I want my truth
I want customs and traditions
without being conditioned
I want unconditioned
I want my stuff.
I want my Kings and Queens
my silver and my gold
I want my laws and commandments and my stories
I want do-overs
for how we’ve been done over
I want my children re-educated
Give me raised fists
and two-parent households.
I want functioning Black family units,
Afros, Black power, curly hair
and I want my cocoa butter skin.
I want credit for all my skills.
I want my midwives
I want my tribes
I want my inventions before you re-invented them.
I want Lewis Howard Latimer
not Thomas Edison.
I want my covenants renewed
I want my 40 acres and a mule.
I want my land rich as I left it
I want my spirituality accepted
I want my names changed back
I want my Proverbs and freedom songs
and I want my Moses Black.
I want what you stole from me
I want King Solomon Black and comely.
I want it all back.
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.
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.)
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 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.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, paperback edition
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.
There are tons of Black History memes circulating on the internet and this number has increased even more due to it being Black History Month. However, many of these memes are not historically accurate. Please be sure to double check your facts before sharing. (For example, it is not accurate to say that anyone born in the 19th, or 20th centuries invented heat. Heat has been around for far longer) Otherwise, you are guilty of spreading disinformation. All it takes is a quick Google search. Also, Wikipedia is not a credible source by itself. Anything acquired from Wiki need to be validated by other trusted sources. A good rule of thumb is to look for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on .gov, .edu, or .org sites and trustworthy blogs. Peer-reviewed means information from a reputable source, information that indicates that other professionals have reviewed and deemed it worthy of publication. Black people have contributed greatly to the world so that we really don’t have to make stuff up. If you see a meme with a fun fact on it just open the internet on your phone and type the name or fact into the search bar. You can tell from there if the info is accurate or not. Sometimes it will even come up that the fact cannot be validated but is a popular opinion. Put those research skills to work and educate the people right.
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!
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.
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.
Before you abandon your blogs to turn up tonight (tee hee), I’d like to introduce our schedule for this year. First, I’d like to thank and welcome our newbies and our die-hard supporters, the people who like our every post and share on social media. You guys are awesome and I do not take your contributions to the growth of The PBS Blog for granted. If you are new to this blog, please be sure to take this time to look around and familiarize yourself with the place. There are four years worth of material here to help you get to know me better and my writing.
Bloggers and Blogging
If you are not sure how the blog works or if you are thinking of starting a blog of your own, I invite you to visit the Blog Tips page HEREwhere I have archived my tips on blogging. I highly recommend you skim through them if you are new to the WordPress platform and are thinking to start a blog of your own (new writers, blogging is a great way to connect with readers!)
Writers and Writing
If you are a writer (especially an Independent writer) and you are looking for encouragement, resources or a better understanding of writing from an Independent/Self-Publishing perspective, I invite you to visit the Writer Tips and Resources page HEREwhere I have archived my tips on all things writerly and links to resources from others (particularly those more knowledgeable in the field.)
I will publish reviews of books I’ve read to this blog again. I have not been as consistent as I was in 2017 (because of amazon‘s constantly changing review policies and my constantly changing schedule) but I am back on it dagone it. You can view my new policy here. (Does not apply to books I read on my own for leisure, just review requests.)
2018 has been a year of self-reflection, self-understanding and focus. This means that I intentionally focused on myself. Not in a selfish way but in a way where I can better understand me in order to help you. Long story short, in 2019 I will be refocusing on my services to others, armed with the fresh revelations that have come from getting to know myself better. I want to do more for aspiring authors, new bloggers, writers and the like. I am excited and motivated with the drive and desire to serve.
Now, let’s get to the point so you can get out of here.
While I have segments going on throughout the week to keep this blog afloat, this is not a niche blog. Meaning, I do not just post about one thing. Do know this schedule does not include any random, off topic posting I may do when I just feel like writing.
Everything starts back up next week, 1/7 – 1/11
Introduce Yourself Author Interviews – I will keep Mondays open for author interviews. To learn more about how to get featured on this blog, CLICK HERE.
No Whining Wednesday – No Whining Wednesday will continue with quotes and empowering notes that help to keep you from whining, criticizing, or complaining! Learn more about NWW HERE (scroll down for the archived articles or follow the No Whining Wednesday tag).
Throwback Thursday – I miss how we used to jam ya’ll! Throwback Thursday will be in full swing next week. Throwback Thursday is when I post old school music videos to the blog. I have 3 categories so everyone gets a lil something something from it.
1. Throwback Jams (old school music the 80s on back)
2. 90s Throwback Jams (jams from the 90s, obviously)
3. and Early 2000 Jams (music from the early 2000’s)
Black History Fun Fact Friday – Throwback Thursday Jams and Black History Fun Facts are the most popular on this blog so they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Black History Fun Facts will return in full swing. (I have written tons of Black History articles on this blog that should keep you busy reading if you are new to PBS. CLICK HERE.) I noticed we dragged a bit in 2018 so I need to step it up in 2019. There’s been a lot of talk about The Year of Return (1619-2019 makes 400-years for Blacks in the America’s per captivity) I may just start the year off talking about that.
Not included is poetry because I don’t have a special day for this. I will continue to publish poetry pretty much whenever I feel like it. If you would like listen to my poems, subscribe to my YouTube Channel HERE. I also host an Annual Poetry Contest, founded in 2017. We have had two amazingly talented winners so far and some outstanding runner-ups and it’s almost time to get things started for our 3rd Annual Contest!
The PBS Blog now contains affiliate links. This means should you purchase anything from these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to keep this blog up and running. I will never link to something I haven’t personally used or disliked so don‘t be shy, click on the book cover to this month‘s featured book (Michelle Obama‘s Becoming) in the sidebar and thank you for your support!