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More Fact History For Black History
2/5/2014 4:37:19 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Black History should be studied 365 days of the year. Some schools do very little to educate students beyond Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Mary McLeod Bethune and a few others who are perceived as “acceptable” Blacks in history. The slave trade extended from the 1500 through 1860 when the slaves were emancipated and even then some were still held as slaves. During this period, millions of slaves were brought to America. Guns were always big among white Americans. According to the Jubilee by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, an estimated 20 million guns were exported to West Africa between 1750 and 1807. These guns were used as a form of currency in the purchase of slaves. Our ancestors were traded for guns and brought to America as slaves. And those same guns were used in warfare against the Africans.

Cowrie Shells that adorn many of our ancestral jewelry was once used as currency. The shells were a popular form of currency. The Jubilee reports that during the sixteenth century, it took 6,000 shells to purchase one slave and later during that period the price rose as high as 40,000. And, “from 1700 to 1800 over 25 million pounds of cowries were exchanged in West Africa with European traders.” I found that information interesting because for years I wore a cowrie anklet. All I knew about it was it was some form of African jewelry. It’s important to know your history. I will never look at the cowrie in the same manner. Every time I see one, I will think of the many Africans who were bought and sold into slavery.

Slave auctions were big business during the colonial era. There are some things that you never forget. I often think of the beautiful black lady on a poster at the DuSable Museum that was auctioned off for one dollar. I think about Harriett Tubman wading through snake and gator infested waters leading slaves to freedom. In the Jubilee, a slave master was auctioning off all of his belongings except two oxen teams that he needed to travel from Kentucky to Oregon. After listing all of his “valuables” he listed Six Negro Slaves—two men 35 years and 50 years old; two boys, 12 and 18 years old; two mulatto wenches, 40 and 30 years old. If there was any redeeming value in the sale, the offer was to sell all of the slaves together. Most slave masters sold their slaves to the highest bidder. They didn’t care that they were separating and destroying families. It was all about the money and power; and today, it still is.

Even as we celebrate Black History Month, folks are talking about placing a statue of Denmark Vesey in Hampton Park. What folks fail to realize is that Denmark Vesey was a “free man”. Not much is mentioned of the fact that he was also a minister. Ministers don’t just go around killing folks for no reason. Vesey could have left town for better opportunities in the North but he chose to stay and help other slaves gain their freedom. That truly was an unselfish act. If you tune in to some of the talk shows, this valiant man has been painted as anything but a hero. Those who have not lived as slaves or during that era do not have a clue of the suffering they experienced at the hands of slave owners. So, who is the victim here—the slaves or the slave masters?

On of the largest slave rebellion in America took place on Sunday, September 9, 1739, near Charleston, South Carolina. It was led by a slave named Jemmy. According to the Jubilee, twenty slaves went into a store, took guns and beheaded the shopkeepers. Afterwards they started beating drums and shouting “liberty”. They marched along the Stono River, setting fire to plantations, killing slave owners and freeing fellow slaves. When it was all over, twenty-four whites and at least forty-four blacks were executed; their heads were cut off and posted on fences for all to see as a deterrent of more uprisings. So, Denmark Vesey was not the only one who had a burning desire to be free and to free his fellowman. The list goes on and on. Nat Turner born in Virginia led one of the most famous slave revolts in US history. Turner was also a minister. He organized and led a group of 60 men on a rebellion in Virginia. They killed 57 whites and over 100 blacks were killed in retaliation. As in the Jemmy uprising near Charleston, heads were placed on poles for public viewing to deter further uprisings.

Let me conclude with my hero, Harriet Tubman. I tell you she was a gal after my own heart. She led thousands of southern slaves up north to freedom. If you started out with her, there was no turning back. She packed her pistol and knew the swamps better than any alligator.

Freedom is never free. Many sacrifices were made. And to those who gave the fight their all, this article is in remembrance of you and to those that I had the opportunity to work with--Rev. Omega Newman, Rev. Fred Dawson, Rev. Willis T. Goodwin, Esau Jenkins, Septima P. Clark, Rev. Mack Sharpe, Rev. Sam Price and Rev. James Orange.

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Submitted By: Anonymous Submitted: 2/10/2014
The statue of Vesey was placed last week in the spot within Hampton Park where it will later be unveiled and dedicated. It is surrounded by wooden boards now but when it was set in place it was it was only covered by a drape. I witnessed what I believe to be the desecration of the man. This is what I saw: The draping looked like a hood over the head of a condemned man. A noose was placed around it's neck and it was hoisted into the air. It was then held in the air for some time before being lowered onto the bricks. To passers by it was clear that they were witnessing the second hanging of Denmark Vesey.

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