Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Truth About Uncle Tom

 

Uncle Tom has a legacy rich in racism and is a derogatory term applied to blacks who “sellout.” Sambo is also rich in racism and is a derogatory term. Historically, these two have been used interchangeably although they are not the same. These two are so intertwined in modern society and so incorporated into our language I am not sure they can ever be separated. It will be difficult to view them as anything other than names used to describe black people who betray other black people. (Think Tom Dubois on the social and political television comedy Boondocks.)

In this post, I will give some background on the Coon, the Sambo, and the Uncle Tom and reveal the truth on how Tom was not the sellout we have made him out to be.

Let’s start with the Coon caricature. The name is an abbreviation of the word Racoon so that the name alone is dehumanizing. The prototype for the coon caricature was Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, known by his stage name as Stepin Fetchit. His signature was that he was the world’s laziest man. He was always sleepy, his eyes low and his speech slow. He took minutes just to complete simple sentences. A scene of him laying in bed in pajamas taking three whole minutes to answer the phone and then another whole minute to say “hello” is what could be expected of his stage performances. The idea behind the coon was that he acted like a child although he was an adult. Stepin Fetchit also tap danced (hence “step it”) so that “Perry epitomized the mumbling, shuffling, buck-eyed buffoon who acted like he didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.” (BlackThen)

Stepin Fetchit manifested what racists whites thought of blacks and became one of the top paid black entertainers of his time.

The Sambo was portrayed as lazy, easily frightened, and chronically idle, an inarticulate buffoon. While the Coon was considered an adult who acted like a child, the Sambo was not considered an adult but was depicted as a perpetual child incapable of living as an Independent adult. What is important to note about the Sambo and the Coon was that they were born from names applied to the characteristics of real people. This is important to remember when we get to Uncle Tom. A stereotype is created when a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular person or thing applies to an entire group of people. Perry was certainly a buffoon, the real-life version of the coon but to refer to all so-called African Americans as coon is what created the stereotype.

I’m just going to sit this here…

The Sambo caricature was born from enslaved blacks who were so loyal and dedicated to the slave owner they would betray their own people. The characteristics of the Sambo really did (and does) exist. “Stereotypes are “cognitive structures that contain the perceiver’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about human groups” (Peffley et al., 1997, p. 31). These cognitive constructs are often created out of a kernel of truth and then distorted beyond reality (Hoffmann, 1986). Racial stereotypes are constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share given characteristics. These attributed characteristics are usually negative (Jewell, 1993).” The Coon and Sambo stereotypes contain kernels of truth. There really were blacks who were happy and willing to betray, and completely aid in the destruction of their own people.

(Notice that “Acting white” is not part of the characteristic of the Sambo or Coon. The thing that made the Sambo and Coon an embarrassment and disgrace to the race was their loyalty to those who oppressed them, their betrayal of their brethren and their willingness to make a fool of both themselves and their people. Being intellectual, prompt, professional, and well spoken are not traits that “belong” to “white” people and certainly had nothing to do with these stereotypes. It’s actually the opposite. Racists at that time did not want blacks to read, write, display characteristics of dignity and esteem and professionalism. They wanted to portray them as ignorant, foolish, and childish.)

Uncle Tom

While the Sambo and Coon caricatures fit this description, Uncle Tom was not the same and it would take an entirely different post to look into how he became associated with these caricatures. For now, let’s see who he really was.

Again, stereotypes come from kernels of truth. Just as Lincoln Perry was the epitome of the Coon, and sellout blacks were the real-life Sambos, the fictionalized story of the Uncle Tom was inspired by a man named Josiah Henson.

Josiah Henson

Josiah was an author, abolitionist, minister, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Henson’s father was whipped, got his ear cut off, and was sold south after hitting a white man who tried to rape his wife. Henson never saw his father again, but this gives us insight into Josiah’s character. He became a preacher through memorizing verses although he couldn’t, at the time, read and write. In 1830, Henson ran away with his wife and two youngest children, walking over 600 miles to Canada but he didn’t stop there.

“Henson helped start in 1841 a freeman settlement called the British American Institute, in an area called Dawn, which became known as one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad. Henson repeatedly returned to the U.S. to guide 118 other slaves to freedom. It was a massively dangerous undertaking, but Henson saw a greater purpose than simply living out his life in Ontario, Canada. In addition to his service to the school, Henson ran a farm, started a gristmill, bred horses, and built a sawmill for high-quality black lumber— so good, in fact, that it won him a medal at the first World’s Fair in London ten years later.”


Henson’s life inspired the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tom displayed the following characteristics:

  • He refused to beat black women
  • He refused to force other black people to pick cotton
  • He took the cotton out of his own bag and put it in other’s bags so those slaves wouldn’t get whipped for not having the proper weight (as you know, the enslaved had to pick a certain amount of cotton or they would be punished.)
  • And he refused to tell where attempted escaping slaves were hiding

Josiah Henson is Uncle Tom. He was not a Coon, and he was not a Sambo. “Uncle Tom,” helped hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children escape North years before the Underground Railroad. He was a good man and a great leader. The truth about Uncle Tom is this:

To refer to blacks who portray characteristics of coons and sell outs as Uncle Toms is a disrespect to Henson’s legacy. To refer to intelligent and well spoken blacks as Uncle Tom’s is actually a compliment.

Henson was no sell out and neither was Tom.


Be sure to check out other Black History Fun Facts on the page here.

Sources

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, paperback edition

Black Then: How Being Ghetto Fabulous Caused Stepin Fetchit to Lose It All
https://blackthen.com/how-being-ghetto-fabulous-caused-stepin-fetchit-to-loses-it-all/

Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans

https://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/links/essays/vcu.htm

The Story of Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/story-josiah-henson-real-inspiration-uncle-toms-cabin-180969094/

The Coon Caricature

https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/coon/

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – 3 Little Known Fun Facts About Dr. King

The best way to extend the legacy of those who came before us is not to talk but to do the work as they have done. That said, what did King do that we may not already know about? Here are the facts.

1. The Poor People’s Campaign

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., displays the poster to be used during his Poor People’s Campaign  spring and summer, March 4, 1968. King said the campaign would begin April 22 but he was murdered April 4th (AP Photo/Horace Cort)

King founded a program for the poor he called The Poor People‘s Campaign that he was just getting off the ground before his death. In December 1967, King wanted to bring together poor people from across the country to demand better jobs, better homes, better education, and better lives. The purpose behind the campaign was to, “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.” (Dr. Ralph Abernathy) King said, “If you are, let’s say, from rural Mississippi, and have never had medical attention, and your children are undernourished and unhealthy, you can take those little children into the Washington hospitals and stay with them there until the medical workers cope with their needs, and in showing it your children, you will have shown this country a sight that will make it stop in its busy tracks and think hard about what it has done.” Ultimately, King put together a plan that he thought would help solve poverty so that every American had a guaranteed income. His program was set to begin on April 22, 1968 but he was assassinated on April 4th.

2. Fought for Better Schools for Children in the Cabrini Green Projects

Civil Rights Museum, Lorraine Motel, 2018.

In 1966, King moved into an apartment on Chicago’s West Side as part of the Freedom Movement. At this point, he was less interested in Civil Rights and more interested in Human Rights which included fair housing in Northern cities. Chicago has always been a segregated city and was even more so in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. A system of redlining was implemented that prevented blacks from purchasing property in their own communities. Not only was the rent high but run-down apartments were divided into what was called Kitchenettes. Kitchenette’s split six-family apartments in half so they became one-room apartments.

“The Kitchenette is our prison, our death sentence without a trial, the new form of mob violence that assaults not only the lone individual but all of us in its ceaseless attacks.” – Richard Wright

The Projects were the answer to the slums but did not fare much better. People eventually abandoned public housing for the suburbs once offended that blacks were being treated as whites. Newspapers and Ads boasted Blacks and Italians living side by side, happy and positive. The public wasn’t having it. Riots broke out as whites pulled blacks out of their cars, beating them. Middle-class blacks were forced out as the screening process got more and more relaxed. Eventually, Gates were put up that made residents feel imprisoned. The once “promised land,” that was the newly established projects became just another ghetto. Black schools also suffered. One elementary school was overcrowded and King fought with residents to get a racist teacher fired. “The people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate,” he said after being stoned by angry white residents in the then all-white Marquette Park on the city‘s Southwest Side. When parents were in their third day of a planned strike, King met with them, saying, “Should you in any way be persecuted or prosecuted for attempting to seek the best education possible for your children, I can assure you that thousands of parents from all over the city will come to your aid and together we will join you in jail if necessary.”

3. Campaigned for Black Sanitation Workers in Memphis

King helped black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee in March and April 1968. He compared their struggle with the poor people‘s campaign, saying, “a fight by capable, hard workers against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world.” He was in Memphis for a sanitation strike when he was murdered at the Lorraine Motel. The deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker brought the issue of the sanitation workers into the public eye. On February 1, 1968, in Memphis TN, these men were crushed to death by a trash compensation mechanism on a garbage truck that malfunctioned.

Their deaths highlighted the dangerous conditions and the strike that resulted from these men’s deaths brought it to the attention of Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King. However, at this time King was less interested in Civil Rights and saw this not as another opportunity to march but a chance to further the Poor People’s Campaign. “He saw the Memphis strike and the workers’ demand for union rights as embodying the goals and values of his fledgling Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that sought to bring a multiracial coalition of religious leaders, workers, and the poor together to fight poverty in a way that intentionally centered the voices of the marginalized. “(P.R. Lockhart, 4, April 2018) Sadly, he would be shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, later dying at St. Joseph’s Hospital, leaving his campaign unfinished.

King did the work. He didn’t talk about it or stand on the sidelines. MLK was more than an “I Have a Dream,” speech. He was actually on the ground doing the work. Read his books and listen to his other speeches, the ones that aren’t being promoted by the media (The Three Evils of Society is a good one).


PBS aired an excellent documentary this week on black business ownership. Boss: The Black Experience in Business, explores the inspiring stories of trailblazing Black entrepreneurs and the significant contributions of contemporary business leaders. From the collapse of the Freedman’s Bank, the lynching of black grocery store owner of The Peoples Grocery, Thomas Moss, to Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League, a network of black entrepreneurs. By 1900 there were about 20,000 black owned businesses in the U.S. and I’ve got tons of ideas for future fun facts!

Watch Boss: The Black Experience in Business

Be sure to check out other Black History Fun Facts on the page here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Esther Georgia Irving Cooper

Welcome to another Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, we meet a woman you may not have heard about but who has done tremendous community work for the betterment of education for African Americans.

Esther Georgia Irving Cooper was born on November 28, 1881, in Cleveland, Ohio. While she’s the daughter of former slaves, her mother’s side of the family gained their freedom sometime before the Civil War and came to Ohio from North Carolina in the 1850s. Esther worked for Harry Clay Smith, a black man of the Ohio legislature and editor of the Cleveland Gazette. Esther later moved to Washington D.C. in 1913 as a stenographer in the Forrest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was here that she met her husband, George Posea Cooper, a Tennessee native and veteran of the Philippine Insurrection then serving as a technical sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Myer in Alexandria County (after 1920 Arlington County). The couple married on September 10, 1913, and had three daughters. The Cooper‘s valued education and Esther worked part-time as a teacher of English, shorthand, and typing at the National Training School for Women and Girls. She also managed business classes in the adult program of the Arlington County Public Schools as part of the Federal Education Rehabilitation Act.

Esther is best known for her Civil Rights Activism in Arlington County. She became an advocate for the improvement of African American education after deciding not to send her children to Arlington’s black schools because of the poor upkeep. She also took part in many community improvement organizations, lobbied on behalf of the Citizens Committee for School Improvement, and helped organize the Jennie Dean Community Center Association, a women’s group that raised money to purchase land for a recreation center open to African Americans.

Esther also served as president of the Kemper School Parent-Teacher Association, fought to establish an accredited junior high school, and organized and led the Arlington County branch of the NAACP. Under her leadership, the Arlington NAACP launched a court case challenging inequalities in the county’s high school facilities. The group’s efforts culminated in Carter v. School Board of Arlington County (1950), in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county’s separate high schools constituted unlawful racial discrimination.

I love shedding light on the Esther’s of the world because they are not the same ten black leaders we’ve heard about and we hear about repeatedly. These unfamiliar faces help us understand just how powerful our contributions have been to the world as there are so many who are unknown and unrecognized, their names left out of the history books, school curricula, and Google searches. The best way to honor those who have put in great work on behalf of bettering our communities is to act. To pick up the mantle and do what we can from our corners of the world. To use whatever skill, whatever talent, whatever gifts we’ve been given to do our part. The best way to honor anyone we feel has contributed anything significant to this world is to do the work needed to move forward and to take the time to appreciate and to honor those individuals who are still alive and who are working. Let’s not wait until their deaths to support fully. Let us do that now, today, while they live, and let us help them in their endeavors in whatever way we can according to the gifts we have been given. Let us give people their flowers now who deserve them. The next day is not promised. Let us not wait.

Esther did the work. May we do the same, in whatever capacity to which we are able.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Research Links and Book Recommendations

 

I’ve been swamped in schoolwork which is stopping me from living my best life on these black history posts. Today, I compiled a list of links I found throughout the week and books I recommend since I did not get to complete a full post on one topic. The books are what I really encourage you to look into. Unlike the internet, they provide more detailed and in-depth research and citations from scholars and others useful for deep research.

Descendants of Last Slave Ship Still Live in Alabama Community

The story of the Clotilda and the people who built Africatown.

I spoke about “Africa Town” once before on this blog (See post here). This article shares some insightful information on the descendants of that town. (You may also remember the book recently released on behalf of Zora Neale Hurston of the Clotilda).

https://www.history.com/news/slaves-clotilda-ship-built-africatown

Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South, by Barbara Krauthamer (2013)

This is important. Europeans were not the only people to sell Blacks into slavery but so did the Natives, so did Jews and so did Islam.

https://notevenpast.org/black-slaves-indian-masters-slavery-emancipation-and-citizenship-in-the-native-american-south-by-barbara-krauthamer-2013/

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Unlike the northern free states, Mexico didn’t agree to return fugitive slaves.
I found this story interesting and would like to do more research for an entire post. For now, check it out at the link below.

South African paramilitary unit plotted to infect black population with Aids, former member claims

Group said to have ‘spread the virus’ at the behest of Keith Maxwell, eccentric leader of the shadowy South African Institute of Maritime Research, who wanted a white majority country where ‘the excesses of the 1960s, 70s and 80s have no place in the post-Aids world’.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-africa-apartheid-aids-saimr-plot-infect-hiv-virus-black-cold-case-hammarskj-ld-documentary-a8749176.html?fbclid=IwAR024DMZjTNgRWorLKuN1Y6FyNn2vifEkDelnnxJSPs0AP0eDDd1f1YGcEs

Don’t let February be the only time you are interested in your history. From the shelf, here are some of my favorites. I recommend them all:

  • They Came Before Columbus, Ivan Van Sertima
  • Jews Selling Blacks: Slave Sale Advertising by American Jews
  • The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
  • The Valley of Dry Bones: The Conditions that Face Black People in America, Rudolph Windsor
  • From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black-Races including the Black Hebrews also by Rudolph Windsor
  • Negro Slave Songs in the U.S. Miles, Mark, Fisher
  • Israel on the Appomattox: A southern experiment in black freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War, Melvin Patrick Ely
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Harriet A. Washington
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps
  • The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther
  • Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, James H. Jones
  • Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood, and Black Masculinity, Wesley Muhammad
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

There are so many others but this should be enough to get your started! Be sure to check out the other Black History Fun Facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page.

Have a great weekend!

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Phillip  L. Downing and the First Mailbox

 

Every day, we use our mailbox, checking it for packages and letters and bills. You look at it every single day but did you know a black man invented it? Thanks to Phillip L. Downing (some sources and memes say Paul but so far I have only been able to verify that his name was Phillip), you don‘t have to travel to the post office every day. You can just walk a few steps from your home. But Downing didn’t call it a mailbox. He called it a Street Letter Box.

Downing was born in Providence, Rhode Island on March 22, 1857. His father, George T. Downing was an abolitionist and business owner. His grandfather, Thomas Downing, was born to emancipated parents in Virginia and also had a successful business in the financial district of Manhattan in 1825. Thomas Downing also helped to found the United Anti-Slavery Societies of New York City.

Coming from a family of business owners, it‘s no surprise that Phillip would become an inventor. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, Downing successfully filed five patents with the United States Patent Office. Among his most significant inventions were a street letterbox (U.S. Patent numbers 462,092 and 462,093) and a mechanical device for operating a street railway switches (U.S. Patent number 430,118), which he invented before the predecessor of today‘s mailbox. On June 17, 1890, the U.S. Patent Office approved Downing’s application for “new and useful Improvements in Street-Railway Switches.” His invention allowed the switches to be opened or closed by using a brass arm next to the brake handle on the platform of the car. Then, on October 27, 1891, his two patents for a street letter box also gained approval.

Downing’s design resembled old school mailboxes (see image). A tall metal box with a secure, hinged door to drop letters. Until this point, people wanting to send mail had to travel to the nearest post office. This is how the enslaved “heard it through the grapevine,“ communication started on slave plantations where information passed from person-to-person, by word of mouth. The Black person who was sent to the post office to get the mail would linger long enough to get a drift of the conversation from the group of white people who congregated there. The mail carrier on his way back to the master‘s house would retell the news he heard so that the other slaves knew what was going on in the world. While many records accredit this to the news that came through the telegraph, it actually began before then. The “grape-vine telegraph” (Washington, p. 9) was unofficially invented first as mouth-to-mouth rumors, gossip, and worldly conversations and news of the war from Southern blacks on the plantation.

Knowing this, it is not surprising that a Black man would make these “conversations” easier by inventing a mailbox. To this day the term, “I heard it through the grapevine,” is still a common saying for someone who has heard gossip. The phrase has even been recorded as a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1967 and by Marvin Gaye in 1968.

Before, those wishing to send mail usually had to travel to the post office but Downing’s invention changed that. Instead, the street letter box would allow for drop off near one’s home and easy pickup by a letter carrier. His idea for the hinged opening prevented rain or snow from entering the box and damaging the mail.


Misty Brown, “Ever Wonder,” Afro-American February 6, 1988; Eyvaine Walker, Keeping a Family Legacy Alive: Unforgotten African Americans (Atlanta, GA: Twins Pub, 2011), 316 – 317. “Philip Downing, Boston, Retires After 31 Years Service in Custom House,” The New York Age, April 9, 1927.

Mahoney, E. (2017, October 31) Philip B. Downing (1857-1934). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/downing-philip-b-1857-1934/

Washington, B. (1995). UP From Slavery. Dover Publications Inc. Edition. Original Publisher, Doubleday, Page, circa 1901, NY. Chapter 1: A Slave Among Slaves, p.9

Black History Fun Fact Friday – A Review

“What is Black History?”

The question is deceptively simple. While it may seem like the history of “black people,” or a month worth of 28 days of “Black Pride,” or a horrific recap of slavery, Black History is deeper and richer than this. The African diaspora consists of a worldwide collection of communities and not all black-skinned people are part of the same nationality of people.

Are we going to talk about Black Biblical History and refer to ancestral names? The bible does not support the concept of race which means that we are then dealing with another aspect of black history. What is the nationality of the so-called “black people” of the western hemisphere and abroad? Are we talking about the Israelites (who are black) the Egyptians (black…Israel and Egypt is in Northeast Africa by the way), the Ethiopians, Nubians, Somalians, the Philistines, the Canaanites, Assyrians (who were Black Hamites), or the Elamites (descendants of Shem with Afros and full beards)?

“King Solomon said, ‘I’m Black but I’m comely,’ so what color would all of Solomon’s sons be? The Messiah went into Egypt to hide, how could that be done with blonde hair and blue eyes? It’s not about skin complexion, it’s just a fact, the people of the bible were black.”

Are we talking about the Ghanaian? Nigerian? Kenyan? Ashanti? Are we talking about the Jamaican, Haitian, Dominican, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Puerto Rican, Afro-Brazilian?

Do we discuss Kings and Queens? Who was King Solomon and King David? Did you know they were black Israelite Kings? Or, who was Mansa Mussa, Samore Toure, King of Sudan, or King Tenkamenin of Ghana? Who was Amina, Queen of Zaria, Candace, the empress of Ethiopia, Makeda, Queen of Sheba, Nefertiti, Queen of Ancient Kemet or Yaa Asantewa, Ashanti kingdom, Ghana?

Black people are worldwide so when we say “Black History,” we have a lot to talk about and fortunately for you, this blog is all about that not just in February but every Friday (or every other Friday) of the week. If you’re one of those people who live for the deep and rich experiences of Blacks not just in America but worldwide, if you live for this on an everyday basis, then you’ve come to the right place!

Next week, we have a new episode coming up. For now, this is a great time for you to review some of the articles we already have available on this site. Below are some of the more popular ones and I’ll see you next week!

The Origin of Black History Month

The First Black Public High School

The Attica Massacre

A Brief History of Race Riots in America

Mostafa Hefny and the Race Card

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Sarah Rector

The Fultz Sisters

The Soto Brothers

Nora Holt

Sundown Towns

3 Facts You Should Know About the Black Panthers

Capturing the Good in Harlem

Learn more by visiting the Black History Fun Fact Friday Page HERE.


ATTN: A quick word. I have selected four of my books that will be on a 99cent digital sale for the ENTIRE month of February! In honor of Black History Month, The Road to Freedom, Renaissance, Revolution and I am Soul will be 99cents in ebook. If you’ve never read any of my books this is an EXCELLENT opportunity to see what the hype is all about.

Learn more about the books on sale HERE.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The 400th Year

Welcome to the first Black History Fun Fact Friday episode of 2019! BHFFF was founded in 2015 on this blog where we give doses of Black History year around. For more episodes, be sure to visit the page where we have archived all our episodes so far HERE.


Q. Why are people talking so much about the 400th Year? What is this?

2019 is being called the 400th Year because it marks the 400 years since American slavery. Founded in 1607, America celebrated her 400 year anniversary in 2007. Twelve years from 1607 (1619) she brought to her shores the first 20 persons of African descent to begin American slavery.

At the top of the year, a group of celebrities traveled to Ghana to celebrate the opening of 2019.  Ghana is one of many African countries offering African Americans easy return in a second exodus type commemoration they are calling The Year of Return, Ghana 2019. While as early as May 1616, blacks from the West Indies were at work in Bermuda providing knowledge about the cultivation of tobacco and in 1526, enslaved “Africans” were part of a Spanish expedition to establish an outpost on the North American coast in present-day South Carolina, 1619 remains an important  part of Black American history because it was the beginning of American slavery as we know it today, where the first Blacks appeared in Virginia as captives to begin the American Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. August 2019 marks 400 years and many are commemorating it with what has been coined The Year of Return.

“A Dutch ship carrying 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, on Aug. 20, 1619, a voyage that would mark the beginning of slavery in the American colonies. The number of slaves continued to grow between the 17th and 18th centuries, as slave labor was used to help fuel the growing tobacco and cotton industries in the southern states. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, some 4 million slaves were set free. However, racial inequalities and violence toward newly freed slaves would persist in the country throughout the 1860s and 1870s.” – BET National News

In September of 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Jamestown Virginia and to stand on the banks of the James River where 20 of the first documented arrival of “Africans” were brought to the colony of Virginia. The 20 captives were removed from the Portuguese slave ship, San Juan Bautista, following an encounter the ship had with the White Lion and her consort, the Treasurer, another English ship as documented by John Rolfe, Virginia’s first tobacco planter. He wrote about the account of the African landing in a letter to the Virginia Company of London. The captain of a Dutch warship that arrived in Jamestown in August 1619 “brought not any thing but 20 and odd Negroes, wch the Governor and Cape Marchant bought for victuale . . . at the best and easyest rate they could.”

“The slaves were herded onto a Portuguese slave ship in Angola, in Southwest Africa. The ship was seized by British pirates on the high seas — not brought to Virginia after a period of time in the Caribbean. The slaves represented one ethnic group, not many, as historians first believed.” – Lisa Rein, Mystery of Va.’s First Slaves Is Unlocked 400 Years Later

It is interesting that historians have now verified that the enslaved represented one ethnic group and not many because for too long we’ve grouped the many peoples of Africa into one category. We have been brainwashed into referring to them as Africans instead of by their true nationality. Africa is a continent made up of over fifty countries and many different nationalities. When the first 20 Blacks were brought to the Americas, they were not just Africans. They were part of an entire nation of people. They were descendants of the ancient Israelites and brought to America as part of biblical prophecy. (Gen. 15:13) The most revealing account of the Hebrew heritage of these Africans is told in the memoir of Olaudah Equiano, known in his lifetime as Gustavus Vassa, a writer, and abolitionist from the Igbo region of what is today southeastern Nigeria according to his memoir. He states:

“And here I cannot forebear suggesting what has long struck me very forcibly, namely, the strong analogy…which appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the land of promise and particularly the patriarchs…an analogy which would induce me to think that one people sprang from the other. We practiced circumcision like the Jews and made offerings and feasts on that occasion in the same manner they did. Like the Israelites in their primitive state, our government was conducted by our chiefs or judges, our wisemen and elders; and the head of the family, with us, enjoyed a similar authority over his household with that which is ascribed to Abraham and the other patriarchs.” – The Life of Olaudah Equiano, Chapter 1, pp 22-24)

Other examples can be found among the Ashanti Tribe of Ghana, where the priesthood is hereditary to a specific family, such a family has little or no possessions, is exempt from all taxes, supplied with food and advises the king. Compare this with the Levites of ancient Israel. While not all “Blacks” are Israelites (Africa is filled with many nations of Black people), it is clear that many of the cultural differences of the many nations of Africa are Hebraic in nature and that many of these customs have been hidden from the world. For example, The name Ashanti, the predominant tribe in Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, comes from the Hebrew word “Ashan” meaning, “smoke.” The name Ashan was the name of a city located in southern Israel.

“Their sanitation laws closely mirror that of what is written in the Torah. They were originally a pastoral people until they were forced to move into the bush, which is similar to what has happened to the Igbos. The selling of prisoners of war as slaves or the enslavement of their fellow man in order to pay off debt as it is found in the Torah, the five Books of Moses. Also when one dies, the place in which a person has expired is cleansed and locked up for nine days, which is like how in Leviticus 14 a room is shut up for seven days. They never fought on Saturday (Sabbath) they started their calendar in the fall like Jews and Hebrews. The Ashanti society is a Patriarchal one.” – Ashanti of Ghana, Hebrew Igbo

Slavers went into the interior of the African continent in search for a specific people. They may have practiced the laws of the Old Testament, wore fringes, kept the Sabbath and lived their lives in striking resemblance of the Israelites of the bible, their ancestors.

“The early 1600s was a time of war and empire-building in Southwest Africa; Portuguese traders under the rule of the king of Spain had established the colony of Angola. The exporting of slaves to the Spanish New World was a profitable enterprise. The Portuguese waged war against the kingdoms of Ndongo and Kongo to the north, capturing and deporting thousands of men and women. They passed through a slave fortress at the port city of Luanda, still Angola’s capital.” – Rein, L.

The Treasurer and the White Lion each took 20 to 30 enslaved Israelites before the San Juan Bautista continued to Veracruz. They landed at Jamestown within four days of each other and traded the Hebrews for provisions. The Treasurer then sailed to Bermuda, dropping off more of the enslaved, and returned to Virginia a few months later, trading the final nine or ten more. In 1640, John Punch, a runaway indentured servant, was the first documented slave for life and in 1662, slavery was recognized in the statutory law of the colony.

In 1662, Virginia legally recognized slavery as a hereditary, lifelong condition. Even before this statute appeared, however, many blacks were being held as slaves for life, and as black laborers gradually replaced white indentured servants as the principle source of agricultural labor during the second half of the seventeenth century, laws restricting the activities of Africans were being introduced, codifying slavery as a race-based system.- The Slave Experience: Legal Rights and Government.

And now you know why 2019 is being deemed the 400th Year, why this is a great time to revisit history (not just the bad stuff but the amazing contributions of Blacks to America over the years as well) and why many of your favorite celebrities brought in 2019 on the continent of Africa.

August 20, 1619 – August 20, 2019 = 400 years.