History and Healing: February 7, 2021
Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard (1912), after spending his youth struggling to get an education. Born poor in New Canton, Virginia, back then, schools for Black students were, typically, only open for 4 or 5 months out of the year, as their labor was needed in the fields and it was needed to help their families survive financially. Some rural areas didn’t even have upper grade school levels or high schools for Blacks, and despite the desperate pleas of Black people for a decent education, the powers that were then, could not have cared less. (As one strategy to educate their children, many Black parents in the south organized and literally built their own schools—which will be the subject of a later History and Healing podcast...)
Woodson's parents, who were formerly enslaved people, had lacked access to education themselves--but rejoiced in their freedom and encouraged and inspired their son to get an education. Ultimately, he was able to pursue his education in earnest when he moved to West Virginia. Woodson went on to become an extraordinary intellect and educator who understood the vital need to preserve the history of Black people, lest it be degraded, sullied, and diminished by other oppressive forces. A tireless educator who wrote books and journal articles of strong academic rigor, amazingly, Dr. Woodson did not enter high school in West Virginia until he was 19 years old. Understanding the importance of a good education, from there, however, he attended Berea College in Kentucky (Class of 1903), before enrolling at the University of Chicago where he received a second bachelor's and a master's degree before becoming only the second African American to earn a doctorate (history, Class of 1912) at Harvard in 1912. (Dr. W.E.B. DuBois was the first in 1895.) Dr. Woodson was a member of Omega Psi Phi.
Woodson wrote the classic work, The Miseducation of the Negro (as well as over 30 other books and many articles) in 1933--a book that has stood the test of time and still reads like it could have been written yesterday in terms of its content and ultimate wisdom. Woodson is considered the “Father of Black History.” He is the progenitor of Black History Month (formerly Negro History Week which began in 1926), and one of the founders of the Association for the Study of Negro (now African American) Life and History, which is still going strong today. The Association, which continues to publish the Journal of Black History, formerly the Journal of Negro History, (1916), undertakes the “scientific study” of “neglected aspects of Negro life and history,” and Woodson was inspired to undertake this study by Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community. The founders of the Association wanted to firmly establish “...that people of African descent had contributed significantly to the making of civilization and the movement of history.” Other founders included Dr. George Cleveland Hall (see below), William B. Hartgrove (a high school teacher from Washington, D.C.) Alexander L. Jackson (director of the Wabash YMCA in Chicago), and James E. Stamps (a Yale-trained economist).
During his life, Dr. Woodson held several jobs, including Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University, Academic Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State University, but he was happiest and most comfortable with his entrepreneurial and non-profit pursuits that advanced the history of Black people. As one can imagine, back then, nothing came easy for Dr. Woodson, but he, like many other Blacks, persevered with the full understanding that he had crucial and important contributions to make to his people, this society, and the world--and so he did. His own history is stunning in terms of his achievements, far too many to mention here, but one would do well to study this brilliant man's life. Dr. Woodson died in 1950, but his name is (very deservedly) emblazoned on many an institution, including many public schools, a museum in Florida, the Carter G. Woodson Library of Malcolm X College in Chicago, and the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education at his alma mater, Berea College. His Washington, DC home is also a National Historic Site.
The massive Woodson Regional Library at 95th and Halsted in Chicago is named for Dr. Woodson; and it houses the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, the largest Black history and literature collection in the Midwest. Interestingly, the Hall Branch Library, at 48th and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, is named after another one of the Association’s founders, Dr. George Cleveland Hall. This culturally rich library branch was a meeting place for many extraordinary writers and poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Langston Hughes!)
(Dr. George Cleveland Hall, was a surgeon, with a strong civic life, who was also the head of the Chicago Urban League. Dr. Hall worked as the Chief of Staff at Chicago's Provident Hospital in gynecology and as a surgeon. Provident, now a part of the Cook County Health System, was founded by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, the first physician to successfully perform open heart surgery. It was founded as a training ground for Black health professionals--most of whom were refused training at white institutions.)
The celebrated poet, Langston Hughes (1902-1967), worked as an assistant to Dr. Woodson. At that point in his life, Hughes had dropped out of Columbia University (much to the chagrin of his father) and was working odd jobs as he wrote his poetry. His job was primarily to help Dr. Woodson with a project called, Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830. Also, in The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol. 1: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing, America, Arnold Rampersad, wrote about the 22-year-old Langston: “...fired the furnace early in the morning, dusted the furniture, sorted mail, answered some pieces himself, wrapped and mailed books, banked the furnace at night, and, when his employer was away, supervised the entire office.”
Hughes wrote that Dr. Woodson was an indefatigable man who took his work very seriously. He wrote that, once Dr. Woodson returned early from a trip and discovered Hughes and other assistants playing cards. Disappointed, Dr. Woodson lectured them on purpose and responsibility to the race. Ultimately, Hughes moved on, and he wrote in his autobiography, The Big Sea: “Although I realized what a fine contribution Dr. Woodson was making to the Negro people and America, I personally didn’t like the work I had to do. Besides, it hurt my eyes.” Sounds like a 22-year-old! ?
For more on Harriet Tubman, please scroll down to the bottom of the page and see a section on Harriet Tubman (including a video) from January 4th!
History and Healing: January 30, 2021
Just a minimal understanding of how white mobs have operated in the face of Black progress or advancement could have laid a foundation so that no one would have been surprised by the insurrectionist behavior of the white mob at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Listen in on a brief presentation about the ways just a few of the many, many, MANY white mobs have behaved in America. From 1866, just after the Civil War, to the 1898 Wilmington, NC coup d’etat, to a brief examination of attempts to integrate public schools, and communities in Chicago, this podcast conveys the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mob action that has been deployed to terrorize Black people/communities in this country.
History and Healing Podcast Episode 1: Week of January 14, 2021
"We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy today...is largely due to the brave stand taken by the Black sons of Haiti." Frederick Douglass
Happy New Year! Let Your New Year Be Revolutionary--Learn More About
The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)
Haiti declared itself free on January 1, 1804, and, on that day, they became the first independent, free Black nation in the Western Hemisphere! The brilliant men who waged the Haitian Revolution deeply inspired enslaved American Blacks. This podcast is about how the Haitians, on the tiny little island of Hispaniola, defeated the heralded military leader, Napoleon, and his "mighty" French Army. The podcast is also about how, most unfortunately, the Haitians, by ejecting that previously feared colonizing force, have been punished by western powers, including the United States, ever since. All hail Haiti. ??
But first: WooHoo! We are rid of Trump, but do NOT be deceived! His acolytes are many and they are raging--searching for a fight. It is not that these people love Trump; it is that Trump has opened up a lane--a wide lane--for them to be themselves. So, let us fortify ourselves with knowledge!
Let's start the New Year by examining why Haiti should be revered, and by examining the real reasons why westerners vilify Haiti. There is a lot to be learned and gained by studying the courage and strength of Haiti.
Remember when Trump made that ignorant and appalling comment about Haiti—the tiny nation that is often maligned by White people, especially those representing western power. Remember when, after a devastating 2010 earthquake, Pat Robertson claimed, that Haiti has been “cursed” by one thing after another because, according to him, the Haitians made “a pact to the devil” to gain their independence from their French colonizers?
Trump, like Robertson back then, dredged up some of the vile nonsense that has been used to denigrate Haiti ever since the people there had the audacity to brilliantly fight White people to get free. The truth is that the history of Haiti is something to behold, for in the process of getting free the Haitians defeated Spain, Britain, and France to gain their freedom.
It is impossible to tell the glorious history of the Haitian Revolution in a short writing, so I will just make a few important points. I will start by saying, at the time of the Haitian uprising, Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, was called Saint Domingue. Originally, it had been conquered by Spain, but it fell into the hands of the French, so that by the time of the slave rebellion it was a colony of France, which is why many Haitians speak French to this day.
Saint Domingue was a “sugar colony” where Black enslaved people performed extremely difficult labor under inhumane and indecent conditions. Saint Domingue was called “The Eden of the Western World” and “The Pearl of the Antilles” because it was the wealthiest, most profitable colony in the world—producing almost half of the sugar and coffee consumed in Europe and in the Americas, as well as other products. It generated anywhere from approximately two-fifths to two-thirds of France’s world trade income. (There were about 8000 plantations in Haiti.) So, it was highly coveted by western powers.
But why is Haiti so maligned? Think back to your elementary and high school days and what you learned about the hey-day of the French military. You likely learned that Napoleon Bonaparte was the “baddest” military “genius” walking the face of the planet at that time, right? Well, guess what? Under the extraordinary military genius of, first, a Black man named Toussaint L’Ouverture, and then a Black man named Jean-Jacques Dessalines (who declared “Haiti” free in 1804), Haiti infuriated, frustrated, and ultimately defeated and vanquished Napoleon’s forces—thereby embarrassing France and White folks. The battles were brutal and many lives were lost, but in the end, the Haitian Revolution represented an astonishing achievement that reverberated all over the world. It was a serious blow to the notion of “White Supremacy; and western White powers have been incensed ever since.
So, how could the fact that the Haitians defeated Napoleon, Spain, and England be explained to the satisfation of White people? Well, it is said that the night before the slave rebellion, the Haitian leaders participated in a Voodeaux or Voudou ceremony. You call it “voodoo,” but it is really Voudou (or Vodou) which is translated to mean “Spirit.” It is impossible to discuss something as complicated and sophisticated as Voudou in a few sentences. In fact, it is difficult to discuss it as one religious order, because it takes many forms. So, let me say that during the slave trade, as you know, African peoples were dropped off in Europe, North America, Central America, and South America in what is known as the African Diaspora (Diaspora meaning the movement or scattering of a people from their ancestoral homeland).
So, Haitian Voudou, Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Candomble, and Jamaican Revival Zion were (and continue to be) legitimate religious systems practiced by African people, in different parts of the world, who were attempting to preserve their own indigenous religious traditions and beliefs while being forced to take on the religious traditions of their captors. So, through a process called syncretism, what you see in Voudou are indigenous West African religious beliefs intermingled with elements of Roman Catholicism and even some Native American beliefs; and a lot of the symbolism in Voudou and Catholicism is the same. Voudou has spiritual, cultural, and social relevance to Haitians, and yes it is tied to their revolutionary struggle. Today, the country is about 80% Roman Catholic, and some say it is 100% Voudou!
So, because the Haitians practiced Voudou, and outsiders did not understand it, and since the Haitians defeated the Spanish, English, and French, many white people considered it the religion or spirit of resistance, and they sought to demonize it and make others think Haitians were wild people running around practicing so-called “Black Arts.” They were hoping that whatever the Haitians were doing, it would not be used to help other Blacks gain their freedom. In reality, the Haitians were men and women of tremendous faith who believed they had the right to be free. So, they sought to, and did, liberate themselves.
Now, in truth, practically everyone who has seriously studied Haiti walks away with the unmistakable understanding that the real reason Haiti has suffered what Randall Robinson calls “an unbroken agony” is because in the process of winning their freedom, the Haitians contributed mightily to the destruction of the fundamental tenets that slavery rested upon in the first place, including the notions of Whites supremacy and superiority.
The Haitians also inspired Black people throughout the Americas (and the world) who were still in bondage and helped them believe that they, too, could get free. It is said that many of the slave uprisings in the United States and in the rest of the Americas, were inspired, in part, by the Haitian Revolution, including the ones staged by Denmark Vesey (1822) and Nat Turner (1831). These rebellions were ultimately unsuccessful, but they rocked slaveholders to the core.
Other things that injured Haiti include the fact that, in defeat, the French demanded that Haiti pay them enormous sums of money, including 150 million francs, and Haiti paid France in an attempt to have a place in the international commercial community. So, Haiti paid reparations to the French for beating them! However, after the Haitian Revolution, Europe imposed a trade blockade against the country for many years, the United States did not recognize Haiti as an independent republic until 1862, and the US military occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 with some very horrific consequences for Haiti.
I could go on and on about the ways Haiti has been punished by western powers—but it is not because of some pact with the devil, it is because they had the audacity to liberate themselves. Frederick Douglass, who, from 1889 to 1891, served as Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti, said, “Haiti is Black and we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being Black.”
All Americans owe a debt of gratitude and support to Haiti. Prior to being defeated by the Haitians, Napoleon had wanted to use what was then Saint Domingue’s land mass as part of a military strategy, and he wanted to use some of those courageous and brilliant military men from Saint Domingue to attack the United States to enlarge the French Empire. France had already purchased a huge stretch of land in North America—referred to as the Louisiana Territory—from Spain. However, after the Haitians defeated him, Napoleon gave up that dream of military expansion and actually sold the land that had been purchased from Spain to the United States for the bargain basement price of 15 million dollars. Subsequently, the Louisiana Purchase was divided into 13 states or parts of states. Napoleon did this to keep the land from falling into the hands of the British, as France and Britain had been warring off and on for years.
I will end with Frederick Douglass’ words: “You and I and all of us have reason to respect Haiti for her services to the cause of liberty and human equality throughout the world, and for the noble qualities she exhibited in all the trying conditions of her early history… We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy today, that the freedom that eight hundred thousand colored people enjoy in the British West Indies, the freedom that has come to the colored race the world over, is largely due to the brave stand taken by the Black sons of Haiti.”
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouventure and the San Domingo Revolution, by C.L.R. James
History and Healing: Happy New Year! Week of January 4, 2021
"I can't die but once." Harriet Tubman
When Spirit Calls: Is your Spirit calling you to great things?
Harriet Tubman (History & Healing)
Think you know everything you need to know about Harriet Tubman? Think again! This lady was the embodiment of what it means to be psychologically healthy.
When Spirit Calls…
What animated Harriet? Is your life force calling you to do something big; or, perhaps, something small that will have a big impact?
When you bring into consciousness the image of this tiny woman traveling into danger again and again to free Black people, you have to conclude, as did the influential psychologist, Abraham Maslow, that Harriet Tubman was the very representation of what it means to be psychologically well, to be healthy.
A spiritual woman, not only was Harriet the greatest conductor on the Underground Railroad, she was also a spy and a scout who gathered invaluable intelligence for Union commanders. A master strategist, she directed forces during the Civil War, including on the gutsy Combahee River Raid where her group destroyed millions of dollars worth of Confederate property and supplies—while liberating more than 700 slaves.
Like many of our ancestors, Harriet understood the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, so she was a reassuring nurse (or should we say "doctor") of tremendous reputation among military men in need of healing.
A suffragette with style, Harriet married a war veteran 22 years her junior.
Let’s all hail this queen by freeing ourselves from what Malcolm X famously called the prison of our minds. Do You. Free yourself of your psychological luggage, so you can be yourself.
Harriet’s genius and bravery allowed her to famously declare, “I never lost a passenger.” What will yours allow you to say?
What is the lesson of Harriet Tubman telling you? Are you grappling with something that has been laid on your heart, that you can’t shake, but that you consider too awesome. Something you think is out of your grasp? Will you be able to forgive yourself years from now when you realize you gave up too easily?
If it’s one thing that Black people know how to do, it’s strive and work hard—very hard. You work hard on your job—some of us work two and three jobs; why not work hard for your dream, whatever it is? Black people! We know how to innovate, how to make a way out of no way, how to improvise—never forget that. It’s in your DNA. Just decide for whom you want to do all that work!
Think of it this way: Five or ten years from now, you will have accomplished what you want to do, or you will not have even tried, but five or ten years will still have elapsed. Don’t die while you’re still alive. Free yourself and be yourself!
“I can’t die but once.”
“Once in Hilton Head, Harriet began her work as a spy and an organizer and leader of scouts. She selected and paid (out of “secret service money”) nine reliable Black scouts, riverboat pilots who knew every inch of the local waterways, and trained them in methods of gathering intelligence. Using Harriet’s knowledge of covert travel and subterfuge and their familiarity with the terrain, these scouts mapped the shorelines and islands of South Carolina… Historian H. Donald Winkler, in his book Stealing Secrets, writes: ‘Harriet and her nine-man spy team evolved into a kind of special-forces operation for the Black regiments. Her team sneaked up and down rivers and into swamps and marshes to determine enemy positions, movements, and fortifications on the shoreline beyond the Union pickets.’” To read more go to: https://www.army.mil/article/126731/harriet_tubman_nurse_spy_scout
Cool Fact: Harriet Tubman is to be honored on the 20 dollar bill—replacing the murderous Andrew Jackson.
The video above was for a course we conducted called History and Healing which was a precursor to our podcast. We conducted the course because we understand that "the truth shall make you free." We need to know the truth, not the bastardized narrative we have been told in an attempt to dehumanizes us. Our historical reality is worlds apart from what most of us have been taught. The honest history of our people will both empower and provide us with an understanding of why the world around us looks the way it does. Our aim is to share knowledge, provoke thought, advance understanding, and promote healing.