Buffalo soldiers

This is a part of American history of which I was entirely ignorant before today.

For fellow non-US readers (and for US readers who aren’t up on their history!) here is a potted version: after white men “freed” the black people they had enslaved, they enlisted many black men into the white army (in segregated regiments, naturally) so that the white army could continue the fight to dispossess Native Americans of their land and, if possible, eliminate them altogether. Oh yes, and to fight imperialist wars abroad, for the benefit again of white patriarchy.

This excellent article decries the continuing miseducation of black Americans about this “glorious” episode in black history.

The pay of the Black soldiers in the war was less than what whites received. “Yet,” the Chronicle assured us, “many Black men enlisted out of sense of duty and honor to their country and their people.” In what way were they serving or honoring their people by fighting for a criminal ruling class in its wars against oppressed freedom fighters?

Eighteen Buffalo Soldiers, the article states, received the Medal of Honor for valor during the Spanish American War. But the article does not mention the many Black soldiers who were disgusted by the racist slaughter and deserted from the Army-some of whom fought instead with the Filipino freedom fighters against U.S. colonialism.

(HT Dark Daughta)

Malcolm X: “Whites who are sincere … “

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“Whites who are sincere don’t accomplish anything by joining Negro organizations and making them integrated. Whites who are sincere should organize among themselves and figure out some strategy to break down the prejudice that exists in white communities. This is where they can function more intelligently and more effectively, in the white community itself, and this has never been done.”

From an interview printed in Malcolm X Talks to Young People. The interview was given to Jack Barnes and Barry Sheppard, leaders of the Young Socialist Alliance, on Jan. 18, 1965. Malcolm X read and approved the final text, which appeared in the March-April 1965 issue of the Young Socialist. Copyright 1965 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press.

Fannie Lou Hamer

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Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Mississippi in 1917, one of twenty children of a sharecropper family. She began to pick cotton at the age of six and worked in the fields as a plantation timekeeper until 1962, when she lost her job after registering to vote. Hamer, who was the mother of two children, was jailed in 1963 and severely beaten for attempting to integrate a restaurant. She was under constant attack for her civil rights leadership and narrowly escaped being shot. Her home was bombed in 1971.

Hamer worked to organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and was one of three Black candidates running for Congress from her state and garnered 33,009 votes.

She also lectured extensively, and was known for a signature line she often used: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” She was a powerful speaker, and her singing voice lent another power to civil rights meetings.

Hamer helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, speaking for inclusion of racial issues in the feminist agenda.

Fannie Lou Hamer died in Mississippi in 1977. She had published To Praise Our Bridges: An Autobiography in 1967. June Jordan published a biography, Fannie Lou Hamer, in 1972, and Kay Mills published This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer in 1993.

The special plight and the role of black women is not something that just happened three years ago. We’ve had a special plight for 350 years. My grandmother had it. My grandmother was a slave. She died in 1960. She was 136 years old. She died in Mount Bayou, Mississippi.

It’s been a special plight for the black woman. I remember my uncles and some of my aunts–and that’s why it really tickled me when you talked about integration. Because I’m very black, but I remember some of my uncles and some of my aunts was as white as anybody in here, and blue-eyed, and some kind of green-eyed–and my grandfather didn’t do it, you know. So what the folks is fighting at this point is what they started. They started unloading the slave ships of Africa, that’s when they started. And right now, sometimes, you know I work for the liberation of all people, because when I liberate myself, I’m liberating other people. But you know, sometimes I really feel more sorrier for the white woman than I feel for ourselves because she been caught up in this thing, caught up feeling very special, and folks, I’m going to put it on the line, because my job is not to make people feel comfortable–(drowned out by applause). You’ve been caught up in this thing because, you know, you worked my grandmother, and after that you worked my mother, and then finally you got hold of me. And you really thought, people–you might try and cool it now, but I been watching you, baby. You thought that you was more because you was a woman, and especially a white woman, you had this kind of angel feeling that you were untouchable. You know what? There’s nothing under the sun that made you believe that you was just like me, that under this white pigment of skin is red blood, just like under this black skin of mine. So we was used as black women over and over and over. You know I remember a time when I was working around white people’s house, and one thing that would make me mad as hell, after I would be done slaved all day long, this white woman would get on the phone, calling some of her friends, and said, “You know, I’m tired, because we have been working,” and I said, “That’s a damn lie.” You’re not used to that kind of language, honey, but I’m gone tell you where it’s at. So all of these things was happening because you had more. You had been put on a pedestal, and then got only put on a pedestal, but you had been put in something like a ivory castle. So what happened to you, we have busted the castle open and whacking like hell for the pedestal. And when you hit the ground, you’re gone have to fight like hell, like we’ve been fighting all this time.

Excerpted from “The Special Plight and the Role of Black Woman,” Speech given by Fannie Lou Hamer at NAACP Legal Defense Fund Institute, New York City, May 7, 1971.

Source: Black Women in White America: A Documentary History, ed. by Gerda Lerner, pp. 609-610. Random House: 1972.

Fannie Lou Hamer, by Jane Johnson Lewis.

I am a man

Here, James Baldwin talks about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the future of the nation: what must white people do?

The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people… whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace this stranger on whom they relied so long. What white people have to do is try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. Because I am not a nigger. I am a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. So the question you’ve got to ask yourself, that the white population of this country’s got to ask itself… if I’m not the nigger here, and you invented it, you the white people invented it, then you have to find out why. Because the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it’s able to ask that question… simply to face that question.

[Via Charcoal Ink, but any transcription errors entirely my own.]

Kenneth Clark’s interview with James Baldwin is accessible in its entirety at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mlk/sfeature/sf_video.html both in streaming video, and in written transcript form.

The interview was conducted on May 24, 1963, immediately following a historic meeting between Baldwin, Black writer Lorraine Hansberry (and possibly others) with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The interview was broadcast less than a week later.

In addition to this interview there are also interviews with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, in video and transcript forms, on that same page. The interviews were broadcast on Boston public television at the height of racial strife as the civil rights struggle in the usa started to gain momentum.

Justice for the New Jersey 4

nj42.jpgThere’s a new website dedicated to the New Jersey 4 where you’ll find ways we can help the four imprisoned young women. There’s also a moderated discussion board, so you can share your opinions, ideas, experiences, announcements, and any actions you plan to take on behalf of the NJ4.

They’ll be adding more to the site soon, including:

* additional ways to help the 4 and their families
* upcoming events in support of the 4
* more information about the case, including the media coverage
* updates about the young women and their legal appeal
* personal messages from members of the 4 and family members

Please check in from time to time, and also, please help spread the word about our sisters! (Thanks, Amy, for pointing there.)

White privilege, satirically drawn by Ruben Bolling

Ruben Bolling’s cartoon

Saw this over at Alas, a blog.

Reparations for slavery

Since we are honoring Black History Month(s) here at white noise, I want to bring up the idea of governments paying reparations for slavery. I first became convinced of the necessity of doing this in the usa about 5 years ago, when I read this op-ed by Dalton Conley in the New York Times. I just came across a reference to this film, an award-winning documentary by Katrina Browne, a descendent of one of the biggest slave-trading families in u.s. history. The website doesn’t list a price, but I’ll write to find out. Perhaps some of us could share a dvd by mailing it to each other, if there’s interest. Many Britons profitted from the slave trade, and, in fact, black slaves were owned in Britain for a time. The economy wasn’t build on slave labor, as it was in the u.s., and I don’t know very much of that history. What I do know is that slavery reparations need to be paid in the usa. Working for reparations is definitely something that white antiracist allies can work for. In fact, it will never happen unless we whites become active and activist about it.