One of the biggest mistakes I made on my Authorprenur* journey was doing everything for free. Everything from book reviews to interviews to consults was free at one time. I gave everything away. I even taught people the steps needed to publish books on their own without them giving me a dime.
*A play on the word entrepreneur, an authorpreneur is an author who blends publishing books with business practices. These authors do not only write and publish books, but they build brands.
This might sound good. It might make your heart melt and make you shout “Halleluyah.” You might do a little praise dance for my commitment to service and admire my generous soul.
But you can save charity for your congregation and your nonprofit programs. This is not good for running a business because you train your audience to expect everything you do to be free.
This is what has happened to me.
Not only did doing everything for free teach my audience to expect free from me, but people also started taking advantage of me. They took the information I gave and tried to do it independently, so they didn’t have to pay for the service.
You also attract a low-paying tribe when you do everything for free.
Once you have set a foundation for giving your services away, it becomes difficult to start charging because you have already groomed and equipped people to expect this service to be free or extremely low-cost. It is much easier to charge your worth from the beginning.
If you struggle with this or are just starting, you can schedule your day like a workday and only accept work during your work hours. I work from 10a-4p on Fridays. This means anything after 4 is set up for the next workday, Monday at 9am EST.
Now that your day is scheduled, what can you fit in that time? Do you write? Blog? Create Social Media Content? Are you answering questions? Emails? If people are constantly asking you questions, set up a discovery call system and put a price tag on that.
And by questions I mean, like, if you have a skill. Don’t be charging people for stuff and you don’t know what you are doing or talking about. That’s called a scam.
I don’t get paid to blog in general. Like, I am not being paid to publish this post. However, I do charge for Book Reviews, and Author Interviews featured on this blog, something I was not doing initially. After noticing how much time it took me to schedule the interviews (it can take hours) and put together the book reviews (this can take weeks), I switched things up a bit.
When Authors pay for a review* or Interview, it gives me more incentive to follow through. It also ensures I prioritize that project (paid projects supersede free ones). I also charge because I pay for space on this blog. This means this blog is no longer something I do for fun. It is also now part of my business.
*Paid book reviews featured on this blog do not guarantee a positive review so no, authors are not paying me for a positive review. Blog book reviews are also not posted to Amazon as paid reviews are against Amazon’s policy.
It’s not even about the money. It is about putting value on your time.
Nowadays, saying you’re an entrepreneur can also mean unemployed, depending on who’s talking. The value has been cheapened by people chasing the next hustle. But a hustle is not a business.
The truth is if you are not charging for your work or constantly giving your books away for free, you do not have a business. You are either still hustling to see what will stick or have an expensive hobby.
Although I tried out once, I was not a cheerleader in high school. I had danced before as part of a community program at Hamilton Park on Chicago’s south side with my twin sister and our cousin. We were taught handstands, traditional African dances (I am not sure of the tribe), and tap dancing. We traveled to put on shows and everything.
But dancing was not for me.
Over the years, as my twin and cousin got deeper into it (joining Pom-Pom teams and creating dances from the latest hits), I grew out of it.
Instead, I read books, wrote in my diary, and joined all the “boring” programs at school.
It didn’t take long to realize I was not like everyone else. The things my peers found exciting did not move me.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how these seemingly boring activities were stepping stones to sharpening my writing skills and preparing me for a career as a writer.
Writing School Plays:During my Sophomore and Junior years, the school employed a group of other students and me to participate in a program where we had to write and perform plays for the school. I do not remember the program’s name, but this was my first official writing job.
Pen Pal Program:The photo above is from a pen pal program between our High School on the south side and a school on the north side. We wrote letters to our pals and introduced ourselves. Next, they filmed us introducing ourselves on camera and swapped it with the other school. And then, finally, we all met up in person in downtown Chicago. This was the first day we all met, and the event concluded with a camping trip in Wisconsin.
The Yearbook Team: I was actually the only member of the yearbook team that year, lol. Everyone thought it would be boring, but I thought it would be fun, and it was. Not only did I get out of class to film assemblies, but I got to follow Arnie Duncan (then the CEO of Chicago Public Schools) and Jessie Jackson around with the camera, snapping pictures that would be featured in the book.
UMOJA Spoken Word Poetry Group: I was part of a poetry group called UMOJA Spoken Word my Sophomore year. (UMOJA is the Swahili word for unity.) I was already writing poetry, but this group taught me how to go deeper by introducing the mechanics of the craft.
When I found this photo, I realized that everything I did led to this moment and that everything I do today is also leading somewhere greater.
I don’t know about you, but the fact that our past has shaped us for today and our today is shaping us for our tomorrow is fascinating to me. It is one of the reasons I love history.
The next time you feel inadequate or frustrated with your journey, whatever journey that may be, I hope this inspires you to look back at those special moments in your life. Remember that you are only stepping stones away from where you are destined be.
Check out my latest interview with Mack Tight Radio. Be Sure to Like and Share!
I saw the competition pop up on my IG thread, and the theme of love caught my eye immediately. Being that I am a woman known for always speaking about love and pride myself in how I love people, there was no question on whether I would enter the poetry contest. In addition, I had already written a poem on love and initially submitted that poem because I was not sure if I would have enough time to create a new poem. However, after submitting my first poem, I read how participants could submit two poems and the challenge to us poets to look beyond the normal description of love we often see in poetry. This forced me to visualize all the different perspectives of love.
I love it. What do you love most about poetry?
I love that poetry takes on a life of its own. It can be a song, a narrative, a teacher, a friend, a love letter, a movement, etc. It has its own language to the reader because poetry is personal. It not only speaks to us, but it has the power to move us individually in various ways as if it knows each of us intimately. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does! How did you get started writing?
I started writing when I was very young- it was my escape, and writing was my voice. Although I was outgoing and never had a problem with talking, I struggled with my identity (being understood), so my journals were the only place where I could be myself. I loved how words had the ability to say what I wanted to express vocally. In short, when I wrote, I was free to be me, raw and unapologetic.
You are an author. What has that journey been like for you?
I have to say exciting! I love to hear how something I wrote transformed or inspired someone, which is mostly the core of my writing. But it is also hard because if you are not an established author, it is hard to get your work out there when you are self-published. I had to decide to enjoy the journey no matter what, but your greatest desire is for your work to be read as an author—the journey itself has also been an adventurous teacher. There have been many doors of opportunities that opened for me that I never imagined. For example, my book has been used as a resource in a business. I also use my book as a resource in my work as an encouragement coach, not to mention the speaking opportunities.
You are doing such excellent work. I love it.
As I mentioned earlier, you challenged me. That challenge forced me to look inwardly beyond the “emotion of love” beyond “conceptualizing love,” and I was able to see love in ways that superseded my surface emotions and mental awareness. Realizing that love has always been present, but we are often unaware of its presence. I can admit, I didn’t recognize or appreciate it when I was younger because I allowed others to define love for me.
So, I wanted to give tribute to that type of love and the givers of such love. When they gave, they gave all they had. So as the memories washed over me, I began to write, and it flowed from my being. I saw faces- my mother, grandmother, neighbors, friends. I saw our ancestors, their scarred backs, and forgotten history. When I finished, there was joy and sadness within my heart, and I was proud and, without a second thought, submitted it. It deserved to be read even if I didn’t win. I wrote this poem quickly as the memories washed over me.
That’s beautiful and I can tell you put a lot of thought behind your poem. It’s deep and relatable. I felt right away how set-apart your poem was from the beginning.
What would you say is your writing strength and weakness?
My strength is that I can create a piece quickly. If I am passionate about a topic, the creativity flows. I also love taking chances as a writer, even if I am uncertain if I can write about a particular topic or theme. I put myself out there! I believe it is because I know myself, so I am no longer writing to be affirmed as a writer. I fell in love with my voice, whether written or verbal.
Wait a minute. Sis said, “I know myself, so I am no longer writing to be affirmed as a writer.” That’s a bar.
Okay, go on, lol.
My weakness. Wow, there are two that come to mind. The short one is learning to get out of my head to fully unlock the untapped potential and creativity that I know I have. My second weakness is more of a past weakness, which is fear because it hindered my writing for so long.
I love it! And I think it’s what sets you apart. Are you working on any writing projects/books?
I am currently a full-time student, so I only take on small writing projects for people, such as writing personalized poetry pieces or short stories for birthdays, events, or special projects.
Oh, that’s cool!
I have more books in me, but I am trying to get through these last two years of schooling. I recently, right before school started, for the first time, had the opportunity to work on a script project for a short series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. There are still more episodes to be written, and I hope I have the time to be on the rest of the project. I will say this, scriptwriting gave me a new desire to write a fictional book and maybe dabble even more into scriptwriting for films.
Yes! I see it.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
On my last year of college, celebrating being a writer on the series project I mentioned earlier and seeing it on Netflix or Hulu. My book being not only in other states but other countries and being a best seller. I want to impact more lives through my encouragement, coaching, and writings, and I expect more unexpected opportunities that blow my mind! I am also a huge supporter, so I want to be in a position to help beginner writers in whatever way I can.
That all sounds amazing and I pray you go as far as you are destined to.
And without further ado, I introduce to you “Love Is,” by Tiffany James
Love is distinctively woven into the fabric of our being experienced through the ordinary each day a silent wave of an old memory washing over us; a segue to our humanity.
Love is home, love is grandma’s baby love is survival and hustling; cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, changing diapers, washing clothes by hand, and layaway plans.
Love is spiritual; a scared village, the spirit’s libation, broken history, and love is migration love is food stamps, government cheese, grits with sugar, and collard greens love is the sand between my toes.
Love is the prize at the bottom of the crackerjack box, love is hopscotch, and double-dutch love is afro-puffs, two French braids and your first French kiss love is overtime, colored easter eggs, Santa Claus tales, and hand-me-downs.
Love is that switch from the tree, love is praying hands and bended knees love is loud, silent, large, small, and intriguingly complex —Love is Proud love is scarred backs and stubborn roots —old hymns and sung negro spirituals.
Love is “I told you so” love is easy like Sunday morning love is Betty Wright, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Patti LaBelle; a brilliant collaboration of lyrical hands fighting for the same devotion because love is Soul Train.
Love is rich soil to the soul love is fearless laughter, getting up at 6am, sleepless nights, untold stories and second chances love is the ancestors’ wisdom —the great orator and the greatest debater.
Love is underestimated, yet chosen love is fierce; righteously angry, patient, and sacrificial — it is the caged bird singing love is the paint, painter, and work of art.
Love is a savior —the hero’s journey Love is amazing grace Love is wealth, life, and death.
Love is not weak; it bows down to no one yet surrenders itself to everyone by its own authority — love is badass. Every time I close my eyes, I witness love.
Love is distinctively woven into the fabric of our being. experienced through the ordinary each day
Today wraps up our poet spotlight for the 4th Annual Poetry Contest. I want to thank everyone who has participated and supported our poets this year. If you want to help coordinate or sponsor next year’s contest, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hosting these contests, but I can’t do it without your help.
Congratulations again to all our poets!!
You can find their bios on the dedicated page for year four.
“Beginning in about 1890 and continuing until 1968, white Americans established thousands of towns across the United States for whites only. Many towns drove out their black populations, then posted sundown signs.” – James W. Lowen
When I first published this article in 2017, I got much controversy about it. I didn’t take it personally for two reasons. First, very little literature covers sundown towns, and not much is said about it in the limited topics covered during black history month.
The other reason is, although these towns were known as sundown towns, the people of the town did not call it that. It was only a well-known fact that some blacks were not allowed in some towns, and if they visited, they had better leave before the sun sets or risk lynching. Therefore, when I wrote about it, some people thought I was making it up.
This past week, I posted this image to my Instagram, and I was surprised to see how many more people had not heard of this. For this reason, today, we are revisiting our black history fun fact on sundown towns.
“Is it true that ‘Anna’ stands for ‘Ain’t No Niggers Allowed’?” I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee. “Yes,” the clerk replied. “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy. And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.” “I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied. “That’s sad.”—conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October 2001.
Anna, Illinois, was named after the daughter of the town’s founder but got its more derogatory name after the 1909 lynching of a black man in Cairo, IL, and the mob of angry white citizens who drove out Anna’s 40 or so black families following the lynching. It is at this point that Anna, IL became a sundown town.
A sundown town is a town with an exclusive population of non-whites on purpose. They are towns with overwhelming populations of non-whites and are so deliberately. Sundown towns were also known as “Sunset Towns.”
“A sundown town town is an organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus “all-white” on purpose.”
Side Note: In the black community, black kids are constantly warned to “come in the house when the street lights come on,” so many of us had to be in the house before the sunset. I wonder if Sundown Towns had something to do with this. Not to say black parents are the only ones with this command, but it’s food for thought.
Although signs were posted, forced exclusion was also implemented:
“There were also race riots in which white mobs attacked black neighborhoods, burning, looting, and killing. Across America, at least 50 towns, and probably many more than that, drove out their African American populations violently. At least 16 did so in Illinois alone. In the West, another 50 or more towns drove out their Chinese American populations. Many other sundown towns and suburbs used violence to keep out blacks or, sometimes, other minorities.”
– America’s Black Holocaust Museum, James W. Loewen, PhD; Fran Kaplan, EdD; and Robert Smith, PhD
Sundown towns began after slavery and the Civil War when blacks left the plantations and poured into every city and corner of the country. This was followed by the system we know as Jim Crow.
Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern and northern United States to keep blacks in a state of servitude. It included having to look down and step to the side when a white person walked by, drinking from separate water fountains, entering the rear of the bus, sitting in the balcony of the movie theater (which came to be known as “Nigger Heaven,”), attending separate schools, and more.
While Jim Crow and segregation are most notably known as a southern practice (“The Jim Crow South”), it also existed in the north. In fact, many parts of the north were more segregated than the south, and when it comes to Sundown Towns, these communities mainly existed in the north as the Great Migration brought floods of blacks into northern cities. Many suburbs to this day are mostly white because they were either part of redlining -the systematic denial of various services to black residents either explicitly or through the selective raising of prices – or its white residents ran its black residents out of town, and the descendants of those people kept it that way.
I’ll use Chicago as an example, still one of the most segregated cities in America. Yes, I said Chicago. Remember, we started this conversation with Anna (“Ain’t No Negroes Allowed”), Illinois.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Chicago in 1966 due to the high poverty rate in black neighborhoods and rented an apartment on the west side. He was there as part of what he would call The Poor People’s Campaign and the Freedom Movement. On August 5, 1966, King led a march through Cicero, an all-white district, and was hit in the head with a rock by members of the angry mob.
Years later (the early 80s), my brother-in-law and his friends would be chased out of this same area, racial slurs hitting their backs as they rode their bikes out of Cicero.
This statue below is of Orville Hubbard, which sits outside of the City Hall in Dearborn, Michigan, was the cause of much controversy when people started to learn more about his past.
Hubbard was the mayor of the then all-white suburban town outside of Detroit from 1942 to 1978 and, in a 1969 speech acquired by the New York Times, said that “If whites didn’t want to live with N–they sure didn’t have to.” He went on to say this was a free country, and this was America.
“City police cars bore the slogan ‘Keep Dearborn Clean,’ which was a catch phrase meaning ‘Keep Dearborn White,’ ” according to David Good, a lifelong resident of the city who is the author of ‘‘Orvie: The Dictator of Dearborn,” a biography of Mayor Hubbard.
“Out here in Dearborn where some real Ku Klux Klans live. I know Dearborn, you know I’m from Detroit, used to live out there in Easten. And you had to go through Dearborn to get to Easten. Just like riding through Mississippi once you got to Dearborn.” – Malcolm X
Over time the name “Sundown-town” faded, but Sundown Suburbs still exist. A sundown suburb is a discrete way in which Sundown-towns live today when large white populations migrate to the suburban part of the city with the express purpose of separating themselves from the minority population. We can see this in our Cicero example.
An Instagram video inspired today’s post, where a group of young black people engaged in a debate about whether light skin blacks are treated better than dark skin blacks. This debate spun out of control and eventually led to a full-blown argument that made it difficult for the viewer to comprehend what each party said. In the young people’s voice was a lot of hurt and pain. The caption on the video read: “Does Light-Skin Privilege Exist in America?”
Not to bestow to Willie Lynch any gift of prophecy, but when he said to “pitch the light-skin slave against the dark-skin slave and the dark-skin slave against the light skin-slave,” it was as if he c-sectioned the calendar and saw color bias in black people’s future.
Even if one does not wholly believe The Willie Lynch Letter is entirely accurate, one cannot ignore the Black community’s divisions based on skin color in a way that is strangely accurate to William’s letter. To add to this, Willie Lynch did not say these divisions will help for a few days, weeks, and months. In 1712, William Lynch said that if implemented “properly,” slave owners could expect these divisions to keep the blacks mentally enslaved and divided for generations.
It is 2021, but skin-tone is still an important physical characteristic among some black people that sometimes cause divisions in the black community. Historically, people immediately noticed a black person’s skin-tone and recognized it as a critical component in joining churches, fraternities and sororities, and other social interactions. Throughout history, variations in skin tone have reflected social status and hierarchies. The most notable social experiment was the paper bag test, used widely among African Americans to determine inclusion in certain activities and groups.
The Brown Paper Bag Test
The Brown Paper Bag Test, known widely as “The Paper bag Test,” was a form of racial discrimination practiced within the African-American community in the 20th century by comparing an individual’s skin tone to a brown color paper bag.
If a person’s skin tone matched or was lighter than the brown bag, they would be more likely to be accepted than a person whose skin tone was darker than the paper bag.
Many famous black clubs and social organizations used this test to determine membership, including churches and employers.
The Lighter the Skin, the Better the Chances
In Spike Lee’s movie, School Daze, two groups of black sorority women are at odds over which group’s hair and skin color are best. In the film, the Gamma Rays had to be “paper bag light.”
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Brown Paper Bag Test
A letter from 1928, written by sophomore Edward H. Taylor, at Howard University discusses the Alpha Kappa Alpha brown paper bag test and colorism. Watch the Yard details the statements made in the student newspaper “The Hilltop.” Watch the Yard said the article:
“accused fraternities of “splitting the various classes into groups of different shades — yellow, brown, and black.” According to Taylor, “The light-skinned students are sought after by the fraternities and sororities, particularly the latter, as members and the dark ones passed by. The darker brown students then form their own cliques while the blacks are left in the cold.”
Jack and Jill Brown Paper Bag Test
Jack and Jill of America was established in 1938 with a mission of “nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving, and civic duty.”
But an article from the Pittsburg Courier says Jack and Jill has seen its share of negative press from the Black community over the last 81 years. Similar to African-American sororities and fraternities, in the early years, Jack and Jill had a reputation of only being for elite “light-skinned Blacks”. The article says:
“some Blacks saw it as open only to those who had ‘good hair’ and were able to pass ‘the paper-bag test.’”
Resumes Used to Emphasize “Light Colored”
Nadra Kareen Little from ThoughtCo. discussed colorism in her article about skin tone discrimination. The article said:
“Colorism didn’t disappear after the institution of slavery ended in the U.S. In black America, those with light skin received employment opportunities off-limits to darker-skinned blacks. This is why upper-class families in black society were largely light-skinned.”
Her article mentions a writer Brent Staples who discovered this while searching newspaper archives near the Pennsylvania town where he grew up. She said:
“In the 1940s, he noticed, Black job seekers often identified themselves as light-skinned. Cooks, chauffeurs, and waitresses sometimes listed ‘light colored’ as the primary qualification—ahead of experience, references, and the other important data. They did it to improve their chances and to reassure white employers who…found dark skin unpleasant or believed that their customers would.”
Article from the NY Times that gave an example of a job ad from the 1950s that specifically requested applicants with light-colored skin.
“The owner of Chock full o’ Nuts, a white man named William Black, advertised in the tabloids for ‘light colored counter help.’
Advertising jobs for people with lighter skin or “Eurocentric” features is no longer legal or acceptable when doing business, but research shows that these preferences still play a role in our society. The same NY Times article reported that:
“Researchers tell us that it affects how people vote; who appears in Hollywood movies and television news shows; who gets hired and promoted in corporate America; and even who gets executed for murder.”
“Passing is a deception that enables a person to adopt certain roles or identities from which prevailing social standards would bar him in the absence of his misleading conduct. The classic racial passer in the United States has been the “white Negro:” the individual whose physical appearance allows him to present himself as “white” but whose “black” lineage makes him a Negro according to dominant racial rules.”
– Randall Kennedy, Racial Passing
Racial passing was a common practice among lighter-skinned African Americans and is the focal point of book two of The Stella Trilogy, where Stella changes her name to Sidney McNair, marries a white man, and has biracial children whom she raises as white. This narrative is taken directly from historical accounts of light-skin blacks (mixed or not) passing and living their lives as Europeans.
As a child of a white mother and a light-skinned black man, Gregory Howard Williams was a person who assumed that he was white because his parents pretended to be white. Not until he was ten years old, when his parents divorced, did Williams and his brother learn that they were black.
Many lighter-skinned blacks pretended or classified themselves as white in the US, which gave them access to the rights and opportunities that other blacks could not enjoy. In the image we see here, Dr. Albert Johnston passed to practice medicine. After living as leading citizens in Keene, N.H., the Johnstons revealed their true racial identity and became national news.
For Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs, a similar situation occurred where she discovered a cousin she had never met. This cousin lived in California as a white woman from her mother’s instruction, who sent her away from Chicago many years ago. The mother thought her daughter would have the best chance of success living as a white woman.
“She was black, but she looked white,” Hobbs said. “And her mother decided it was in her best interest to move far away from Chicago, to Los Angeles, and to assume the life of a white woman.”
This came around and bit the mother when her husband died and her daughter, now fully immersed in her life, said that she would not attend the funeral, saying, “I can’t. I’m a white woman now.”
The most famous instance is probably art imitating life in the 1934 film “Imitation of Life,” starring Fredi Washington playing a black woman who passes as white. They made this movie at a time where passing was a widespread practice for fair-skinned blacks. They remade this film in 1959.
Colorism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group, where lighter-skin is treated more favorably than darker skin. The brown paper bag test was used to determine who was acceptable and not based on colorism or color bias. When darker-skinned blacks bleach their skins or attempt to look lighter for the special treatment given to lighter skin (such as to join an organization), it is like passing.
While this is fading as dark skin is becoming more and more appreciated, that video of those young people arguing is proof there is still some work to do.
In the latest Mixed-Ish episode, Johan (pronounced Yohan) allowed his peers to think he was Mexican, thus passing for Mexican. Alicia’s sister Denise’s remark that Rainbow’s parents had indirectly caused this by living in a community where race, specifically blackness, was not discussed or considered has some truth to it. People think that by saying, “I don’t see race,” this is a compliment, but it is not. The one who does not see race also does not see racism.
“You all taught that poor boy of being ashamed of being black. You took him to that commune where…nobody talked about race, and that taught him not to be proud of his blackness.”
Why is there truth to this? Because one cannot be proud of what one does not know exists. If Johan does not know what it means to be black and all his people’s rich experiences, how can he see the shame in not telling his peers who he really is? Johan allowed his peers to think he was Mexican because he does not fully understand who he is as a black boy.
[Side Note: Can someone explain to me why they chose The Color Purple as the movie to help a black boy understand blackness? I can think of tons of movies from the 80s that are better suited to teach blackness to black children. The Color Purple ain’t one of them. They could have put on Cornbread, Earl, and Me.]
It turned out the kid who called Johan the racist Mexican slur was also black. This is another example of color bias within the African American community. Now, whether the child understood Johan to be black reflects the school system and the lack of representation of black people and black history. Contrary to the popular myth, not all light-skinned black people are mixed. Blacks produce a variety of skin-tones within the race, but that is a topic for a different day.
All Black is Beautiful
Today, “Blackness” (black skin) is promoted in pop culture. I hate to say it this way, but “dark-skin is in.”
With actresses like Daniel Kaluuya and Lupita Amondi Nyong’o, people once looked down on for being “ugly” for their dark skin tone (“too dark”) are now looked upon as being sexy, beautiful, and exotic. Dark skin is now socially acceptable, highly praised, and elevated, among many now seeing the beauty of brown skin.
While this is not a bad thing, the hope is that it has not become some fad in which dark-skin is fetishized. We would not want a reversal of the paper bag test in which light-skinned blacks are looked down on in the way dark-skinned blacks have always been. Blackness is not a trend that goes in and out of style and should not be treated as such.
The message here should be that all black is beautiful, no matter the shade.
I love entrepreneurship. I talk about it. I live it. I stand behind it. I encourage all people, especially black people, to go on and do it if it is within their means to do so. If you’ve ever had a desire to own your own business, I say to go for it.
Here are some black-owned communities that prospered to get your blood pumping.
Free Blacks of Israel Hill
This community was the inspiration for the backstory of Renaissance: The Nora White Story. Nora is a descendent of the free blacks of Israel Hill. It is how her father Gideon inherited five acres of land and why, although Nora’s not very impressed, they’re doing well financially compared to those around them. It was during my trip to New Mexico in 2016 while reading Melvin Patrick Ely’s book Israel on The Appomattox, winner of THE BANCROFT PRIZE, A New York Times Book Review, and Atlantic Monthly Editors’ Choice that the first inklings of the back story emerged.
The community was settled in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1810-1811 by ninety formerly enslaved persons. These slaves (now freedmen) received freedom and 350 acres from Judith Randolph under the will of her husband, Richard Randolph. These Israelites and other free Blacks worked as farmers, craftspeople, and Appomattox River boatmen. Some labored alongside whites for equal wages, and the family of early settler Hercules White bought and sold real estate in Farmville. Israel Hill remained a vibrant black community into the twentieth century.
The Rosewood community came back into people’s consciousness when John Singleton made a movie for it starring Ving Rhames in 1997. The quiet town prospered in 1870 when a railway depot was set up to transport the abundant red cedar, from which the town got its name, from Rosewood to a pencil factory in cedar key. By 1900 it was predominantly Black with a school, turpentine mill, baseball team, general store, and sugarcane mill. The community had two dozen plank two-story homes, some other small houses, and several small unoccupied plank structures.
There was much revelation during my New Mexico trip. During that time, I learned of Blackdom, another little-known Black community about 18 miles southwest of Roswell, New Mexico, and was founded by Frank and Ella Boyer. Walking 2,000 miles on foot from Georgia to New Mexico, Boyer left his wife and children behind to cultivate land in the West’s free territory before sending his family some three years later. At this time in history, Blacks had begun migrating from the south in significant numbers in a movement called “The Great Exodus” following the Homestead Act of 1862, particularly in Kansas. Henry was a wagoner in the American-Mexican war when he first set eyes on the New Mexico land. The Artesian Water sprang in abundance as more and more blacks were invited and nourished on the land. Blackdom had its own school and post office.
Mound Bayou, MS
The first all-black town in Mississippi, Mound Bayou was founded by two former slaves, Isaiah Montgomery and his cousin, Benjamin Green. In December of 1886, according to a Cleveland Mississippi article of July 1887, Montgomery and Green bought 840 acres of land from the Louisville-New Orleans & Texas Railroad for $7 an acre. That acreage would serve as the site of Mound Bayou.
The men were successful, reaching a population of 4,000 people (99.6 percent black) by 1907. The community had a train depot, a bank, a post office, numerous thriving industries, various stores and eateries, a newspaper, a telephone exchange, and, eventually, a hospital. Mound Bayou was a flourishing community.
Nicodemus Township in Graham County, Kansas
This town was founded in 1877 by seven members, six of whom were Black along the south fork of the Solomon River. Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave and Underground Railroad conductor, helped produce the “Kansas Fever” of the late 1870s. Tens of thousands of African Americans left their homes headed for Singleton’s Cherokee County colony or Nicodemus, in Graham County, Kansas.
Promoted as the “Promised Land” throughout the south, founders hosted visits by potential settlers. By 1879 the town’s population stood at about 700.
The All-Black Community of Boley, Oklahoma
The all-black community of Boley, OK, was founded in 1904. With Railroad access and land that helped, Boley became one of at least 20 Black towns in Oklahoma to thrive. By 1907, it had at least 1,000 residents, and twice that many farmers settled outside of town. There were several businesses and an industrial school.
Fort, Mose, Florida
Located just north of St. Augustine, Fort Mose was the first free black settlement in what is now the United States. King Charles II of Spain issued what would become one of the first proclamations that any male slave on an English Plantation who escaped to Spanish Florida would be granted freedom if he joined the Militia and converted to catholicism. We see this a lot throughout history. Whether we are talking Catholicism, Islam, or Christianity, none of these religions had anything to do with the black man, woman, and child’s natural Israelite way of life (Muhammad converted blacks to Islam a thousand years before the Europeans came with Christianity.)
In any event, by 1738, there were hundreds of blacks, mostly runaways from the Carolinas, living in what became Fort Mose. They were skilled workers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cattlemen, boatmen, and farmers. They created a colony of freed people with accompanying women and children that ultimately attracted other fugitive slaves.
There were over twenty black communities in Oklahoma.
Greenwood, a neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma, was one of the most successful and wealthiest black communities in the United States during the early 20th Century. It was popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” due to its financial success that mirrored Wall Street. During the oil boom of the 1910s, which gained the town such titles as “Oil Capital of the World”, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood. Home to several prominent Black business people, the community held many multimillionaires.
Greenwood had grocery stores, clothing stores, barbershops, banks, hotels, cafes, movie theaters, two newspapers, and many contemporary homes. The dollar circulated thirty-six to one-hundred times, which means that sometimes it took up to a year before the dollar left the community. To put this in perspective: today, the black dollar leave the black community in fifteen minutes.
This week, I spoke briefly on Dr. George Cleveland Hall, for whom the Hall Public Library in Chicago is named. I talked about the Hall Branch as the place I got my first library card and all the historical things I didn’t know that happened there. To read this post, click here.
Today, we are digging a little deeper into this man’s background, Dr. George Cleveland Hall.
As I dug into his story, I found Hall was a pretty big deal, and I am surprised there isn’t more information on him because this man was phenomenal and a significant influence on Chicago.
Dr. George Cleveland Hall was born on February 22, 1864. Not only was Cleveland a doctor, but he was also head of the Urban League and “one of the five founding members and the first president of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), currently known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).” (William Smither)
In 1886, Hall graduated from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and studied medicine at Bennett Medical College and in 1896 graduated from Harvey Medical College.
Cleveland was a surgeon at Provident Hospital, the first private hospital in the state of Illinois to provide internship opportunities for black physicians, the first to establish a school of nursing to train black women, one of the first black hospitals to offer postgraduate courses and residences for black physicians, and the first black hospital approved by the American College of Surgeons for full graduate training in surgery.
In 1911 Cleveland founded the Cook County Physicians’ Association of Chicago, the organization of black doctors in the city.
But Dr. Hall’s significant influence on Chicago was not just about his expertise in the medical field. He is actually most known for his civic duty and grassroots work. In 1915, he joined Carter G. Woodson and others in the founding of the ASALH at the Wabash YMCA in historical Bronzeville.
I cannot believe I have not heard of Dr. Hall before. His contribution to black history and medicine is groundbreaking. He is right up there with Carter G. Woodson and then some. Hall also had a close relationship with Booker T. Washington.
Cleveland received two honorary degrees, one from Lincoln University for Doctors of Laws and another from Howard for Doctor of Science. He became the first black Chicagoan appointed to the board of directors for the Chicago Public Library.
Dr. George Cleveland Hall died at sixty-six in 1930.
On January 18, 1932, Chicago city officials dedicated the George Cleveland Hall Library to Dr. Hall, the first full-service library on the city’s Southside.
This is the same library where I received my first library card.