Black History Fun Fact Friday: What Hollywood Left out the Harriet Movie

I did not intend on writing about this today but then…

I saw the Harriet movie.

Yep. I went to see it.

I know many are protesting the film, but I don’t jump on bandwagons. I wanted to see it for myself to develop my own opinion. I also knew I wanted to write about it.

There are some truths (such as her being referred to as Moses). Unfortunately, there are more inaccuracies than truth. The movie is Hollywoodish and leaves a lot out. This is a problem because there’s so much information out in 2019 that if Hollywood wanted to, it could tell this story with 100% fact. (I heard in an interview; the script was written 20 years ago). If you are planning to see it, here are some things you may want to know:

  • Harriet Tubman never had a friend named Marie Buchanon.
  • There was never a Black Bounty Hunter named Bigger Long after Harriet Tubman. The same is true of the Brodesses son. They did have a son (Jonathan) but little is known about him. His role in the movie is made up.

While “Bigger Long,” is a fictional character, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Black trackers existed and were active during slavery. I think it is important that as we are striving for Historical Accuracy we don’t miss that. We cannot be so “Pro-Black” that we forget that a lot of our own people sold us out (and continue to sell us out).

While Bigger Long may not have been a real person in Harriet’s life, there were black slave catchers. Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own brother. It is just that in Harriet’s case, this wasn’t the case.

There is no historical record for a Black Bounty Hunter after Harriet Tubman. The movie, it seemed to me, had a lot of ‘women vs. men’ undertones to it. Not only was Bigger Long the sole antagonist against Harriet (even more so than the Brodesses son), he was also the one responsible for the death of one of the Black women in the film in the most diabolical, sinister, and brutal way.

The William Still character (based on a real historical figure he was a Black abolitionist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, businessman, writer, and conductor on the Underground Railroad) was over-the-top with his reactions to Harriet’s return from the missions. Holding his hand to his chest, spinning Harriet around, and at one point he even falls out of a chair. Some people laughed but I didn’t find it funny. It looks like bufoonery.

The imaginative Marie, however, shows Harriet how to shoot a gun and helps her in her cause. Harriet was a warrior but I am certain the surrounding men weren’t that simple-minded and faithless.

The Black men in this movie seemed weak to me. I worry this was intentional.

  • Tubman didn’t change her name when she reached freedom. She changed it before then, around the time of her marriage, possibly to honor her mother.
  • Three of Tubman’s sisters were sold, not just one.

 

  • Two of Tubman’s brothers, Ben and Harry, accompanied her (1) they went with her initially, at the onset of her escape not later as depicted in the film (2) after a notice was published in the Cambridge Democrat offering a reward for her return Harry and Ben had second thoughts and returned to the plantation so she made the voyage alone.

 

  • Tubman had spells, dream-states, and visions (I believe she was deeply spiritual, her spells were my inspiration for Nora’s spells in Renaissance), but she also endured seizures, severe headaches, and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life from the hit to the head.

This next point wasn’t in the movie but since we are talking about Harriet Tubman I think it’s important to mention.

The Fake Quote:

Yea, you know the one. I have said it. You have said it. We have all repeated it. It’s a good quote. Powerful one too and I wish I could say it belonged to Harriet but with every source I checked there’s no documented, historical proof that Harriet Tubman ever said:

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

According to Africacheck.org, there are a few possible origins of the quote’s attribution to Harriet:

  • The confusion began when feminist writer Robin Morgan updated her 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” during the 2008 US Democratic Party’s primary presidential candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Morgan supported Clinton, and in the essay challenged other women who did not. She wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands – if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’” The implication was that women who didn’t support Clinton were similarly enslaved, and didn’t know it.

 

  • One expert was Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history and African American studies at Maxwell School“My impression is that this is a late 20th century quote from a fictionalised account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told history blogger Ralph Luker, who first queried the quote.

 

  • More than this, at meetings in 1858 and 1859 Tubman repeatedly said she had personally rescued 50 to 60 people from slavery. So she would never have said she “freed a thousand slaves”.

A quote that has historical proof, and that has been proven to come from her that you can use:

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” 

– Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.

A few more things not addressed in the movie:

Tubman’s time as a Union spy (touched on a little at the end of the film), nurse, and cook, her 1869 marriage to Nelson Davis—a soldier, some 20 years her junior—and the couple’s 1874 adoption of a baby girl named Gertie, her work as a suffragist, neurosurgery undertaken to address her decades-old brain injury, financial hardship later in life, and the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1908.

The movie wasn’t a total fail for me because there are some things I liked that are worth mentioning.

I loved the show of Harriet’s spirituality, which I do not equate to anything Christian. Her reliance on her faith, praying and praising during difficult times and raising her palms to the sky to pray (this is how we did it…our hands weren’t clapped together they were open and raised into the air) was a beautiful show of faith and her belief that the Almighty was central in guiding her in her journey’s.

As I’ve said, I don’t jump on bandwagons. I have my own opinion.

So, should you see the film? That is up to you. I will caution that if you plan to bring your children, print this post out (or another fact sheet you’ve vetted) and use it as a reference so they can properly discern the facts in the movie from the fiction.


Check out more Black History Fun Facts here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Mathieu de Costa

Me and Hubby had a wonderful time on our vacation. It’s been a long time since we’ve been out of the country, so it was refreshing to breathe another air. Canada is rich with Black history and many Black Canadians trace their ancestry to the so-called African American in America as the Underground Railroad brought tens of thousands of fugitive slaves to Canada. While many of these returned to the United States after emancipation, a significant population remained, largely in Southern Ontario, widely scattered in the country and the city, including Toronto.

Mathieu Da Costa (Groupe CNW/Postes Canada)

The first recorded (recorded being the key word here…I am sure there were others, but this is the first record. The first known black person to live in Canada is said to have been a slave from Madagascar named Olivier Le Jeune) free Black person in Canada was a Black man named Mathieu de Costa. He was a free man who spoke several languages (among them French, Dutch, Portuguese and a mixture of French-Spanish dialect and First Nations languages) and is remembered as a skilled interpreter and the first man of African heritage to visit and live in Canada. He lived in Port Royal (Nova Scotia) for a short time, and a plaque to honor his life and time spent there has been placed on a monument at the Port-Royal National Historical Site. A school in Toronto, and a street in Montreal and Quebec City have been named after him. Because of his ability to speak several languages, it is said that he helped to bridge the gap between Europeans and Natives living along the Canadian Atlantic Coast to live peacefully.

Hubby and I at an Ethiopian Restaurant in downtown Toronto Canada.

As a group, black people arrived in Canada in several waves. We are planning a return trip this winter to explore Canada’s Black history that we did not have the time to explore this trip such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site and Buxton National Historic Site, in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. (It was about 3 hours from where we were so we didn’t have time to visit this round). If you remember, we touched on Josiah Henson in the truth about Uncle Tom post here. In 1842 former fugitive slave Josiah Henson established the Dawn Settlement, a center for education, training, and community planning. With financial backing from American abolitionists, Dawn became a diverse settlement featuring a school, brickyard, sawmill, farmland, and profitable lumber industry. “At its peak, about 500 people lived at the Dawn Settlement. Henson purchased 200 acres of land adjacent to the community, where his family lived.” (Ontario Heritage Trust) The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site is an open-air museum and African American history center near Dresden, Ontario, Canada, that includes the home of Josiah Henson. While the development of administrative problems and the school closure in 1868 caused many Blacks to abandon the land (some going back to America when slavery ended and some spreading out throughout Toronto), Josiah and his wife Nancy lived on the land the rest of their lives.

Although we didn’t get to visit these sites, we visited Markham, Woodstock, Orville, and Toronto and got some much-needed rest. My goal for this trip was to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. On this trip I:

  • Got my locs retwisted before leaving (something I don’t usually do. I like my natural do, but this was about being different sooo)

 

  • Stayed with friends on seven acres of land in a big country house instead of a hotel.

 

  • Ate largely vegetarian (except for the curry chicken and shawarma. Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish of sliced meat and vegetables wrapped in a cone-shaped bread and roasted. It is basically like one HUGE burrito. Also Jamaican Porridge is delicious. I’ll replace my oatmeal with it any day).

 

  • Showered in well water

 

  • Used Cinnamon, sweet milk and a touch of vanilla in my coffee instead of my usual French Vanilla Creamer

 

  • Drank no alcohol

 

  • Splurged on something cute without worrying over it (because I’m cheap). I just paid really fast before I changed my mind. In fact, before leaving the store I went into the dressing room and changed, wearing the pants and earrings home.

Peace and hair grease!

We had an amazing time but it sure does feels good to be back (nothing like being able to boo-boo in your own toilet and sleep in your own bed). Be sure to check out other fun facts on the Black History Fun Fact Friday page here.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The End of Enslavement and Reconstruction

Founded in 1607, America celebrated her 400th anniversary in 2007. Twelve years from 1607 (1619) she brought to her shores the first 20 persons of “African” descent to begin American slavery. (Learn more about that in a previous post here). Tuesday, August 20, 2019, marked the 400th anniversary of this event. In light of the 400th year, I thought this would be an excellent time to revisit some basics. I hope this insight will help us to understand the many disadvantages Blacks have faced since “freedom,” and why the failure of the U.S. to move on its promises to Blacks set a pattern that will define it until this very day.

During the Civil War (when the Southern States wanted to pull away or secede from the U.S. and create its own Country, The Confederate States of America), the U.S. government realized that it had to destroy anything that could be used by the South to support the Confederacy. Being slave labor was a big part of the South’s economy, Lincoln eventually realized that it had to be abolished, a massive blow to the Confederacy. But he didn’t realize this right away and he didn’t want it right away. It was never part of America’s plan to do away with slavery.

“Many people are completely misinformed about Lincoln and the Negro. That war was about two thieves, the North and the South, fighting over the spoils. The further we get away from the actual incident, the more they are trying to make it sound as though the battle was over the black man. Lincoln said that if he could save the Union without freeing any slaves he would. But after two years of killing and carnage, he found he would have to free the slaves. he wasn’t interested in the slaves, but the union.”

– Malcolm X, Playboy Interview with Alex Haley, p 42-43

Malcolm X spoke nothing but the truth and we will prove it (for those willing to understand the truth) in this post.

The 10% Plan

First, Lincoln decided on what is called the 10% plan or Lincoln’s Plan. The 10% plan meant that a southern state could be readmitted into the Union once ten percent of its voters (from the voter rolls for the election of 1860) swore an oath of allegiance to the Union. In other words, when ten percent of the voting population swears an oath of loyalty to the U.S. (no support of the Confederacy). The problem with this plan:

  • The plan did not plan for African Americans
  • The Plan did not even mention African Americans

Wade Davis Bill

Next, was the Wade-Davis Bill offered by Congress. The Wade-Davis Bill (named after Senator Benjamin F. Wade and Representative Henry Winter Davis), required that 50 percent of a state’s white males take a loyalty oath to be readmitted to the Union, also known as the Iron-Clad Oath. These men had to promise no support of the Confederacy. It also required States to give blacks the right to vote and ensure citizenship rights for African Americans.

What was Lincolns response to this?

Nothing.

Pocket Veto

Lincoln did nothing, also known as a Pocket Veto. He did not sign or veto the bill. He simply did nothing. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Pocket Veto as:

  1. an indirect veto of a legislative bill by the president or a governor by retaining the bill unsigned until it is too late for it to be dealt with during the legislative session.

Eventually, Lincoln had to save the Union. He said if he could save the Union by not freeing any slaves he would do it but obviously, he couldn’t. Ending slavery was the best way to strike the Confederacy and save the Union.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

– Abraham Lincoln, Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862. Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, by Lincoln to end slavery in the States that were in Rebellion. This means not all enslaved people were freed. (Looks like Lincoln was going for the “free some and leave others” tactic. It didn’t work though.) On the passing of the 13th Amendment in January of 1865, slavery was officially deemed illegal in America, freeing all people enslaved.

However, many men, women, and children in Texas were still being held bondage and did not know that slavery was over:

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach. In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of SlaveryAs one former slave he quotes recalled, ” ‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’”

These men, women, and children were still enslaved until June 1865 when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Known as Juneteenth, it is the reason many Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4th as their National Independence Day.

“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.” – https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

But economic and cultural forces caused a decline in Juneteenth activities and participation as well as ongoing slavery. Before we go on, let’s continue on with Lincoln for full context.

A Change of Heart?

It is believed that Lincoln may have had a change of heart toward the end of his life after returning from a visit to Richmond, VA in 1865. He received opposition from Richmond’s white citizens but it’s Black freedmen welcomed Lincoln with open arms. They saw him as the man who had “emancipated” them and pushed through the 13th Amendment. When Lincoln got back to D.C. he gave the last speech of his life and this is when it gets murky.

Some suggest this is the speech that showcases his change of heart, where he suggests that now that the war was over the Government needed to think about giving African Americans rights, specifically giving Black men the right to vote. Some 200,000 Black men fought in the War and at the very least they should be given the right to vote. (Lincoln did own slaves so did he free the slaves under him during this “change of heart?”) The speech is said to show he was leaning toward Congress’ idea of Reconstruction. And it is believed this speech is the speech that got him killed by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

The Problem

The only problem is that even if Lincoln had a change of heart, his death brought in Andrew Johnson as President and Andrew Johnson decided to go with Lincoln’s original 10% Plan and to do so quickly. By December of 1865, he offered pardons to former white slave-owners which authorized them to create new state governments. Now leading Johnson’s reconstruction are the same people who had led the Confederacy, also former slave-owners, and they set out to create laws that would recreate slavery.

Slavery Continued After Juneteenth

Juneteenth didn’t have much meaning for Black people at the time any more than the Emancipation Proclamation for a few reasons:

  1. Technically, the 250,000 Blacks in Texas were already “Free” they just didn’t know it. The document issued on June 19, 1865 was an announcement to those enslaved in Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation. Not an amendment or law.

“As for the Emancipation Proclamation, sir, it was an empty document. If it freed the slaves, why, a century later, are we still battling for civil rights?” – Malcolm X

  1. The announcement urged slaves to stay with their former owners: “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.

 

  1. Not all slaves were freed instantly. Many Blacks were still being enslaved both directly (working on plantations) and indirectly (recreated/renamed slave laws). When legally freed slaves tried to leave they were lynched, beaten or murdered.

“When Texas fell and Granger dispatched his now famous order No. 3, it wasn’t exactly instant magic for most of the Lone Star State’s 250,000 slaves. On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay until after the harvest. Even in Galveston city, the ex-Confederate mayor flouted the Army by forcing the freed people back to work, as historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner details in her comprehensive essay, “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” in Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas.”

“Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. As quoted in Litwack’s book, former slave Susan Merritt recalled, ” ‘You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’ ” In one extreme case, according to Hayes Turner, a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years (She ” ‘whip me after the war jist like she did ‘fore,’ ” Darling said).”

“In July 1867 there were two separate reports of slaves being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose slaves were only freed after his hanging in 1868.” – Blacks in East Texas History: Selections from the East Texas Historical Journal By Alwyn Barr

 

Convict Leasing

Immediately after the Blacks in Texas were freed from chattel slavery in June of 1865, they were required (under the new governmental system) to have Labor Contracts. Many Blacks returned to their former slave-owners for this so that they were back to working under their former slave-owners.

There is also a well-known loophole in the 13th Amendment that 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.”

This allowance of slavery for crimes opened the door for Blacks to be put back into an institution of slavery while imprisoned, giving rise to a system of Convict Leasing.

“After the Civil War, slavery persisted in the form of convict leasing, a system in which Southern states leased prisoners to private railways, mines, and large plantations. While states profited, prisoners earned no pay and faced inhumane, dangerous, and often deadly work conditions. Thousands of black people were forced into what authors have termed “slavery by another name” until the 1930s.”

https://eji.org/history-racial-injustice-convict-leasing

Slave Codes

Black Codes is another system of slavery created by the new government. Black Codes were laws specifically created for African Americans, subjecting them to criminal prosecution for “offenses” such as loitering, breaking curfew, vagrancy, having weapons, and not carrying proof of employment. If you remember, these weren’t new laws.

These were the same “offenses” that would get the enslaved whipped or sold during slavery. For instance, the enslaved couldn’t travel from place to place without a pass signed by their owner. “Those without such a pass could be arrested, jailed, and detained as a runaway. Some owners wrote general passes allowing their slaves to “pass” and “repass.” (http://www.inmotionaame.org/gallery) Under Black Codes, Blacks had to carry proof of employment when very few Blacks were employed. Failure to do so will get them jailed.

Although physically freed, Blacks were held economically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually captive in the U.S. for over four hundred years. Captive to almost one hundred years of Jim Crow Laws, over eighty years of lynchings, fourteen years of fighting for Civil Rights (if we count from 1954-1968), and the continued Police Brutality of unarmed Blacks that persists to this day.

The era of Reconstruction was to reconstruct or restore the South’s political relationship with the Federal Government; to reconstruct the Southern States’ representation in the National Government. The promises made to freedmen at the abolition of slavery were never realized because perhaps, as Lincoln put it, the purpose was never to free them in the first place but to save the union. Once they reestablished the union America set out to recreate slavery. Promises such as owning land (“40 Acres and a Mule”) were broken when Johnson ordered nearly all land in the hands of the government to be returned to its prewar owners—slave/plantation owners.

The truth is the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction and Juneteenth did nothing to restore land or citizenship rights to the 40 million newly freed Blacks. Instead, they remained psychologically and economically disadvantaged, forced into a mental and spiritual form of enslavement that lasted for centuries.

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/

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 – 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.