Armfield established in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1828. Over the next decade, with Armfield based in Alexandria and Isaac Franklin in New Orleans, the two became the undisputed tycoons of the domestic slave trade, with an economic impact that is hard to overstate. In 1832, for example, 5 percent of all the commercial credit available through the Second Bank of the United States had been extended to their firm.
This letter from 1834 held riches, and “I will bring them out by land” was, for me, the invaluable line: It referred to a forced march overland from the fields of Virginia to the slave auctions in Natchez and New Orleans. The letter was the first sign that I might be able to trace the route of one of the Franklin & Armfield caravans.
With that signal from Natchez, Armfield began vacuuming up people from the Virginia countryside. The partners employed stringers—headhunters who worked on commission—collecting enslaved people up and down the East Coast, knocking on doors, asking tobacco and rice planters whether they would sell. Many slaveholders were inclined to do so, as their plantations made smaller fortunes than many princeling sons would have liked.
Slave Breeding ( Virginia Sex Terrorism ) New Afrikan Nation – Haki Kweli Shakur
It took four months to assemble the big “coffle,” to use a once-common word that, like so much of the vocabulary of slavery, has been effaced from the language. The company’s agents sent people down to Franklin & Armfield’s slavepens (another word that has disappeared) in Alexandria, just nine miles south of the U.S. Capitol: seamstresses, nurses, valets, field hands, hostlers, carpenters, cooks, houseboys, coachmen, laundresses, boatmen. There were so-called fancy girls, young women who would work mainly as concubines. And, always, children.
Bill Keeling, male, age 11, height 4’5” | Elisabeth, female, age 10, height 4’1” | Monroe, male, age 12, height 4’7” | Lovey, female, age 10, height 3’10” | Robert, male, age 12, height 4’4” | Mary Fitchett, female, age 11, height 4’11”
By August, Armfield had more than 300 ready for the march. Around the 20th of that month the caravan began to assemble in front of the company’s offices in Alexandria, at 1315 Duke Street.
In the library at Yale I did a bit more unearthing and found a travelogue by a man named Ethan Andrews, who happened to pass through Alexandria a year later and witness the organizing of an Armfield coffle. His book was not much read—it had a due-date notice from 50 years ago—but in it Andrews described the scene as Armfield directed the loading for an enormous journey.
“Four or five tents were spread, and the large wagons, which were to accompany the expedition, were stationed” where they could be piled high with “provisions and other necessaries.” New clothes were loaded in bundles. “Each negro is furnished with two entire suits from the shop,” Andrews noted, “which he does not wear upon the road.” Instead, these clothes were saved for the end of the trip so each slave could dress well for sale. There was a pair of carriages for the whites.
Manchester Slave Docks Richmond VA ( Igbo, Mandinka, Angolan, Cameroonian, Yoruba, Akan – Haki Kweli Shakur
In 1834, Armfield sat on his horse in front of the procession, armed with a gun and a whip. Other white men, similarly armed, were arrayed behind him. They were guarding 200 men and boys lined up in twos, their wrists handcuffed together, a chain running the length of 100 pairs of hands. Behind the men were the women and girls, another hundred. They were not handcuffed, although they may have been tied with rope. Some carried small children. After the women came the big wagons—six or seven in all. These carried food, plus children too small to walk ten hours a day. Later the same wagons hauled those who had collapsed and could not be roused with a whip.
Then the coffle, like a giant serpent, uncoiled onto Duke Street and marched west, out of town and into a momentous event, a blanked-out saga, an unremembered epic. I think of it as the Slave Trail of Tears.
The Slave Trail of Tears is the great missing migration—a thousand-mile-long river of people, all of them black, reaching from Virginia to Louisiana. During the 50 years before the Civil War, about a million enslaved people moved from the Upper South—Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky—to the Deep South—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. They were made to go, deported, you could say, having been sold.
This forced resettlement was 20 times larger than Andrew Jackson’s “Indian removal” campaigns of the 1830s, which gave rise to the original Trail of Tears as it drove tribes of Native Americans out of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. It was bigger than the immigration of Jews into the United States during the 19th century, when some 500,000 arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe. It was bigger than the wagon-train migration to the West, beloved of American lore. This movement lasted longer and grabbed up more people than any other migration in North America before 1900.
The drama of a million individuals going so far from their homes changed the country. It gave the Deep South a character it retains to this day; and it changed the slaves themselves, traumatizing uncountable families.
But until recently, the Slave Trail was buried in memory. The story of the masses who trekked a thousand miles, from the tobacco South to the cotton South, sometimes vanished in an economic tale, one about the invention of the cotton gin and the rise of “King Cotton.” It sometimes sank into a political story, something to do with the Louisiana Purchase and the “first Southwest”—the young states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Historians know about the Slave Trail. During the last ten years, a number of them—Edward Baptist, Steven Deyle, Robert Gudmestad, Walter Johnson, Joshua Rothman, Calvin Schermerhorn, Michael Tadman and others—have been writing the million-person-migration back into view.
Some museum curators know about it, too. Last fall and this past spring, the Library of Virginia, in Richmond, and the Historic New Orleans Collection, in Louisiana, working separately, put together large exhibitions about the domestic slave trade. Both institutions broke attendance records.
Maurie McInnis, a historian and vice provost at the University of Virginia, who curated the Richmond exhibit, stood in front of a slave dealer’s red flag that she tracked down in Charleston, South Carolina, where it had lain unseen in a box for more than 50 years. It sat under a piece of glass and measured about 2 by 4 feet. If you squinted, you could see pinholes in it. “Red flags fluttered down the streets in Richmond, on Wall Street in Shockoe Bottom,” she said. “All the dealers pinned little scraps of paper on their flags to describe the people for sale.”
Virginia was the source for the biggest deportation. Nearly 450,000 people were uprooted and sent south from the state between 1810 and 1860. “In 1857 alone, the sale of people in Richmond amounted to $4 million,” McInnis said. “That would be more than $440 million today.”
Outside universities and museums, the story of the Slave Trail lives in shards, broken and scattered.
The phrase “sold down the river,” for instance. During the move to the Deep South, many slaves found themselves on steamboats winding down the Mississippi to New Orleans. There they were sold to new bosses and dispersed in a 300-mile radius to the sugar and cotton plantations. Many went without their parents, or spouses, or siblings—and some without their children—whom they were made to leave behind. “Sold down the river” labels a raft of loss.
The “chain gang” also has roots in the Slave Trail. “We were handcuffed in pairs, with iron staples and bolts,” recalled Charles Ball, who marched in several coffles before he escaped from slavery. Ball was bought by a slave trader on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and later wrote a memoir. “My purchaser…told me that we must set out that very day for the South,” he wrote. “I joined fifty-one other slaves whom he had bought in Maryland.” A padlock was added to the handcuffs, and the hasp of each padlock closed on a link in a chain 100 feet long. Sometimes, as in Ball’s case, the chain ran through an iron neck collar. “I could not shake off my chains, nor move a yard without the consent of my master.”
(My own ancestors held slaves in South Carolina for six generations. I have studied Charles Ball and found no family link to him. But names and history contain shadows.)
Franklin & Armfield put more people on the market than anyone—perhaps 25,000—broke up the most families and made the most money. About half of those people boarded ships in Washington or Norfolk, bound for Louisiana, where Franklin sold them. The other half walked from the Chesapeake to the Mississippi River, 1,100 miles, with riverboat steerage for short distances along the way. Franklin & Armfield’s marches began in the late summer, sometimes the fall, and they took two to four months. The Armfield coffle of 1834 is better documented than most slave marches. I started following its footsteps, hoping to find traces of the Slave Trail of Tears.
The coffle headed west out of Alexandria. Today the road leaving town becomes U.S. Route 50, a big-shouldered highway. Part of Virginia’s section of that highway is known as the Lee-Jackson Highway, a love note to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the two Confederate generals. But when the slaves marched, it was known as Little River Turnpike. The coffle moved along at three miles an hour. Caravans like Armfield’s covered about 20 miles a day.
People sang. Sometimes they were forced to. Slave traders brought a banjo or two and demanded music. A clergyman who saw a march toward Shenandoah remembered that the gang members, “having left their wives, children, or other near connections and never likely to meet them again in this world,” sang to “drown the suffering of mind they were brought into.” Witnesses said “Old Virginia Never Tire” was one song all the coffles sang.
After 40 miles, the Little River Turnpike met the town of Aldie and became the Aldie and Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, a toll road. The turnpike ran farther west—40 miles to Winchester, and then to the brow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every few miles, Armfield and his chained-up gang came to a toll station. He would stop the group in its tracks, pull out his purse and pay the man. The tollkeeper would lift the bar, and the coffle would march under it.
About August 25, they reached Winchester and turned south, entering the Shenandoah Valley. Among the people who lived in these parts was John Randolph, a congressman and a cousin of Thomas Jefferson. Randolph once wrote a friend to complain that the road was “thronged with droves of these wretches & the human carcass-butchers, who drive them on the hoof to market.” Comparing Virginia to a stop on the West African slave trade, Randolph sighed, “One might almost fancy oneself on the road to Calabar.”
The gang headed down the Great Wagon Road, a route that came from Pennsylvania, already some centuries old—“made by the Indians,” in the euphemism. Along the way, the coffle met other slave gangs, construction crews rebuilding the Wagon Road, widening it to 22 feet and putting down gravel. They were turning out the new Valley Turnpike, a macadam surface with ditches at the sides. The marchers and the roadwork gangs, slaves all, traded long looks.
Today the Great Wagon Road, or Valley Turnpike, is known as U.S. Route 11, a two-lane that runs between soft and misty mountains, with pretty byways. Long stretches of U.S. 11 look much like the Valley Turnpike did during the 1830s—rolling fields, horses and cattle on hills. Northern Shenandoah was wheat country then, with one in five people enslaved and hoeing in the fields. Today a few of the plantations survive. I stop at one of the oldest, Belle Grove. The Valley Turnpike once ran on its edge, and the coffle of 300 saw the place from the road.
Relatives of President James Madison put up the stone mansion at Belle Grove during the 1790s, and it lives on as a fine house museum run by a historian, Kristen Laise. A walk through the house, a look at the kitchen where all the work was done, a walk through the slave cemetery, a rundown of the people who lived and died here, white and black—thanks to Laise, Belle Grove is not a house museum that shorts the stories of slaves.
Recently, Laise tells me, she stumbled on evidence that in the 1820s a large number of people went up for sale at Belle Grove. She pulls out an October 1824 newspaper ad, placed by Isaac Hite, master of Belle Grove (and brother-in-law to President Madison). “I shall proceed to sell sixty slaves, of various ages, in families,” Hite said. Hite expressed regret that he had to charge interest if buyers insisted on using credit. The nicest families in the Shenandoah tipped people into the pipeline south.
I pull in at various towns and ask around. In Winchester, the Winchester-
Frederick County Visitor Center. In Edinburg, a history bookshop. In Staunton, the Visitor Center. In Roanoke, at a tourist information outlet called Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Do you know anything about the chain gangs that streamed southwest through these parts?
No. Never heard of it. You say it was 150 years ago?
Well, more like 175.
Don’t know what you’re talking about.
People do know, however, about Civil War battles. The bloodletting here has a kind of glamour. A few people launch into stories about the brave Confederates. A few bring up their own ethnic lore.
Well, Germans and Scots-Irish settled the Shenandoah, that’s who was here.
A woman at a tourist store clarified. My oh my, the Scots-Irish—they were like made of brass.
One night in September 1834, a traveler stumbled into the Armfield coffle’s camp. “Numerous fires were gleaming through the forest: it was the bivouac of the gang,” wrote the traveler, George Featherstonhaugh. “The female slaves were warming themselves. The children were asleep in some tents; and the males, in chains, were lying on the ground, in groups of about a dozen each.” Meanwhile, “the white men…were standing about with whips in their hands.”
Featherstonhaugh, a geologist on a surveying tour for the federal government, described the slave trader as a raw man in nice clothes. John Armfield wore a big white hat and striped pants. He had a long dark coat and wore a mustache-less beard. The surveyor talked to him for a few hours and saw him as “sordid, illiterate and vulgar.” Armfield, it seems, had overpowering bad breath, because he loved raw onions.
Early the next morning, the gang readied again for the march. “A singular spectacle,” Featherstonhaugh wrote. He counted nine wagons and carriages and some 200 men “manacled and chained to each other,” lining up in double file. “I had never seen so revolting a sight before,” he said. As the gang fell in, Armfield and his men made jokes, “standing near, laughing and smoking cigars.”
On September 6, the gang was marching 50 miles southwest of Roanoke. They came to the New River, a big flow about 400 feet across, and to a dock known as Ingles Ferry. Armfield did not want to pay for passage, not with his hundreds. So one of his men picked a shallow place and tested it by sending over a wagon and four horses. Armfield then ordered the men in irons to get in the water.
This was dangerous. If any man lost his footing, everyone could be washed downstream, yanked one after another by the chain. Armfield watched and smoked. Men and boys sold, on average, for about $700. Multiply that by 200. That comes to $140,000, or about $3.5 million today. Slaves were routinely insured—plenty of companies did that sort of business, with policies guarding against “damage.” But collecting on such “damage” would be inconvenient.
The men made it across. Next came wagons with the young children and those who could no longer walk. Last came the women and girls. Armfield crossed them on flatboats.
Today, on the same spot, a six-lane bridge crosses the New River, and there is a town called Radford, population 16,000. I walk First Street next to the river and stop in front of a shop, “Memories Past and Present—Antiques and Collectibles.” A man named Daniel starts a conversation.
Local. Born 50 miles that way, Radford for 20 years. On the dark slope after 40, since you ask.
Daniel is pleasant, happy to talk about his hardscrabble days. He is white, a face etched by too much sun.
Trailer-park childhood. Life looking up since the divorce.
It is an easy chat between strangers, until I bring up the slave days. Daniel’s expression empties. He shakes his head. His face acquires a look that suggests the memory of slavery is like a vampire visiting from a shallow grave.
Armfield and his caravan came to the Shenandoah from Alexandria. Other coffles came from the direction of Richmond. One of them was led by a man named William Waller, who walked from Virginia to Louisiana in 1847 with 20 or more slaves.
In the deep archive of the Virginia Historical Society I discovered an extraordinary batch of letters that Waller wrote about the experience of selling people he had known and lived with for much of his life. Waller’s testimony, to my knowledge, has never been examined in detail. He was an amateur slave trader, not a pro like Armfield, and his journey, though from another year, is even better documented.
Waller was 58, not young but still fit. Thin and erect, a crease of a smile, vigorous dark eyes. He wore “my old Virginia cloth coat and pantaloons” on his march, as he told his wife, Sarah Garland—the daughter of a congressman and a granddaughter of Patrick Henry, the orator and patriot. She was fancier than he.
The Wallers lived outside Amherst, Virginia, and owned some 25 black people and a plantation called Forest Grove. They were in debt. They had seen the money others were making by selling out and decided to do the same. Their plan was to leave a few slaves behind with Sarah as house servants and for William to march nearly all the rest to Natchez and New Orleans.
Waller and his gang reached the Valley Turnpike in October. “This morning finds us six miles west of Abingdon,” Waller wrote home from one of the richer towns. “The negroes are above all well—they continue in fine spirits and life and appear all happy.”
The sound of Waller’s letters home—he wrote some 20 of them on the Slave Trail—is upbeat, a businessman sending word that there’s nothing to worry about. “The negroes are happy,” he says repeatedly.
But something happened early on, although it is not clear just what. Waller had been on the trail for two weeks when he wrote home to say, “I have seen and felt enough to make me loathe the vocation of slave trading.” He did not give details.
It is rare to have a glimpse of slaves enchained in a coffle, because the documentary evidence is thin, but Waller’s march is an exception. The people who accompanied him included a boy of 8 or 9 called Pleasant; Mitchell, who was 10 or 11; a teenage boy named Samson; three teenage sisters, Sarah Ann, Louisa and Lucy; Henry, about 17; a man named Nelson and his wife; a man in his 20s called Foster; and a young mother named Sarah, with her daughter Indian, about age 2. There were others. The three sisters had been taken from their parents, as had Pleasant, Mitchell and Samson. Most of the others were under 20. As for Sarah and Indian, they had been taken from Sarah’s husband and her mother. Waller planned to sell all of them.
As he pushed his “hands” down the pike, Waller felt guilty about Sarah and Indian, he told his wife. “My heart grieves over Sarah and I do wish it could be different,” he wrote. “But Sarah seems happy.”
Days and nights down the Valley Turnpike, the spine of the Blue Ridge, destination Tennessee, where Armfield would hand over his coffle and board a stagecoach back to Alexandria.
As U.S. 11 steps into Tennessee, the road finds the Holston River and runs parallel to it. Here the mountains thicken into the Appalachian South of deep hollows and secret hills. In the old days, there were few black people here, a lot of Quakers and the beginning of an antislavery movement. The Quakers have largely gone, and there are still many fewer black people than back in Virginia, 100 miles east.
I take the old route to Knoxville, but then get onto the freeway, Interstate 40. The path of I-40 west roughly matches a turnpike that once ran 200 miles across the Cumberland Plateau. The coffles followed the same route—through Kingston, Crab Orchard, Monterey, Cookeville, Gordonsville, Lebanon and, finally, Nashville.
At this point in the journey, other spurs, from Louisville and Lexington to the north, joined the main path of the Slave Trail. The migration swelled to a widening stream.
Armfield and his gang of 300 had marched for a month and covered more than 600 miles. When they reached Nashville, they would be halfway.
Isaac Franklin, Armfield’s partner, kept house in Louisiana, but his thoughts were often in Tennessee. He had grown up near Gallatin, 30 miles northeast of Nashville, and he went there during off months. In 1832, at age 43, supremely rich from 20 years as a “long-distance trader,” Franklin built a big house on 2,000 acres outside Gallatin. He called it Fairvue. Columned, brick and symmetrical, it was just about the finest house in the state, people said, second only to the Hermitage, the estate of President Andrew Jackson. Fairvue was a working plantation, but it was also an announcement that the boy from Gallatin had returned to his humble roots in majesty.
When Armfield turned up with his gang in Gallatin, he seems to have handed the group not to Isaac Franklin, but to Franklin’s nephew James Franklin.
In Gallatin, I drive out to look at the old Franklin estate. After the Civil War, it held on as a cotton plantation, and then became a horse farm. But in the 2000s, a developer began building a golf course on the fields where the colts ran. The Club at Fairvue Plantation opened in 2004, and hundreds of houses sprang up on half-acre plots.
Approaching the former Franklin house, I pass the golf course and clubhouse. A thicket of McMansions follows, in every ersatz style. Palladian manse, Empire français, Tudor grand, and a form that might be called Tuscan bland. People still come to show their money at Fairvue, like Franklin himself.
I ring the doorbell at the house the Slave Trail built. It has a double portico, with four Ionic columns on the first level and four on the second. No answer, despite several cars in the drive. More than one preservationist had told me that the current owners of Fairvue are hostile to anyone who shows curiosity about the slave dealer who built their lovely home.
The man may be gone, but generations later, some of his people are still around. I ask a Nashville museum director, Mark Brown, for help in finding a member of the family in the here and now. Two phone calls later, one of the living Franklins answers.
Kenneth Thomson opens the door to his house, which is clapboard and painted a pretty cottage yellow—quaint, not grand. Thomson says he is 74, but he looks 60. Short white hair, short white beard, khakis, cotton short-sleeve with flap pockets and epaulets. Shoes with crepe soles. A reedy voice, gentle manners. Thomson is an antiques dealer, mostly retired, and an amateur historian, mostly active.
“I am president of the Sumner County Hysterical Society,” he cracks, “the only place you get respect for knowing a lot of dead people.”
The first thing that meets the eye in Thomson’s house is a large portrait of Isaac Franklin. It hangs in the living room, above the sofa. The house bursts with 19th-century chairs, rugs, settees, tables and pictures. Reading lights look like converted oil lamps. He takes a seat at his melodeon, a portable organ that dates from the 1850s, and plays a few bars of period-appropriate music. It is plain that in this branch of the Franklin family, the past cannot be unremembered.
“Isaac Franklin had no children who survived,” Thomson had told me on the phone. “His four children all died before they grew up. But he had three brothers, and there are hundreds of their descendants living all around the country. My direct ancestor is Isaac’s brother James. Which means that Isaac Franklin was my great-great-great-great-uncle.”
It is an important gloss, as it turns out: “You see,” Thomson said, “my forebear James Franklin was the family member who introduced Isaac Franklin to the slave business.”
Taking a seat in an armchair upholstered in wine-colored brocade, he picks up the story. It was at the beginning of the 1800s. When the brothers were growing up in Gallatin, James Franklin, eight years older than Isaac, took his sibling under his wing. “They packed flatboats with whiskey, tobacco, cotton and hogs, floated them down to New Orleans, sold the goods on the levee, and then sold the boat,” Thomson says. “My ancestor James was dabbling in some slave dealing on these trips—small amount, nothing big. He showed young Isaac how it was done, apprenticed him. Now, I heard this more than 50 years ago from my great-grandfather, who was born in 1874, or two generations closer than me to the time in question. So it must be true. The family story is that after Uncle Isaac came back from service during the War of 1812, which sort of interrupted his career path, if you call it that, he was all for the slave business. I mean, just gung-ho.”
Thomson gets up and walks through the house, pointing out the ample Franklin memorabilia. A painting of the mansion at Fairvue. A sofa and chair that belonged to Isaac Franklin’s parents. A Bible from the family of John Armfield. “After Isaac died, in 1846, they published the succession, an inventory of his belongings,” he says. “It ran to 900 pages. He had six plantations and 650 slaves.”
What was it like to be in the room with Isaac Franklin?
“He knew what manners and culture were,” Thomson says. “He knew how to be a gentleman. Most slave traders at that time were considered common and uncouth, with no social graces. Uncle Isaac was different. He had the equivalent of an eighth-grade education. He was not ignorant. He could write a letter.”
At the same time, “that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have bad habits,” Thomson clarifies. “He had some of those. But bad habits concerning sex were rampant among some of those men. You know they took advantage of the black women, and there were no repercussions there. Before he married, Isaac had companions, some willing, some unwilling. That was just part of life.” I read, in many places, that slave traders had sex with the women they bought and sold. And here, someone close to the memory of it says much the same.
“Isaac had a child by a black woman before he married,” Thomson says. In 1839, at age 50, he married a woman named Adelicia Hayes, age 22, the daughter of a Nashville attorney. White. “So Isaac had at least one black child, but this daughter of his left the state of Tennessee, and nobody knows what happened to her. Actually, Uncle Isaac sent her off because he didn’t want her around after he married.”
It is possible, of course, that Isaac Franklin sold his daughter. It would have been the easiest thing to do.
Thomson brings out an article that he wrote some years ago for the Gallatin Examiner. The headline reads, “Isaac Franklin was a Well-liked Slave Trader.” The thousand-word piece is the only thing Thomson has published on the subject of his family.
How does a person inside the family measure the inheritance of slave trading? Thomson takes a half-second. “You can’t judge those people by today’s standards—you can’t judge anybody by our standards. It was a part of life in those days. Take the Bible. Many things in the Old Testament are pretty barbaric, but they are part of our evolution.”
Thomson warms up, shifts in his seat. “I do not approve of revisionist historians. I mean, people who do not understand the old lifestyles—their standpoint on life, and their education, are what today we consider limited. That applies to Southern history, to slave history.
“You know, I have been around blacks all my life. They are great people. When I grew up, we were servanted. All the servants were black. We had a nurse, a woman who used to be called a mammy. We had a cook, a black man. We had a maid, and we had a yard man. We had a guy that doubled as a driver and supervised the warehouse. And we had all these servants till they died. I wasn’t taught to be prejudiced. And I’ll tell you what nobody ever talks about. There were free blacks in the South that owned slaves. And there were lots of them. They didn’t buy slaves in order to free them, but to make money.”
Thomson emphasizes these last sentences. It is a refrain among Southern whites who remain emotionally attached to the plantation days—that one in 1,000 slaveholders who were black vindicates in some fashion 999 who were not.
Are we responsible for what the slave traders did?
“No. We cannot be responsible, should not feel like we’re responsible. We weren’t there.” Are we accountable? “No. We are not accountable for what happened then. We are only accountable if it is repeated.”
Thomson is sensitive to the suggestion that the family took benefit from the industrial-scale cruelty of Franklin & Armfield.
“In my family, people looked after their slaves,” he said. “They bought shoes for them, blankets for them, brought in doctors to treat them. I never heard of any mistreatment. On the whole, things weren’t that bad. You see, blacks were better off coming to this country. It is a fact that the ones over here are far ahead of the ones over there in Africa. And you know that the first legal slaveholder in the United States was a black man? That’s on the Internet. You need to look that up. I think that’s interesting. Human bondage began I don’t know when, but early, thousands of years ago. I think slavery developed here primarily because of the ignorance of the blacks. They first came over here as indentured servants, as did the whites. But because of their background and lack of education, they just sort of slid into slavery. No, I don’t believe in revisionist history.”
I grew up in the Deep South, and I am familiar with such ideas, shared by many whites in Mr. Thomson’s generation. I do not believe that black people were responsible for their own enslavement, or that African-Americans should be grateful for slavery because they are better off than West Africans, or that a black man was author of the slave system. But I recognize the melody, and let the song pass.
Kenneth Thomson brings out some daguerreotypes of the Franklins and others in his family tree. The pictures are beautiful. The people in them are well-dressed. They give the impression of perfect manners.
“The way I see it,” he says, “there are a lot of people you have to bury to get rid of. To get rid of their attitudes.”
Ben Key was a slave to Isaac Franklin at Fairvue. He was born in 1812 in Virginia. Franklin probably bought him there and brought him to Tennessee in the early 1830s. For reasons unknown, Franklin did not send Key through the burning gates of the Slave Trail, but made him stay in Tennessee.
At Fairvue, Key found a partner in a woman named Hannah. Their children included a son named Jack Key, who was freed at the end of the Civil War, at age 21. Jack Key’s children at Fairvue included Lucien Key, whose children included a woman named Ruby Key Hall—
“Who was my mother,” says Florence Blair.
Florence Hall Blair, born and raised in Nashville, is 73, a retired nurse. She lives 25 miles from Gallatin, in a pretty brick, ranch-style house with white shutters. After 15 years at various Tennessee hospitals, and after 15 years selling makeup for Mary Kay Cosmetics (and driving a pink Cadillac, because she moved a ton of mascara), she now occupies herself with family history.
A lot of black people, she said, do not want to know about their ancestry. “They don’t do family history, because they think, ‘Oh, it was too cruel, and so brutal, and why should I look at it up close?’ I am not one of those people.”
Her research “is like a poke salad,” she says, dropping a Tennessee-ism. A plate of pokeweed yanked up from the field and put on the table is one way of saying “a mess.” Blair shifts metaphors. “Researching people who were slaves is like a mystery tale. You see the names. You don’t know what they did. Some names in the lists are familiar. You find them repeatedly. But you don’t know who the old ones are.
“So Ben Key’s son Hilery Key, who was a slave born in 1833, and brother to Jack Key, my great-grandfather, was one of the 22 men who founded the Methodist Episcopal Church in this area. He was a minister. It must be in the genes, because I have a brother who is a minister, and a cousin who is a minister, and another relative. And in Gallatin there is a church named after one of the Key family preachers. Mystery solved,” she says.
What do you think about Isaac Franklin? I wonder aloud.
“I don’t feel anything per se,” she says, benignly. “It’s been a long time. And that’s what the times were.” She deflects the subject politely.
“I feel a certain detachment from it, I suppose. And that includes about Isaac Franklin. I think Franklin was a cruel individual, but he was human. His humanity was not always visible, but it was there. So as far as hating him, I don’t have a strong dislike for him. Time kind of mellows you out. The older I get, the more tolerant I become. It was like that. He did it, but it is what it is. If you carry hatred or strong dislike for people, all you are doing is hurting yourself.”
She laughs, surprisingly. “I wouldn’t have made it too well in slavery days, because I am the kind of person who just could not imagine you would treat me the way they treated people. ‘You going to treat me less than a dog? Oh, no.’ They probably would have had to kill me, with my temperament.” She laughs again.
“You know, we carried on. Now I have five adult children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I am married to a man with four children. Put them all together, we are like a big sports team. On holidays it is something, we have to rent a community center.
“We carried on.”
As autumn gathered in 1834, the caravan that John Armfield handed over left Tennessee, bound for Natchez. Records of that part of the journey do not survive, nor do records about the individual slaves in the coffle.
Like other Franklin gangs, the 300 probably got on flatboats in the Cumberland River and floated three days down to the Ohio River, and then drifted down another day to reach the Mississippi. A flatboat could float down the Mississippi to Natchez in two weeks.
The previous year, Franklin & Armfield had moved their jail and slave market in Natchez to a site on the edge of town called Forks of the Road. There—and this is conjecture, based on what happened to other gangs—half of the big gang might have been sold. As for the other half, they were probably herded onto steamboats and churned 260 miles south to New Orleans, where Isaac Franklin or one of his agents sold them, one or three or five at a time. And then they were gone—out to plantations in northern Louisiana, or central Mississippi, or southern Alabama.
Although the Armfield gang vanishes from the record, it is possible to follow in detail a coffle of people on the journey from Tennessee to New Orleans, thanks to William Waller’s letters.
In Knoxville, in October 1847, Waller readied his gang of 20 or more for the second half of their journey. He expected another month on the road. It would turn out to be four.
On Tuesday, October 19, the troop headed southwest, Waller leading from his horse and his friend James Taliaferro bringing up the rear, both men armed. No steamboats for this group. Waller was pinching pennies.
In Virginia, the coffles marched from town to town. But here, they were marching through wilderness. Waller’s letters are imprecise on his route, and by 1847 there were a few roads from Tennessee into Mississippi. But during the 50 years coffles were sent on the Slave Trail, the road most taken was the Natchez Trace.
The trace was a 450-mile road—“trace” being the colonial word for a native trail through forest—and the only overland route from the plateau west of the Appalachian Range leading to the Gulf of Mexico. The Natchez people first carved the footpath some 500 years before and used it until about 1800, when they were massacred and dispersed, at which point white travelers took possession of their highway.
The Natchez Trace Parkway, with asphalt flat like silk, now follows the old route. Remnants of the original Trace remain out in the woods, 100 yards from the breakdown lane, mostly untouched.
Starting in Nashville I drive down the parkway. Overland coffles would have used the road that molders off in the trees. In place of towns were “stands” every 10 or 15 miles. These were stores and taverns with places to sleep in the back. Gangs of slaves were welcome if they slept in the field, far from business. Their drivers paid good money for food.
After Duck River, in Tennessee, came the Keg Springs Stand. After Swan Creek, McLish’s Stand. After the Tennessee River, where the Trace dips into Alabama for 50 miles, Buzzard Roost Stand. Swinging back into Mississippi, Old Factor’s Stand, LeFleur’s Stand, Crowder’s Stand, others.
Waller reached Mississippi by that November. “This is one of the richest portions of the state and perhaps one of the most healthy,” he wrote home. “It is a fine country for the slave to live in and for the master to make money in.” And by the way, “The negroes are not only well, but appear happy and pleased with the country and prospect before them.”
At the village of Benton a week before Christmas 1847, Waller huddled with his gang in a ferocious storm. “Exceedingly heavy and continued rains have stopped our progress,” he told his wife. “We have been stopped for two days by the breaking up of turnpikes and bridges. Although today is Sunday my hands are engaged in repairing the road to enable us to pass on.”
I put the car on the shoulder and walk into the woods to find the real Natchez Trace. It is easily stumbled into. And it really is a trace, the faint line of what used to be a wagon road. The cut is about 12 feet wide, with shallow ditches on each side. Spindly pine and oaks away off the roadbed, a third-growth woods. Cobwebs to the face, bugs buzzing, overhanging branches to duck. On the ground, a carpet of mud, and leaves beneath it, and dirt under the leaves.
The path the slaves took is beautiful. Nearly enclosed by green curtains of limbs, it feels like a tunnel. I squish through the mud, sweating, pulling off spiders, slapping mosquitoes and horseflies. It is 8 p.m., and the sun is failing. The fireflies come out in the dwindling dusk. And as night closes, the crickets start their scraping in the trees. A sudden, loud drone from every direction, the natural music of Mississippi.
It was typical on the Slave Trail: People like Waller marched a coffle and sold one or two people along the way to pay the travel bills. Sarah and Indian, the mother and daughter, wanted to be sold together. The three sisters, Sarah Ann, Louisa and Lucy, also wanted to be sold together, which was not likely to happen, and they knew it.
But as Waller drifted through Mississippi, he couldn’t sell anyone.
“The great fall in cotton has so alarmed the people that there is not the slightest prospect of our selling our negroes at almost any price,” he wrote home.
When cotton retailed high in New York, slaveholders in Mississippi bought people. When cotton went low, they did not. In winter 1848, cotton was down. “Not a single offer,” Waller wrote.
His trip on the Slave Trail, like most others’, would end in Natchez and New Orleans. Buyers by the hundreds crammed the viewing rooms of dealers in Natchez and the auction halls of brokers in New Orleans.
There was one place en route, however, with a small slave market—Aberdeen, Mississippi. Waller decided to try to sell one or two people there. At Tupelo, he made a daylong detour to Aberdeen but soon despaired over his prospects there: The market was crowded “with nearly 200 negroes held by those who have relations & friends, who of course aid them in selling.”
Waller dragged his gang northwest, four days and 80 miles, to Oxford, but found no buyers. “What to do or where to go I know not—I am surrounded by difficulty,” he brooded. “I am enveloped in darkness; but still, strange to say, I live upon hope, the friend of man.”
It is peculiar that a man can pity himself for being unable to sell a roomful of teenagers he has known since their birth, but as Florence Blair says, that’s what it was.
“My plan is, take my negroes to Raymond about 150 miles from here and put them with Mr. Dabney and look out for purchasers,” Waller told his wife. Thomas Dabney was an acquaintance from Virginia who had moved to Raymond, on the Natchez Trace, 12 years earlier and doubled his already thick riches as a cotton planter. “He writes me word that a neighbor of his will take six if we can agree upon price.”
Today as then, Raymond, Mississippi, is a crossroads, population 2,000. At the central square are the contradictions of a Deep South village, both of Waller’s time and the present. A magnificent Greek Revival courthouse stands next to a one-room barbershop with a corrugated metal front. Pretense and bluster rub shoulders with the plain and dejected. The old railroad station, a wooden building with deep eaves, is a used-record store.
Near a school playground in the middle of Raymond, I find the Dabney family graveyard, surrounded by an iron fence. Several of Thomas Dabney’s children lie beneath granite stones. His plantation is gone, but this is where he arranged for a married couple, neighbors, to see Waller’s Virginia gang. “They came to look at my negroes & wanted to buy seven or eight, but they objected to the price,” Waller said. Dabney told him that “I must not take less than my price—they were worth it.”
Waller was touched. “Is not this kind?”
He later wrote home, “I have sold! Sarah & child $800…Henry $800. Sarah Ann $675, Louisa $650. Lucy $550….Col. Dabney has taken Henry and is security for the balance—the three sisters to one man.” He was relieved. “All to as kind masters as can be found.”
Sarah Waller wrote in return, “I was much pleased to learn by your letter that you had sold at such fine prices.” Then she added, “I wish you could have sold more of them.”
Waller himself was a little defensive about this people-selling business. He complained that his wife’s brother Samuel had condescended to him a few months before. “Samuel Garland said something about negro trading that makes me infer the Church is displeased with me. As far as I am concerned I have had pain enough on the subject without being censured in this quarter.”
The remainder of the gang pushed on to Natchez.
Natchez, pearl of the state, stands on a bluff above the Mississippi. Beautiful houses, an antique village, a large tourist trade. But the tourist money is fairly recent. “There is no branch of trade, in this part of the country, more brisk and profitable than that of buying and selling negroes,” a traveler named Estwick Evans wrote about Natchez in the early 19th century.
Just outside town, the Trace comes to an end at a shabby intersection. This is Forks of the Road, the Y-shaped junction formed by St. Catherine Street and Old Courthouse Road, where Isaac Franklin presided. His slave pen appears on old maps, labeled “negro mart.”
Franklin once ran the biggest operation at Forks of the Road, moving hundreds of people every month. But by the time Waller arrived, Franklin was gone. After he died, in 1846, his body was shipped from Louisiana to Fairvue in a whiskey barrel.
Today at the Forks there is a muffler shop and, next to it, a gutter-and-awn-ing business. Across the street, five historical markers stand on a naked lawn. No buildings on that half-acre. But if New Orleans was the Kennedy Airport of the Slave Trail, the grass at Forks of the Road was its O’Hare.
In Raymond, thanks to Thomas Dabney, Waller had gotten in touch with a slave seller named James Ware, a 42-year-old with Virginia roots. Waller knew his family. “By the polite invitation of Mr. Ware,” as he put it, “I passed over a hundred miles with no white persons visible and got here to Natchez in four days.” He trotted into town in early 1848, the dwindling gang behind him. “This is the oldest settled portion of the state and bears the appearance of great comfort, refinement and elegance,” Waller wrote.
He was not describing the Forks, a mile east of the “nice” part of town. At the Forks, Waller found a poke salad of low wooden buildings, long and narrow, each housing a dealer, each with a porch and a dirt yard in front. The yards were parade grounds that worked like showrooms. In the morning during winter, the high selling season, black people were marched in circles in front of the dealers’ shacks.
Slaves for sale wore a uniform of sorts. “The men dressed in navy blue suits with shiny brass buttons…as they marched singly and by twos and threes in a circle,” wrote Felix Hadsell, a local man. “The women wore calico dresses and white aprons” and a pink ribbon at the neck with hair carefully braided. The display was weirdly silent. “No commands given by anyone, no noise about it, no talking in the ranks, no laughter or merriment,” just marching, round and round.
After an hour of this, the showing of the “lively” stock, the enslaved stood in rows on long overhanging porches.
They were sorted by sex and size and made to stand in sequence. Men on one side, in order of height and weight, women on the other. A typical display placed an 8-year-old girl on the left end of a line, and then ten people like stair steps up to the right end, ending with a 30-year-old woman, who might be the first girl’s mother. This sorting arrangement meant that it was more likely children would be sold from their parents.
At the Forks, there were no auctions, only haggling. Buyers looked at the people, took them inside, made them undress, studied their teeth, told them to dance, asked them about their work, and, most important, looked at their backs. The inspection of the back made or broke the deal. Many people had scars from whipping. For buyers, these were interpreted not as signs of a master’s cruelty, but of a worker’s defiance. A “clean back” was a rarity, and it raised the price.
After examining the people on display, a buyer would talk to a seller and negotiate. It was like buying a car today.
“Call me Ser Boxley,” he says. “It is an abbreviation, to accommodate people.”
The man in the South who has done the most to call attention to the Slave Trail was born in Natchez in 1940. His parents named him Clifton M. Boxley. During the black power years of the 1960s he renamed himself Ser Seshsh Ab Heter. “That’s the type of name I should have had if traditional African cultures had stayed intact, compared to Clifton Boxley, which is the plantation name, or slave name,” he says.
Ser Boxley was a big young man during the 1950s, raised in the straitjacket of Jim Crow.
“I tried picking cotton right here, outside Natchez, and I never could pick 100 pounds,” he says. Machines did not replace human hands until the 1960s. “You would get paid $3 for 100 pounds of picking cotton—that is, if you were lucky to find a farmer who would employ you.”
Boxley is 75. He is bearded white and gray, and half bald. He is direct, assertive and arresting, with a full baritone voice. He does not make small talk.
“I am drafted by the inactivity of others to do history work,” he tells me. “I want to resurrect the history of the enslavement trade, and for 20 years, that is where I’ve focused.”
He carries a poster, 4 by 6 feet, in the back of his red Nissan truck. It reads, in uppercase Helvetica, “STAND UP HELP SAVE FORKS OF THE ROAD ‘SLAVE’ MARKET SITES NATCHEZ MS.” He often holds the sign while standing next to the patch of grass that is the only visible remnant of Forks of the Road.
When I meet Boxley he wears red pants, brown slip-ons and a blue T-shirt that says, “Juneteenth—150th Anniversary.” Since 1995, he has annoyed the state of Mississippi and worried tourist managers with his singular obsession to mark the lives of those who passed down the Slave Trail through Forks of the Road.
He lives alone in a five-room cottage in a black section of town, away from the camera-ready center of Natchez. The tan clapboard house—folding chairs and a hammock in the front yard, cinder blocks and planks for front steps—overflows inside with books, LPs, folk art, old newspapers, knickknacks, clothes in piles and unidentifiable hoards of objects.
“Watch out for my Jim Crow kitchen,” he says from the other room.
In the kitchen are mammy salt shakers, black lawn jockeys, Uncle Tom figurines and memorabilia of other irritating kinds—lithographs of pickaninnies eating watermelon, an “African” figure in a grass skirt, a poster for Country Style Corn Meal featuring a bandanna-wearing, 200-pound black woman.
In a front room, a parallel—dozens of photos of the slave factories of Ghana and Sierra Leone, where captives were held before being sent to the Americas.
Boxley left Natchez in 1960, at age 20. He spent 35 years in California as an activist, as a teacher, as a foot soldier in anti-poverty programs. He came home to Natchez in 1995 and discovered Forks of the Road.
The site is empty but for the five markers, paid for by the City of Natchez. The current names of the streets that form the Forks—Liberty Road and D’Evereaux Drive—differ from the old ones.
“I wrote the text for four of the markers,” he says, sitting on a bench and looking over the grass. “You feel something here? That’s good. They say there were no feelings here.”
He tells the back story. “In 1833, John Armfield shipped a gang of people to Natchez, where Isaac Franklin received them. Some had cholera, and these enslaved people died. Franklin disposed of their bodies in a bayou down the road. They were discovered, and it caused a panic. The city government passed an ordinance that banned all long-distance dealers selling people within the city limits. So they relocated here, at this junction, a few feet outside the city line.
“Isaac Franklin put a building right where that muffler shop is—see the peach-colored shed, across the street? Theophilus Freeman, who sold Solomon Northup, of Twelve Years a Slave, operated over there. Across the street was another set of buildings and dealers. You have Robert H. Elam operating in the site over there. By 1835 this place was abuzz with long-distance traders.
“When I got back to Natchez, at age 55, I saw the large tourism industry, and I noticed that nowhere in this chattel-slavery museum town could I find, readily and visibly, stories that reflected the African-American presence.” So he started advocating for the Forks.
He waves to a passing Ford.
“Ten years ago there was an old beer garden standing on this site, where whites watched football and drank, and there was a gravel lot where trucks were parked.” The city bought the half-acre lot in 1999, thanks largely to his agitation. Since 2007, a proposal to incorporate the site into the National Park Service has been creeping toward approval. An act of Congress is needed.
“My aim is to preserve every inch of dirt in this area,” Boxley says. “I am fighting for our enslaved ancestors. And this site speaks to their denied humanity, and to their contributions, and to America’s domestic slave traffickers. The public recognition for Forks of the Road is for the ancestors who cannot speak for themselves.”
I ask him to play a debating game. Imagine a white woman asks a question: This story is hard for me to listen to and to understand. Can you tell it in a way that is not going to injure my sensitivity?
“You got the wrong person to ask about sparing your feelings,” Boxley replies. “I don’t spare anything. It is the humanity of our ancestors denied that I am interested in. This story is your story as well as an African-American story. In fact, it is more your story than it is mine.”
A black man asks: I am a middle-class father. I work for the government, I go to church, have two kids, and I say this story is too painful. Can you put it aside?
Boxley lets less than a second pass. “I say, your great-great-grandparents were enslaved persons. The only reason your black behind is here at all is because somebody survived that deal. The only reason why we are in America is because our ancestors were force-brought in chains to help build the country. The way you transcend the hurt and pain is to face the situation, experience it and cleanse yourself, to allow the humanity of our ancestors and their suffering to wash through you and settle into your spirit.”
A hundred yards from Forks of the Road, there is a low brick bridge across a narrow creek. It is 12 feet wide, 25 feet long and covered with kudzu, buried beneath mud and brush.
“A month ago the bridge was uncovered with a backhoe by a developer,” Boxley says. “Hundreds of thousands crossed this way—migrants, enslaved people, whites, Indians.” He turns.
“Peace out,” he says, and he is gone.
William Waller left for New Orleans during the second week of January 1848, taking an 18-hour steamboat ride. James Ware, Waller’s broker, was having no luck selling the truncated coffle in Mississippi. Among them were the field hand Nelson, plus his wife; a man called Piney Woods Dick and another nicknamed Runaway Boots. There was also Mitchell, a boy of 10 or 11, and Foster, 20-ish and strong, his “prize hand.” In Louisiana the top prices could be had for a “buck,” a muscled man bound for the hell of the sugar fields.
Waller had never been to such a big city. “You cannot imagine it,” he wrote home. As the steamboat churned to dock, it passed ships berthed five or six deep, “miles of them, from all nations of the earth, bringing in their products and carrying away ours.” The arrival, gangplank on the levee, cargo everywhere. “You then have to squeeze through a countless multitude of men, women, and children of all ages, tongues, and colors of the earth until you get into the city proper.”
He had heard bad things about New Orleans, expected to be frightened by it, and was. The people “are made in part of the worst portion of the human race,” he wrote. “No wonder that there should be robberies and assassinations in such a population.”
During the 50 years of the Slave Trail, perhaps half a million people born in the United States were sold in New Orleans, more than all the Africans brought to the country during two centuries of the Middle Passage across the Atlantic.
New Orleans, the biggest slave market in the country, had about 50 people-selling companies in the 1840s. Some whites went to the slave auctions for entertainment. Especially for travelers, the markets were a rival to the French Opera House and the Théâtre d’Orléans.
Today in New Orleans, the number of monuments, markers and historic sites that refer in some way to the domestic slave trade is quite small. I make a first estimate: zero.
“No, that’s not true,” says Erin Greenwald, a curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection. “There is one marker on a wall outside a restaurant called Maspero’s. But what it says is wrong. The slave-trade site it mentions, Maspero’s Exchange, was diagonally across the street from the sandwich place.”
Greenwald stands in front of two beige livery coats hanging behind a pane of glass. The labels in the coats once read, “Brooks Brothers.” She is in the French Quarter, in a gallery of the archive where she works, and all around her are artifacts about the slave trade. The two livery coats, big-buttoned and long-tailed, were worn by an enslaved carriage driver and a doorman.
“Brooks Brothers was top-of-the-line slave clothing,” Greenwald says. “Slave traders would issue new clothes for people they had to sell, but they were usually cheaper.” She is petite, talkative, knowledgeable and precise. This year, she curated an exhibition at the Historic New Orleans Collection, “Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade, 1808-1865.”
As she talks and points out objects, I notice something I had never seen during many visits to this archive: black people. Although the Historic New Orleans Collection is the city’s most serious and extensive history center, it attracted few blacks until this year.
“We in New Orleans have come a long way since Hurricane Katrina in terms of the comfort level of addressing certain subjects. Katrina was cataclysmic, and it changed the way people thought about our collective history,” Greenwald says. “We had never done a dedicated exhibition on the slave trade, on slavery. And it was really past time.”
She points to a document from the steamer Hibernia, which arrived from Louisville in 1831. The paper lists people’s names, their color and place of origin. “All these people came from Virginia,” she says. “So it is likely they were force-marched from Albemarle County, Virginia, to Louisville, and then boarded a steamer downriver to here.” She waves a hand toward the Mississippi levee two blocks away.
She points to a beautiful piece of silk printed with the sentence, “Slaves must be cleared at the Customs House.” “It’s a sign that probably hung in staterooms on steamships.” A kind of check-your-luggage announcement.
“Now those,” gesturing at some more yellowed papers, “are the worst for me,” she says. “They are a manifest, or list, of one group of 110 people moved by Isaac Franklin in 1829. They record the names, heights, ages, sex and coloration as determined by the person looking at them. And there are many children on the list alone….
“You have this understanding that children were involved. But here is a group with dozens, aged 10 to 12. Louisiana had a law that said children under 10 could not be separated from their mothers. And you see a lot of records in which there are an unusual number of 10-year-olds alone. These children were not 10. They were probably younger, but nobody was checking.”
Developing the exhibit, Greenwald and her team created a database of names of the enslaved who were shipped from the Eastern states to New Orleans. William Waller and his gang, and other hundreds of thousands arriving by foot, did not leave traces in government records. But people who arrived by ship did.
“We studied hundreds of shipping manifests and compiled data on 70,000 individuals. Of course, that is only some.”
In 1820, the number of ships carrying slaves from Eastern ports into New Orleans was 604. In 1827, it was 1,359. In 1835, it was 4,723. Each carried 5 to 50 slaves.
The auction advertisements at the end of the Slave Trail always said, “Virginia and Maryland Negroes.”
“The words ‘Virginia Negroes’ signaled a kind of brand,” Greenwald says. “It meant compliant, gentle and not broken by overwork.
“One thing that is hard to document but impossible to ignore is the ‘fancy trade.’ New Orleans had a niche market. The ‘fancy trade’ meant women sold as forcible sex partners. They were women of mixed race, invariably. So-called mulatresses.”
Isaac Franklin was all over this market. In 1833, he wrote the office back in Virginia about “fancy girls” he had on hand, and about one in particular whom he wanted. “I sold your fancy girl Alice for $800,” Franklin wrote to Rice Ballard, a partner then in Richmond. “There is great demand for fancy maids, [but] I was disappointed in not finding your Charlottesville maid that you promised me.” Franklin told the Virginia office to send the “Charlottesville maid” right away by ship. “Will you send her out or shall I charge you $1,100 for her?”
To maximize her price, Franklin might have sold the “Charlottesville maid” at one of the public auctions in the city. “And the auction setting of choice was a place called the St. Louis Hotel,” Greenwald says, “a block from here.”
The St. Louis Hotel is one of several places that can be identified as once-upon-a-time slave-trading sites. Next door to it was another, the New Orleans Exchange. The exchange’s granite facade can be still found on Chartres Street near the corner of St. Louis Street. On the lintel above the door you can see in faded paint its old sign, which reads, “___ CHANGE.” The St. Louis Hotel was razed in 1916, but it was in the hotel that the Slave Trail ended in the most spectacular scenes.
At the center of the hotel was a rotunda 100 feet in diameter—“over which rises a dome as lofty as a church spire,” a reporter for the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel wrote. “The floor is a marble mosaic. One half the circumference of the rotunda is occupied by the bar of the hotel,” and the other half by entrances to the vaulted room. There were two auction stands, each five feet above the floor, on either side of the rotunda. And beneath the dome, with sunlight shafting down through windows in the apse, both auction stands did business simultaneously, in French and in English.
“The auctioneer was a handsome young man, devoting himself exclusively to the sale of young mulatto women,” the reporter wrote of a sale in 1855. “On the block was one of the most beautiful young women I ever saw. She was about sixteen, dressed in a cheap striped woolen gown, and bareheaded.”
Her name was Hermina. “She was sold for $1250 to one of the most lecherous-looking old brutes I ever set eyes on,” the reporter noted. That is the equivalent of $35,000 today.
Here, too, in the St. Louis Hotel’s beautiful vaulted room, families at the end of the Slave Trail were divided. The same reporter described “a noble-looking woman with a bright-eyed seven-year-old.” When mother and boy stepped onto the platform, however, no bids came for them, and the auctioneer decided on the spur of the moment to put the boy on sale separately. He was sold to a man from Mississippi, his mother to a man from Texas. The mother begged her new master to “buy little Jimmie too,” but he refused, and the child was dragged away. “She burst forth in the most frantic wails that ever despair gave utterance to.”
William Waller’s depression lifted after he left New Orleans and returned to Mississippi. “I have sold out all my negroes to one man for eight thousand dollars!” he told his wife. Then came second thoughts, and more self-pity: “I have not obtained as much as I expected, but I try and be satisfied.”
James Ware, the slave dealer Waller had met in Natchez, had come through on the sales, and he offered Waller an itemized statement. “The whole amount of sales for the twenty”—the entire group that had come with him from Virginia—“is $12,675.” (About $400,000 now.) The journey ended, the business done, Waller headed home. It was March 13, 1848.
“I am now waiting for a safe boat to set out for you,” he wrote. “Perhaps in an hour I may be on the river.”
On April 1, Waller reached home. His wife and children greeted him. Also, an elderly black woman named Charity, whom he and Sarah had kept at home, knowing that no one would offer money for her. The slave cabins were vacant.
The first polite questions appeared in newspapers in the summer of 1865, right after the Civil War and Emancipation. Former slaves—there were four million—asked by word of mouth, but that went nowhere, and so they put announcements in the papers, trying to find mothers and sisters, children and husbands swept away from them by the Slave Trail.
Hannah Cole was one of them, maybe the first. On June 24, 1865, two months after the truce at Appomattox, in a Philadelphia newspaper called the Christian Recorder, she posted this:
Information Wanted. Can anyone inform me of the whereabouts of John Person, the son of Hannah Person, of Alexandria, Va., who belonged to Alexander Sancter? I have not seen him for ten years. I was sold to Joseph Bruin, who took me to New Orleans. My name was then Hannah Person, it is now Hannah Cole. This is the only child I have and I desire to find him much.
It was not an easy matter to place an ad. It took two days’ wages if you earned 50 cents a day, what “freedpeople”—a new word—were starting to get for work. It meant hiring someone who could write. Literacy had been against the law for slaves, so few of the four million knew how to write.
But the idea grew.
The editors of the Southwestern Christian Advocate published their paper in New Orleans, but it went out to Methodist preachers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana. The paper started a column called “Lost Friends,” a page on which people called out for family that had disappeared on the Slave Trail. One lost friend wrote:
Mr. Editor—I was bred and born in Virginia, but am unable to name the county, for I was so young that I don’t recollect it; but I remember I lived twelve miles from a town called Danville….I was sold to a speculator whose name was Wm. Ferrill and was brought to Mobile, Alabama at the age of 10 years. To my recollection my father’s name was Joseph, and my mother’s Milly, my brother’s Anthony, and my sister’s Maria….My name was Annie Ferrill, but my owners changed my name.
The black churches picked it up. Every Sunday, preachers around the South looked out at congregations and read announcements from “Lost Friends” and columns like it. A message from a woman who had been snatched from her mother when she was a girl might reach hundreds of thousands.
I wish to inquire for my relatives, whom I left in Virginia about 25 years ago. My mother’s name was Matilda; she lived near Wilton, Va., and belonged to a Mr. Percifield. I was sold with a younger sister—Bettie. My name was Mary, and I was nine years old when sold to a trader named Walker, who carried us to North Carolina. Bettie was sold to a man named Reed, and I was sold and carried to New Orleans and from there to Texas. I had a brother, Sam, and a sister, Annie, who were left with mother. If they are alive, I will be glad to hear from them. Address me at Morales, Jackson Co., Texas.—Mary Haynes.”
Year after year the notices spread—hundreds, and then thousands. They continued in black newspapers until World War I, fully 50 years after Emancipation.
For almost everyone, the break was permanent, the grief everlasting. But the historian Heather Williams has unearthed a handful of reunions. One in particular gives the flavor.
Robert Glenn was sold at age 8 from his mother and father in North Carolina and spent the rest of his childhood in Kentucky. After Emancipation, now a “freedman” of about 20, Glenn remembered the name of his hometown—Roxboro. He knew how rare this was, so he decided to go back to his birthplace and look for his parents.
“I made a vow that I was going to North Carolina and see my mother if she was still living. I had plenty of money for the trip,” he said. After a few days Glenn turned up in Roxboro. And there, in an accident hardly repeated by any of the million on the Slave Trail of Tears, he found his mother.
“I shook my mother’s hand and held it a little too long, and she suspicioned something,” Glenn said. She had seen him last when he was 8, and did not recognize him. The expectation of so many slaves was that their families would be annihilated, and so it became important to be able to forget.
“Then she came to me and said, ‘Ain’t you my child?’” Glenn recalled. “‘Tell me, ain’t you my child whom I left on the road near Mr. Moore’s before the war?’ I broke down and began to cry. I did not know before I came home whether my parents were dead or alive.” And now, “mother nor father did not know me.”
A Luta Continua – A message from Baba Hannibal Afrik
June 13, 2010
Hannibal Afrika – Afrikan Naming Ceremony
“If I am challenged, I must say that I will not surrender my position or my dignity.” – Source: New Afrikan Creed
Life throws new challenges at each of us daily. But because we know that
we need strong and intelligent soldiers in our fight for Afrikan Liberation,
we must prepare ourselves to overcome these obstacles. Recently, life has
presented my with a major challenge and while I need your prayers and your
strength, I also need your patience. I need time to adjust to my new
circumstance and new life style. And like Dr. King, I too have ask God “and the
Ancestors” to give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that
comes my way.
Over the past three months I have been suffering excruciating pain due in
large part to my rheumatoid arthritic condition. During that time, I also
have been under the watchful eye of medical professionals who have been
trying to assess and eliminate the cause of my ever-increasing pain. My
personal resolve through it all was to not interrupt and/or terminate my medical
upkeep until I could be satisfied that everything possible had been done to
allow me to continue my kazi (work) for Afrikan Liberation unimpeded by
Well, after nine months, of which, the final three were under direct
medical care and hospitalization, of exploratory medical procedures, diagnoses
and mis-diagnoses, and probing procedures into the cause of the swelling,
pain and poor blood circulation in and around my feet, we were able to draw
some definitive conclusions. First, the poor blood circulation through my
feet was causing much of the pain I was experiencing. Second, that same poor
circulation was impeding the natural healing process of the wounds that had
developed on my feet. Third, that blood clots had developed in the feet
and legs adding to the pain and poor circulation. Fourth, excess activity,
traveling and being on my feet against the advice of doctors had caused an
infection in wounds on my feet that had lingered for better than nine months,
which had progressed to early stages of gangrene.
Following a newly developed exploratory procedure to clear the blood clots
in my feet and legs, the swelling in my legs and feet went down and I felt
the sensation of new circulation of blood through my feet. But that
circulation did not stop the pain or expedite the healing of the wounds that had
developed on my feet. In fact, as mentioned, because of the development of
early stages of gangrene in the area of the wounds on my feet, natural
healing did not seem to be an optimist prognosis.
The fact is my prognosis for full recovery from the onset of early stages
of gangrene was looking very slim to nonexistent. So, after much
deliberation and consultation with the ancestors, doctors, family and comrades, I
decided it was time for another surgical procedure as a corrective action for
the gangrene infection that seem to be spreading. So on Thursday, April 1,
2010 I consented to the amputation of the mortified infected area of both
of my feet, which meant amputation just below both knees. From that point on
I have been meditating and consulting with the ancestors about my future
and the post surgical rehabilitation and recovery process. So now more than ever, I need your
spiritual strength and support as I adjust to the new role given to me by the
ancestor as an executor of the kazi (work) rather than the direct laborer.
Please grant my the private time I need to recover, rehabilitate, and
emotionally adjust to my new challenge. But I promise that “A Luta Continua”
with Baba Hannibal still in the fight for the Liberation of Afrikan People
after my private time recovery.
Remember, as life continues to present challenges, it is also offering you
lessons. The biggest challenge for us all is to see the lesson in the
challenge. As you assess my challenges remember there are lessons in these
challenges for us all. The most obvious lesson is the power and necessity of
health maintenance for us all. Of all the things we need in our fight for
Liberation is strong, intelligent and healthy warriors to fight the battles
and to be the shoulders that others stand on.
For some of us, our most significant strength is emotional rather than
physical. For many of us, our challenge is to build our emotional stamina to a
level beyond of our physical strength. Collectively, we must learn to lean
on one another emotionally as we have leaned on each other physically. Our
spiritual oneness must come to fruition as the foundation of bridge that
supports our people as we begin to cross the ocean of deviousness between
New Afrikans and Afrika (Our Motherland), in both figurative and literal
Now more than ever, I feel the urgency of the moment. Now more than ever,
I understand why teaching the lessons of Sankofa are so very important for
our children and generations yet to come. But at the same time, I also see
to the inexhaustible potential of our Afrikan Spirituality and Afrikan
Genius. Now more than ever, I need all those who have worked with me to push
forward with the kazi and mission that we have struggled to bring to fruition
to step up the kazi. Right Now! I need all of us to internalize the
conceptual context of “Pamoja Tutashinde” (Together We Will Win). It is time to
lay additional bricks on the foundation of our Afrikan Legacy, our
Inheritance, for our children. The New Afrikan Identity we promised them is the
birthright we must leave our children, who will add to it and leave it to their
children, who will add to it and leave it to their children….
Together we can do this! but only together can we do this. I am convinced that our contributed to
the New Afrikan Legacy can be realized expeditiously. The “blueprint” is
before us, we simply need to read it and implement the strategies from an
Afrikan Collective Perspective. Kwame Nkrumah told us – “A recent development
in the psychological war is the campaign to convince us that we cannot
govern ourselves, that we are unworthy of genuine independence, and that foreign
tutelage is the only remedy for our wild, warlike and primitive ways.
Imperialism has done its utmost to brainwash Africans into thinking that they
need the strait-jackets of colonialism and neocolonialism if they are to be
saved from their retrogressive instincts. Such is the age-old racialist
justification for the economic exploration of our continent.” A clear
understanding of the conceptual context of his words, as applicable to New
Afrikans, as well as Afrikans, will move us closer to Afrikan Liberation. Together
we can get there, so lets get moving despite our challenges.
In Unity & Struggle – – Baba Hannibal Tirus Afrik
Baba Hannibal Afrik Kujichagulia and The Intergenerational Conversation
Baba Hannibal Afrik is now in the Ancestral realm, he was a committed New Afrikan leader and a profound Black educational activist. Among his many leadership positions for 50 years have been: Council of Independent Black Institution (CIBI); Afrikan National Rites of Passage United Kollective (ANROPUK); National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA); Republic Of New Afrika; and The Malcolm X College Annual Kwanzaa Celebration since 1995.
Baba Hannibal began teaching biology at Farragut High School in the early 1960s, he led a committee that was a forerunner of Chicago’s local school councils, more than 20 years before school reform; it was a model for the local school councils. As the 1960’s roiled, Baba Hannibal and other Black teachers pressed for more Black history courses, more Black administrators, and programs to raise the scores of Black students.
In 1968, Baba Hannibal led the Black Teachers Association in a successful community control movement using the Farragut Black Manifesto as a model. Later in February 1972, he co-founded the Shule Ya Watoto (School for Children) an independent community institution on Chicago’s Westside; this institution succeeded for 31 years through self-reliance.
After 30 years at Farragut High School, and 8 years teaching at Northeastern Illinois University, Baba Hannibal became a nationally acclaimed educator with over 50 awards, 3 national awards, and the coveted Star Award from the National Science Teachers Association in 1975.
An acclaimed Biologist, Baba Hannibal performed scientific research in biochemistry for seven years. After moving to Mississippi in 1999, he tutored children; created after-school programs and taught computer literacy; and he was state coordinator of Black Mississipians for Reparations.
In 2004, Baba Hannibal organized the Community Youth Achievers, Inc., C.Y.A. in Hermanville, MS. He established the Environmental Village Campus as a prototype sustainable community. This young institution is the most unique African-American Tourist Attraction in Mississippi. With a 5-acre homestead, CYA can provide urban and rural survival training through the Outdoor Leadership Skills Project (OLSP), Southern Region.
Baba Hannibal was a New Afrikan reformer, he committed himself to internally reforming the PGRNA including initiating self-determination projects on his own land in the National Territory. Baba Hannibal worked with a small cadre of citizens of the RNA on his land; he stated: “I’m an Elder and I’m expected to give guidance and support, but I’m also trying to learn about doing. It’s not a case of reading about it and talking to people about it. You have to get your feet in the mud and your hands dirty and learn how to build a Nation from the ground up.”
Baba Hannibal possessed cultural-compentency, diplomatic skills, and carried himself with integrity; as a New Afrikan he was “a light set on a hill, a true representative of what We are building.” May his beacon spirit continue to inspire and guide us!
“What has oppressed you is not going to liberate you.” – Baba Hannibal Afrik, March 18, 2011
As Afrikan parents and teachers, we must critically assess whether our personal values and life styles have influenced our children towards cultural empowerment or towards cultural genocide. Furthermore, we all must accept our responsibility for the social and intellectual development of our youth and inculcate in them our ancestral legacy of mastery, not mediocrity.”
Haki Kweli Shakur ATC NAPLA NAIM MOI 6-5-53 ADM
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Ise ( Iseee ) means “ LET IT BE SO “ in Igbo after prayers & libations
The Mystery of Number, “Five” in the Igbo Cosmology.
From: Aspects of the Ancient African Metaphysics;
Topic: Igbo Geometries and the Metaphysics of Numbers.
Author: Onyeji Nnaji.
In the Igbo cosmology, the word Isee is a definite symbolic word as revealed through the Igbo language and culture. A human being has five fingers, five toes. The hands and feet are fundamentals to the survival in life as they are necessary in ensuring that man moves to places where he gets food and grapples on the food to sustain his life. To this view, the rhetoric that binds vocatives in the form of incantation (anchoring on the heart-lock: four) and the concomitant reprisal in the manner of affirmation that holds the human life bind to his original spiritual person, therefore defining existence and essences are unified by the corresponding echo: Isee!!!!! Therefore it stands that anytime a prayer is said in the Igbo land, the attendants who would want the fulfillment of the prayer unanimously affirmed the prayer by saying Isee! Five then becomes the language of the spirit, the language of the creator that indicates agreement to, not every sayings but those that carry creative power, indicate affirmation. It is even obvious when it is demonstrated dramatically as the Igbo affirm the prayers said in their midst. If a kolanut is broken and the Igbo say prayers, as soon as he mentions the blessings or wishes associated with lives, the attendants go in to affirm them thus: Isee! Then, dramatically, everyone points his fingers towards the soil. Put in another way, the spontaneity of the unanimous drama is an indication that Isee (five) is associated with the soil which is represented in the mystic concept as the primordial god, Ala.
Igbo Akpkpala Divination are the Origin of The Computer 💻 & Technology – Haki Kweli Shakur
Among the Igbo the number five has great symbolic significance. If a kolanut is broken and it has five lobes it means good luck to the sharer. It also refers to stability. Thus isee reflect axiomatic values, five definite realization on which the life of every Igbo rests. They are: life, children, wealth, peace and love (Ekwunife, 1990). Another word for the meaning of an axiom could be simply, self evidence. The principal of the axioms kept by the Igbo are derived from the natural law, and the Igbo ascribed the source and making of these law to the primordial goddess of the earth, Ala. Ala is the moral concomitance of the natural law and the exercise of authorities binding on these laws by Ala gave the ancient Igbo the impetus to ascribe reverence to Ala goddess as a primal god. This religious practice stood and still stands the Igbo different from every other ancient worlds, races, tribes and people. This primal goddess is represented everywhere among the Igbo communities with a stepped earth, and the geometry is five. Significant enough, Eze Nri clarifies that in the days of creation, Chukwu Okike eminently started his creation upon an anthill, for the earth was covered by water. It was on this anthill that the first man (believed to be the ancestor of the Igbo race) landed via a rope from the sky. From hence was the goddess Ala revered by the Igbo as the original being.
Republic of New Afrika Vice President Baba Kwesi Jumoke Ifetayo , Reparations Shrine, Libarjon Richmond Historical African Burial Ground 2018
It was revealed that, as man continued to spread (moving to places) in the search for food and hunting of animals, it soon occurred to them to make a construction upon the anthill where Ala was worshipped. They made the constructions in the form of pyramids. But so amazing; the pyramids where of five significant steps. Till date, they still stand on the valley of the land of today Nsude in Enugu State, Nigeria. The ancient fathers of the Igbo community that lived in this area adopted these pyramids as symbols of the anthill that marked the beginning of creations and had it as the more credible trace of their paths as they continued in their vagrancy across people. This indirectly reveals the mystery of five in the Igbo cosmology. According to elders of Nsude, the ten pyramids were constructed at the time when human beings had no idea of constructing a place of living. The ancient Igbo ancestors lived in caves from where they set off in search of food and meat. Wherever night caught up with them they slept to continue from there the succeeding days. Professor A. E. Afigbo (1981) in his Ropes of Sand first muted the idea of the origin of Igbo Traditional religion, and I share his insight on the subject. He noted thus:
The history of the origin of Igbo traditional religion must be sought within Igbo history of origin. Igbo lived a hazardous wandering life of the hunter and gatherer of wild edible plants. The tradition of Nri disclosed how the Igbo entered a settled 1ife which brought him further development of skills. (P.9).
He further noted that the period was “the Age of Innocence when our earliest Igbo
ancestors walked with God and were fed divine substance as food: an Eternal Day
with no night, sleep or toil”.
Itu Mmai – Libation
What is the Relevance of Libations in African Spiritual Traditions?
Those who are researching into a relationship to African spirituality and traditional culture discover themselves at the inception of their expedition watching a libation ceremony. Matter of fact the first libations is the birth of a child. Women did not lie on the bed to have their children. They stooped down and the water is to alert Mother earth ALA that new footsteps have been added to the footsteps on her surface.
Libations is so widespread all through our numerous cultures in Diaspora that we frequently don’t yet distinguish a libation ceremony when we observe it, nor do we necessarily comprehend the purpose for which it is performed. Libations (Itu mmai in Igbo land) are a significant and essential sacrament that is derived from the very nucleus of the African frame of mind, and consequently our mysticism. In African spiritual tradition, it is the biggest and most sacred spiritual sacrament. Libation reflects African practices, world viewpoint, imagery, psychological constructs etc. While diverse in structure, and span, libations is universal to approximately all African groups.
The ritual of pouring libation is an essential ceremonial tradition and a way of paying homage to our ancestors. Ancestors are not only respected in African spiritual culture, but also are invited to participate in all public functions (as are also the deities and Chineke). During Libation, a prayer is offered, calling the ancestors to attend. The ritual is usually performed by an elder. Although water may be used, the typically drink used is traditional wine (e.g. palm wine), and the libation ritual is accompanied by an invitation (and invocation) to the ancestors, deities and Chineke (God). YAGAZIE ( MAY WE PROSPER ) !!!!!! ISEEEEEE!!!!
Haki Kweli Shakur AUGUST THIRD COLLECTIVE NAPLA MOI | Instagram @Haki_Kweli_Shakur | Youtube.com/HakiKweliShakur | Twitter @Haki_K_Shakur | Facebook Haki Kweli Shakur
Richmond Revealed Event June 9th 2018 https://www.facebook.com/events/201870937099003/?ti=icl
Next year  will mark 400 years since the first arrival of enslaved Africans to US shores. For Richmond, Virginia–the capital of the former Confederate States of America and among the most prominent auction and transport hubs in the US trade in enslaved Africans–the moment of 2019 becomes even more powerful because there is information available that identifies from where on the African continent came the first group of enslaved Africans to inhabit the Greater Richmond area after the city’s founding. Per UK and US shipping records and historical archives.
Two years after Richmond’s founding in 1737, nearly 400 enslaved Africans came to the Greater Richmond area directly from Ouidah, a port city in the Republic of Benin in West Africa, aboard the Anna. The Anna’s captain, James Stratchan, allegedly hails from Midlothian, Scotland, which shares a name with one of Richmond’s largest suburbs (…and where I grew up).
Two months after the Anna’s arrival, over 100 enslaved Africans arrived to the Greater Richmond area directly from the Gambia, West Africa’s smallest country.
Today, Ouidah is re-emerging as a focal point for cultural memory tourism and technological innovation as a centerpiece of Benin’s five-year economic growth plan, Revealing Benin, spearheaded by President Patrice Talon. President Talon won the Mandela Institute Governance Prize last year for his work advancing Benin’s as a model of stable democracy in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Gambia, President Adama Barrow recently replaced among the most brutal dictatorships in the world, which lasted over 22 years. President Barrow is positioning the Gambia as among the world’s fastest-growing economies.
New Afrikan Independence Movement & Peoples Revolutionary Socialist Party Calls For and Support a 9 Acre Memorial Park in Shocko Bottom Richmond Virginia in Memorialization of The Victims of The Domestic Slave Trade – Haki Kweli Shakur & Maurice Robinson
Richmond Revealed seeks to illuminate these histories and opportunities across the Atlantic by working toward three overarching objectives:
To raise awareness of Richmond’s direct ties to specific places across West Africa, stemming from around the time of Richmond’s founding, by promoting educational and cultural exchange. Promoting travel to Benin and the Gambia in 2019 is a top priority. To facilitate bilateral investments between Richmond and certain African economies, which should create new drivers of growth and diversify Richmond’s entrepreneurial landscape To honor the demonstrated leadership of Richmond’s government, non-profit and business sectors, which all work to empower Richmonders to more richly engage with our city’s history.
Slavery Was Never a Choice! Slave Rebellion Tredegar Iron Works 1863 Richmond VA – Haki Kweli Shakur
To learn more about the initiative, we invite you to Richmond Revealed’s first Community Luncheon on Saturday, June 9, at the Richmond Public Library (101 E Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23219) from 11AM to 1PM.
Considering today’s polarizing political climate around historical memory and Confederate monuments in particular, the time to launch an initiative like Richmond Revealed is now. Considering the unprecedented political will [on both sides of the Atlantic] to lean into these histories and their complicated legacies…
Richmond is ready.
Image Above: The Door of No Return. Ouidah, Benin 🇧🇯 🇬🇲
Republic of New Afrika Vice President Baba Kwesi Jumoke Reparations Shrine, Libation at The Historic Richmond African Burial Ground