Archive | History RSS feed for this section

To Spit or Not to Spit on Christopher Columbus’ Grave.

22 Jun

Ray: As a youth in the United States public school system, I was taught to view Christopher Columbus as the great Spanish explorer who boldly set out to prove that the world was round. I was even given a neat little phrase to help me remember this fact about Christopher Columbus should any questions about him appear on a pop quiz: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” And that was it. That’s all I knew about Christopher Columbus. Well, that and the fact that every second Monday of October, we as a nation celebrate Columbus Day. The kids love it.

As as adult and one who is passionate about the truth in history, I have to come to understand a completely different Christopher Columbus than the guy I thought I knew all my life. As it turns out, Christopher Columbus wasn’t even close to being the first person to proclaim that the world was round. That credit probably belongs to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras who came to that conclusion almost 2,000 years before Columbus. So now that that’s out of the way, what’s next?

Well, Columbus didn’t exactly set out to prove the world was round. Like most people who are inspired to do great things, Columbus needed money. He convinced King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his trip so that he could bring back gold and spices from Asia. In return, he was to receive 10% of all that he found, governorship over any uncharted islands he discovered, and the prestigious title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea. How’s that for incentive? So with Spain’s backing, he set off into the sunset with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

Here’s where things really get messy and made me question the quality of our education of history in the United States.

When Columbus reached the Americas (expecting Asia), he was greeted by the Arawaks of the Bahama Islands. Without going into detail of the Arawak people, I think this excerpt from Columbus’ log paints a great picture of his reception and his thoughts:

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

I don’t know about you, but that was NOT the Christopher Columbus I learned about and celebrated since I was a child. But these are his own words! As soon as he discovers that these are peaceful and welcoming people, he plots to overtake them and enslave them.

With that said, in just a few years, the Spaniards killed hundreds of thousands of Indians on Haiti, the Dominican Republic (both of which were once refereed to as the island of Hispaniola in those days), Cuba, and the Bahamas. In fact, during the Columbus conquest, a young priest from Spain who was present at the time named Bartolome de las Casas, gives a very unique report on what happened. His account is so chilling that I will give you a few passages to consider:

… Two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys…

… mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on their backs to wash it in rivers, while those who was gold stay in the water all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them; and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside…

After each six or eight month’s work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died. While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides… they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7,000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation… In this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk… .and in a short time this land which was great, so powerful, so fertile… was depopulated… My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write…

Funny how they never mentioned that in 3rd grade when I was making stupid Thanksgiving ornaments.

Of course the story continues, millions of indigenous people die in the Americas, and today we have McDonalds and the Super Bowl. Don’t get me wrong, I love the United States and all its flaws very much. But it breaks my heart to think of the atrocities against mankind and the environment that we have been committing on this great land since the Europeans settled here.  For a “civilized” people, those Europeans were a bunch of money hungry, blood thirsty, Godless savages and it is unfortunate that many of their severe character flaws still linger on in society today.

You can’t change history but at least it should be fairly represented. Knowing what I know now, I cannot let my son grow up thinking that Christopher Columbus was some noble adventurer who discovered America. The truth is, he was none of that. He was Hitler with a sail boat. I just thought you should know.

Advertisements

The Assassination of Malcom X

21 Feb

Audubon Ballroom, Washington Heights - 2/21/1965

Ray: Today marks the anniversary of the assassination of Malcom X. It has been 45 years since his brutal murder on the stage of the Audubon theater. I fully understand that Malcom X is a controversial figure in American history. However, I personally believe that history has thus far judged him inaccurately. Nonetheless, here are a few articles that were written the day after Malcom’s assassination.

A: from The New York Times

Malcolm X, the 39-year-old leader of a militant black nationalist movement, was shot to death yesterday afternoon at a rally of his followers in a ballroom in Washington Heights.
Shortly before midnight, a 22-year-old Negro, Thomas Hagan, was charged with the killing. The police rescued him from the ballroom crowd after he has been shot and beaten.

Malcolm, a bearded extremist, had said only a few words of greeting when a fusillade rang out. The bullets knocked him over backward.

Pandemonium broke out among the 400 Negroes in the Audubon Ballroom at 166th Street and Broadway. As men, women and children ducked under tables and flattened themselves on the floor, more shots were fired. Some witnesses said 30 shots had been fired.

The police said seven bullets had struck Malcolm. Three other Negroes were shot.

About two hours later the police said the shooting had apparently been a result of a feud between followers of Malcolm and members of the extremist group he broke with last year, the Black Muslims. However, the police declined to say whether Hagan is a Muslim.

The Medical Examiner’s office said early this morning that a preliminary autopsy showed Malcolm had died of “multiple gunshot wounds.” The office said that bullets of two different calibers as well as shotgun pellets had been removed from his body.

One police theory was that as many as five conspirators might have been involved, two creating a diversionary disturbance.

Hagan was shot in the left thigh and his left leg was broken, apparently by kicks. He was under treatment in the Bellevue Hospital prison ward last night; perhaps a dozen policemen were guarding him, according to the hospital’s night erintendent. The police said they had found a cartridge case with four unused .45-caliber shells in his pocket.

Two other Negroes, described as “apparent spectators” by Assistant Chief Inspector Harry Taylor, in command of Manhattan North uniformed police, also were shot. They were identified as William Harris, wounded seriously in the abdomen, and William Parker, shot in a foot. Both were taken to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, which is close to the ballroom.

Capt. Paul Glaser of the Police Department’s Community Relations Bureau said early today that Hagan, using a double-barrelled shotgun with shortened barrels and stock, had killed Malcolm X.

Malcolm, a slim, reddish-haired six-footer with a gift for bitter eloquence against what he considered white exploitation of Negroes, broke in March, 1964, with the Black Muslim movement called the Nation of Islam, headed by Elijah Muhammad . . . .1

B: from Newsweek

He was born Malcolm Little, an Omaha Negro preacher’s son. Before he was out of his teens, he was Big Red, a Harlem hipster trafficking in numbers, narcotics, sex, and petty crime. He was buried as Al Hajj Malik Shabazz, a spiritual desperado lost between the peace of Islam and the pain of blackness. His whole life was a series of provisional identities, and he was still looking for the last when, as Malcolm X, 39, apostate Black Muslim and mercurial black nationalist, he was gunned to death by black men last week in a dingy uptown New York ballroom.He had seen the end coming?predicted it, in fact, so long and so loudly that people had stopped listening. Malcolm X had always been an extravagant talker, a demagogue who titillated slum Negroes and frightened whites with his blazing racist attacks on the “white devils” and his calls for an armed American Mau Mau. His own flamboyant past made it easy to disregard his dire warnings that he had been marked for murder by the Muslims, the anti-white, anti- integrationist Negro sect he had served so devoutly for a dozen years and fought so bitterly since his defection a year ago.

His assassination turned out to be one of his few entirely accurate prophecies. Its fulfillment triggered an ominous vendetta between the Malcolmites and the Muslims?ominous in its intensity even though it was isolated on the outermost extremist fringe of American Negro life.

Death came moments after Malcolm stepped up to a flimsy plywood lectern in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, just north of Harlem, to address 400 of the faithful and the curious at a Sunday afternoon rally of his fledgling Organization of Afro-American Unity. The extermination plot was clever in conception, swift and smooth in execution. Two men popped to their feet in the front rows of wooden folding chairs, one yelling at the other: “Get your hands off my pockets, don’t be messing with my pockets.” Four of Malcolm’s six bodyguards moved toward the pair; Malcolm himself chided, “Let’s cool it.”

Volley: Then came a second diversion: a man’s sock, soaked in lighter fluid and set ablaze, flared in the rear. Heads swiveled, and as they did, a dark, muscular man moved toward the lectern in a crouch, a sawed-off shotgun wrapped in his coat. Blam-blam! A double-barreled charge ripped up through the lectern and into Malcolm’s chest. From the left, near the spot where the two men had been squabbling, came a back-up volley of pistol fire.

Malcolm tumbled backward, his lean body rent by a dozen wounds, his heels hooked over a fallen chair. The hall was bedlam. Malcolm’s pregnant wife, Betty, rushed on stage screaming, “They’re killing my husband!” His retainers fired wildly through the crowd at the fleeing killers. Four assailants made it to side doors and disappeared.

The man with the shotgun, identified by police as 22-year-old Talmadge Hayer of Paterson, N.J., dashed down a side aisle to the stairway exit from the second floor ballroom. From the landing, one of Malcolm’s bodyguards winged him in the thigh with a .45-caliber slug. Howling in pursuit (“Kill the bastard!”), the ballroom crowd caught Hayer on the sidewalk, mauled him, and broke his ankle before police rescued him.

Hayer was charged with homicide. Five days later, police picked up a karate-trained Muslim “enforcer,” Norman 3X Butler, 26, as suspect No. 2.

The arrest of a Muslim surprised almost no one. For all his many enemies, Malcolm himself had insisted to the end that it was the Muslims who wanted him dead. They seemed to dog him everywhere he went; a bare week before his death, he was firebombed out of his Queens home, the ownership of which he had been disputing with the Muslims. Increasingly edgy, he moved with his wife and four children first to Harlem’s Hotel Theresa, finally?the night before his death?to the New York Hilton in the alien world downtown. When he died, Manhattan police assumed that Muslims were involved . . . .2

C: from New York Post

They came early to the Audubon Ballroom, perhaps drawn by the expectation that Malcolm X would name the men who firebombed his home last Sunday, streaming from the bright afternoon sunlight into the darkness of the hall.The crowd was larger than usual for Malcolm’s recent meetings, the 400 filling three-quarters of the wooden folding seats, feet scuffling the worn floor as they waited impatiently, docilely obeying the orders of Malcolm’s guards as they were directed to their seats.

I sat at the left in the 12th row and, as we waited, the man next to me spoke of Malcolm and his followers:

“Malcolm is our only hope,” he said. “You can depend on him to tell it like it is and to give Whitey hell.”

Then a man was on the stage, saying:

“. . . I now give you Brother Malcolm. I hope you will listen, hear, and understand.”

There was a prolonged ovation as Malcolm walked to the rostrum past a piano and a set of drums waiting for an evening dance and stood in front of a mural of a landscape as dingy as the rest of the ballroom.

When, after more than a minute the crowd quieted, Malcolm looked up and said, “A salaam aleikum (Peace be unto you)” and the audience replied “Wa aleikum salaam (And unto you, peace).”

Bespectacled and dapper in a dark suit, his sandy hair glinting in the light, Malcolm said: “Brothers and sisters . . .” He was interrupted by two men in the center of the ballroom, about four rows in front and to the right of me, who rose and, arguing with each other, moved forward. Then there was a scuffle in the back of the room and, as I turned my head to see what was happening, I heard Malcolm X say his last words: “Now, now brothers, break it up,” he said softly. “Be cool, be calm.”

Then all hell broke loose. There was a muffled sound of shots and Malcolm, blood on his face and chest, fell limply back over the chairs behind him. The two men who had approached him ran to the exit on my side of the room shooting wildly behind them as they ran.

I fell to the floor, got up, tried to find a way out of the bedlam.

Malcolm’s wife, Betty, was near the stage, screaming in a frenzy. “They’re killing my husband,” she cried. “They’re killing my husband.”

Groping my way through the first frightened, then enraged crowd, I heard people screaming, “Don’t let them kill him.” “Kill those bastards.” “Don’t let him get away.” “Get him.”

At an exit I saw some of Malcolm’s men beating with all their strength on two men. Police were trying to fight their way toward the two. The press of the crowd forced me back inside.

I saw a half-dozen of Malcolm’s followers bending over his inert body on the stage, their clothes stained with their leader’s blood. Then they put him on a litter while guards kept everyone off the platform. A woman bending over him said: “He’s still alive. His heart’s beating.”

Four policemen took the stretcher and carried Malcolm through the crowd and some of the women came out of their shock long enough to moan and one said: “I don’t think he’s going to make it. I hope he doesn’t die, but I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

I spotted a phone booth in the rear of the hall, fumbled for a dime, and called a photographer. Then I sat there, the surprise wearing off a bit, and tried desperately to remember what had happened. One of my first thoughts was that this was the first day of National Brotherhood Week.3


1Peter Kihss, The New York Times, Febnruary 22, 1965, p. 1. Copyright @1965 by The New York Times Company.
2Newsweek, March 8, 1965, Copyright @ 1965, Newsweek.Inc. All rights reserved.
3Thomas Skinner, “I saw Malcolm Die,” The New York Post, February 22, 1965, p. 1

Shot on stage


143rd Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

14 Apr

Ray: On April 14th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Lincoln would die the next morning at a lodging house across the street from Ford’s Theater. Abraham Lincoln died at age 56 and was the first U.S. president to be assassinated.

As the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is widely credited for keeping the Union, ending the Civil War, and officially ending slavery. Many people consider him to be the greatest President of the United States that there ever was. Among many of his great accomplishments, his “Gettysburg Address” is one of the most famous speeches in American history. Today, I would like to honor a man who I consider to be a an incredible leader who understood the importance of sacrifice for the benefit of preserving all that is American. I just hope that the readers of this blog understand the significance of his actions and how they shaped world history forever.

The Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

For More on Lincoln’s Assassination, visit: History.com

In Remembrance – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

4 Apr

Forty years ago today, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Listen to this first hand account of this infamous moment in history.

Now listen to entertainer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte tell a funny story about Dr. King’s appearance on the Tonight Show.

There’s so much to say about Dr. King, and the entire movement. This morning on C-Span, Bill Press spoke about the Conservative movement, but also pointed to the deaths of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy as the end of the liberal movement. One of Dr. King’s lawyers and speechwriters, recently published a book, What Would Martin Say in which he for the first time reveals his observations as a movement insider and gives incredible insights here:

This being forty years following the assassination, there have been a multitude of ceremonies, TV specials, newspaper/magazine articles and more. Check them out, you will surely learn something new.

Black History Month – An American Necessity

28 Feb

Carter G. WoodsonRay: What you probably know is that Black History Month takes place every year during the month of February. What isn’t common knowledge is when it started and why it started.

Here are the facts:

* In 1926, “Negro History Week” began as one of the earliest known instances where Black history was recognized

* The creation of Negro History Week is largely credited to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who at the time was the director of the Association for the study of Negro Life and History and member of the fraternal organization Omega Psi Phi

* The Negro History Week was established to demonstrate that African Americans had made significant contributions to societies around the world and also because of the serious lack Black history in commonly referenced historical literature.
* The Negro History Week movement had become widely popular amongst African Americans in the United States and even amongst elected officials by the time of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. It was also during the Civil Rights Movements that demands for a month long celebration of Black history prompted the creation of the Black History Month as we know it today.

In recent times, many people have been wondering about the current status of Black History Month and are asking such questions as is it still relevant, should it include other ethnic groups, and isn’t it racist to have a Black History Month in the first place?

I think these are important questions and ones that we should attempt to address, primarily because we represent the next generation of leadership in America.

***************************************************************************************

Seth: I’ve always found the facts surrounding the birth of Negro History Week and its growth to what has become Black History Month particularly interesting when thinking about the common complaint that “they gave us the shortest month of the year.”

Black History Month remains as relevant and necessary today as it was in 1926. The contributions that Blacks have made to the world remain important, and largely unknown even to Blacks, more so to non-Blacks. On a recent episode of Jeopardy during one of their “Teen” challenges, only one of the three contestants was able to correctly identify Thurgood Marshall as an accomplished Black litigator who won numerous cases in front of the Supreme Court and would later become U. S. Solicitor General. Another contestant was possibly due partial credit for guessing Clarence Thomas, the only other famous Black name associated with the nation’s highest court. Thurgood Marshall is a story of an American hero for his role in Civil Rights and his ascent to Supreme Court Justice, a story every American child should be taught in school. I could go on about the importance of our story (every American should herald Black contributions to this nation) but I’d rather focus on other questions.

Honestly, I don’t know much about contributions of other minorities in America. Maybe every race should have their own history month, but I think this would only lead to problems and create divisiveness. If the history of America wasn’t taught in our schools from such a Euro centric view, we wouldn’t be considering this now. However, that is sadly only one of a litany of reforms needed to improve public education in America.

Blacks have been integral to the successes of this country for a longer period of time than other minorities, and it can be argued that Blacks have suffered more for the building of America than other minorities. Obviously Native Americans could claim that distinction as well but what it comes down to is there is simply more of a story to tell of Blacks in America than other groups. Any claims that BHM is racist are ridiculous; no one would dare say teaching the accomplishments of Albert Einstein or Henry Ford is racist. Those who worked to have this month thought it was ‘our time.’ BHM is important, but we should be moving to talking about Black history all year as American history, and we should include the contributions of other minority groups. BHM was created to ensure the inclusion of Blacks in the portrait of America, for democracy is best served through greater diversity. Therefore, Dr. Woodson should be looked at not only as a hero for Blacks, but minorities in America. Surely, he would encourage total inclusion of all minority groups and champion multiculturalism.

Dr. Woodson started Negro History Week because if our story isn’t told, we will easily be forgotten as the important shapers of history that we are. It has to be our duty as individuals to seek out Black history. Start with your own family; learn its story. Who you are, where you come from and so on. It is especially important for Blacks because so much of our genealogy is unknown. Reclaim your past and add to our story.

***************************************************************************************

Ray: I think you’re absolutely on target with this one. I want to reinforce the idea that Black history needs to become a part of American history. This is true for every culture in America. In fact, history includes everything and everyone that already existed. In a perfect world, no detail about American history would be omitted from the books. But in reality, there are many omissions due to the racist atmosphere that plagued previous generations of Americans.

One of the biggest lessons that I take away from BHM is that it serves as a constant reminder that the world does not have a clear and accurate view of historical events. This is significant because there are many people today who have no clue about the extent of their ancestor’s achievements and shortcomings. This stands true for all Americans because a young black man not knowing about the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker is just as much an atrocity as a young white man not knowing knowing in depth the details and immorality of Jim Crow laws. When we as a people forget our mistakes, we’re bound to repeat them. When we forget our victories, we forget how to play the game.

On behalf of America, we are extremely proud of and thankful for Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Because of his efforts, America’s complete story may be reconciled to the truth.