True Black History Will Set You Free

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Several months ago, during the Governor’s mandatory hurricane evacuation, I flew the coop and landed in Atlanta to hunker down out of harm’s way. I had the rare opportunity of running into one of my long-lost cousins who had relocated to the Atlanta area from Atlantic City, New Jersey. As we sat and reminisced, I couldn’t help but notice a Black History book on the table next to where I was seated. The book was entitled “The Afro-American in United States History” copyrighted in 1969 and written by Benjamin DaSilva, Milton Finkelstein and Arlene Loshin. A second edition came out in 1972.

As Cuz and I chatted, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the book. After flipping through a few chapters, I knew I had to have a copy. I asked Cuz where did he get the book. He said, “my third grade teacher gave it to me.” I said, “you have got to be kidding; there is no way they would have allowed that book in South Carolina schools.” Cuz said “they pulled the book and told the teachers to get rid of them; so, she gave them to us.” Cuz graduated from high school in the late eighties. I found a “used” copy of the book on Amazon, the only copy, and ordered it. For the next few weeks, I will be sharing some fact history from the “Afro-American in United States History” book for Black History Month.

The Dred Scott Case. “Perhaps peace could be kept between the North and the South. So long as people could still talk about controlling the spread of slavery to the new lands of the West, war could be delayed. Then men of peace could try to work out some way to agree. This hope was crushed in 1857. The Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in the case of a man named Dred Scott. Dred Scott was a slave whose master had taken him into free territory. Since no man could be made a slave there, Dred Scott should now be free. The Court did not agree. Its Southern judges were a majority. They ruled that a slave could not be citizen. This decision angered people all over the North. More of them became abolitionists. More of them turned to the Republican Party. In 1858 it won control of the House of Representatives. Southern leaders could see that their days of power were soon to end.”

So, the South seceded- “The election of 1860 tore the country apart. The men who led the south said that they would pull their states out of the United States if the Republicans won. To take a state out of the country is to secede. Lincoln, a Republican, was elected. Southern leaders took quick steps to secede. They would form a new country based on slavery. They would no longer be part of the United States. They set up a new country with a new government. Its name was the Confederate States of America. Eleven slave states joined it. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. This new “country”, which people called the Confederacy, challenged the United States.”

The Succession is what led up to the Civil War. The south was hell bent on keeping slavery alive and well. The reason southern states seceded from the Union was to keep blacks in bondage. They did not view blacks in the same light as whites. They wanted to keep their slaves to harvest the fields and work in their homes. Slavery was “free labor”. As in the Dred Scott’s case, southern whites refused to accept the fact that slaves were or could ever be citizens. There were treated like chattels–less than human beings. And, that divisionary practice still exists today in pretty much the same sense. It was a control issue then as it still is in these so-call “United States of America”. We can only be “united” when we share commonalities, such as mutual respect, wealth, land, education and opportunities.

In many of the southern states, blacks had to be off the streets by a certain time. According to “The Afro-American in United States History,” Blacks and Whites could not play checkers or dominoes together. In Atlanta, Georgia, Afro-Americans were not allowed to swear on the same Bible used by whites in the courts. White taxi drivers could not carry black passengers; Negro drivers could not accept white passengers.

Many Jim Crow laws were on the books. Blacks attended separate movie theatres. Blacks could not use the same public libraries and parks as whites. A White child could not buy an ice cream cone at a white stand and a dying Black person could not be admitted to a “Whites Only” hospital.

“Wake up Black Americans, Are y’all sleeping or dead?” True Black History will set you free!!!

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