Que la droiture soit comme un courant d’eau et la justice comme un torrent qui jamais ne tarit. Amos 5: 24
Si un étranger vient séjourner avec vous dans votre pays, vous ne l’opprimerez point. Vous traiterez l’étranger en séjour parmi vous comme un indigène du milieu de vous; vous l’aimerez comme vous-mêmes, car vous avez été étrangers dans le pays d’Égypte. Je suis l’Éternel, votre Dieu. Lévitique 19: 33-34
Les arbres du sud portent un fruit étrange. Du sang sur les feuilles, du sang sur les racines, Un corps noir se balançant dans la brise du Sud. Etrange fruit pendant aux peupliers. Scène pastorale du vaillant Sud. Les yeux exorbités et la bouche tordue, Parfum de magnolias, doux et frais. Puis une odeur soudaine de chair brûlée. Voici un fruit à picorer par les corbeaux Que la pluie fait pousser, que le vent assèche. Pourri par le soleil, il tombera de l’arbre. Voilà une étrange et amère récolte. Abel Meeropol (1937)
Nous ne sommes pas satisfaits, et nous ne serons pas satisfaits jusqu’au jour où la justice se déversera comme un torrent et la droiture comme un fleuve puissant. Martin Luther King (Washington, 1963)
When I marched in Selma, it felt like my legs were praying. Rabbin Heschel (1965)
That is about the ugliest song I have ever heard. Ugly in the sense that it is violent and tears at the guts of what white people have done to my people in this country. Nina Simone
Aucun Afro-Américain ne se ferait prendre par Porgy and Bess. Duke Ellington
Written by a Jewish communist called Abel Meeropol, Strange Fruit was not by any means the first protest song, but it was the first to shoulder an explicit political message into the arena of entertainment. Unlike the robust workers’ anthems of the union movement, it did not stir the blood; it chilled it. (…) For all these reasons, it was something entirely new. Up to this point, protest songs functioned as propaganda, but Strange Fruit proved they could be art. It is a song so good that dozens of singers have since tried to put their stamp on it, and Holiday’s performance is so strong that none of them have come close to outclassing her – in 1999, Time magazine named her first studio version the « song of the century ». Although lynching was already on the decline by the time of Strange Fruit – the grotesque photograph of a double hanging which moved Meeropol to pick up his pen had been taken in Indiana in 1930 – it remained the most vivid symbol of American racism, a stand-in for all the more subtle forms of discrimination affecting the black population. Perhaps only the visceral horror that lynching inspired gave Meeropol the necessary conviction to write a song with no precedent, one that required a new songwriting vocabulary. Meeropol, who taught at a high school in the Bronx and churned out reams of topical songs, poems and plays under the gentle alias Lewis Allan, published a poem under the title Bitter Fruit in the union-run New York Teacher magazine in 1937. The later name change was inspired. « Bitter » is too baldly judgmental. « Strange », however, evokes a haunting sense of something out of joint. It puts the listener in the shoes of a curious observer spying the hanging shapes from afar and moving closer towards a sickening realisation. Meeropol worked out a tune and Strange Fruit quickly became a fixture at leftwing gatherings during 1938, sung by his wife and various friends. It even made it to Madison Square Garden, via black singer Laura Duncan. In the crowd was one Robert Gordon, who had recently taken on a job at Cafe Society, directing the headlining show by Billie Holiday. (…) Meeropol played Josephson his song and asked if he could bring it to Holiday. (…) Holiday road-tested the song at a party in Harlem and received what would become a familiar response: shocked silence followed by a roar of approval. Meeropol was there the night she debuted it at Cafe Society. « She gave a startling, most dramatic and effective interpretation which could jolt an audience out of its complacency anywhere, » he marvelled. « This was exactly what I wanted the song to do and why I wrote it. » (…) Josephson, a natural showman, knew there was no point slipping Strange Fruit into the body of the set and pretending it was just another song. He drew up some rules: first, Holiday would close all three of her nightly sets with it; second, the waiters would halt all service beforehand; third, the whole room would be in darkness but for a sharp, bright spotlight on Holiday’s face; fourth, there would be no encore. « People had to remember Strange Fruit, get their insides burned by it, » he explained. It was not, by any stretch, a song for every occasion. It infected the air in the room, cut conversation stone dead, left drinks untouched, cigarettes unlit. Customers either clapped till their hands were sore, or walked out in disgust. (…) Holiday’s regular label, Columbia, blanched at the prospect of recording it, so she turned to Commodore Records, a small, leftwing operation based at Milt Gabler’s record shop on West 52nd Street. On 20 April 1939, Holiday entered Brunswick’s World Broadcasting Studios with Frankie Newton’s eight-piece Cafe Society Band and recorded Strange Fruit in one four-hour session. Worried that the song was too short, Gabler asked pianist Sonny White to improvise a suitably stealthy introduction. On the single, Holiday doesn’t open her mouth until 70 seconds in. Like Josephson with his spotlight, the musicians use that time to set the scene, drawing the listener in as if to a ghost story. Newton’s muted trumpet line hovers in the air like marsh gas; White’s minor piano chords walk the listener towards the fateful spot; then, at last, there’s Holiday. Others might have overplayed the irony or punched home the moral judgment too forcefully, but she sings it as though her responsibility is simply to document the song’s eerie tableau; to bear witness. Her voice moves softly through the dark, closing in on the swinging bodies like a camera lens coming into focus. In doing so, she perfects the song, narrowing the sarcasm of « gallant South » to a fine point and cooling the temperature of the most overheated image: « the stench of burning flesh ». She is charismatic but not ostentatious, curling the words just so. Her gifts to the song are vulnerability, understatement and immediacy: the listener is right there, at the base of the tree. Look, she is saying. Just look. Released three months later, it became not just a hit but a cause celebre. Campaigners for an anti-lynching law posted copies to congressmen. The New York Post’s Samuel Grafton called it « a fantastically perfect work of art, one which reversed the usual relationship between a black entertainer and her white audience: ‘I have been entertaining you,’ she seems to say, ‘now you just listen to me.’ If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its Marseillaise. » Holiday quit Cafe Society in August 1939, but she took Strange Fruit with her and carried it like an unexploded bomb. In Washington DC, a local newspaper wondered whether it might actually provoke a new wave of lynchings. At New York’s Birdland, the promoter confiscated customers’ cigarettes, lest their firefly glow distract from the spotlight’s intensity. When some promoters ordered her not to sing it, Holiday added a clause to her contract guaranteeing her the option. Not that she always exercised that right. « I only do it for people who might understand and appreciate it, » she told radio DJ Daddy-O Daylie. « This is not a ‘June-Moon-Croon-Tune’. » (…) Yet Holiday could no more detach herself from it than if the lyrics had been tattooed on her skin. Strange Fruit would haunt Holiday for the rest of her life. Some fans, including her former producer John Hammond, blamed it for robbing her of her lightness. Others pointed out that her burgeoning heroin habit did that job. (…) By the latter half of the decade, her body was wasted, her voice weathered down to a hoarse rasp, and Strange Fruit was the only song that seemed to dignify her suffering, wrapping her own decline in a wider American tragedy. Writing about her final years in his definitive book Strange Fruit: the Biography of a Song, David Margolick says: « she had grown oddly, sadly suited to capture the full grotesqueness of the song. Now, she not only sang of bulging eyes and twisted mouths. She embodied them. » It was as if the song, having lived inside her for so long, had finally warped its host. Dorian Lynskey
From the outset, the opera’s depiction of African Americans attracted controversy. Problems with the racial aspects of the opera continue to this day. Virgil Thomson, a white American composer, stated that « Folklore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself, which is certainly not true of the American Negro in 1935. » Duke Ellington allegedly stated « the times are here to debunk Gershwin’s lampblack Negroisms. » (Ellington’s response to the 1952 Breen revival was completely the opposite. His telegram to the producer read: « Your Porgy and Bess the superbest, singing the gonest, acting the craziest, Gershwin the greatest. ») Several of the members of the original cast later stated that they, too, had concerns that their characters might play into a stereotype that African Americans lived in poverty, took drugs and solved their problems with their fists. A planned production by the Negro Repertory Company of Seattle in the late 1930s, part of the Federal Theatre Project, was cancelled because actors were displeased with what they viewed as a racist portrayal of aspects of African American life. The director initially envisioned that they would perform the play in a « Negro dialect. » These Pacific Northwest African American actors, who did not speak in such dialect, would be coached in it. Florence James attempted a compromise of dropping the use of dialect but the production was canceled. Another production of Porgy and Bess, this time at the University of Minnesota in 1939, ran into similar troubles. According to Barbara Cyrus, one of the few black students then at the university, members of the local African-American community saw the play as « detrimental to the race » and as a vehicle that promoted racist stereotypes. The play was cancelled due to pressure from the African-American community, which saw their success as proof of the increasing political power of blacks in Minneapolis–Saint Paul. The belief that Porgy and Bess was racist gained strength during the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movement of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. As these movements advanced, Porgy and Bess was seen as more and more out of date. When the play was revived in the 1960s, social critic and African-American educator Harold Cruse called it, « The most incongruous, contradictory cultural symbol ever created in the Western World. » In the 1976 Houston Opera production, the director, Sherwin Goldman, had trouble finding interested performers. Goldman, a white Texas native and a graduate of Yale and Oxford Universities, recalled, « I was auditioning singers all around the country, I guess thirty cities in all, from theater groups to church choirs, but was having a hard time finding directors … I don’t think there was a single black person, of those who had never been associated with Porgy, who didn’t seriously bad-mouth it. » Nevertheless, a cast was assembled of African American classically trained performers from all around the country. Gershwin’s all-black opera was also unpopular with some celebrated black artists. Harry Belafonte declined to play Porgy in the late 1950s film version, so the role went to Sidney Poitier. Betty Allen, president of The Harlem School of the Arts, admittedly loathed the piece, and Grace Bumbry, who excelled in the 1985 Metropolitan Opera production as Bess, made the often cited statement: I thought it beneath me, I felt I had worked far too hard, that we had come far too far to have to retrogress to 1935. My way of dealing with it was to see that it was really a piece of Americana, of American history, whether we liked it or not. Whether I sing it or not, it was still going to be there. Over time, however, the opera gained acceptance from the opera community and some (though not all) in the African-American community. Maurice Peress stated in 2004 that « Porgy and Bess belongs as much to the black singer-actors who bring it to life as it does to the Heywards and the Gershwins. » Indeed, Ira Gershwin stipulated that only blacks be allowed to play the lead roles when the opera was performed in the United States, launching the careers of several prominent opera singers. That Gershwin sought to write a true jazz opera, and that he believed that Metropolitan Opera staff singers could never master the jazz idiom, but could instead only be sung by a black cast, seems to indicate he did not intend the work to belittle African-Americans. Some black singers were overjoyed at Gershwin’s work going so far as to describe him as the « Abraham Lincoln of Negro music ». The source of much of the racial controversy seems to arise from the miscegenation of Gershwin’s jazz experience. Gershwin wrote Porgy through an idiom of jazz that was influenced by Western European opera traditions, African-American music, and Russian-Jewish music. Wikipedia
Salué en son temps pour la modernité de son approche de la culture afro-américaine, Porgy and Bess est au début du XXIe siècle souvent pointé du doigt comme vecteur de stéréotypes peu flatteurs. Dans les années 1950, déjà, Dorothy Dandridge et Sidney Poitier — les deux acteurs noirs les plus célèbres de cette décennie — n’avaient accepté de participer à l’adaptation de Porgy and Bess au cinéma qu’à contre-cœur, victimes d’un chantage de Samuel Goldwyn. Avec les revendications raciales des années 1960, Porgy and Bess a été de plus en plus considéré comme un point de vue blanc, voire raciste, sur la condition des Noirs américains. Au début du XXIe siècle, les passions se sont calmées et l’opéra est avant tout considéré comme un classique de la culture américaine. Selon le vœu des frères Gershwin et de leurs ayants droit, Porgy and Bess ne peut être interprété que par une distribution exclusivement noire, ce qui a permis de lancer la carrière lyrique de nombreux chanteurs afro-américains. Wikipedia
As the Democratic hosts prepare to rededicate themselves anew to fairness and justice, the bustling Southern city in which they are to meet is disgraced by an unspeakable act of savagery. There is no other way to describe the performance of the eight armed white men who yanked Robert Powell, 24-year-old Negro, from a hospital cot on which he lay with a bullet in his stomach, and hanged him from a bridge just outside the city. Powell was under the charge of killing a detective in a shooting match from which he himself emerged with an apparently mortal wound. In the event of his recovery, he was headed for the courts. But to this Texas mob neither Death nor Justice was an acceptable arbiter. Nothing would satisfy them but a loathsome act of murder carried out against a human being while he lay in agony with a bullet in his entrails. […] The year that saw four months pass without a single lynching has now accumulated five of them. Five lynchings in six months represent a proportional reduction in savagery from last year’s record of sixteen lynchings in twelve months, but the year is only half gone and no one may be too confident. We have come a long way from the dark days of 1892 when America celebrated the 400th anniversary of its discovery with 255 lynchings, but we have not yet arrived at that social abhorrence of this crime that must precede its practical extinction. When eight presumably decent and rational beings can gain the consent of their conscience to rob a hospital bed for the purpose of executing summary vengeance, and when, as was the case a few days ago in Louisiana, two Negroes are torn from their guards and lynched because they were brothers of another Negro who was accused of murder, it must be recognized that the rise and fall of the lynching curve is governed by racial passions that remain still to be brought under civilized control. Louis Isaac Jaffé (“An Unspeakable Act of Savagery”, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, June 22, 1928)
The segregationists and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jew. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
How could there be anti-Semitism among Negroes when our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood not only in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways, and often at great personal sacrifice. Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during our recent protest against segregation in that unhappy city? Need I remind anyone of the awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when he joined the civil rights workers there in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? And who can ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro’s struggle for freedom – it has been so great. Martin Luther King (1965)
In Harlem…. our … landlords were Jews, and we hated them. We hated them because they were terrible landlords and did not take care of the buildings. The grocery store owner was a Jew… The butcher was a Jew and, yes, we certainly paid more for bad cuts of meat than other New York citizens, and we very often carried insults home along with our meats… and the pawnbroker was a Jew – perhaps we hated him most of all. James Baldwin
When we were working in Chicago, we had numerous rent strikes on the West Side, and it was unfortunately true that, in most instances, the persons we had to conduct these strikes against were Jewish landlords… We were living in a slum apartment owned by a Jew and a number of others, and we had to have a rent strike. We were paying $94 for four run-down, shabby rooms, and …. we discovered that whites … were paying only $78 a month. We were paying 20 percent tax. The Negro ends up paying a color tax, and this has happened in instances where Negroes actually confronted Jews as the landlord or the storekeeper. The irrational statements that have been made are the result of these confrontations. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Allons à Kingston Avenue et prenons un Juif ! Emeutiers de Crown heights (1991)
The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. … All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds. Al Sharpton (Crown Heights, 1991)
We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system. Al Sharpton
I want to make it clear to the radio audience and to you here that we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street. Al Sharpton (1995)
Sharpton is (…) the man who sparked the rage in Harlem in 1995 against a Jewish storeowner who wanted to expand. Sharpton called him « a white interloper » at a rally; eight people were later killed in a fire set by one of the protesters. Sharpton is the unapologetic champion of Tawana Brawley – the teen whose 1987 tale of abduction and rape by white police officers garnered national headlines, but was later deemed a hoax by a grand jury. (« I didn’t think I was wrong, » he says. « I still think something happened to her. ») (…) He was the one who brought protests to Howard Beach, the predominantly white neighborhood in Queens where, in 1986, a white gang chased a black construction worker to his death on a busy highway. Sharpton is the man who stood by the five young African-Americans accused of beating and raping the Central Park jogger in 1989. (« I was cartooned, lampooned, and everything, » he says. « Thirteen years later, a guy came forward and said, ‘I did it,’ after some of those kids served 8 years. One of them works for me now. ») The Christian science monitor
Jews are a race of skunks and animals that stole Africa from the Black Man. Leonard Jeffries (Professor of black studies at City University of New York)
Now, we’re not talking about most Jews. Most Jews were being beat—up and down Europe—persecuted for being Jewish. We’re talking about rich Jews, and we specifically make that distinction. We’re not talking about white folks in general when we talk about oppression; we’re talking about the wealthy white folks, the powerful white folks that make the decisions. So let’s make some decisions, some clarity, when we talk about these things. But the documentation is there. We are now preparing the ten volumes dealing with the Jewish relationship with the Black community in reference to slavery, so we can put it in the school system. Leonard Jeffries
Les événements d’août 1991 sont encore gravés dans ma mémoire. Tout a commencé quand une voiture conduite par un Juif hassidique a percuté et tué un petit garçon noir, âgé de sept ans, Gavin Cato. Les témoins se sont alors jetés sur le conducteur et l’ont battu. Puis une foule de plus en plus nombreuse s’est réunie et a commencé à crier « mort aux Juifs ». Un étudiant hassidique, Yankel Rosenbaum, fut poignardé ; il mourut de ses blessures quelques heures plus tard à l’hôpital. Des émeutes, dans une véritable atmosphère de pogrom, se sont poursuivies pendant trois jours. Des jets de pierre, des cocktails Molotov, des batailles de rues… On n’avait jamais vu ça. Joseph Spielman (résident de Crown Heights)
«Ne vous laissez pas abuser par ces extrémistes ou par l’incident de Crown Heights. Il est faux de conclure que les 36 millions de Noirs vivant aux Etats-Unis sont tous antisémites à cause d’une minorité d’activistes surmédiatisés. Les rapports entre les communautés juive et noire aux Etats-Unis sont extrêmement complexes. C’est une histoire de hauts et de bas, de rapprochement et d’éloignement. Evitez de tirer des conclusions trop hâtives en la matière. Manning Marable (Université de Columbia, New York)
Jusqu’à cette date (années 20), chaque communauté se préoccupe de ses propres problèmes, chacune vote pour le parti qui semble le plus à même d’améliorer ses piètres conditions de vie. Ces deux peuples parias souffrent chacun de son côté. Les Noirs combattent le lynchage dans les Etats du Sud et la ségrégation dans la plus grande part du pays. Ils votent essentiellement pour les Républicains. Quant aux Juifs, dont la majorité viennent de débarquer d’Europe centrale et orientale, ils essaient de s’intégrer à la société américaine des grandes villes du nord-est et d’améliorer leur situation matérielle. Ils votent généralement démocrate. Mais la majorité blanche anglo-saxonne oppose une grande résistance aux tentatives d’émancipation des deux communautés. C’est cette situation qui provoque au départ le rapprochement d’un petit groupe d’intellectuels et de juristes. Manning Marable
A l’époque (milieu des années 60), les mouvements d’émancipation afro-américains se sont fortement radicalisés. Sous l’influence de Malcolm X, ces organisations ont rejeté l’idée d’une large communauté inter-raciale pour privilégier une approche purement ethnocentrique. L’intégration au melting pot américain n’est plus le but recherché. Le mouvement pour les droits civiques de Martin Luther King est décrié : la stratégie de non-violence est jugée inefficace, trop molle. La communauté noire doit s’affirmer, par tous les moyens s’il le faut. » C’est l’époque du Black Power, des Black Panthers, des émeutes et des révoltes. « Black is beautiful », proclament les activistes. Au cinéma, les héros noirs et musclés de Shaft ou de Superfly, films phares de la Blaxploitation du début des années 70, n’ont plus rien à voir avec la mine policée et les costumes étriqués de Sydney Poitier, quelques années plus tôt. Cette radicalisation provoque évidemment des réactions dans la communauté juive. Il est de plus en plus difficile, même pour les Juifs les plus « libéraux » (progressistes, dirions-nous en Europe), de trouver un programme commun avec leurs anciens partenaires. Emerge alors un courant « néo-conservateur » juif, autour d’un petit groupe d’intellectuels new-yorkais comme Laqueur, Glazer ou Podhoretz. Ces anciens hommes de gauche constatent l’échec d’une entreprise qui aurait dû créer une Amérique « sans couleurs » et qui, finalement, n’a fait que renforcer les particularismes ethniques de chaque communauté. Ils dénoncent également l’antisémitisme politique violent du Black Power et se battent pour protéger le « libéralisme » que la société américaine a hérité du New Deal. Les visions divergent : les organisations juives n’ont désormais plus aucun intérêt à coopérer avec la plupart de leurs homologues afro-américaines. C’est le clash…• Peter Noel
I have a problem with Jews…because…they are not the chosen people…I am declaring to the world that you, the black people…[are the chosen people] Louis Farrakhan
Now you know I’m going to be lambasted and called anti-Semitic… They’ll say Farrakhan was up to his old canards; he said Jews control Hollywood. Well, they said it themselves! Jews control the media. They said it themselves! Jews and some gentiles control the banking industry, international banks. They do! In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident? Louis Farrakhan (Holy Day of Atonement Keynote Address, Part 2, Mosque Maryam, Chicago, Illinois 10/21/12)
L’Amérique est toujours le tueur numéro 1 dans le monde. . . Nous sommes profondément impliqués dans l’importation de la drogue, l’exportation d’armes et la formation de tueurs professionnels. . . Nous avons bombardé le Cambodge, l’Irak et le Nicaragua, tuant les femmes et les enfants tout en essayant de monter l’opinion publique contre Castro et Khaddafi. . . Nous avons mis Mandela en prison et soutenu la ségrégation pendant 27 ans. Nous croyons en la suprématie blanche et l’infériorité noire et y croyons davantage qu’en Dieu. … Nous avons soutenu le sionisme sans scrupule tout en ignorant les Palestiniens et stigmatisé quiconque le dénonçait comme anti-sémite. . . Nous ne nous inquiétons en rien de la vie humaine si la fin justifie les moyens. . . Nous avons lancé le virus du SIDA. . . Nous ne pouvons maintenir notre niveau de vie qu’en nous assurant que les personnes du tiers monde vivent dans la pauvreté la plus abjecte. Rev. Jeremiah Wright (le 15 janvier 2006)
By calling Jews ‘white,’ Blacks are in effect denying [the Jewish] history of oppression…. Jews have been socially and legally discriminated against, have been the subject of racism and genocide, and in those terms Jews are not white. Michael Lerner
If we get a Jew person, then what I’m wondering is, I mean, what is this movement for, you know? Does it have anything to do with the failed peace talks? So I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with money and these kind of things. Lee Alcorn (president of the Dallas NAACP branch, 2009)
Après sa condamnation, l’association juive dont Leo Frank était le président à Atlanta, « Les fils de l’Alliance » (ou B’nai B’rith), a décidé de créer l’AntiDefamation League en septembre 1913 pour empêcher à l’avenir toute calomnie contre l’un de ses membres. Suite au lynchage d’août 1915, la moitié de la communauté juive de Géorgie fuit l’État de peur des représailles et du boycott infligé à leurs commerces. Le jour du lynchage, la communauté juive de Marietta reçut l’avertissement qu’elle devait quitter la ville avant minuit ; elle s’exécuta. Suite à l’affaire Mary Phagan, en octobre 1915, une partie des membres de l’association « les chevaliers de Mary Phagan » s’associa avec des nostalgiques du Ku Klux Klan (interdit depuis les années 1870) pour le ressusciter. (…) Le procès de Frank a été l’objet de surenchère spectaculaire de la part des médias, qui décrivirent des scènes d’orgies et de viol à l’usine de Frank. D’avril à août, durant les quatre premiers mois, près de 18 000 colonnes lui furent consacrées. Des trois journaux de la ville (The Atlanta Constitution, The Atlanta Journal, The Atlanta Georgian), celui de Hearst (Le Georgian) en a le plus profité en multipliant par trois son tirage. Hearst fit venir pour gagner cette bataille de la presse son éditeur de New York (Keats Speed) spécialement pour l’affaire. La presse ne s’embarrassait pas de déontologie, et dès le premier jour, elle accusa Newt Lee d’avoir commis le crime, et déjà la foule demandait qu’on le lynche. Alors que trois jours après les faits Newt Lee était déjà remplacé par Leo Frank sur la liste des suspects no 1, cela n’empêchait pas le Georgian de titrer en gros en une : « La culpabilité de Lee est prouvée ! ». Le démagogue nativiste, avocat et éditeur géorgien Tom Watson en particulier enflamma l’opinion publique en appelant au lynchage pour en finir avec Leo Frank, en justifiant le principe du lynchage en l’expliquant comme l’application de la justice populaire ; il commenta l’affaire à partir de décembre 1914, accusant à sens unique « le pervers juif ». Son mensuel et son hebdomadaire (The Watson Magazine et The Jeffersonian) virent leur tirage quadrupler. La presse géorgienne et atlantéenne ne condamnèrent pas unanimement Leo Frank ; après les premiers mois du procès, et après la condamnation les journaux remirent en question la décision du jury. Certains journaux géorgiens n’hésitèrent pas à condamner son lynchage par ailleurs, dès le jour même, et elle refusa de diffuser les photos du lynchage ; en-dehors d’Atlanta, en Géorgie même, il y eut tout de même quelques journaux pour saluer la « justice populaire ». En dehors de Géorgie la presse était majoritairement pour Leo Frank. À Los Angeles et à New York on fustigeait l’attitude archaïque des sudistes. Leo Frank croyait fermement dans sa future relaxe ; il était soutenu par la diaspora juive américaine qui était regroupée dans l’American Jewish Committee. Ce dernier était dirigé par Louis Marshall, qui, depuis New York (où il dirigeait le New York Times), a tout le long de l’affaire conseillé les avocats de Frank et orchestré véritablement le soutien à Leo Frank dans la presse grâce à ses puissantes relations, il l’a également aidé financièrement. Toutefois, l’AJC était soucieuse de ne pas organiser de manifestations trop voyantes ni de campagne de presse trop virulente de peur de jeter de l’huile sur le feu ; les adversaires de Leo Frank ne se sont pas gênés pour expliquer le soutien à Leo Frank de la part de la presse par la corruption et l’argent du lobby juif. Pour l’ADL et l’AJC, l’affaire Leo Frank montre indéniablement l’antisémitisme inné de la culture sudiste (blanche, chrétienne, WASP, raciste), pour eux Leo Frank est le seul blanc à avoir été condamné à mort sur la foi du témoignage d’un noir. Cela dit, l’antisémitisme sudiste reste une question débattue : de nombreux officiers confédérés étaient juifs, les juifs sont arrivés très tôt dans le sud (dès le XVIe siècle) et le lynchage de Leo Frank est le seul concernant un juif dans toute l’histoire des États-Unis que ce soit au Sud ou au Nord, ce fut le premier et le dernier aussi. Plusieurs mois après le procès, avant le lynchage, les journaux d’Atlanta firent circuler une pétition appuyant la commutation de la peine déposée auprès du gouverneur ; ils reçurent des milliers de soutiens de gens du pays. L’historien américain, d’origine juive, Leonard Dinnersein met l’accent sur la situation sociale explosive d’Atlanta dans les années 1910 sur fond de misère et de violence extraordinaire (en 1906 Atlanta est le lieu de très violentes émeutes) : une population très pauvre, avec un très haut taux de criminalité, et une injustice sociale quasi-permanente (Mary Phagan est l’exemple du travail d’enfant sous-payé), une misère intellectuelle également où l’illettrisme mène à une manipulation facile des foules. Wikipedia
It is significant that … a disproportionate number of white civil rights activists were [Jewish] as well. Jewish agencies engaged with their African American counterparts in a more sustained and fundamental way than did other white groups largely because their constituents and their understanding of Jewish values and Jewish self-interest pushed them in that direction. Greenberg
(Black-Jewish cooperation) is downplayed by Blacks because they focus on the astonishingly rapid entry of most Jews into the middle and upper middle classes during this brief period – an entry that has spawned … resentment from a quickly growing black impoverished class. Jews, on the other hand, tend to romanticize this period because their present status as upper middle dogs and some top dogs in American society unsettles their historic self-image as progressives with a compassion for the underdog. Cornel West
Jews will not comprehend what the symbolic predicament and literal plight of Palestinans in Israel means to blacks…. Blacks often perceive the Jewish defense of the state of Israel as a second instance of naked group interest, and, again, an abandonment of substantive moral deliberation. Cornel West
During the past decade, the historic relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans — a relationship that sponsored so many of the concrete advances of the civil rights era — showed another and less attractive face. While anti-Semitism is generally on the wane in this country, it has been on the rise among black Americans. A recent survey finds not only that blacks are twice as likely as whites to hold anti-Semitic views but — significantly — that it is among the younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced. The trend has been deeply disquieting for many black intellectuals. But it is something most of us, as if by unstated agreement, simply choose not to talk about. At a time when black America is beleaguered on all sides, there is a strong temptation simply to ignore the phenomenon or treat it as something strictly marginal. And yet to do so would be a serious mistake. As the African-American philosopher Cornel West has insisted, attention to black anti-Semitism is crucial, however discomfiting, in no small part because the moral credibility of our struggle against racism hangs in the balance. When the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in an impassioned address at a conference of the World Jewish Congress on July 7, condemned the sordid history of anti-Semitism, he not only went some distance toward retrieving the once abandoned mantle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s humane statesmanship, he also delivered a stern rebuke — while not specifically citing black anti-Semitism — to those black leaders who have sought to bolster their own strength through division. Mr. Jackson and others have learned that we must not allow these demagogues to turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable resource of enmity everlasting. We must begin by recognizing what is new about the new anti-Semitism. Make no mistake: this is anti-Semitism from the top down, engineered and promoted by leaders who affect to be speaking for a larger resentment. This top-down anti-Semitism, in large part the province of the better educated classes, can thus be contrasted with the anti-Semitism from below common among African American urban communities in the 1930’s and 40’s, which followed in many ways a familiar pattern of clientelistic hostility toward the neighborhood vendor or landlord. In American cities, hostility of this sort is now commonly directed toward Korean shop owners. But « minority » traders and shopkeepers elsewhere in the world — such as the Indians of East Africa and the Chinese of Southeast Asia — have experienced similar ethnic antagonism. Anti-Jewish sentiment can also be traced to Christian anti-Semitism, given the historic importance of Christianity in the black community. Unfortunately, the old paradigms will not serve to explain the new bigotry and its role in black America. For one thing, its preferred currency is not the mumbled epithet or curse but the densely argued treatise; it belongs as much to the repertory of campus lecturers as community activists. And it comes in wildly different packages. A book popular with some in the « Afrocentric » movement, « The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism, Sexism, and Aggression » by Michael Bradley, argues that white people are so vicious because they, unlike the rest of mankind, are descended from the brutish Neanderthals. More to the point, it speculates that the Jews may have been the » ‘purest’ and oldest Neanderthal-Caucasoids, » the iciest of the ice people; hence (he explains) the singularly odious character of ancient Jewish culture. Crackpot as it sounds, the book has lately been reissued with endorsements from two members of the Africana Studies Department of the City College of New York, as well as an introduction by Dr. John Henrik Clarke, professor emeritus of Hunter College and the great paterfamilias of the Afrocentric movement. Dr. Clarke has recently attacked multiculturalism as the product of what he called the « Jewish educational Mafia. » And while Dr. Leonard Jeffries’s views on supposed Jewish complicity in the subjection of blacks captured headlines, his intellectual cohorts such as Conrad Muhammad and Khallid Muhammad address community gatherings and college students across the country purveying a similar doctrine. College speakers and publications have played a disturbing role in legitimating the new creed. (…) However shoddy the scholarship of works like « The Secret Relationship, » underlying it is something even more troubling: the tacit conviction that culpability is heritable. For it suggests a doctrine of racial continuity, in which the racial evil of a people is merely manifest (rather than constituted) by their historical misdeeds. The reported misdeeds are thus the signs of an essential nature that is evil. (…) But why target the Jews? Using the same historical methodology, after all, the researchers of the book could have produced a damning treatise on the involvement of left-handers in the « black holocaust. » The answer requires us to go beyond the usual shibboleths about bigotry and view the matter, from the demagogues’ perspective, strategically: as the bid of one black elite to supplant another. It requires us, in short, to see anti-Semitism as a weapon in the raging battle of who will speak for black America — those who have sought common cause with others or those who preach a barricaded withdrawal into racial authenticity. The strategy of these apostles of hate, I believe, is best understood as ethnic isolationism — they know that the more isolated black America becomes, the greater their power. And what’s the most efficient way to begin to sever black America from its allies? Bash the Jews, these demagogues apparently calculate, and you’re halfway there. I myself think that the great French aphorist Rochefoucault put his finger on something germane when he observed, « We can rarely bring ourselves to forgive those who have helped us. » For sometimes it seems that the trajectory of black-Jewish relations is a protracted enactment of Rochefoucault’s paradox. Many American Jews are puzzled by the recrudescence of black anti-Semitism, in view of the historic alliance between the two groups. The brutal truth has escaped them: that the new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance but because of that alliance. For precisely such trans-ethnic, trans-racial cooperation — epitomized by the historic partnership between blacks and Jews — is what poses the greatest threat to the isolationist movement. In short, for the tacticians of the new anti-Semitism, the original sin of American Jews was their involvement — truly « inordinate, » truly « disproportionate » — not in slavery, but in the front ranks of the civil rights struggle. For decent and principled reasons, many black intellectuals are loath to criticize « oppositional » black leaders. Yet it has become increasingly apparent that to continue to maintain a comradely silence may be, in effect, to capitulate to the isolationist agenda, to betray our charge and trust. And, to be sure, many black writers, intellectuals, and religious leaders have taken an unequivocal stand on this issue. Cornel West aptly describes black anti-Semitism as « the bitter fruit of a profound self-destructive impulse, nurtured on the vines of hopelessness and concealed by empty gestures of black unity. » After 12 years of conservative indifference, those political figures who acquiesced, by malign neglect, to the deepening crisis of black America should not feign surprise that we should prove so vulnerable to the demagogues’ rousing messages of hate, their manipulation of the past and present. Bigotry, as a tragic century has taught us, is an opportunistic infection, attacking most virulently when the body politic is in a weakened state. Yet neither should those who care about black America gloss over what cannot be condoned: that much respect we owe to ourselves. For surely it falls to all of us to recapture the basic insight that Dr. King so insistently expounded. « We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, » he told us. « Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. » How easy to forget this — and how vital to remember. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
It is more than a little revealing that whites who travelled south in 1964 referred to their sojourn as their ‘Mississippi summer’. It is as if all the efforts of the local blacks for voter registration and the desegregation of public facilities had not even existed until white help arrived… Of course, this was done with benign intentions, as if to say ‘we have come in answer to your calls for assistance’. The problem was … the condescending tone…. For Jewish liberals, the great memory of that summer has been the deaths of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and – almost as an afterthought – James Chaney. Indeed, Chaney’s name tends to be listed last, as if the life he lost was worth only three fifths of the others. Andrew Hacker
It is deeply disappointing that so many Detroit leaders are apparently so willing to turn a blind eye to Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. Where are the voices in our community who are willing to stand up and say ‘no’ to racism and anti-Semitism? Heidi Budaj (regional director of the Michigan branch of the Anti-Defamation League)
At Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, Farrakhan railed Friday night against what he called “Satanic Jews” and the “Synagogue of Satan,” which he said controlled major institutions in the U.S. He also alleged that President Barack Obama “surrounded himself with Satan … members of the Jewish community.” Attending Farrakhan’s speech were the pastor of the church, Rev. Wendell Anthony, who heads the Detroit Branch NAACP; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Detroit; Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, and other religious and political leaders. Detroit Free press
Over the years Jews have also expressed empathy (capability to share and understand another’s emotion and feelings) with the plight of Blacks. In the early 20th century, Jewish newspapers drew parallels between the Black movement out of the South and the Jews’ escape from Egypt, pointing out that both Blacks and Jews lived in ghettos, and calling anti-Black riots in the South « pogroms ». Stressing the similarities rather than the differences between the Jewish and Black experience in America, Jewish leaders emphasized the idea that both groups would benefit the more America moved toward a society of merit, free of religious, ethnic and racial restrictions. The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League were central to the campaign against racial prejudice. Jews made substantial financial contributions to many civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. About 50 percent of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s were Jews, as were over 50 percent of the Whites who went to Mississippi in 1964 to challenge Jim Crow Laws. »as many as 90 percent of the civil rights lawyers in Mississippi were Jewish. PBS
Au lendemain d’une énième déclaration antisémite du leader suprémaciste noir et fondateur de la Nation of Islam (et inspiration cachée de notre Dieudonné national) Louis Farrakan contre les « juifs satanistes » et la « Synagogue de Satan » …
Retour derrière l’histoire mouvementée des relations entre les juifs et les noirs aux Etats-Unis …
Entre empathie plus ou moins condescendante des artistes (Gerschwin et son Porgy and Bess ou Abel Meerpol, l’auteur du célèbre « Strange fruit » de Billie Holiday et père adoptif des enfants des espions communistes Rosenberg) et intellectuels du nord (dont certains le paieront de leur vie: les deux jeunes activistes Andrew Goodman et Michael Schwerner immortalisés par Rockwell), marchands de sommeil du nord, commerçants du sud inquiets pour leurs commerces (avec raison, voir le lynchage – sur témoignage d’un noir s’il vous plait – du chef d’entreprise Leo Frank en pleine convention démocrate !) ou rabbins et avocats (certes une poignée dont le fameux théologien Abraham Joshua Heschel) qui marcheront aux côtés de Martin Luther King ou contribueront à la création de tant d’associations de défense des droits civiques ou de syndicats (NAACP, Urban League, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Amalgamated Clothing Workers) …
Et, plus récemment, déclarations antisémites de toute une série de leaders noirs (de Farrakhan à Sharpton ou au propre pasteur de vingt ans du président Obama lui-même), l’affaire Allan Blakke contre les dérives de l’ « affirmative action » ou les tristement célèbres émeutes du quartier noir de Crown Heights de Brooklyn de 1991 contre les juifs orthodoxes (avec le lynchage d’un étudiant juif, Yankel Rosenbaum) ou celles de Harlem contre un commerçant juif en 1995 (8 morts en majorité hispaniques) à chaque fois attisées par le révérend Sharpton …
Sur ces sionistes qui, des prophètes bibliques aux rabbins et avocats des marches pour l’égalité raciale des Etats-Unis des années 60 ont même inventé les droits civiques !
De Martin Luther King à Louis Farrakhan : un processus irréversible ? Hier, Juifs et Noirs luttaient côte à côte ; aujourd’hui, il semble qu’un abîme les sépare
L’Arche N° 498-499
Choses vues à Crown Heights « La communauté noire doit s’affirmer, par tous les moyens s’il le faut » par notre envoyé spécial Olivier Guez
« Les événements d’août 1991 sont encore gravés dans ma mémoire », raconte Joseph Spielman, résident du quartier de Crown Heights à Brooklyn, où vivent Juifs orthodoxes et Afro-Américains. « Tout a commencé quand une voiture conduite par un Juif hassidique a percuté et tué un petit garçon noir, âgé de sept ans, Gavin Cato. Les témoins se sont alors jetés sur le conducteur et l’ont battu. Puis une foule de plus en plus nombreuse s’est réunie et a commencé à crier « mort aux Juifs ». Un étudiant hassidique, Yankel Rosenbaum, fut poignardé ; il mourut de ses blessures quelques heures plus tard à l’hôpital. Des émeutes, dans une véritable atmosphère de pogrom, se sont poursuivies pendant trois jours. Des jets de pierre, des cocktails Molotov, des batailles de rues… On n’avait jamais vu ça. »
Il ne s’agit pas d’un incident isolé. Louis Farrakhan et ses hommes du mouvement extrémiste noir Nation of Islam font souvent les gros titres de la presse américaine pour leurs propos antisémites. Ils utilisent la vieille rengaine de la « conspiration juive » pour expliquer les problèmes sociaux de la communauté noire. Les membres du mouvement font régulièrement le tour des campus universitaires afin de dénoncer « la mainmise sur Hollywood des producteurs juifs qui ne donnent qu’une image dégradante des Blacks », « les médecins juifs qui injectent le virus du sida dans les veines de leurs patients noirs », etc. Nation of Islam a édité un livre intitulé La relation secrète entre Juifs et Noirs, qui accuse les Juifs d’avoir été les principaux responsables et les grands bénéficiaires du commerce d’esclaves. Certains professeurs d’université afro-américains enseignent à leurs étudiants ces falsifications historiques.
« Ne vous laissez pas abuser par ces extrémistes ou par l’incident de Crown Heights. Il est faux de conclure que les 36 millions de Noirs vivant aux Etats-Unis sont tous antisémites à cause d’une minorité d’activistes surmédiatisés », explique Manning Marable, professeur d’histoire afro-américaine à l’Université de Columbia, New York. Il poursuit : « Les rapports entre les communautés juive et noire aux Etats-Unis sont extrêmement complexes. C’est une histoire de hauts et de bas, de rapprochement et d’éloignement. Evitez de tirer des conclusions trop hâtives en la matière. »
Les premiers contacts entre les dirigeants des deux communautés ont lieu à la fin des années 20. Le professeur Marable décrit ainsi le contexte historique : « Jusqu’à cette date, chaque communauté se préoccupe de ses propres problèmes, chacune vote pour le parti qui semble le plus à même d’améliorer ses piètres conditions de vie. Ces deux peuples parias souffrent chacun de son côté. Les Noirs combattent le lynchage dans les Etats du Sud et la ségrégation dans la plus grande part du pays. Ils votent essentiellement pour les Républicains. Quant aux Juifs, dont la majorité viennent de débarquer d’Europe centrale et orientale, ils essaient de s’intégrer à la société américaine des grandes villes du nord-est et d’améliorer leur situation matérielle. Ils votent généralement démocrate. Mais la majorité blanche anglo-saxonne oppose une grande résistance aux tentatives d’émancipation des deux communautés. C’est cette situation qui provoque au départ le rapprochement d’un petit groupe d’intellectuels et de juristes. »
Le New Deal de Franklin Roosevelt est le véritable catalyseur de la « grande alliance » judéo-afro-américaine, qui perdure jusqu’au milieu des années 60. Les deux communautés sont désormais dans le camp démocrate et mettent au point un programme politique commun : lutte pour les droits civiques (droit de vote, écoles et universités ouvertes à tous, non-discrimination pour les logements et dans les emplois…) et pour une plus grande participation des minorités à l’économie du pays. Les atrocités de la guerre les unissent encore un peu plus dans la lutte contre le racisme.
Cette époque voit l’apogée de leur coopération. Noirs et Juifs sont à l’avant-garde des mouvements progressistes et modernistes aux Etats-Unis.
Mais dès le milieu des années 60 cette belle entente connaît ses premiers soubresauts, pour se désagréger au début de la décennie suivante. Selon Peter Noel, journaliste au Village Voice de New York et grand spécialiste de la question noire aux Etats-Unis, plusieurs facteurs expliquent ce divorce. « A l’époque, les mouvements d’émancipation afro-américains se sont fortement radicalisés. Sous l’influence de Malcolm X, ces organisations ont rejeté l’idée d’une large communauté inter-raciale pour privilégier une approche purement ethnocentrique. L’intégration au melting pot américain n’est plus le but recherché. Le mouvement pour les droits civiques de Martin Luther King est décrié : la stratégie de non-violence est jugée inefficace, trop molle. La communauté noire doit s’affirmer, par tous les moyens s’il le faut. » C’est l’époque du Black Power, des Black Panthers, des émeutes et des révoltes. « Black is beautiful », proclament les activistes. Au cinéma, les héros noirs et musclés de Shaft ou de Superfly, films phares de la Blaxploitation du début des années 70, n’ont plus rien à voir avec la mine policée et les costumes étriqués de Sydney Poitier, quelques années plus tôt.
Cette radicalisation provoque évidemment des réactions dans la communauté juive. Il est de plus en plus difficile, même pour les Juifs les plus « libéraux » (progressistes, dirions-nous en Europe), de trouver un programme commun avec leurs anciens partenaires. Emerge alors un courant « néo-conservateur » juif, autour d’un petit groupe d’intellectuels new-yorkais comme Laqueur, Glazer ou Podhoretz. Ces anciens hommes de gauche constatent l’échec d’une entreprise qui aurait dû créer une Amérique « sans couleurs » et qui, finalement, n’a fait que renforcer les particularismes ethniques de chaque communauté. Ils dénoncent également l’antisémitisme politique violent du Black Power et se battent pour protéger le « libéralisme » que la société américaine a hérité du New Deal. Les visions divergent : les organisations juives n’ont désormais plus aucun intérêt à coopérer avec la plupart de leurs homologues afro-américaines. C’est le clash…•
Working to extend America’s freedoms.
My Jewish Learning
Reprinted with permission from A History of Jews in America, published by Vintage Books.
Nowhere did Jews identify themselves more forthrightly with the liberal avant-garde than in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It was an uneven identification. For Jews living in the South, the issue of racial integration posed unsettling questions. They constituted barely one percent of the region’s total population. Among their white neighbors, they had long been accepted as « honorary white Protestants. »
Even Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi was prepared to draw distinctions between Northern Jews and « good » Southern Jews. The latter were circumspect, in any case, unprepared to question the South’s social order.civil rights memorial
But in 1954 that social order was challenged head-on. It was then that the United States Supreme Court rendered its judgment in Brown v. Board of Education, striking down racial segregation in public schools. Within the next dozen years, as a series of federal laws and court orders shattered every legal support of racial segregation, Southern Jews faced an agony of indecision. A very small number responded by joining the ardent segregationists. They were entirely atypical of Jews even in the Deepest South.
Black-Jewish Relations in the South
As far back as the 19th century, Jewish storekeepers were virtually the only Southern merchants who addressed black customers as « Mr. » and « Mrs. » and permitted them to try on clothing. By the early 20th century, a few Southern Jews even ventured to speak out against the evils of white supremacy. In 1929, Louis Isaac Jaffe, editorial writer for the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot won the Pulitzer Prize for his denunciation of lynching and the reactionary Harry Byrd political machine.
Julius Rosenwald chairman of Sears Roebuck, contributed more generously in behalf of Southern blacks than did any philanthropist in American history. Rosenwald was Chicagoan, but his munificence was continued by his daughter, Edith Stern of New Orleans, whose Stern Family Fund in later years contributed vast sums to civil rights activities in the South. It was known, too, that Southern Jews privately tended to be more liberal on the race issue than Southern gentiles, and often quietly provided manpower and funds for civil rights causes.
Yet, away from large, modern cities like Atlanta and New Orleans, Southern Jews felt obliged to walk a narrow line. Most were merchants, dependent on the good will of their neighbors. In the Deep South, if they hesitated to join White Citizens Councils, they felt the pressure immediately. « The money dried up at the banks and loans were called in, » recalled a Jewish storekeeper « If you had a restaurant, linen was not picked up. If you owned a store, the local police could play havoc with you on the fire laws. »
Most local Jews then tended to adopt a low profile on the race issue. At the express wish of their congregations, a majority of Southern rabbis similarly agreed to be restrained. No more than six or seven of them in the entire South worked openly to promote the cause of civil rights. But, of these, Rabbi Julian Feibelman of New Orleans opened the doors of his Temple Sinai in 1949 for a lecture by Ralph Bunche, the black United Nations ambassador, permitting the first major integrated audience in New Orleans history.
At the height of the anti-integration effort, in 1957, Rabbi Ira Sanders of Little Rock testified before the Arkansas Senate against pending segregationist bills. Rabbi Perry Nussbaum of Jackson, Mississippi, also courageously lent his support to the integration effort, as did Rabbis Jacob Rothschild of Atlanta, Emmet Frank of Alexandria, and Charles Mantingand of Birmingham. Yet these men stood well ahead of their constituencies.
If Southern Jews believed that a low profile would permit them to continue living peacefully, they were wrong. Klan groups exploited the integration crisis to launch acts of anti-Semitic violence. In one year, from November 1957 through October 1958, temples and other Jewish communal edifices were bombed in Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Miami, and undetonated dynamite was found under synagogues in Birmingham, Charlotte, and Gastonia, North Carolina. Some rabbis received telephone death threats.
No one was injured, and local and state authorities in every instance joined newspapers and communal leaders in condemning the outrages and in tracking down, prosecuting, and convicting the perpetrators. Much of the South was urbanizing and modernizing, after all. But an older residue of folkloristic suspicion evidently survived even against veteran, local Jews.
More than any other factor, it was the participation of Northern Jews in the Civil Rights movement that tapped that residue. These were the people, it is recalled, who were the earliest supporters of the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1914, Professor Emeritus Joel Spingarn of Columbia University became chairman of the NAACP and recruited for its board such Jewish leaders as Jacob Schiff, Jacob Billikopf, and Rabbi Stephen Wise.
Jews also were the earliest supporters of the Urban League, founded in New York in 1911 to help newly arrived black migrants from the rural South. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers took the lead in organizing « our black brothers » for union membership (over the opposition of the American Federation of Labor national board). And, in the climactic civil rights drives of the 1950s and 1960s, Jewish participation was all but overwhelming.
In the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling itself, the Supreme Court accepted the research of the black sociologist Kenneth Clark that segregation placed the stamp of inferiority on black children. Clark’s study had been commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, and it appeared in the amicus curiae brief the Committee submitted to the court. The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress also submitted amicus curiae briefs in behalf of the cause. Once the judgment was issued, these Jewish defense organizations continued to file legal briefs in civil rights cases dealing with housing, employment, education, and public accommodation. Many local and state desegregation regulations actually were drafted in the offices of the Jewish agencies.
Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movement far transcended institutional associations. One black leader in Mississippi estimated that, in the 1960s, the critical decade of the voting-registration drives, « as many as 90 percent of the civil rights lawyers in Mississippi were Jewish. » Large numbers of them were recent graduates of Ivy League law schools. They worked around the clock analyzing welfare standards, the bail system, arrest procedures, justice-of-the-peace rulings. Racing from one Southern town to another, they obtained parade permits and issued complaints on jail beatings and intimidation.
Jews similarly made up at least 30 percent of the white volunteers who rode freedom buses to the South, registered blacks, and picketed segregated establishments. Among them were several dozen Reform rabbis who marched among the demonstrators in Selma and Birmingham. A number were arrested. Others were taken into custody for attempting to desegregate a swimming pool in St. Augustine, Florida. One of the demonstrating rabbis, Arthur Lelyveld, was severely beaten in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A young physician, Edward Sachar, volunteering his medical services to the freedom marchers, nearly lost his life as his automobile was forced off a Mississippi back road by local rednecks.
Two young New Yorkers, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, served in 1964 as voting-registration volunteers in Meridian, Mississippi. One of their coworkers was a young black Mississippian, James Cheney. Together they were waylaid and murdered by Klansmen, their bodies dumped in a secret grave. As much as any single factor, it was the nationwide attention given the discovery of their corpses that accelerated passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Jews had long since achieved their own political and economic breakthrough. Rarely had any community gone to such lengths to share its painfully achieved status with others.
Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of Israel, A History of the Jews in America, Farewell Espana, Israel and Europe, and A History of Jews in the Modern World. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University.
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, conveying to the Jewish leader an idea he had for a march. King was planning an unprecedented demonstration, bringing hundreds, maybe thousands, on a walk from Montgomery to Selma.
Dr. King was fighting for voting rights for the black community, and he needed the rabbi’s help.
“The segregationists and racists,” King once said, “make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jew.”
What resulted would go down in history as one of the greatest civil rights moments of all time. Rabbi Eisendrath did indeed participate, as did other spiritual leaders from all factions, political figures, and everyday volunteers.
Rabbi Eisendrath, executive director and president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations until 1973, was joined on the march by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a widely read Jewish theologian.
The pair has been immortalized in an iconic photo from the Selma march, in which Rabbi Eisendrath, clutching a Torah, can be seen standing between Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel.
Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was not a coincidence. The Religious Action Center, the outreach arm of the Reform Movement in the US, was established five decades ago, its aim then as it is now social advocacy. And that advocacy extends outside the Jewish circle.
In the ‘60s, the RAC was paramount in pushing for legislation to promote black rights, and its headquarters in DC saw many groundbreaking moments take place. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, securing the black community the right to vote, were both drafted at the RAC’s library in Washington.
A persecuted community themselves, and often a minority wherever they went, the Jewish people have long supported the ideals Dr. King put forward in his work and his legacy.
As Rabbi Heschel said upon completing that revolutionary walk in 1965, “When I marched in Selma, it felt like my legs were praying.”
The segregationists and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jew. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The story of Black-Jewish relations in the United States is a long and complex one…. Jews were among those who worked to establish the NAACP in 1909. African-American newspapers were among the first in the U.S. to denounce Nazism…. FROM SWASTIKA TO JIM CROW creates hope and reminds us of a time in U.S. history when the two communities came together.
– David Horowitz, Washington Review
In the year 2001, the tension between Blacks and Jews remains a visible symbol of America’s racial divide. The history of this relationship is a tumultuous one, ironically full of ugly twists and turns interspersed with moments of real human transcendence.
Since the time of slavery, Blacks have in some ways identified with the Jewish experience. They compared their situation in the American South to that of the Jews in Egypt, as expressed in Black spirituals such as « Go Down, Moses. » The longing for their own exodus inspired the popularity of « Zion » in the names of many Black churches. Black nationalists used the Zionist movement as a model for their own Back-to-Africa movement.
Over the years Jews have also expressed empathy with the plight of Blacks. In the early 1900s, Jewish newspapers drew parallels between the Black movement out of the South and the Jews’ escape from Egypt, pointing out that both Blacks and Jews lived in ghettos, and calling anti-Black riots in the South « pogroms ». Stressing the similarities rather than the differences between the Jewish and Black experience in America, Jewish leaders emphasized the idea that both groups would benefit the more America moved toward a society of merit, free of religious, ethnic and racial restrictions.
From the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks and Jews marched arm-in-arm. In 1909, W.E.B. Dubois, Julius Rosenthal, Lillian Wald, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Stephen Wise and Henry Malkewitz formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). One year later other prominent Jewish and Black leaders created the Urban League. Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington worked together in 1912 to improve the educational system for Blacks in the South.
Thus, in the 1930s and ’40s when Jewish refugee professors arrived at Southern Black Colleges, there was a history of overt empathy between Blacks and Jews, and the possibility of truly effective collaboration. Professor Ernst Borinski organized dinners at which Blacks and Whites would have to sit next to each other – a simple yet revolutionary act. Black students empathized with the cruelty these scholars had endured in Europe and trusted them more than other Whites. In fact, often Black students – as well as members of the Southern White community – saw these refugees as « some kind of colored folk. »
The unique relationship that developed between these teachers and their students was in some ways a microcosm of what was beginning to happen in other parts of the United States. The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League were central to the campaign against racial prejudice. Jews made substantial financial contributions to many civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. About 50 percent of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s were Jews, as were over 50 percent of the Whites who went to Mississippi in 1964 to challenge Jim Crow Laws.
Black Power and Division
With the late 1960s came the birth of the Black Power movement, emphasizing self-determination, self-defense tactics and racial pride, and representing a radical break from the nonviolence and racial integration espoused by the Reverend Martin Luther King. The separatist rise of Black nationalism was just one of the difficulties facing the Black-Jewish alliance since the end of the Civil Rights movement. The rapid decline of American anti-Semitism since 1945, combined with the nation’s continuing pervasive racism, convinced Blacks there was an insurmountable racial gulf separating the two groups. Blacks no longer perceived the division as one between the persecutors and their victims – including Jews – but between those with white skin and those with black. Through the eyes of Blacks, Jews became Whites with all the privileges their skin color won them, regardless of alliances they had in the past.
As early as the first two decades after World War II, James Baldwin, Kenneth Clark and other Blacks encouraged liberal Jews to give up the « special relationship. » This came in part from a fear that the Jews’ determined belief in their bond with Blacks would eventually become offensive and, paradoxically, provoke Black anti-Semitism. The prospect of this shift was incomprehensible to Jews who believed that their own history, culminating in the Holocaust, defined them as oppressed and thus incapable of being the oppressor. And yet, as Baldwin pointed out in Georgia has the Negro and Harlem has the Jew, each time a Black person paid his Jewish landlord, shopped at a Jewish-owned store, was taught by a Jewish school teacher, was supervised by a Jewish social worker, or was paid by a Jewish employer, the fact of Black subservience to Jews was driven home.
Jews continued to call for the maintenance of a Black-Jewish alliance despite the socioeconomic differences between the two groups. Positions hardened around such divisive issues as affirmative action in the schools, Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Crown Heights/Harlem riots and the Million Man March – all exacerbated by the use of stereotypes in sensationalized media coverage.
Hatred and Misunderstanding
In 1991, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, a car driven by an Lubavitch Jew spun out of control onto a sidewalk, killing one Black child and injuring another. As angry Black residents beat the car’s driver, the privately run Jewish Hatzolah ambulance arrived and workers began attending to the child pinned under the car. When a New York city ambulance arrived, the technician instructed the Hatzolah driver to remove the Lubavitch driver from the escalating scene and take him to the hospital. Black onlookers were infuriated and rumors of the Jew being aided first flew through the neighborhood. The streets filled with shouts of « Get the Jews! » and that night, a mob of 10 to 15 angry Black teens and men fatally stabbed a young Orthodox Holocaust researcher.
For three days Jewish residents of Crown Heights and reporters were beaten, cars overturned and set afire, and stores looted and firebombed by angered Black residents. Finally hundreds of police officers in riot gear restored a relative calm. The state’s official investigation into the riots found that city authorities and police failed to respond appropriately. Lubavitchers say this was an experience few have forgotten.
That same year, an anonymous group of African Americans associated with the Reverend Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam published The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, detailing the involvement of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade and Pan-American slavery. Though Jewish historians had already produced a significant body of scholarship on the subject, the information had never appeared in a publication written for a non-scholarly audience. The book caused quite a furor because none of its data was placed in any context that would indicate its broader historical significance. The role of Jews in the enslavement of Blacks was exaggerated – not with misinformation but through calculated misrepresentation.
Over the years Farrakhan has angered Jews, Catholics, gays, feminists and others with various slurs, including his description of Judaism as a « gutter religion » and Jewish landlords as « bloodsuckers. » In 1995, Farrakhan spoke for over two hours to over 400,000 listeners at the Million Man March. Many believe that was more the result of a desperate need for leadership than a widespread anti-Jewish feeling. « It’s not about Farrakhan, » said one marcher. « [It’s about] Black men uniting for a cause. »
« Once again, sons and daughters of slavery and Holocaust survivors are bound together with a shared agenda, bound by their hopes and their fears about national public policy. »
– Jesse Jackson
« [The election debacle is] an opportunity for Jews and Blacks to come back together. »
– Rabbi Steven Jacobs
In Palm Beach, Florida after the November 2000 presidential election, the Reverend Jesse Jackson asked that Jews and Blacks unite as they did in the Civil Rights Era – this time to push for an accurate vote count in the presidential race.
American History has taught Blacks and Jews two very different lessons. In the Jewish experience of the U.S., education and hard work eventually pay off and thus the future is full of possibility. Blacks, however, face a legacy of three and a half centuries of racism on American soil and the irrefutable sense that something more than dedication is required. Currently there exist huge disparities between Jews and Blacks in terms of crime, family breakdown, drug addiction, alcoholism and educational achievements. The « culture of poverty » that exists in today’s inner city is incomparable to anything in the American Jewish experience.
Voir de plus:
March 27, 2012
Al Sharpton is a user. He exploits tragedy to get headlines for himself. It’s what he is doing in the Trayvon Martin Case–it’s what he has done his entire career. Though this story has been told before, I thought it appropriate to reexamine some the exploitative handiwork of this Reverend who has long forgotten the golden rule, a purveyor of hatred who is given a place of honor as a civil rights leader by the mainstream media and by the President of the United States.
Twenty-one years ago a tragic car accident in Crown Heights Brooklyn escalated into a pogrom against the Jewish people, thanks in part to this faux-preacher.
The media gives this pogrom a politically correct description, violence between the area’s Blacks and Jews. They ignore the fact that the violence was not two-sided. The Crown Heights riot was an attack on the Jews by the neighborhood’s Caribbean community.
Black Antisemitism in the Summer of 1991
Jews were a key part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s—when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous march to Selma Alabama, he walked hand in hand with many Jews including Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Along with the Jews was a contingent of Torahs to emphasize that the quest for Civil Rights was a holy mission for the Jewish people.
In spite of the strong Jewish participation in the civil rights movement the transformation from the peaceful marches to Black power movement introduced considerable friction into African American-Jewish relations, especially within the “Black Muslim” movement.
During the 1970s and 1980s African-Americans stopped looking at Jews as their allies but as their oppressors. The Jews were seen as having the political power that the African-Americans desired. Black leaders such as Louis Farrakhan, and Jesse Jackson went public with anti-Semitic comments.
Adding to the hatred were the leaders of the South African anti-Apartheid movement who traveled throughout the United States as conquering heroes, and spreading Jew-hatred. For example, in 1984 Desmond Tutu publicly complained about American Jews having “an arrogance—the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.
Understandably Jewish/Black relations were already rocky as NY City entered the summer of 1991.
On July 20, 1991, Leonard Jeffries of City College who had a history of anti-Semitic slurs presented a two-hour long speech claiming “rich Jews » financed the slave trade, Jews control the film industry (together with Italian mafia), and use that control to paint a brutal stereotype of blacks. Jeffries also attacked Diane Ravitch, (Assistant Secretary of Education) calling her a « sophisticated Texas Jew, » « a debonair racist » and « Miss Daisy.”
Jeffries’ speech received enormous negative press during the first weeks of August especially from the leaders of the Jewish community who wanted Jeffries fired for the bigotry.
With each new criticism of the professor, leaders in the African-American community rushed to Jeffries’ defense. NYC’s two black newspapers as well as black radio station WLIB; joined activists such Al Sharpton, Colin Moore, C. Vernon Mason, Sonny Carson, and Lenora Fulani to showcase their approval of Jeffries’s “scholarship” and to denounce the people who criticized Jeffries Antisemitism as race baiting.
Serial race-baiter Al Sharpton is credited with saying, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house » as a response to the Crown Heights riot. That is a fallacy; he made that threatening comment to the Jewish community about the growing Jeffries controversy on August 18th the day before the riots began. Clearly something bad was coming.
Jeffries was fired because of his bigoted speech and pressure from the Jewish community (he was later reinstated and won a court case surrounding his firing) leading to further resentment of the Jews from a Black community already being barraged with anti-Jewish incitement from the African-American media.
Crown Heights Ignites
On Monday 8/19/91 a station wagon driven by Yosef Lifsh, hit another car and bounced onto the sidewalk at 8:21 p.m. The station wagon was part of a 3-car motorcade carrying the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. The Rebbe was in a different car.
The station wagon struck two black children, 7-year-old cousins Gavin and Angela Cato who were on the sidewalk. Lifsh immediately got out of his car and tried to help the children gathering crowd started to attack him.
Within minutes, an ambulance from the Hasidic-run ambulance service, and two from the city’s Emergency Medical Service arrived. Also the gathering crowd became unruly. The police who showed up radioed for backup reporting the station wagon’s driver and passengers were being assaulted. Police officer Nona Capace ordered the Hasidic ambulance to remove the battered Yosef Lifsh, and his passenger from the scene.
The injured children went by separate city ambulances to Kings County Hospital. Gavin Cato was pronounced dead; his cousin survived.
A rumor began to spread that the Hasidic ambulance crew had ignored the dying black child in favor of treating the Jewish men. Ignoring the commandment about bearing false witness, Sharpton used this falsehood to incite the crowd. Other rumors sprang up Lifsh was intoxicated (breath alcohol test administered by the police proved his sobriety). More falsehoods circulated; Lifsh did not have a valid driver’s license; he went through a red light; the police prevented people including Gavin Cato’s father, from assisting in the rescue.
Charles Price, an area resident who had come to the scene of the accident, incited the masses with claims that, « The Jews get everything they want. They’re killing our children. » Price later pled guilty for inciting the crowd to murder Yankel Rosenbaum.
Ignited by the falsehoods, resentment exploded into violence. Groups of young black men threw rocks, bottles and debris at police, residents and homes.
According to the New York Times, more than 250 neighborhood residents went on a rampage that first night, mostly black teenagers, many of whom were shouting « Jews! Jews! Jews! »
Three hours after the tragic crash, 29-year-old Australian Jewish scholar Yankel Rosenbaum was attacked by a gang of Black teens. He was stabbed four times. Cops quickly arrested Lemrick Nelson, who was identified by Rosenbaum as his attacker. Rosenbaum’s wounds were not fatal he was expected to recover; Mayor Dinkins visited Rosenbaum at the hospital. Yankel died at 2:30am Tuesday because the hospital staff missed one of his knife wounds.
The next evening, according to the sworn testimony of Efraim Lipkind, a former Hasidic resident of Crown Heights, Sharpton started agitating the crowd.
“Then we had a famous man, Al Sharpton, who came down, and he said Tuesday night, kill the Jews, two times. I heard him, and he started to lead a charge across the street to Utica.”
With each passing hour the violence worsened, Jewish leaders began to desperately complain about the lack of protection to the authorities. They said, the rioters were being allowed to rampage unchecked, too little force was being brought to bear, and too few arrests were being made. Area Jews felt the police were under orders by the City’s first black mayor to hold back, that the police were not allowed to fight against the Black rioters, who continued to grow bolder in their anti-Semitic attack as they sensed the appeasement.
The fact is New York City Mayor David Dinkins responded to the riot immediately by deploying 2,000 police officers and making a personal visit to the troubled neighborhood under a hail of rocks and epithets hurled at him by fellow blacks.
Dinkins has spoken of his own mishandling of the riots. Admitting he “screwed up Crown Heights”
“I regret not saying to the police brass sooner whatever you guys are doing is not working” it was then they altered their behavior and they were able to contain the ravaging young blacks who were attacking Jews … I will forever be accused of holding back the police and permitted blacks to attack Jews, however that did not happen it is just inaccurate”
In all, the street violence against the Crown Heights Jews lasted three days/four nights starting with the evening of the accident. On Thursday evening, cops finally restored order, although sporadic violence against Jews continued for weeks after the riot was contained.
Yankel Rosenbaum wasn’t the only person murdered by the rioters. On September 5th, Italian-American, Anthony Graziosi, was dragged out of his car, brutally beaten and stabbed to death because his full beard and dark clothing caused him to be mistaken for a Hasidic Jew.
During the funeral of Gavin Cato on August 26th, Al Sharpton gave an anti-Semitic eulogy, which fueled the fires of hatred.
“The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. … All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds. »
Regarding the Mayor’s call for peace Sharpton pontificated:
« They don’t want peace, they want quiet. »
Sharpton and the lawyer representing the Cato family counseled them not to cooperate with authorities in the investigation and demanded a special prosecutor be named.
Sharpton was asked about the violence, he justified it,
“We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system, » he said.
The first Sabbath after the Funeral Sharpton tried unsuccessfully to kick up tensions again by marching 400 protesters in front of the Lubavitch of Crown Heights shouting “No Justice, No Peace. »
Sharpton called for the arrest of Lifsh, the driver of the station wagon. Even though more than twenty similarly accidental vehicular deaths had occurred in Brooklyn since 1989 without a single arrest several involving local Hasidim run down by blacks. The agitator’s pressure led Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, into convening a grand jury.
When the investigation of the accident did not produce a criminal indictment against Yosef Lifsh, Al Sharpton encouraged the Cato family to seek big-bucks damages in a civil suit against Lifsh (who had since fled to Israel for his own safety). Sharpton announced that he would personally serve papers on Yosef Lifsh in Israel. He bought tickets and hopped an El-Al flight on the weekend of Yom Kippur. At Ben Gurion Airport, a woman spotted Sharpton hailing a cab and yelled to him, « Go to hell! “I am in hell already, » shot back. « I am in Israel. »
Sharpton abandoned the Caribbean people of Crown Heights as soon as the anti-Semitic violence had died down. His entire participation in the violence may have been a calculated effort to usurp Jesse Jackson as the leading spokesman for African-Americans. Jackson may have had his “Hymie-town” but Sharpton’s incitement against those Jews who he perceived as having the political power that African Americans deserved, went much further than simply words like Jackson.
Sadly had Sharpton not exploited the death of Gavin Cato for his own “resume”, what was by all accounts, a disorganized group of ruffians on the first night of the riot, might well have dissipated the morning after the accident.
The media portrayed the Crown Heights riot as two-sided promoting the myth that both blacks and Jews were equal in their violence. The violence was a one-sided rampage waged by some of the neighborhood’s 180,000 strong black majority against a Jewish minority of 20,000.
Maybe the media continues to sugarcoat the riot because it was unprecedented in American history. For liberals it’s impossible to perceive blacks as purveyors of bigotry they are forever in the role of victims of hate.
The Crown Heights riot occurred just five months after the infamous Rodney King beating, a disgusting act of police brutality against the African American King which was video-taped and repeated on TV ad nauseum.
After the King case, who could believe that blacks in America could ever take over the role of racists, but that is what happened in Crown Heights. Even today the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum are viewed as some sort of a » tit for tat. » This is a misrepresentation of the facts. Cato’s death was the result of a horrible accident; on the other hand, Rosenbaum was deliberately stabbed four times by an angry mob. Anthony Graziosi’s death has been forgotten perhaps because his death would break some cynical equality of fatality.
Many in the Jewish community felt Mayor Dinkins was complacent in the violence, holding back the police from protecting the Jewish community, but there has never been evidence offered proving that charge.
A more likely explanation for the lack of protection offered to the Hasidic community is a perfect storm of incompetence. An incompetent Police Commissioner Lee Brown was being managed by an incompetent Mayor.
Nevertheless the pogrom dealt a death blow to Dinkins’ mayoral career. Ironically it was the fact that Jews had voted for him in overwhelming numbers that gave him a narrow victory over Rudy Giuliani in 1989. Those same Jews switched sides, giving Giuliani the win against Dinkins in 1993.
To this day, the media refuses to acknowledge that African-Americans can be racists just as much as Caucasians and Antisemitism is still ignored by the media. News networks invite anti-Semitic representatives of CAIR or former CIA agent Michael Scheuer to participate on their programs as experts, but these same “experts” contend that American Jews run the media and the Government. Huffington Post regularly allows Media Matters’ MJ Rosenberg on their front page where he too uses anti-Semitic stereotypes.
As for Al Sharpton, he went on to lead a second pogrom, this time against a Jewish-owned business in Harlem. I suppose it was his experience in leading two anti-Semitic pogroms that gave Sharpton the expertise he needed to be an adviser to the first « post-racial « President, Barack Obama and the latest evening anchor for MSNBC. It has certainly gave him the inspiration to exploit other tragedies such as the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
Sharpton’s rise to respectability proves how little has been learned from the Crown Heights anti-Jewish violence which took place twenty years ago.
March 28, 2012
Angelina Marrero . . . Cynthia Martinez . . . Luz Ramos . . . Mayra Rentas . . . Olga Garcia . . . Garnette Ramautar . . . Kareem Brunner their names will forever be remembered as the seven victims of the massacre at Freddy’s Fashion Mart. Their deaths can be traced to the racial incitement of one man.. the faux Reverend Al Sharpton.
It all started as a rent dispute in the summer of 1995:
The United House of Prayer, a large African-American church was also a major landlord in Harlem. They raised the rent Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store which had operated from the same Harlem location for over 40 years. In turn Freddy’s had to raise the rent on its sub-tenant, a black-owned record store. A landlord-tenant dispute ensued. As he has done so often in his life, Al Sharpton turned this non-racial economic dispute into a racial conflict.
The Sharpton-led protests began in August and came to a head on the morning of Friday, December 8th when Roland James Smith, Jr., who had been part of the Sharpton’s protests, walked into Freddy’s Fashion Mart, pulled out a gun, ordered all the black customers to leave, spilled paint thinner on several bins of clothing and set them on fire — a fire that resulted in killing 7 people plus Smith. The only African American left in the story was Freddy’s security guard Kareem Brunner, 22-years-old, who was ordered to stay by the mass murderer Smith.
At the time the faux-preacher claimed he wasn’t involved in the protests, he was only there to mediate. He also claimed there was no Antisemitism involved in the protests, but he has been proven to be a liar.
Soon after the massacre, the Jewish Action Alliance, a New York-based civil-rights group, released audiotapes of several of Sharpton’s weekly radio show in which Morris Powell, leader of the 125th Street Vendor’s Association, can be heard using racial and anti-Semitic language to encourage Harlem residents to boycott Freddy’s. Learning from his Crown Heights experience Sharpton let others push the anti-Semitic hatred but it was all done on his show.
« We are going to see that this cracker suffers, » Powell is heard telling a crowd in one broadcast on Aug. 19.
« Reverend Sharpton is on it. We have made contact with these crackers. We don’t expect a lot out of them. They haven’t seen how we feel about anything yet. We are going to show them. »
He also said
They think they gonna drive this man out of business, they gotta be out of their minds. We are not gonna stand idly by and let a Jewish person come in Black Harlem and methodically drive black people out of business up and down 125th Street. If we stand for that, we’ll stand for anything. Which we’ve been doing.
At a rally was recorded on Sept. 9, Mr. Sharpton is heard telling a crowd:
« I want to make it clear to the radio audience and to you here that we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street.
Ironically Sharpton was the interloper, he was living in Hollis Queens at around the time Freddy’s opened in Harlem and living in New Jersey when Freddy’s was burned down. When other white-owned businesses fled the neighborhood as the population became more African-American, Fred Harari the owner of Freddy’s continued to serve the neighborhood.
On an October 21st broadcast Norman « Granddad » Reide said:
I am saying to the Jewish community and specifically to Abraham Foxman, that you come out and utter a word, accusatory remark against Reverend Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Donna Wilson, Reverend Shields, or Gary Byrd, we will boycott you and nobody loves money any more than the Jewish people. Thank you.
In court papers filed the day before the fire, Harari and two employees described weeks of protests outside the clothing store in which demonstrators threatened employees, hurled obscenities at « bloodsucking Jews » and talked of burning down the store.
Sharpton, the professional bigot criticized NYPD investigators for quickly linking the fire to the protesters. But the police evidence and the tapes from the Jewish Alliance proved him to be a liar. After first telling the press « What’s wrong with calling someone a white interloper? » he apologized for using that term. He never apologized for the Jew-hatred broadcast on his radio shows and spoken at the rallies he helped to organize. He continues to deny that the rallies had anything to do with the firebombing
Of course Sharpton never apologized for Tawana Brawley or slandering DA Pagones by with the unfounded charge that Pagones was the rapist,
“I did what I believed….They are asking me to grovel. They want black children to say they forced a black man coming out of the hard-core ghetto to his knees….Once you begin bending, it’s ‘did you bend today?’ or ‘I missed the apology, say it again.’ Once you start compromising, you lose respect for yourself.”
..nor did he apologize for saying the « Central Park Jogger » was raped by her boyfriend and leading demonstrations calling the woman who was raped and beaten to within a hair of death a whore…
…and he certainly never apologized for the anti-Semitic Pogrom he led at Crown Heights.
Al Sharpton is a Baptist Minister who regularly breaks the ninth commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, he has incited riots which have lead to the deaths of innocents. A real preacher would not have incited violence but called for peace. A real preacher would have waited for the truth before he incited and a real preacher would have apologized when he wrongly accused people…none of which Al Sharpton has done.
Sharpton’s real business isn’t preaching, his real business is being a professional agitator. In the end just like a TV detergent, Al Sharpton is selling a product…Al Sharpton. And he has been rewarded for his efforts with an undeserved halo of respectability by the press, by MSNBC, and by the President of the United States.
As you read, watch or hear the news reports about Sharpton’s protests with the Trayvon Martin family, understand this context. Sharpton couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Travyon, his grieving family or improving the lives of African Americans in this country. He is only concerned with selling his product.
“Now you know I’m going to be lambasted and called anti-Semitic… They’ll say Farrakhan was up to his old canards; he said Jews control Hollywood. Well, they said it themselves! Jews control the media. They said it themselves! Jews and some gentiles control the banking industry, international banks. They do! In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?”
Holy Day of Atonement Keynote Address, Part 2, Mosque Maryam, Chicago, Illinois 10/21/12
Farrakhan: How many of you are lawyers? Only have one in the house? No wonder we go to jail so much, brother! But at the top of the law profession, who are the top in law?
Farrakhan: Sorry I didn’t hear you.
Farrakhan: Any doctors in the house? Ain’t got no doctors? Oh there’s one way in the back. At the top of the medical profession, the top in that are members of the Jewish community. Anybody in media? Who’s the top in that field?
Farrakhan: Anybody a rapper in the house? There’s rappers. You can rap, ain’t nothing wrong with that, but at the top of that are those that control the industry. Any of you have Hollywood ambitions, Broadway ambitions? Who’s the top of that?
Farrakhan: Same people! They’re masters in business. Well I’m not a businessman I’m a banker. Well who’s the master of the bankers?
Farrakhan: TALK TO ME!
Farrakhan: You don’t discredit them because they’re masters, you discredit them by the way they use their mastery.
Farrakhan: Now, I close.
« All is Vanity » sermon at Mosque Maryam, Chicago 7/1/12
“White Christians, [you saw the plight of blacks] but what did you do? You walked right by on the other side. Then along came the Jewish people. You did a little better. You came and looked at us: ‘damn they’re in bad shape! Let’s see how we can take advantage of the shape that they’re in.’”
« Guidance in a Time of Trouble » speech in San Diego, 5/27/12
“Do you know Jewish people were not the origin of Hollywood, but they took it over? ”
Saviours’ Day, Chicago, Illinois, 2/26/12
“In 100 years, they control movies, television, recording, publishing, commerce, radio, they own it all. Magazines. Why do you want all, everything?”
Saviours’ Day, Chicago, Illinois, 2/26/12
“Did you know that the Koran says that Jews are the most violent of people. I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it.”
Saviours’ Day, Chicago, Illinois, 2/26/12
“I think we have made a grave mistake; we have been deceived into thinking that the Jews have been our allies in our recent civil rights struggle… Yes, he poses as your friend. He’s with you as an agent, he’s with you as a manager, he’s with you as an investor, he’s with you as a guide in economic development, but he has never asked you to do what he has done. He networks with other rich, influential Jews and he buys, he invests, he’s in trade and commerce.”
Interview with Washington, DC, radio station WPFW-FM, 4/1/10
“Some of you think that I’m just somebody who’s got something out for the Jewish people. You’re stupid. Do you think I would waste my time if I did not think it was important for you to know Satan? My job is to pull the cover off of Satan so that he will never deceive you and the people of the world again.”
Saviours’ Day, Rosemont, Illinois, 2/27/11
“If the white race is under the name Israel, where did the name Jew come from? Adam never said he was a Jew. Abraham didn’t say he was a Jew. Moses didn’t say he was a Jew. The name Jew comes after Judah. Hebrew is different. The original Hebrews look just like you. The original Hebrews are Black.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/3/10
“How did we get a Black president? Because those Satanic Jews know the time that this is the time of your separation from them that God wants to give you a land of your own as the cornerstone of the Kingdom of GodÉ You didn’t see when they got in the room and said Ôwe have to deceive them and through them deceive the entire world’É How could they be the chosen of God and leading the world into filth and indecency?”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/3/10
“You can’t do nothing in Hollywood unless you go by them. You a hip-hop artist? You can’t do nothing, you gotta go by them. You want to be a great sports figure? They own that plantationÉ Children of Israel, they got you jumping through hoops.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/3/10
“They stole land in PalestineÉ And this Synagogue of Satan knows that the end of their time of rule is up. The jig is up.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/3/10
“If they go to war with Iran, which they’re setting the stage for now, it’ll be because the Zionists have pushed Obama to do their bidding andÉ to put a black face on an illegitimate war and use black and brown and poor white to fight a war for the Ashkenazi false Jews that have come out of Europe. These same people started apartheid in Africa. The same Jews are guilty of Jim Crow and the laws that segregated us and they’re the same forces that are in Palestine right now telling Palestinians in their own land what roads they can travel on and what they’re not free to travel on.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/3/10
“White people, although they hated us, are not the architects of white supremacy. That started in Europe and it is here in America and we document the architecture of white supremacy in this volume, Volume 2 The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews.”
Interview on the Michael Eric Dyson show, 8/23/10
“This thing called anti-Semitism this is what I want to deal with, so that never again when somebody is critical of Israeli policy or Jewish misbehavior that all of a sudden we are called anti-Semitic. I will prove to the world that those who even use the term are not Semitic at all.”
Interview on the Michael Eric Dyson show, 8/23/10
“I know that by singling out not all Jews, but those specific irreligious Jews that the scripture calls the Synagogue of Satan, those who use their power to influence people away from the way of God, making evil fair-seeming to them … these irreligious Jews who claim they are Jews and they are not. They blaspheme the name of a Jew; a Jew is a good name. There’s deception here and the deceiver and the deception has to be exposed.”
Interview on the Michael Eric Dyson show, 8/23/10
“We could charge you with being the most virulent anti-Black group in the annals of our history. I didn’t say we would, I said we could. I used the conditional tense. I said we could charge you with being the most deceitful person acting, playing with our friend while you have been our worst enemy.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/11/10
“These who call us anti-Semitic are not Semitic at all. They have no connection whatsoever to the Holy Land. They are usurpers, land grabbers.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/11/10
“You are of the Synagogue of Satan and therefore will be dealt with by God.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/11/10
“Now, Jews are very sensitive people. If you even look like you’re gonna criticize them they get very defensive. And you could say they’re defensive because of what they suffered in Europe. That may be one reason. But the main reason is, see when somebody has lied, and stolen your birthright, the one thing they fear is not your guns, because they got some bigger. They don’t fear your so-called scholarship ‘cause they arranged your education. And they never taught you anything that would allow you to upset their rule. But what they fear most is the truth.”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/11/10
“I’ve asked [the Jewish people], ‘since your people put ours in this condition, why don’t you help me raise our people up from the degraded state that your people have put them in.’”
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/11/10
ÒTo all of those who feel that the children of Israel are over in that place they call Israel, you are mistaken.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒOther than the Bible there is no historical record of anybody names Jews in bondage in Egypt in 400 yearsÉ you have to keep your eyes open for the game that may be put over on you by a smart crooked deceiver. Now there’s no historical record of their suffering in bondage like thatÑnow they were freed from a bondage alrightÑbut that was in the hills and cave sides of Europe.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒThese people have no legitimate connection to that land. They didn’t come into existence in the Holy Land.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒJewish people claim Abraham. Sorry. Sorry. I have to tell you the masquerade is over.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒDo you know that in Europe in every nation where they were, they led an industry in commerce in trade in banking? And the gentiles were angry with them because everywhere they went, they ruled. So the gentiles rose up against the Jews and persecuted them in Europe.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒWhen they came to America they went into the South and there they found common ground with the gentiles who hated black people, because that same Babylonian Talmud, the rabbis developed the myth of Ham. That you and I are the children of Ham, cursed, black, doomedÉ So when they got in the South they just fueled the gentiles with the curse of Ham and that has spread throughout the world. It has poisoned the bloodstream of Islam, of Christianity, of Judaism, of Communism, of Socialism.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒI’m here to tell you no black man or woman becomes a multimillionaire without friendship in the Jewish communityÉ. Did you know that nearly all prominent Negro actors and musicians have or had Jewish sponsors and managers? ÉThey have a way of attaching themselves to your gifts, but you get nothing. They get it all.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒAnd do you know that when our brother was elected, Jewish people wrote, as Bill Clinton was the first Black president, Barack Obama would be the first Jewish president. Now that’s a terrible thing to say but they were telling you, Ôwe own the brother.’ His early money came from Goldman Sachs. He was nurtured by Jews who saw in him his brilliance. He’s a beautiful human being. And they knew that as brilliant as he was, they could use him to trick black people away from the promise of God.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒHe’s president now and he’s upsetting them. Because all the Jewish presidents met him in the Oval Office and told him to go easy on Israel and settlements in the West Bank. And because he was strong out of Israel they started calling him what they been calling me: an anti-Semite.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒA lecture like this has put me in deep trouble with those forces that run this world. I have never been more prepared in my life to do what it takes, even if it’s the loss of my life, to free you. But I can tell you, they killed their last prophet when they killed Jesus.Ó
Speech in Atlanta, 6/26/10
ÒSince he’s been in office, [Obama] surrounded himself [with] certain very powerful elementsÑZionistsÑwithin the Jewish community; and has brought around him as Ôadvisers’ some of those from Goldman Sachs, who advised him about this bailout money. Our brother, now, is disappointing to some aspects of that community, and that is the beginning of the end. Because, when they’re disappointed with you, the force that they have, the power that they have, the influence that they have is gradually turned against you if you don’t submit.Ó
Interview with Chicago radio station WVON radio,3/24/10
« The Black man and woman have always been looked upon as the ‘property’ of White America; and particularly, members of the Jewish community. They’ve always looked at you as ‘belonging’ to them. »
Speech at Mosque Maryam,Chicago, 3/7/10
« The Jewish people have said that Hollywood is theirs. Can any of you deny that they are the masters of Hollywood, where sex, lesbianism, homosexuality and violence are promoted? »
Speech at Mosque Maryam,Chicago, 3/7/10
« Who owns the recording companies? People who call themselves ‘Jews,’ but they are not Jews; they are masqueradingÉ And the so-called Jews who run those record companiesÉ they use you, and they’ve sent you all over the world degrading the culture of other nations with your filth and debauchery. »
Speech at Mosque Maryam,Chicago, 3/7/10
« It was Hollywood whose first movie, what was the first movie? Ð ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ How did it portray us? And how has Hollywood portrayed us? And who were the Hollywood moguls who portrayed us like that? Am I anti-Semitic or are they anti-black? »
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/26/09
« There were members of the Jewish community that helped to start NAACP but they were watchmen over how that organization developed, to keep it in a certain line. »
Speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 7/26/09
« Do you know some of these satanic Jews have taken over BET?… Everything that we built, they have. The mind of Satan now is running the record industry, movie industry and television. And they make us look like we’re the murders; we look like we’re the gangsters, but we’re punk stuff. »
« Justifiable Homicide: Black Youth in Peril (Part 3) » speech at Mosque Maryam, 11/11/07
« The real anti-Semites are those who came out of Europe and settled in Palestine, and now they call themselves the true Jews, when in fact, they converted to Judaism. »
Al Jazeera TV interview, 3/18/07
« These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strengthÉIt’s the wicked Jews the false Jews that are promoting Lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic! »
Saviours’ Day, Chicago, Illinois, 2/26/06
« I’m not an anti-Semite, I never have been one. I do not hate the Jewish people; put that down! What I hate is the degree of control that they exercise over Black intellectual, cultural expression. I do not think that no human being should determine how high we can go, that can only be determined by God and by us; not by no white man, no black man, no human being [crowd cheers]. »
Millions More Movement rally, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8/31/05
« Now the thinking of these neoconservatives is written of in scripture. In the book of Revelations, 2 and 9, it reads, ‘I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.’ What is the blasphemy? A Jew is a noble name. A Jew means one who is in a covenant relationship with God in obedience to the divine laws, statues and commandments of God. But these people claim to be Jews but they’re not in obedience to God’s law, they have given a mission of evil a divine look on it. And George W. Bush has swallowed that bait, hook line and sinker. The synagogue of Satan is a gathering of persons of like mind and spirit who are in opposition to the will of God. So Paul said we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers that are not of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
National Press Club, Washington, D.C., 5/3/2004
« Dewey, Kant and Hegel, and the rabbis that wrote the Talmud, make blacks inferior. » Ê
National Black Agenda Convention, Boston, 3/18/04
« I call them the so-called Jews because to be a Jew you have to adhere to the statutes and laws that create the special relationship. How can you be a Jew and promote homosexual marriage? » Ê
National Black Agenda Convention, Boston, 3/18/04
« See, you so called Jews Ð I’m not gonna give you the credit for being one of those that obey God. You portrayed us, you know what images do, that’s why you jumped on Mel Gibson. But you painted us, big lips, red eyes, kinky hair, you put in the movies like that. You mocked our characteristics and made us to hate God’s creation of us. You did that. Hollywood did that.You take our strongest, more courageous black minds, you think we don’t see you? And you put us in Hollywood. You give us television shows, and then we gotta bug our eyes. » Ê
Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/29/04
« You don’t mention the horror of our suffering. Here’s whyÉit’s because of something called the Hamitic curse. Now I know that this is kinda rough. But according to the Babylonian scholars, writers of the Talmud, not the Torah, but Talmud. Now I want you to listenÉ.Look at this now, the Hamitic curse was written off in the Talmud 400 years after the birth of Jesus. And the way they wrote it was, I got to find the exact words, ’cause it’s really powerfulÉ.Oh, Lord, let me find it. I’m gonna take my time. Oh boy, well I’m gonna say it, in the Talmud they talk abut because he looked at Noah in that condition and marked the redness of his eyes, the turning of his head made these kinks in his hair, the thickness of his lips Ð that’s our features. We were black and cursed.
Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/29/04
« But what you have in the Bible has been added to and taken away from by the Jews. Oh here goes this anti-Semite.’ This Koran says that the Jews have altered the word of God out of its place. They did not want the masters of the people to know what Jesus really said, what Moses really said, because then you wouldn’t have a yardstick to measure their deviations. »
–« What is Islam?, » speech at Mosque Maryam,
« What had they done to deserve such a harsh judgment from God? Those who are Jews and those who are Christians, those who believe in Allah on the last day, they have their reward from their Lord. There are beautiful members of the Jewish community who are trying their utmost to follow the law and the teachings of Moses and the prophets that God sent to Israel. But there’s another Jew who is not really a Jew. He is an imposter posing as Jew. In the Bible, in the book of Revelations [it] saysÉ ‘Those who say they are Jews and are not, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan.’ Who are the masters of Hollywood, how could you be a righteous Jew and promote that which is forbidden by the God of Israel? Come on now. How could you be a righteous Jew and publish the filth that is published daily feeding the minds of the American people and the people of the world filth and indecency, and making it fair seeming in their eye? »
« What is Islam?, » speech at Mosque Maryam,
« We know that the most powerful people in the country, many of whom are Jews, don’t like Farrakhan. »
What is Islam?, » speech at Mosque Maryam,
« Even though the Koran says and the prophet Mohammed predicted that the Mahdi would come, somebody would come as a guide. Why? Because his own community had lost the path that he had put them on. Christians, you have lost the path that Jesus put you on. And the Jewish or Hebrew community lost the path that Moses and the prophets of Israel put the Jewish people on. We’re off that path. »
–8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« When Jesus was preaching, his enemies were the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, He was preaching in the Roman Empire, and the people wanted to trap him for the Roman authorities. But under the Roman authorities were the Jewish religious authorities. They were wrapped in the law. But they were wrapped in the letter, but not in the spirit. Jesus was more than a man of the letter, Jesus was a man of the spirit. But he said, ‘I didn’t come to change the law. I came to fulfill that which was written in the law.’ There’s a whole lot difference between a man that gives the law and a man who fulfills what is written in the lawÉ He did something that they thought was contrary to the law. And sometimes when you’re a religious hypocrite, you use your knowledge of the law to hide a self-righteous hypocrisy. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, 10/16/03
« See how you can see Jesus in ancient Rome. See how you can use or see the rabbinical scholars, the Levites, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and their attack on the master? É See how Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the matter? See how they [the Jews] brought him into court on false charges? See how they plotted to crucify him? And it’s easy to sing about what was. It’s difficult to believe that what was, is. The Rome of yesterday is nothing to the America of today. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« You say I hate Jews. I don’t hate the Jewish people, I never have. But there [are] some things I don’t like. ‘What is it you don’t like, Farrakhan?’ I don’t like the way you leech on us. See a leech is somebody that sucks your blood, takes from you and don’t give you a damn thing. See, I don’t like that kind of arrangement. You become our manager, you become our agent. Every one of us that got talent, we can’t make it because you opened the door, and when you opened the door you get and we end up dead with nothing, owing the IRS. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« So from that point on, when I said that, the next day, in New York, a rabbi was on television calling me the new black Hitler. Now what is that? You are so used to black people cowing down that you’re not used to a man talking to another man? So you’re gonna call me Hitler, a man who had nothing in his heart but the murder of Jews. You’re gonna put that on me, so that any of your children will feel that it’s an honor for me to be dead. And then some of them come out where I’m speaking, said, ‘Who do you want, Farrakhan! How do you want him? Dead.’ Did you think we were gonna take that crap sitting down? Do you want to ignite revolution all over America? Is that what you want? Do you want the anger of God? So what I’m saying to my Christian friends-there has not been a black leader in America locked in a struggle with the Jewish community but Louis Farrakhan. Now open your eyes. Name me one. When it comes to someone being a black anti-Semite who do they single out, who is made the litmus test when you go to work and they ask you what do you think about Farrakhan? They ain’t asking you a damn thing about nobody else. Why me? Did you ever stop to consider who are the scribes. The Latin word, scribo, meaning ‘I write.’ For 18 years they have written against me, more than any black leader before or since. The scribes, who are these Pharisees? See, who are they, who are these guys? They call themselves Muslims. But they’re not true. That’s what they said about Jesus. He wasn’t true. Because you felt he went outside of the law. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« I’m not into integration. I ain’t for that. God told the Jews, he didn’t want you intermarrying with others. But you disobeyed him. He don’t want us uniting into this that he’s come to judgeÉ You can’t integrate with wickedness if you want righteousness. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« You can go to Palestine, called Israel today, you can see Sodom, you can see Gomorrah, ain’t nothing built there. God hadn’t let anything be built there to show you his displeasure against homosexual behavior. Now the church says it’s all right. I was an Episcopalian before I was a Muslim, and I liked my church. I can’t remember anybody in the church, if they were gay they were hiding that. They were sure acting like men, you know what I mean. »
8th Anniversary The Holy Day of Atonement speech at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, 10/16/03
« I don’t hate Jews. I honor and respect those who try to live according to the teachings of the Torah, but you can’t criticize Jewish people. If you criticize them you are anti-Semitic. If you don’t agree with what they are doing, you are anti-Semitic. The Bible says, Revelations, those who say they are Jews and are not, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan. I don’t hear you preaching that full Gospel. You are afraid of consequences. But no man can say he’s a Jew and promote homosexuality. No man can say he’s a Jew and promote that which is against the commandments of God. No man can say he’s a Jew and run the despicable, degenerate movies. The filth and degenerate language. »
Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/23/03
Farrakhan on past anti-Semitic remarks:
« I can never apologize for telling the truth… I can apologize for the manner of telling the truth. »
BET Tonight with Travis Smiley, 9/11/00-9/12/00
Farrakhan on Sen. Joseph Lieberman:
« Mr. Lieberman, as an orthodox Jew, is also a dual citizen of Israel. »
Los Angeles Times, 8/12/00
Farrakhan: « Is the Federal Reserve owned by the government? »
Audience: « No. »
Farrakhan: « Who owns the federal reserve? »
Audience: « Jews. »
Farrakhan: « The same year they set up the IRS, they set up the FBI. And the same year they set up the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rithÉ It could be a coincidenceÉ [I want] to see black intellectuals freeÉ I want to see them not controlled by members of the Jewish community. »
Dallas Observer on-line, 8/10/00
Farrakhan on Jewish control:
Farrakhan said that he is fighting the « inordinate control » some Jews have over Blacks, particularly in entertainment and business.
Associated Press, 7/31/00
« They [the Jews] are the greatest controllers of Black minds, Black intelligence. They write the scripts — the foolish scripts on television that our people portray. They are the movie moguls that feature us in these silly, degrading, degenerate roles. The great recording companies that portray our people in such a filthy and low-rating way, yet they would not allow such a man as Michael Jackson to say one word that they thought would besmirch their reputation, but they put us before the world as clowns and as purveyors of filth. No, I will fight that. »
Meet The Press interview, 10/18/98
« Of course, they [the Jews] have a very small number of people but they are the most powerful in the world, they have the power to do good and they have the power to do evil…Now what do the Jews do best? Well, they have been the best in finance that the world has ever known…They finance a lot of stuff in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they are not good politicians, they are the worst politicians because they don’t recognize really their friends and as well their enemies… »
Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/22/98
« I believe that for the small numbers of Jewish people in the United States, they exercise a tremendous amount of influence on the affairs of government…Yes, they exercise extraordinary control, and Black people will never be free in this country until they are free of that kind of control… »
Meet The Press interview, 4/14/97
« To continue to point out the truth of that control and how that control never will allow us to be full and completely men, free, justified, and equal. Why should we be controlled by the power, influence, and money of others? We should not be under that kind of control…going to Jewish philanthropists, begging them for money to support our causes, and through that money, there is control, and that kind of control limits the freedom of our people to speak freely, write freely, think freely, and act as free men… »
Meet The Press interview, 4/14/97
« And you do with me as is written, but remember that I have warned you that Allah will punish you. You are wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell. But I warn you in the name of Allah, you would be wise to leave me alone. But if you choose to crucify me, know that Allah will crucify you. »
Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/25/96
« I don’t own Hollywood. Who depicted Black people? Who writes the books? Who writes the plays, the songs that make us look less than human? Do you mean to tell me that Jews have never done any evil to Black people?…Were they not involved in the slave trade? Yes, they were…and to the extent that they were involved, somebody has to bring them to account. And I believe that has fallen on me. »
Interview with New York Amsterdam News, 1/8/94
Voir par ailleurs:
Jewish Composer Penned Tune Made Famous by Billie Holiday
March 27, 2012
January marked the 75th anniversary of the original publication of “Bitter Fruit.” The poem evolved into the song “Strange Fruit,” which was made famous by jazz legend Billie Holiday and was named best song of the century by Time magazine in 1999. But its author and composer, Abel Meeropol, is largely forgotten today.
“Strange Fruit” was nothing short of revolutionary for its time. Shortly after publishing the poem, Meeropol set it to music. Several artists performed the song live before he introduced it to Holiday in 1939, at New York’s famed Café Society. In an era dominated by saccharine torch songs, “Strange Fruit” was a scathing indictment of race-related violence in America; no less unusual because it was delivered by an unrepentantly defiant African-American songstress. The story that is still not properly understood is how it originated from the imagination of a Jewish schoolteacher from New York.
Meeropol was born in 1903 to Russian Jewish immigrants. He completed his studies at City College of New York and Harvard University before taking a job in 1926 teaching English at his alma mater, Dewitt Clinton High School in New York. Meeropol became active as a writer and as a member of the Communist Party during that time. Many of his early songs were contributions to leftist arts organizations and theater companies in the 1930s. He published many of his works under the pseudonym Lewis Allan, believed to be an amalgam of the names that he and his wife, Anne, intended for their two stillborn children.
In addition to “Strange Fruit,” Meeropol penned other hit songs, including “The House That I Live In,” made famous by Frank Sinatra, and Peggy Lee’s hit “Apples, Peaches and Cherries.” He and Anne are also known today as the adoptive parents of two children, Michael and Robert, who were orphaned when their birth parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were accused of stealing atomic secrets for the Soviet Union and executed.
The poem “Bitter Fruit” was first published in the union journal The New York Teacher, though it is widely and incorrectly believed to have been published in the Marxist publication The New Masses. According to Robert Meeropol, the political anthem was inspired by a photo of the 1930 lynching of two Indiana African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith:
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Robert recalled: “[My father] was a ferocious anti-racist. He once wrote: ‘I wrote Strange Fruit because I hate lynching… and I hate the people who perpetuate it.’”
Those sentiments, and Meeropol’s anti-racist orientation, were deeply rooted in his Jewish identity, said Michael Meeropol. Abel Meeropol even wrote of the intersection in a short poem, entitled “I Am a Jew,” that recurs in several works throughout his oeuvre:
I am a Jew,
How can I tell?
The Negro lynched
Reminds me well
I am a Jew.
Like most of Meeropol’s life and work, “Strange Fruit” was unabashedly political in its ambition. Scholar Nancy Kovaleff Baker notes that, after two failed attempts in Congress to pass an anti-lynching bill (in 1919–22 and in 1934–36), copies of the song were circulated to 96 senators “accompanied by a letter urging passage of the bill so that treatment of minorities at home would not diminish American influence abroad.”
The song and its anti-lynching message even got swept up in the anti-Communist fever of McCarthyism. Michael Meeropol recalled: “When Josh White was called by the House Un-American Activities Commission, he was grilled about singing such an ‘anti-American’ song — and he agreed that it would be inappropriate to sing it abroad.” Later, his father was summoned before the Rapp-Coudert Committee, a New York State version of HUAC. “He was asked if the Communist Party had told him to write ‘Strange Fruit,’” Michael explained.
In the few years following Time magazine naming “Strange Fruit” the best song of the century, interest in the song peaked. In 2001, David Margolick published the book “Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song,” which focused largely on the song’s importance in Holiday’s career and on how it intersected with her descent into addiction and self-destruction. Margolick’s book was followed a year later by Joel Katz’s documentary “Strange Fruit,” and by Baker’s article “Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. Lewis Allan): Political Commentator and Social Conscience,” which provides a scholarly examination of Meeropol’s archives.
Holiday herself is largely responsible for Meeropol’s reputation not surviving with the song’s. In her ghostwritten autobiography, “Lady Sings the Blues,” Holiday took credit for writing the music, saying that the “germ of the song was in a poem written by Lewis Allen [sic]” and that he “suggested that Sonny White, who had been my accompanist, and I turn it into music.”
Although Meeropol petitioned to have this falsehood corrected in subsequent printings of the autobiography, the myth of “Strange Fruit” as Holiday’s composition persists. Robert Meeropol said that “Billie Holiday’s false claim to have set his poem to music clouded [Abel’s] feelings about the life of the song. He took legal action and got her to admit that the claim in her ghostwritten autobiography was wrong, but the myth Billie created survived her.” Michael Meeropol added, “Our father always shook his head and noted that Ms. Holiday was ‘a sick woman.’ He meant a drug addict, but perhaps was being delicate for our ‘young’ ears.”
But, even if he’s largely forgotten today, his legacy shows us that one chilling motif can wake the slumbering masses and spark change. “Strange Fruit” continues to be recorded by such superstars as Sting, Tori Amos and Cassandra Wilson. And last year, Meeropol’s name was added to the American National Tree — an exhibit at the National Constitution Center, commemorating “100 Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution” — ensuring the survival of his legacy.
Harold Heft has taught Literature and Cinema at the University of Western Ontario and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is executive vice-president of philanthropy and communications at the North York General Hospital Foundation.
Voir de même:
Southern Poverty law center
Morris Dees called out the names to his audience: Emmett Till, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo ….
It was 1988, and the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center was speaking at an NAACP meeting following the SPLC’s $7 million verdict against the United Klans of America. The case, which stemmed from the lynching of a black teen in Mobile, Ala., would mark the end of a Klan group responsible for some of the most heinous murders of the civil rights era.
During his speech, Dees recited the names of activists and others murdered by white supremacists during the civil rights movement.
Afterward, a young member of the audience approached him and asked about the people he had named.
Who were they?
Others wanted to know, too.
People gathered around Dees as he gave an impromptu history lesson. Driving home that night, he decided that the SPLC should build a monument to the martyrs of the movement so their sacrifices would never be forgotten.
Montgomery, Ala., the city known both as the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the first capitol of the Confederacy, would become home to the nation’s first memorial to the martyrs of the civil rights movement.
Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was commissioned to design the monument. Lin found her inspiration in the words « until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, » a paraphrase from the Book of Amos that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used in his « I Have a Dream » speech and at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott.
« The minute I hit that quote I knew that the whole piece had to be about water, » Lin said. « I realized that I wanted to create a time line: a chronological listing of the Movement’s major events and its individual deaths, which together would show how people’s lives influenced history and how their deaths made things better. »
The SPLC researched deaths during the era considered to be the modern-day civil rights movement – from May 17, 1954, the day the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, until April 4, 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Selected were victims who fit at least one of three criteria: They were murdered because they were active in the movement; they were killed as acts of terror aimed at intimidating blacks and civil rights activists; or, their deaths, like that of Emmett Till, helped galvanize the movement by demonstrating the brutality faced by African Americans in the South.
The research yielded 40 names. They ranged in age from 11 to 66. Eight were white, and 32 were black. They came from all walks of life – students, farmers, ministers, truck drivers, a homemaker and a Nobel laureate.
“Each name is a history lesson, and we are saying, don’t just think of the deaths, but think of a movement of ordinary people who just got tired of injustice,” Dees told The New York Times in 1989.
Their names were inscribed on a circular, black granite table that chronicles the history of the movement in lines that radiate like the hands of a clock. Lin left a blank space between the first and last entries on the memorial timeline – to signify that the struggle for human rights began well before 1954 and continues to this day.
Water emerges from the table’s center and flows smoothly over the top. Behind it, water cascades over a curved black granite wall. Engraved on the wall are words from the Bible’s Book of Amos that King paraphrased on several occasions: “…until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Civil Rights Memorial from above
Six thousand people gathered in Montgomery on Nov. 5, 1989, to witness the dedication of the memorial, situated just around the corner from the historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. King helped launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
The SPLC’s first president, Julian Bond, spoke of the martyrs’ sacrifices but also reminded the crowd they had not gathered in sorrow.
“(The martyrs) gave an equal measure of devotion so that all of us might be free,” said Bond, who remains an SPLC board member. “Buried with each is a bit of American apartheid, for their deaths kept the movement marching on. That is why we honor them today not in sorrow, but in celebration.”
Julian Bond with school children at Civil Rights Memorial
Relatives of the martyrs filled the crowd, representing 39 of the 40 names. Several were among the speakers: Rita Schwerner Bender, widow of Michael Schwerner; Mamie Till Mobley, mother of Emmett Till; Chris McNair, father of Birmingham bombing victim Denise McNair; and Myrlie Evers, widow of Medgar Evers. Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy, was also present.
“Poetry in granite,” was how Carolyn Goodman described the memorial to the Associated Press in 1989. Her son, Andrew Goodman, who was shot to death during Freedom Summer in 1964, is included among the martyrs.
“Nobody who sees it cannot feel that it’s a moving, moving piece of art,” Goodman said. “It brings that period so vividly alive that you can almost relive it.”
The sentiment was echoed by Mobley, who described in her autobiography the experience of touching her son’s name on the Memorial.
“It was like touching my son. Like reliving his funeral,” she wrote in Death of Innocence. “But, as I told people there, it also filled me with such joy to see Emmett honored, to see him included among the martyrs of the movement.”
An ‘instrument of justice’
The research conducted for the Civil Rights Memorial went beyond preserving the stories of slain martyrs; it helped revive decades-old civil rights cold cases. At the time of the dedication, most of the family members in attendance still waited for justice for the killing of their loved one. Since the dedication, authorities in several Southern states have re-examined these killings, leading to arrests and convictions in several of the murders documented on the memorial.
The stories of the martyrs were compiled by the SPLC and published in the book Free at Last to provide accounts of the crimes – in many cases still unsolved – that were fading from memory.
For one Mississippi journalist, the book became a guide as he dedicated his career to investigating civil rights-era cold cases. The research, including files on 75 other suspicious deaths of the era, also has been used by a special FBI unit dedicated to solving cold cases from the era.
“The Memorial stands as a reminder that the martyrs’ killers walked free, even though everyone knew they were guilty,” said Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. “After it was dedicated in 1989, it transformed into an instrument of justice.”
Free at Last was a rich resource for Mitchell – “my road map on my journey into reinvestigating these cases,” he said.
Mitchell’s extensive reporting has led to several successful prosecutions of civil rights cold cases.
A teaching tool
Each year, more than 20,000 visitors from around the world visit the memorial.
Civil rights activists from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America have found inspiration at the site. Others have included the memorial as a poignant part of their vacation or family reunion. Students of all ages visit to learn about the movement. And since 1998, the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage has brought nearly 150 members of Congress to the memorial as part of an annual tour of historic civil rights sites.
Buddhist Monk visits Civil Rights Memorial
In 2005, the SPLC added the Civil Rights Memorial Center, further transforming the site into more than a commemoration of the past. The visitor center, housed in the SPLC’s former office, includes interactive exhibits and a powerful 20-minute film – “Faces in the Water” – about the martyrs and the movement.
It also recognizes current struggles for equality and offers visitors an opportunity to pledge their commitment to justice and equality by adding their name to the Wall of Tolerance. It is another example of how the memorial and visitor’s center have become a sacred site and a powerful teaching tool for all who visit. It keeps alive the dreams of those who died during the civil rights movement and inspires those who still dream of a better world – fulfilling the vision Dees and the SPLC hoped to achieve with a memorial dedicated to those who died for social justice.
Civil Rights Memorial Dedication Speech
Julian Bond’s 1989 dedication speech.
Strange Fruit: the first great protest song
Billie Holiday’s 1939 song about racist lynchings stunned audiences and redefined popular music. In an extract from 33 Revolutions Per Minute, his history of protest songs, Dorian Lynskey explores the chilling power of Strange Fruit
16 February 2011
It is a clear, fresh New York night in March 1939. You’re on a date and you’ve decided to investigate a new club in a former speakeasy on West 4th Street: Cafe Society, which calls itself « The Wrong Place for the Right People ». Even if you don’t get the gag on the way in – the doormen wear tattered clothes – then the penny drops when you enter the L-shaped, 200-capacity basement and see the satirical murals spoofing Manhattan’s high-society swells. Unusually for a New York nightclub, black patrons are not just welcomed but privileged with the best seats in the house.
You’ve heard the buzz about the resident singer, a 23-year-old black woman called Billie Holiday who made her name up in Harlem with Count Basie’s band. She has golden-brown, almost Polynesian skin, a ripe figure and a single gardenia in her hair. She has a way of owning the room, but she’s not flashy. Her voice is plump and pleasure-seeking, prodding and caressing a song until it yields more delights than its author had intended, bringing a spark of vivacity and a measure of cool to even the hokier material.
And then it happens. The house lights go down, leaving Holiday illuminated by the hard, white beam of a single spotlight.
She begins her final number.
« Southern trees bear a strange fruit. » This, you think, isn’t your usual lovey-dovey stuff. « Blood on the leaves and blood at the root. » What is this? « Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze. » Lynching? It’s a song about lynching? The chatter from the tables dries up. Every eye in the room is on the singer, every ear on the song. After the last word – a long, abruptly severed cry of « crop » – the whole room snaps to black. When the house lights go up, she’s gone.
Do you applaud, awed by the courage and intensity of the performance, stunned by the grisly poetry of the lyrics, sensing history moving through the room? Or do you shift awkwardly in your seat, shudder at the strange vibrations in the air, and think to yourself: call this entertainment?
This is the question that will throb at the heart of the vexed relationship between politics and pop for decades to come, and this is the first time it has demanded to be asked.
Written by a Jewish communist called Abel Meeropol, Strange Fruit was not by any means the first protest song, but it was the first to shoulder an explicit political message into the arena of entertainment. Unlike the robust workers’ anthems of the union movement, it did not stir the blood; it chilled it. « That is about the ugliest song I have ever heard, » Nina Simone would later marvel. « Ugly in the sense that it is violent and tears at the guts of what white people have done to my people in this country. » For all these reasons, it was something entirely new. Up to this point, protest songs functioned as propaganda, but Strange Fruit proved they could be art.
It is a song so good that dozens of singers have since tried to put their stamp on it, and Holiday’s performance is so strong that none of them have come close to outclassing her – in 1999, Time magazine named her first studio version the « song of the century ».
Although lynching was already on the decline by the time of Strange Fruit – the grotesque photograph of a double hanging which moved Meeropol to pick up his pen had been taken in Indiana in 1930 – it remained the most vivid symbol of American racism, a stand-in for all the more subtle forms of discrimination affecting the black population. Perhaps only the visceral horror that lynching inspired gave Meeropol the necessary conviction to write a song with no precedent, one that required a new songwriting vocabulary.
Meeropol, who taught at a high school in the Bronx and churned out reams of topical songs, poems and plays under the gentle alias Lewis Allan, published a poem under the title Bitter Fruit in the union-run New York Teacher magazine in 1937. The later name change was inspired. « Bitter » is too baldly judgmental. « Strange », however, evokes a haunting sense of something out of joint. It puts the listener in the shoes of a curious observer spying the hanging shapes from afar and moving closer towards a sickening realisation.
Meeropol worked out a tune and Strange Fruit quickly became a fixture at leftwing gatherings during 1938, sung by his wife and various friends. It even made it to Madison Square Garden, via black singer Laura Duncan. In the crowd was one Robert Gordon, who had recently taken on a job at Cafe Society, directing the headlining show by Billie Holiday. The club was the brainchild of New Jersey shoe salesman Barney Josephson: a pithy antidote to the snooty, often racist elitism of other New York nightspots. Opening the night before New Year’s Eve 1938, it owed much of its instant success to Holiday.
In her 23 years, Holiday had already seen plenty, although her notoriously unreliable autobiography Lady Sings the Blues obscures as much as it reveals. Born in Philadelphia, she spent some time running errands in a Baltimore whorehouse, « just about the only place where black and white folks could meet in any natural way », where she first discovered jazz. After she accused a neighbour of attempting to rape her, the 10-year-old Holiday, an incorrigible truant, was sent to a Catholic reform school until her mother secured her release. Moving with her mother to New York, she worked in another brothel, this time doing more than errands, and was jailed for solicitation. Upon her release she began singing in Harlem jazz clubs, where she caught the eye of producer John Hammond, who made her one of the swing era’s hottest stars.
Meeropol played Josephson his song and asked if he could bring it to Holiday. The singer later insisted she fell in love with it right away. Meeropol remembered it differently, believing that she performed it only as a favour to Josephson and Gordon: « To be perfectly frank, I don’t think she felt comfortable with the song. »
Arthur Herzog, one of Holiday’s regular songwriters, claimed that arranger Danny Mendelsohn rewrote Meeropol’s tune, which he uncharitably dubbed « something or other alleged to be music », which might have made the difference to Holiday.
Either way, Holiday road-tested the song at a party in Harlem and received what would become a familiar response: shocked silence followed by a roar of approval. Meeropol was there the night she debuted it at Cafe Society. « She gave a startling, most dramatic and effective interpretation which could jolt an audience out of its complacency anywhere, » he marvelled. « This was exactly what I wanted the song to do and why I wrote it. »
Josephson, a natural showman, knew there was no point slipping Strange Fruit into the body of the set and pretending it was just another song. He drew up some rules: first, Holiday would close all three of her nightly sets with it; second, the waiters would halt all service beforehand; third, the whole room would be in darkness but for a sharp, bright spotlight on Holiday’s face; fourth, there would be no encore. « People had to remember Strange Fruit, get their insides burned by it, » he explained.
It was not, by any stretch, a song for every occasion. It infected the air in the room, cut conversation stone dead, left drinks untouched, cigarettes unlit. Customers either clapped till their hands were sore, or walked out in disgust. Back then, before her life took a darker turn, Holiday was able to leave the song, and its politics, at the door on the way out. When Frankie Newton would hold forth on Marcus Garvey’s black nationalism or Stalin’s five-year plan, she would snap, « I don’t want to fill my head with any of that shit. » Holiday’s biographer John Chilton suggests that this was not because she wasn’t interested but because she felt embarrassed by her lack of education. All that she knew and felt about being black in America, she poured into the song.
Holiday’s regular label, Columbia, blanched at the prospect of recording it, so she turned to Commodore Records, a small, leftwing operation based at Milt Gabler’s record shop on West 52nd Street. On 20 April 1939, Holiday entered Brunswick’s World Broadcasting Studios with Frankie Newton’s eight-piece Cafe Society Band and recorded Strange Fruit in one four-hour session. Worried that the song was too short, Gabler asked pianist Sonny White to improvise a suitably stealthy introduction.
On the single, Holiday doesn’t open her mouth until 70 seconds in. Like Josephson with his spotlight, the musicians use that time to set the scene, drawing the listener in as if to a ghost story. Newton’s muted trumpet line hovers in the air like marsh gas; White’s minor piano chords walk the listener towards the fateful spot; then, at last, there’s Holiday. Others might have overplayed the irony or punched home the moral judgment too forcefully, but she sings it as though her responsibility is simply to document the song’s eerie tableau; to bear witness. Her voice moves softly through the dark, closing in on the swinging bodies like a camera lens coming into focus. In doing so, she perfects the song, narrowing the sarcasm of « gallant South » to a fine point and cooling the temperature of the most overheated image: « the stench of burning flesh ». She is charismatic but not ostentatious, curling the words just so. Her gifts to the song are vulnerability, understatement and immediacy: the listener is right there, at the base of the tree. Look, she is saying. Just look.
Released three months later, it became not just a hit but a cause celebre. Campaigners for an anti-lynching law posted copies to congressmen. The New York Post’s Samuel Grafton called it « a fantastically perfect work of art, one which reversed the usual relationship between a black entertainer and her white audience: ‘I have been entertaining you,’ she seems to say, ‘now you just listen to me.’ If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its Marseillaise. »
Holiday quit Cafe Society in August 1939, but she took Strange Fruit with her and carried it like an unexploded bomb. In Washington DC, a local newspaper wondered whether it might actually provoke a new wave of lynchings. At New York’s Birdland, the promoter confiscated customers’ cigarettes, lest their firefly glow distract from the spotlight’s intensity. When some promoters ordered her not to sing it, Holiday added a clause to her contract guaranteeing her the option. Not that she always exercised that right. « I only do it for people who might understand and appreciate it, » she told radio DJ Daddy-O Daylie. « This is not a ‘June-Moon-Croon-Tune’. »
Yet Holiday could no more detach herself from it than if the lyrics had been tattooed on her skin. Strange Fruit would haunt Holiday for the rest of her life. Some fans, including her former producer John Hammond, blamed it for robbing her of her lightness. Others pointed out that her burgeoning heroin habit did that job.
So did the persistent racism which poisoned her life just as it poisoned the life of every black American. In 1944, a naval officer called her a nigger and, her eyes hot with tears, she smashed a beer bottle against a table and lunged at him with the serrated glass. A little while later, a friend spotted her wandering down 52nd Street and called out, « How are you doing, Lady Day? » Her reply was viciously blunt: « Well, you know, I’m still a nigger. » No wonder she clutched the song tightly to her breast, as a shield and a weapon, too.
Holiday discovered heroin in the early 40s, an addiction that eventually earned her a year-long prison term in 1947. Ten days after her release, she performed a comeback show at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
According to Lady Sings the Blues, she accidentally pierced her scalp with a hatpin and sang with blood trickling down her face.
There could be only one contender for the closing number. « By the time I started on Strange Fruit, » she wrote, « between the sweat and blood, I was a mess. » Time called the performance « throat-tightening ».
During the 50s, she performed it less often and, when she did, it could be agonising to watch. Her relationship with it became almost masochistic. The worse her mood, the more likely she was to add it to the set, yet it pained her every time, especially when it prompted walkouts by racist audience members.
By the latter half of the decade, her body was wasted, her voice weathered down to a hoarse rasp, and Strange Fruit was the only song that seemed to dignify her suffering, wrapping her own decline in a wider American tragedy. Writing about her final years in his definitive book Strange Fruit: the Biography of a Song, David Margolick says: « she had grown oddly, sadly suited to capture the full grotesqueness of the song. Now, she not only sang of bulging eyes and twisted mouths. She embodied them. » It was as if the song, having lived inside her for so long, had finally warped its host.
Extracted from 33 Revolutions Per Minute by Dorian Lynskey, published by Faber & Faber Ltd on 3 March at £17.99. To order a copy for £13.59 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846
Dr. Leonard Jeffries
The following is the text of a speech at the Empire State Black Arts and Cultural Festival in Albany, New York, July 20, 1991
Last year I was here, and it was very good. I appreciated the opportunity to come because the storm around the curriculum was hot then. This has been going on now for almost two years, and it continues—and continues because the existing educational system is not isolated from the existing cultural-social-political-economic system of the United States. It is part and parcel. If the social, economic, political and cultural system of the United States is racist, there’s no way you can insulate and isolate the educational system. So racism in the educational system has to be dealt with. That’s the number-one item that has to be removed before we can have true education.
So I think that if we see this enormous struggle against us, it is just another manifestation of racism and white supremacy, and we have to deal with it as that. It seems more vicious because you would think these are not Ku Klux Klan—because they’ve got PhD’s or other things behind their name. But they operate in much the same way, and as far as I’m concerned they have the same VIP: values, interests and principles of white supremacy.
So, I will proceed forthwith with the presentation. For those who are up here and over there—are going to be at a disadvantage because if I do—one of my favorite things is to say, « Let’s go to the videotape. » And that might mean I might try to show something, you know, like this Newsweek article; and if you’re way up in the boondocks or over there, you won’t be able to see it. Or if I might want to show you an image of the black Statue of Liberty, you know, you would not be able to see it.
But I think we have to understand that although we like to think of education as race-neutral and politically neutral, education is a part of racism, and the fact that some of its worst manifestations—and it’s a part of politics. So I think that what we’re doing must be correct because of the storm that we’ve raised and created. I’m surprised, however, at the reaction, because when I was asked to evaluate the curriculum of the state of New York two years ago— and I was virtually begged to help bail out the state and the commissioner and the task force that had been put in place to work with the Curriculum—they really needed our help. And they asked me to suspend what I’m doing —and no one is busier than I at City College, and Vivian [Gordon, a professor of African American Studies at the State University at New York (SUNY), Albany] knows that. But I virtually suspended my activities we had—to set aside this work. They asked of four us to evaluate the curriculum of the state of New York. [See Dr. Jeffries contribution to the report.]
The way the misinformation campaign—the defamation of my character—has gone, it’s as if only one person was involved in evaluating the curriculum or the state of New York. There were four of us—four scholars. We looked at over one hundred documents from the state of New York Department of Education. There may have been a hundred and fifty documents, covering every area of education. And I thought this could be done, you know, communally, cooperatively and collectively. That’s the African value system—the three Cs, I call it: communal, cooperative and collective—working together in a spiritual dimension. So I pulled together a team of people—other PhDs—Dr. Charchee McIntyre, Professor Edward Scobie, Dr. Douglas Davis, Dr. Kumti Kiteme from Kenya—to help me in this endeavor.
But when I realized how serious this thing was—and you had to actually go line by line through these documents—I said I’d better take firm control of this thing to make sure that the importance of it is fully realized. I spent six months reviewing documents. Some documents I had to read over ten times because I could not believe what it was I was seeing. Ten times.
The social studies document which dealt with Africa I had to read over and over again because I said this is not happening in 1987, ’89. I can’t believe that this curriculum was revised in ’87 and this is what they have. The social studies document actually took Egypt out of Africa. Now, of course, they explained it in European-American—very common rational terms. They were going to deal with it in another part of the world. You know? You can always look for it—you know? They were gonna deal with the Nile Valley in another part of the world. So that was supposed to be the Near East, Middle East or whatever other part of the world they like to call that. And in that area they were going to deal with Mesopotamia, Tigris, Euphrates, the ancient Hebrews and the Nile Valley, Egypt.
And I read this over and over again. I could not believe my eyes. There was no content to the Nile Valley unit. No content! No mentioning of the literature of the ancients of Africa. No mention of the science of the Africans of the Nile. No people have built more in a more dynamic fashion—a more meaningful and technological fashion—than Africans of the Nile. No mention of the philosophy and the ethos and ethics, the morality that’s carved in their tombs and temples, built into the designs of their cities, even how they structured their society. One side of the river being the place of the living, the other side being the preserve of the dead. And the two are opposites that are complementary. That the living and the dead beget each other and there is life after death. No concept that the Africans had put in place the concept of the oneness of God before the ancient Hebrews. There was no content!
And I had to say to myself after reading it ten times, unbelieving what I was reading, that this was not an accident. This was by design, by people who knew what they were doing: Stripping Africa of its significance in its place in the world. And the people who are doing it are very nice, friendly white folks and some of their achieving Negro partners. That’s the tragedy. These are not Ku Klux Klan people. These are some very nice white folks, your neighbors, your colleagues, the people that you work with. They go to church and the synagogue, think highly of themselves; but they didn’t hesitate at all to distort history in what I call « Racial Pathology. »
They say they were upset with me with terms like that. « Ohhh. Jeffries, the tone! You know… » Racial Pathology. Well, how else do you describe something as diabolical as that? How else do you describe the attack on me, as if I was the lone person reviewing the curriculum?
And there were four of us. Dr. [Shirley] Hune, an Asian scholar from Hunter University, reviewed—and our task force was not to look at white history; our task force was to look at the—we had a charge; it was written down. It was to look at the hundred and fifty volumes to see which of those volumes effectively dealt with people of color and which did not; and which were strong and which needed revision. We weren’t asked to look at what Thomas Jefferson was doing; I brought that in as a—part of my own understanding of what was happening. They said we weren’t positive about white folks. That’s not what the charge was. We were to look to see what white folk had done about Black folks. And they had done nothing about Black folk in any significant way. And they had done nothing about Asian-Americans or Asians, and Dr. Hune said that in her report. And Dr. [Carlos Rodriguez]-Fraticelli, who handled the Puerto Rican-Latino part, said they had done nothing in reference to the Latino and Puerto Rican. And the person who—Professor [Lincoln C.] White, who handled Native Americans—said they had done nothing in reference to the Native Americans.
In fact, the three special volumes on our particular groups—one on the Black experience, one on the Puerto Rican experience and one on the Native American experience—were inadequate. The volume—the only volume on Blacks in the state of New York—was done by a schoolteacher and her students. That’s what was submitted. It wasn’t good enough. The volume on the Puerto Ricans focused mainly on mainland Puerto Rico and not the enormous migrant community of Puerto Ricans along the East Coast of the United States. The volume on the Native American dealt with the one tradition—the long house tradition—not the other traditions. It wasn’t good enough. And we mentioned that.
All of us never had met—we never met. To this day I have not seen Professor Hune. Dr. Fraticelli I met one time, after all of this occurred. Professor White I never met; we never even communicated on the telephone. I received their reports and synthesized them, pulled out what we had collectively stated and sent them as part of the general report—but their complete reports went as the appendices. And then the task force, which included white folks, Native Americans, Asians, Blacks, et cetera, African peoples—took our recommendation, took our reports, and they put their analysis to it and presented it.
It’s as if one person took over the state of New York educational system, Len Jeffries, controlled the commissioner and beat up this committee and imposed himself upon—for his own reasons. The little bit of money that they paid me to do it, I get in some speaking engagements in an hour. I don’t have to spend six months out of my life for a couple of thousand dollars.
But once I said what the problem was and what the test was, I realized it was part of the sacred mission that we as Black folk have: To try to right things that are wrong. And those of us who have carved out education as our area realize that we have to do a major job; major surgery has to take place in the educational arena because the educational arena was designed to support the system of white supremacy that was institutionalized in this nation. That’s what education was for.
The legal system was designed to support the system of white supremacy in this nation. The economic system was the heart of this system of white supremacy in this nation. And the cultural system went along with that—movies, all the rest of it. For years—and I grew up as a youngster just like you did, going to movies where the African peoples were completely denigrated. That was a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood, where people called Greenberg and Weisberg and Trigliani and whatnot—it’s not anti-Semitic to mention who developed Hollywood. Their names are there—MGM: Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, Adolph Zukor, Fox. Russian Jewry had a particular control over the movies, and their financial partners, the Mafia, put together a system of destruction for Black people. Talk about self-image and self-esteem? This was an important part of the cultural development of any youth. We went to the movies every Saturday and saw the Native Americans being wiped out and Africans being denigrated: Sambo images, Beaulah, Stepin Fetchit. That’s what they put out there. It was by design. It was calculated.
So we have to see that there is a war against the African. Now, I knew it before, but I didn’t know how devilish it was gonna be or could be. They’re nice white people. You don’t feel so bad if you got to go up against someone who is really down-and-out devilish and doggish. But if you get the smiling people like Diane Ravitch— »I’m trying to do the right thing »—deedeedee— »and I have don’t the right thing all these years. » Read Diane Ravitch’s record; look at her track record. This is the ultimate, supreme, sophisticated, debonair racist—pure and simple. And when they say « Hey, you and the others called her Miss Daisey »—they did fit right. And Asa said: « We’re gonna let Miss Daisy drive her own damn car from now on. » [Laughter and applause from audience.]
And Miss Daisy and her several partners. Albert Shanker has been holding her hand for some time, and now he’s at the door of the governor, beating him up, saying you’ve got to go against this latest report. They went against our report, using me as a scapegoat—that some nasty person has gotten control of the educational system. So then they put in place a sanitized committee; they check these people out on the computers. Ran the computer. « Good, sound, qualified achieving Negro. No problem. » « Good, sound Native American. No problem. » And they used their computers.
But, see, they don’t know—and don’t you tell them—the power of the African Holy Ghost. See, once that African Holy Ghost starts moving around, whatever their calculations were are thrown off. And that African Holy Ghost started working and that committee with only a few Blacks, which was supposed to be not only sanitized but it was supposed to be dominated and led by rich white men with property and power—Arthur Schlesinger, distinguished professor at City University, and had been at Harvard. And then the melting pot man—what was his name—Glazer. Nathan Glazer. Dr. Nathan Glazer. Melting pot Glazer. And then Dr. Kenneth Jackson. Now these three were supposed to dominate the other twenty. But, see, they underestimated the African Holy Ghost. And once Dr. Elleni Tedla felt that Holy Ghost—because she’s from Ethiopia—now you know the Holy Ghost has been roaming around Ethiopia for a long time. Ethiopia’s the oldest Christian nation; that Holy Ghost is there. And Lalibela built the new Jerusalem in the 12th Century—12 stone churches—not from the ground up: wonders of the world. Lalibela in Ethiopia. From the Ground down: to protect them from the Muslim invasions. Holy Ghost in Ethiopia.
So Elleni Tedla got herself together and brought it to the table. And then little Diane Glover—she’s just a school teacher. But she found the strength—talking to the African Holy Ghost—that she was a dynamite—looked Glazer and Schlesinger in the eye and said « You’re not correct. I do not agree, Doctor Glazer. » Here’s a little schoolteacher out in Long Island looking these big white men with property, power and prestige—they knew they had met their match.
So Schlesinger, being a weakling and not prepared to learn and grow, stepped off of the committee. This is how slick and devilish they are. He refused to be in the committee because he saw the learning process that these sisters and brothers bring the material to the table—that they all had to digest—was changing the committee. The truth was manifesting itself. So he said: « I’m going to step off, but not really step off. » That’s how slick and devilish and dirty and dastardly they are. He said, « I just want to be a consultant. » Be a consultant: So he’s privy to all the material and what they’re doing but not a part of what it is, so that he could go out and contact Federal Express and produce a devilish volume such as this, called the Disuniting of America—a political trap passing off as a scholarly document [published by Whittle Publishing Co.].
This is why the unconscionable—he refused to sit down with any of us and discuss any of these matters. They let the newspaper people jump up with these articles. Here’s a book, that’s supposed to be the definitive book on the reflections on a multicultural society. And it’s really reflections on the African. Nobody else is mentioned in this book except African people. No Asians are mentioned; they’re not attacked. Not Native American, no Latinos are attacked. The Africans are attacked, and our pictures are put in here—pictures of Asa Hilliard, pictures of [others]—in the margin. And I’ve never seen a book like this. How could they put this out? Between every chapter there’s an advertisement for Federal Express—an advertisement for Federal Express.
And this is the book that’s going to be talked about—The Disuniting of America. You talk about primps and pimps and prostitutes parading. I mean, I hate to be —I mean, you see my reaction. I’m trying to be very cool, calm and collected. And he even had to put one of us— »Provides immediate relief from stress and anxiety » Federal Express advertisement, in between the chapter on « The New Race »—this is a chapter on « New Race »—and then they have this Black fella there.
History the weapon—and then they have some of our pictures. But you know, « Battle for the Schools »…what this reveals is that what we’re—and then they have—look, Diane Ravitch. They just gave her a little picture in the corner: Miss Daisy. Adjunct professor at City College—I mean at Columbia. Not a professor. Miss Daisy has not passed muster to be a professor. Dr. Gordon and I have passed muster to be a professor. Miss Daisy was there as an adjunct because she brought in a grant. She’s hooked up with the grants—with the Heritage Foundation and these other conservative foundations—because she’s doing the work of the devilish folks.
In fact, she is the new standard. The old standard was a Bible Belt Texas rural family. That’s the standard for the textbooks that went into the schools for generations. Now the new standard is not a Bible Belt Texas family but a sophisticated Texas Jew. And that standard is not good enough either—because many people, such as the Ravitches, who happen to be Jewish, have blinded us on the attack coming from the Jewish community—systematic, unrelenting. And until we can look at it and deal with it there’s no efforts we can make that are going to be successful. Not anti-Semetic to raise the issue—but if you do not deal with it, you’re fooling yourself.
There’s an orchestrated attack by the Schlesingers and the Shankers, working with the white conservatives (the George Wills, the Heritage Foundation)—we’re pinpointing their relationship; we’re putting it to our African computer: the document is being prepared.
And they know who to point to: so the largest photo in the darned book is Len Jeffries. He doesn’t get in the margin. He’s got a whole big thing there. And so the people around me say « Len, they’re targeting you for death. » I said « That’s cool. That means I must be doing something right. » I live forty-five, forty-four years on this planet, and if I hadn’t done what I should do by then, then, you know, there’s not much more I’m, going to do. Malcolm only had thirty-nine. Martin only that thirty-nine. So death is not a thing. I’m not gonna back down, no matter what. They just—they picked on the right person at the right time, and they’re not going to win this one.
And, in fact, I called the New York Times after they attacked me last year, and I told them: « Thank you for making me a folk hero among my people wherever I go. And thank you for introducing me to scholars around the world. »
Most of you don’t realize that when The New York Times put in the paper that Jeffries and rich Jews were involved in the enslavement process, they put that in there to paint me as an anti-Semitic. An anti-Semitic does not stay at City College for twenty years as chairman of a department and have friends (even those who do not like him) and his enemies respect him at City College. And the head Jew at City College, Dr. Bernard Somer, saw me after the article in the Times, said: « Len, everybody knows rich Jews helped financed the slave trade. » If everybody know it, then let’s put it in the classroom.
Miss Ravitch says that Black people sold Black people into slavery. She doesn’t hesitate to say that. Schlesinger says Black people sold Black people into slavery.
Let’s talk about who financed, planned, operated, maintained the slave system. Let’s talk about every slave ship being blessed by a Protestant minister or Catholic priest. Let’s talk about the Catholic Church initiating this. Let’s talk about the Danes, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, the Scots, the Swedes, The Brandenberg Germans that were involved in the slavery for hundreds of years—Jews and Gentiles, Arabs and Christians. Let’s deal with the whole ball of wax. Let’s not just say that Africans sold Africans into slavery.
But I don’t do anything unless I’m backed up with documentation. So—the Ravitches and whatnot don’t have documentation—they don’t want to come by me.
They sent their leading emissary, Edward I. Koch—and Eddie called me up, wrote me a letter: « Dr. Jeffries, I’d like you to come down to my office so we can discuss your documentation and what these things are you’re dealing with. » I thought he wasn’t serious. But I realized he had been on TV the week before and said « Jeffries is wrong because he’s teaching racism in his class. [Professor Michael] Levin is right because he’s not teaching it in his class. » This is the convoluted logic and rationality of white folk who are pathological —affected by racism.
So most people tell me: « Don’t be bothered with him. » Dr. Adelaide Sanford said: « You can’t deal with him. The man will distort anything you say. » Dr. Clarke said: « Don’t worry about him. »
But the African Holy Ghost said: When you’re with you truth, you can go anywhere and deal with anybody. And since he is the biggest and the baddest that they got, you got to take on their best so you don’t have to worry about the rest.
And so Dr. J called them up and said « I’m interested in your proposition, but I have a condition: I’m not coming ; I want you to come up to my office. »
« Oh, no, no. I couldn’t do that because that would cause—you know, be too much publicity. »
So I said: « well, I’ll come down to your office but first you’ve got to give up my pyramid. » I said, « We have a picture of you riding on a camel around the pyramids several years ago talking about your ancestors built them thousands of years ago. We got another picture of Menachem Begin dancing in front of the pyramids that his ancestors built thousands of years ago. We want our pyramids back, and there’s no need to even dialogue unless you are prepared to give them up. »
So you have to operate from some strength. If you operate from weakness, doubt, and you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s no need to be in the ballpark. Let the Gordons, Jeffries and others do the shooting, because you all will be shooting the wrong people and using the wrong ammunition. What I’m saying is you’ve got to master the understanding of your own experience and your history and have this knowledge. It’s there; it’s available; it’s in the books.
So once he was prepared to give up my pyramid—and I always carry an image of the pyramids around—once he was prepared to give them up, I said I would come down. And he called in from Hong Kong to tell his people, « Tell Jeffries he can have his pyramids back. »
So my brother said, « Look, I can’t you to go down there by yourself. » This is my little brother; he’s into heavy African martial arts. And that’s why it’s good to have these little brothers. He said, « I’m going down with you because my aura will protect you. »
So the Jeffries boys from Newark, New Jersey, went down to Rockefeller Plaza to meet Edward I. Koch. I rolled down—just as I rolled this stuff here in all these books—you don’t go nowhere without your ammunition. There’s no need to begin a war and you ain’t armed, you’re just mouthin’ and wolfin’. Take your ammunition. And so we rolled into Koch’s office with all this stuff. First thing I saw—and he wants to know « Where is you documentation? »
I said, « We have it all here. »
Well, before he could say anything, I said, « Look. That thing over there on the cabinet—we’re going to have to deal with—before we do anything. »
He said, « What? What? »
I said, « That. That Statue of Liberty. »
« What do you mean? »
« Well, well, uh, uh, you’re not familiar with the Statue of Liberty? »
« Yes. The Statue of Liberty’s in the harbor. »
« No, no. Its background. The reason for it being. » I said, « The Statue of Liberty has not a darned thing to do with your immigrant forebears. It has to do with my forebears fighting for liberty in these United States. »
He tried to act cool, but it was clear he was becoming discombobulated.
When I showed him come of the documentation, he knew he was in a war for control of the mind, and so he left and said, I’ll come back. » And he brought in his Dr. Clarke, attorney [Dan] Wolf, and sat him in the room.
So here was my brother and I—the Jeffries boys—with attorneys Wolf and Koch. We presented the information and Koch, after an hour, got what I called « cognitive dissonance. » That’s what happens when this new information is brought before the folks. Cognitive dissonance is a much nicer term—a psychological term, when imbalanced disharmony occurs when the information is—but I like to call it « racial pathology, » but cognitive dissonance is good enough for those who cannot digest racial pathology. Well, cognitive dissonance started to set in; and after a while he got so uncomfortable, he asked me about— »Well, what is this about you had said something about rich Jews involved in the enslavement of Africans? »
So I said, « Where do you want us to start? What period of history? You want us to start in the Spanish-Portuguese period of the starting of the slave trade in the 1400’s and 1500’s? Do you want us to move it from Seville and Lisbon on the Amsterdam and Hamburg, where the new Jewish community in those areas continued the slave trade for the Dutch, the Germans and English? Or do you want us to move it to Brazil and the Caribbean and Curacao, which became a new Amsterdam, the new center of the slave trade in the western world centered around the Jewish immigrants that moved into Curacao? Or do you want us to move to New York and Newport, Rhode Island? Where do you want us to start? »
« Where do you want to start, man? »
« Well, uh, babababbababba. Well, what books do you have? »
« Well, we have a book here, Aaron Lopez, ‘Lopez of Newport’. »
In the 1750s and ’60s: one of the largest slavers out of Newport, Rhode Island, a community that had a number of outstanding wealthy Jews who not only controlled a couple of hundred of slave ships—and Lopez himself controlling a couple dozen—but they controlled most, it not all, of the thirty distilleries that processed molasses from the Caribbean into rum, to be sold to the native Americans as « fire water » and to be sold to Africa, for enslaved Africans.
« Where do you want to start? You want to go back into the Spanish Sephardic Jewish community? Then get Stephen Birmingham’s The Grandees. »
The Grandees: the Jewish rich that supported the Spanish throne and helped lay the foundation for the enslavement in the 1400’s and 1500’s. Even after the Jewish community was persecuted in Spain with the Inquisition in 1492, many of them that converted to Christianity stayed in Spain and helped the Spanish king and queen, who was anti-Semitic (Queen Isabella)—helped her maintain the slave system against the Africans and native Americans.
« Where do you want to start? Do you want to go to Amsterdam? Then get a book by Jonathan Israel on European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750. »
And there’s a picture of the Amsterdam synagogue, which was the center of slave trading for the Dutch. Amsterdam became a leading port in this period of time for slaving. And it was around this synagogue that the slaving system was established.
Now, we’re not talking about most Jews. Most Jews were being beat—up and down Europe—persecuted for being Jewish. We’re talking about rich Jews, and we specifically make that distinction. We’re not talking about white folks in general when we talk about oppression; we’re talking about the wealthy white folks, the powerful white folks that make the decisions.
So let’s make some decisions, some clarity, when we talk about these things. But the documentation is there. We are now preparing the ten volumes dealing with the Jewish relationship with the Black community in reference to slavery, so we can put it in ht school system, so there’ll be no question about Miss Daisy, Arthur Schlesinger—Schlesinger in his book said, « Dr. Jeffries said something about the Jews involved in enslavement »—and then just leaves it there.
I had to ask this man who called me from California, I said, « What is the reference that he cites? »
« The New York Times. »
I said, « That’s not a reference to cite. »
« Well, they quote you being quoted from some other newspaper. »
I said, « That original quote was not correct, and so anything else after that is not correct. Why didn’t he contact me and find out what it is that we’re saying? Everybody was involved in the enslavement of Africans. »
But if you want to deal with slavery, let’s deal with it. And I’m going to lay this down. That’s why we’re being attacked. You see, if they had just let us put a few Black folks in the curriculum and been satisfied with that, then there would be no problem, and we would have been satisfied. But they didn’t want us to do that. So our intellectual abilities and capacities and Our Sacred Mission has pushed us into serious study and analysis. No one has studied more than myself in the last couple of years and the people around me.
Producing documents, position papers—Dr. Carruthers, Dr. Asante, Dr. Hilliard, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, my wife—we have been in a heavy study, and what has been revealed is a mind-boggling process. We’ll have the ten major books relating to the Jewish community (the wealthy Jewish community) and enslavement.
In Spain there were the Grandees, managing the money of the Spanish throne. In Germany, in the 16 and 1700’s there were the court Jews, managing the political and economic apparatus of Europe, the Hapsburg Empire, the German states, et cetera. We have the names. We know who they were, what they were, what they controlled. We know when they set up the Dutch East Indian Co., Dutch West Indian Co., the Portuguese company, the Brazilian Company. We know who and what documents. We know the family connections. We know that even when they converted to Christianity, they maintained the links with their Jewish community brothers who had not converted; and that’s why they had a network around the world.
But even more than that, if you keep digging on and —as quiet as it’s kept, a number of Jewish scholars from around the country sent me documentation on the Jews’ involvement in slave trade. Not one wrote to me contesting what they thought I had said. A dozen sent me information, including a SUNY professor.
And then we discovered—in my copy room—I don’t know. The African Holy Ghost works in wondrous ways. The African Holy Ghost put a book in my copy room called The Jews of Germany by [Marvin] Lowenthal. And it details the movement of the Jewish community into Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, along with the Syrians and Lebanese; and they became the life-line of the fallen Roman Empire in the 15 and 1600’s. And they began to institutionalize a trade link with the Middle East. A trade link dealt with:
And Number One: It dealt with humans, the humans that it dealt with for hundreds of years, with the Slavic peoples of central, eastern, and southern Europe, the Czechs, the Poles, the Yugoslavs, the Russians—an alliance between the Catholic Church and rich Jews selling white central, eastern, and southern Europeans into Arab slavery.
Did you hear what I said? The white slave trade in Europe—because the central and eastern Europeans were pagans; they were not Christians. Catholic Church had no allegiance to them. And the Jewish community didn’t care either which way. So rich Jews and the Catholic Church had an alliance for hundreds of years, selling white folks from central, eastern, and southern Europe into slavery in the Arab world—the white slave trade, which is the precursor of enslavement later.
In fact, the term « slavery » is rooted in the word « Slav. » You see why we’re in trouble?
If they had just let us alone and let us put Lewis Latimer, Granville Woods and [names unclear]—if they just let us alone, we would have been so worried about putting these people in the curriculum that we wouldn’t have to dig up these truths. But we might as well go for the whole ball of wax, getting ourselves prepared for the 21st Century. It’s in the works; it’s in the material. You just have to grab hold of it.
Let me quickly say what I’m trying to say. I had to deal with that because, see, if Schlesinger had let me alone—I had not touched the Jewish question for the past year. I had made an agreement with my Jews at City College that I would not deal with it. Koch, after he’d met me in May, had nothing to say about Dr. Jeffries for a year. He has never said anything about me since that last May. Once he saw the documentation and information, there was nothing to be said. In fact, his —his senior—attorney Wolf—when I called him—because I wanted my [word unclear] documents back, and I called him and I told him I wanted to apologize for being a little rough on attorney Wolf—because he did say something, and I said in the African tradition, you know, we respect elders and, you know, you just got in the way of my bullets for Koch.
Attorney Wolf said he was so glad and delighted to see the encounter. He has known Koch for years, and he has never seen him sit, listen and learn. Even Koch, after the meeting, when he—he got up and said, « I have a meeting to go to. » After an hour he didn’t have a meeting to go—he just couldn’t take it anymore. And I kept going for—for another half an hour. But even he, after the encounter, said that « Uh, uh, you know he’s and interesting chap. » That’s the best he could come up with, but that’s a compliment coming from him. But I had brought two hundred dollars worth of books, these books, for them to purchase. I thought they were seriously interested in what it is that we are saying and what it is we’re basing it upon. But they were not. They wanted to destroy me, to make a spectacle of me, to ridicule me. And I knew they weren’t going to but the books, so I said: « I brought two hundred dollars worth of books but since »—I see Koch had set in— »you’re not prepared to but the books, I’m going to give you one of the key books that I think you should have. » And that was Black Athena by Martin Bernal.
One of you own has written an enormous book on the experience of Africans in relationship to Greece. Now Martin Bernal has come out with a second book, and we’re not raising Martin Bernal up higher than anybody else; but at least he’s an individual who has talked about the falsification of history and how they created a false Greece at the time of the American Revolution to create the Aryan model of white supremacy that has been perpetuated for the last couple of hundred years; that the Greeks worshipped the Africans, went to learn at the foot of the Africans in the greatest buildings of the ancient world, the Luxor university temple. This is where the great Greeks wanted to learn. This is the symbol of the pillared temples everywhere in the world. If there’s a pillared temple on the Acropolis in Greece called the Parthenon. It was inspired by this great pillared temple. If you have a pillared temple in Washington, D.C. called the Lincoln Memorial, it was inspired by this great pillared temple. If you have a pillared temple at Forty-second Street in New York, which is the New York Public Library, and outside of it you have two lions, you’d better believe it has been inspired by the African—because those lions are the sphinx. Wouldn’t you think that they’d put lions outside of the Bronx Zoo and not outside of a library? Except they’re been inspired by the African tradition; the lions are the guardian forces of the temples of learning.
They’ve taken your traditions because you haven’t tapped into them fully enough. You cannot even articulate them because you’re culturally illiterate. So it’s not a question of putting something in school for the 5 and 6 year-olds; it’s putting something in the homes for the parents. It’s putting something in the studies for the teachers who need help, who have to refashion themselves—even those of with these PhDs and BBDs. You need to tap into a whole other level of knowledge that is available to you so that when someone talks about this symbol, and they take you down to Washington, D.C., and you take your little kiddies and say, « Look, Sammy! Look, Mary Jo! Look at the monument they built for George Washington! »—and you don’t have the knowledge, critical understanding or cultural literacy to say, « Look, Sammy! » and « Look, Mary Jo! » at the African monument of resurrection that was refashioned for George Washington the slave master bastard Founding Father. »
But there’s a new ballgame. We have the information on the Statue of Liberty. When it first came out, it was a student who gave it to me—I’m going to run for the next few minutes. There was a student that gave me the information because a Black chemist, Jack Felder, had compiled an information sheet with the date of information, where you could find it. And when we put our information out there, we need to put at the end of it the documentation source, where we can discover this information. And so when he put the documentary data, et cetera, I followed it up, being the consummate scholar. I grabbed some of the sons of Africa. We jumped in a couple cars, went down to the New York City Museum. 106th Street and Fifth Avenue, looking for this Black Statue of Liberty. The first model was of an image of a Black woman holding the broken chains of enslavement, with the broken chains of enslavement, with the broken chains of enslavement at her feet. Nobody there knew anything about it. All the people there were Black. Five or six Blacks—ain’t nobody knew nuthin’. I refused to leave. Black folks got cognitive dissonance they didn’t want to do nothing. But when I refused to leave, then they got—start to thinking. There was a Haitian guard who was there. So they said, « Go get him. Maybe he knows something. » He was there in ’86 when they had the celebrations. So they go get the Haitian guard. And he said, « Of course. The model of the Statue of Liberty is downstairs. »
I said, « Can we see it? »
« No. The director has the key. Locked up. Ain’t nobody can see it. »
So I said, « Well, is there any other information about the Statue of Liberty? »
He went off, came back with a book by Marvin Trachtenberg, called The Statue of Liberty. » And in it—he opened it up and showed the various models of the Statue of Liberty with the chains at the feet.
Then the brother—Felder—said, « You can go down to the French Cultural Center. » That’s further down on Fifth Avenue—Eighty-third Street, Eighty-second Street at Fifth Avenue. I went there, knocked on the door, just got in there just in time. I had called them before and asked them did they have any information on the Statue of Liberty. And they gave me a large magazine called Liberty, the anniversary edition of the magazine France. And that dealt with the founding of the Statue of Liberty. It had a picture of Edouard-Rene [Lefebvre de Laboulaye], the Frenchman who came up with the idea of the Statue of Liberty. He was a political scientist; he was a French leader; he was a French parliamentarian; he wrote a three-volume history of the United States. But more important than that, Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, who came up with the idea of the Statue of Liberty in 1865, was head of the French anti-slave society.
In 1865 people were not interested in immigration into the United States. In fact, the United States in the 1850’s and 1860’s had established a Know-Nothing Party; they did not want immigrants; they were against immigrants; and the immigrants that they were against were Papists, German and Irish Catholics. There was no prospect of bringing in immigrants from central, eastern, and southern Europe; these were the unwashed masses. Eighteen-sixty-five was our period. Eighteen-sixty-five was when half a million Black people, a quarter-million of them official Union army, navy troops—participated in the Civil War. [Word unclear] four million of their—four million of their compatriots—and then saving this nation.
The question of Black folks getting into their history, starting to fight for liberty and struggling for what is right is not the question of disuniting America. It has been our struggle that has kept America united. It has been our struggle that has raised anew the liberties that this nation professes. It has been our struggle that has created the 14th Amendment that became the amendment that the women could use and others could use, when they talk about the expansion of liberty in America.
America was founded by rich white men with property and power. It was founded on an affirmative-action program for rich white men with property and power. From the very beginning of the founding of these colonies, rich white men with property and power were given affirmative action and set-asides—whole land set aside for them to develop and whole people set aside to work it for free, including white folks who came as virtual slaves under indentured servitude. There was a set-aside and affirmative action for rich white folks with property and power in the beginning of this nation, and that tradition under the British under the Dutch was maintained. And when independence was established, the independence was established, and the Constitution put in place in 1787 is a document of affirmative action for rich white folks with property and power.
Because we do not have the critical analysis we need—and that’s why we need study groups, serious study groups for the adults and for the teachers—we continue to go around talking about there was a three-fifths clause put in the Constitution and we have three-fifths the rights of white folks. You have no rights in the American constitutional frame of reference. Women have no significant rights. The Constitution does not speak to them and poor whites, men, did not have any significant rights in the Constitution. The Constitution speaks to rich white men with property and power. It is there for you to read with your eyes open and put on to it.
Three-fifths clause and affirmative action are set aside for the slave owners. A slave owner who had 200 of our people enslaved, had three-fifths more votes, voting power for them, than a normal rich white man. That’s democracy? That’s oligarchy. But we still posture our position of democracy as part of the founding process. Democracy came as we struggled to widen the American process to include the most deprived and dispossessed of the people in the system. Our struggle has been the heroic struggle. It’s an enormous struggle and you can only tap into it, if you only knew it. This struggle of our people collectively, for freedom, justice. We have been the liberating people force in this nation. From day one when we arrived.
And that Constitution: Read it again, two places where it mentions Black folks is the three-fifths clause. And then you’ve got this question of 1808. Eighteen-hundred-eight is the set-aside for rich white men of property and power, the Jeffersons, the Washingtons and the Monroes. A set aside, instead of ending slavery in 1787, which they could have done, if they were lovers of freedom, justice, and equality. Instead of ending the slave trade in 1787, which they could have done, if the Declaration of Independence meant anything to them, we are all men created, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these rights, liberty, pursuit of happiness. If they really believed that they could have instituted a constitution that destroyed these things as the French did. But they did not believe that, because the nation was founded by rich white men of property and power. They put the Constitution and Bill of Rights and everything together, so they set aside 20 years so they continued the slave trade, up until 1808, Set aside so rich white men with property and power to become what has been the basis of this nation. And then they beat up on us about affirmative action and set-asides for what we contribute to America.
So you’ve got to have an analysis. That’s what we’re saying. Just let me give you this one frame of reference to show how this enormity of material can be processed in a way to make it work for you. And then we’ll have the question-answer period.
I’ve come up with a formulation which I call « pyramid analysis. » And I put this available to the committee, the committee wanted it and that pyramid analysis, that you’ve got to be able to process the enormity of information about human experience. Using a pyramid as a model. It allows us to deal with the basic rule and understanding of human life and life on the planet and life in the universe and that’s duality. Duality and polarity is a basic concept that has to be understood. The pyramidal framework gives us a chance to deal with that. One polarity is what I call the thesis, the other polarity is what I call the antithesis. Between the polarities you have search for truth and knowledge which relates to duality and polarity. As you deal with the knowledge, breaking it down and analyzing between the polarities, then you synthesize it and you come up with critical thinking. You put a circle around it, it represents systems, external system. You put a circle inside the pyramid, you deal with internal system.
Dealing with biology, basic simple biology, basic simple life. You have the female principle, the male principle. Interaction between the male principle and the female principle and this is what? The child. The synthesis becomes the child. In the human development, of the human process, you have the duality. Two hemispheres of the brain, two eyes, two nostrils, two lips, two lungs, two arms, two ova, two testes and so that question of duality is in our own existence. Then the question of the brain and the synthesis becomes thinking. So the basic understanding of duality— polarity, is what we are talking about.
When we see the human family and you don’t have the worry about the information base. We stand on science and history, science and history is on our side. Our secret weapon has arrived. And the secret weapon is « books » such as this: Civilization or Barbarism. Everybody should have that. It’s a must. This was a book of a scholar, dealing with scholarship. Taking on the whole tradition of western European scholarship and he won the battle. Establishing what?
Number one, the African origin of humanity millions of years ago. In fact Dr. [Cheikh] Diop says there is only one human race and it’s the African race. Everything else is a mutation off African genes. That’s the scientific and historical data. That’s what we stand on.
Number two, you have the African evolution of science. A hundred thousand years ago when humankind wanted to disrupt the evolutionary process, developing fire, settling communities, learning to use tools, domesticating plants. And it is that evolution that took place largely in the Sun Belt that produces:
Number three, the cradle of civilization in the Nile River Valley and the other river valleys of the world. When the ecology of the sun produces the ingredients for positive development.
And so [Dr. Diop] has a concept which he has in his book, called the The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, that you have a southern cradle, around what we can call « sun people, » and you have the northern cradle, around what we can call « ice people. » And the people [word unclear] around the world. People are terribly upset. Dr. Jeffries has his theory of « ice people, » « sun people. » People call me from all around the world, Scotland, Australia. Dr. Jeffries can we have some material on your « ice people, sun people? » Some woman called me from Kentucky or Tennessee, obviously a white Southerner. « Dr. Jeffries, I heard about your ‘ice people, sun people,’ and I think it’s an interesting theory. In fact, I believe it. Can I get a copy of your work? »
Now, there’s no « ice people, sun people » theory. What we had was a framework of analysis. We had a paradigm to organizing information. The white boy has given us a paradigm. Haves and have-nots. The haves are white folks. The have-nots are anybody that’s not white. And that’s ironic. Because even if the Africans have the gold, the diamonds, uranium, the platinum, the plutonium, the oil, they are considered the have-nots. Even if the white folks ain’t got a pot to pee in they are considered the haves. So, I mean, that paradigm doesn’t hold water.
We have another paradigm, which is okay, nobody’s criticizing it: « First World » and « Third World. » We don’t even know what the World is. You know that the First World, the First World is white folks. And everything else comes after that. The first people, the First World were African people, people of color, sun peoples and we stand on that. Everybody else comes after that. And we are the haves. We have had the beginning of the march of humankind. We are the mothers and fathers of civilization. We developed science, mathematics, and philosophy. And we stand on that. All of that is in the work of Dr. Diop, Dr. Chancellor Williams, John Jackson’s book. And this particular book.
So these are the things that you need to tap into. Now don’t think you are going to get it and read it on a weekend. I’m telling you, you have to have some special processes to take place. This is a scientific document. This was designed to view with all of the B.S. that white folks have put up, the falsifications that they have put up. So you’ve got to take this slowly but surely. And over the years it may make sense to you.
I’m telling people, take it and put it on your night table. Either put it on top of your Bible or move the Bible over. Or the Koran. Put it on top of your night table. And then, the knowledge and information we have is such [that] now that you are going to have to deal with the Bible in an African way. Most of you have been reluctant. But we are developing study groups and whatnot all around the country, in the churches.
I came from Ft. Lauderdale, where they have study groups in the churches. And one of the things that, we just had a visitor or house guest this past weekend. This is a brother who has produced this book that you have to get a hold of—I brought a number of them. We have them available for you. And you know, I know you save your money to buy some shirts and some, you know, and some patent leather shoes. But these are some of the things that you need to get.
Now, this is a two-volume study. Expensive, but well worth it: The Black Presence in the Bible, by Rev. Walter McCray. The brother’s very beautiful. A member of an organization, based in Chicago. Put a lot of work into putting the truth of the people of the Bible. The people of the Bible were not European. They were African or people of mixed African blood. And you have to begin to deal with that. In our lessons we will put the ten major historical figures in the Bible and all of their 10 African wives. Each of them had an African wife. Now it’s ironic that in Jewish tradition, in the orthodoxy that if you are an orthodox Jew, you cannot be a true Jew unless you pass through the woman’s line. But isn’t it ironic that in the Biblical text most of the great historic Jewish figures had African wives? So we’ve got to know that. And know what the implications are. And know it critically. So we’re talking about recapturing the truth of people. And it’s not a question of a negative self-esteem.
Isn’t it ironic that Miss Daisy and her people are running around talking about that « this is just self-esteem and feel good curriculum? » What the hell do they have in place for white people now? And it’s ironic because if you read the documents of the State of New York, and we have some of the documents for you and a sister has had, Jackie, has some of the documents coming from the state that you need to write to the state, the department of education, and get these documents and if you live in this area, you can walk right across the street and get them. They have these documents. In the Board of Regents, it says that there is, one of the goals is to develop the self-esteem of each student, so that they can be motivated to be achievers. So how the hell can you be beating on us about our self-esteem? Particularly when in the culture of white racism, there is such a negative image of African people? Feel-good curriculum. What the hell do you think the existing curriculum is? We learn about Washington and the cherry tree. I don’t want to hear nothing about Washington and the cherry tree. I don’t want to feel good or feel bad about Washington. I want to know about Washington and the enslavement process. I don’t want to know about Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence in 1776. Let me know about first draft in 1775 when he compromised and took out the indictment against slavery. And then let me know some more about Jefferson, his character and whatnot. Because when you talk about education you’re talking about, again the dual process.
One, the foundation of education is socializing function. In the socializing function you’re talking about what? Character development. Africans understood that, so the educational process for the African started in the mind of the woman as she was a young girl growing up into womanhood. Being prepared to being the teachers of her, the product of her womb. So from zero to five the first foundations of education are established in the home. And so that’s where character development has to be instilled—the socializing function.
And our value system is centered around what I call the « three C’s. » Communal, cooperative, and collective spiritual development. Seeing a unity spiritual in the universe. That’s the value system of some people. Whether you talk about Native Americans or southern Asian. But next to this polarity, you have the polarity of tooling. The tooling function. So you have the socializing function, character development, in relationship to the tooling function which is skills development. And the tooling function is where you get the knowledge from the mathematics and the techniques, etc. But you need the two of them together in order to have a synthesized true education. What the white boy has said is that the only thing significant is the skills function. So he tests on the skills function and then he decides whether we’ve had an education or not. Based upon tests.
I’m here to tell you that test taking is no more than anything but testing test taking. I was in a Jewish fraternity in college. Most of you may not have known that. I spoke with one of my fraternity brothers Monday, Billy Rothchild, for dinner. I was the president of the Jewish fraternity. One hundred Jews and me and a couple of Christians. And the president of the Jewish fraternity was called « rex. » So I had to go through college as the rex, the King of the Jews. Now I managed it. But the most important thing about the fraternity was they had a system: that they knew how to take tests, they knew how to put a system of support in place. They had the records of all the professors, they had the tests, they analyzed how they changed their questions from year to year to try to fool the students, we left nothing to chance. The Jewish fraternity won the scholarship trophy 14 semesters in a row. The whole average of the fraternity was a Dean’s list average, even dumb Jews made it, because there was a system of support.
My roommate was a Black youngster from the football team, Dan Wooten from Cape May, New Jersey, he was the vice president. So in the 1950’s at Lafayette College, the president of this Jewish fraternity was Black, and vice-president was Black, two boys from New Jersey. Dan Wooten is now a medical doctor surgeon, UCLA Medical School, King Hospital in Los Angeles. And, of course, you know about Dr. J. But people, other people have a system. The important thing I’m saying is that other people have a system. We have to put a system in place. It begins in the home. It should be in our communities, our fraternal orders, in our clubs. But we don’t have to put a system in place. But we don’t have that type of understanding. We are not playing the game of politics and education the way we should.
As you look at this polarity again let me give you three things and I got to step into the wing. The first and foremost principle is economics. Economics is basic, if you don’t have economics you can’t survive. Economics is related to ecology, because your economics is the gear to your ecology. The ecology of the river valleys of the world produced the first economic systems of plenty that allowed for civilizations and culture. The economy of the northern cradle, the economy of ice, could not produce the type of surplus needed to survive. It produced barbarism. That’s why Diop’s book, Civilization or Barbarism, makes some sense. In the river valleys of the world, civilization occurred. In the northern regions and other regions like the desert where the environment was negative and the ecology was difficult, then you had barbarity.
This is a Newsweek article, November 10, 1986. Where you are beating on me about « ice people, sun people, » what do they say here? Our ice age heritage, language, arts, fashion and the family. So we’re trying to say that it’s clear that what we’ve done is to synthesize the information. We have not created any concept of ice and sun. Ice and sun are very real and very scientific. We are sun people, people of color because of the sun. The melanin factor. Europeans have a lack of melanin and have lost a great deal of it because much of the European development has been in the caves of Europe where you do not need melanin. So the factor of the ice is a key factor in the development of the European biologically, culturally, economically, socially. And what we are talking about is the values that are transmitted from ecologies.
So this is the last thing that I want to leave with you: That your economy which is related to your ecology begets your sociology which is related to your politics. Economics is the productive capacity, politics is the management capacity. The ecological systems are related to your sociological systems. This duality of economics and politics, ecology and sociology has to be related and then you synthesize them and you have culture, the psychological dimension. The cement that keeps things together. Economics, politics and culture relate; as ecological and sociological and psychological dimensions relate. It is this relationship that we as African peoples have to work at and make work for us.
They have it all divided up. In fact, they tell us, don’t worry about the economics, we’ll take care of it. In fact, they bring people in our community to take care of it. Arabs, Vietnamese and other people. Don’t worry about the economics, we’ll take care of it. Then the politics. You get involved in politics. But just come at election time. We’ll take care of who you should vote for, give you a little bit of money to work on the polls, but, you know, don’t waste too much time to become involved in politics.
But you can have culture. Become as black as you want. But if you only have culture and you’re not hooked the economics and it’s not related to your politics, then you do not have a system of development. You only have a system of survival. And what our educational omission tells us is, that we have to develop a system of development. And that means that we have to take our schools and make them work for us. But we have to put the educational process in the community, in the homes. We have to tap into this enormity of knowledge and then you have to be prepared to tell the truth. We have to be prepared to say that we are not going to celebrate Columbus. That no African or Native American youngster should celebrate Columbus. You Italians, you Spanish can celebrate it if you will. But we are not prepared to deal with the devilishness of Columbus. And [New York Governor] Mario Cuomo is not going to like it. But you [are] going have the courage to have to tell him the truth.
So that’s what it’s all about. It’s a political struggle; it’s not just a economic struggle; it’s not just economic cultural struggle; it’s not just an educational struggle. It’s economics because they want to keep that money. New York’s budget, New York City’s budget is seven to eight billion dollars. They don’t want Black folks messin’ with that budget. So when they thought we were getting into the curriculum they thought we were also talking about teacher training and other things, which we were. So immediately they said that’s not your realm. And across the country, [President George] Bush wants to put in a new order, a New World order. That means they’ve got to have mind controls in the schools. And here we come with African centered education and that’s blown up their plans for mind control in the schools. Because African-centered education does not allow for the concept of rich white men with property and power dominating the worldview of this planet. So what we have prepared for you and we have it in this packet here, and, unfortunately, I couldn’t bring enough of them, but it includes some of the materials you need in terms of historical mentions of the struggle for an African-centered education.
It includes the report « Curriculum of Inclusion. » It’s the new report. It includes the course outline by Dr. Clarke, dealing with African history. Includes [Wade] Noble’s analysis of African-centered educational practice. It includes the multi-culture of the city of New York. And it includes documents such as the statement by our brother on educating the African child. So, this type of document and the books we do have available for you. What we’re saying is tap into them from the study groups. Start breaking the things down. See the connection between things. This book here by Diop has to be related to the book by Jackson. Do not try to even deal with Diop if you have not related to Jackson. And then you need to see the generations of resistance and struggle in Van Sertima’s book, Egypt Revisited [Edited by Ivan Van Sertima].
It’s the new generation coming up. Dr. Asa Hilliard, and others that are complementing the work of Dr. Diop. We have to see generations of African resistance and scholarship. We stand on scholarship and science, we make no excuses about it. But the beauty of our experience is no matter where you start, your history is like nobody else’s history. If you deal with Africans and science and technology after the slavery period. And that’s what we are trying to say. And just to give it to you in one sentence. This is what we’re trying to say. They’ve B.S.’d up and down the world about what we are saying. What we are saying: Take this system again. The thesis would be in the founding of America. The Anglo-Saxon elite model. The antithesis would the other America, all the rest of us. You have to relate the Anglo-Saxon elite model with the multi-culture pluralistic model to get the synthesis of what truly was America.
And that’s what we’re calling for in the curriculum of inclusion. We also said you can apply it into the science area. For example, at this polarity you might have an elite Anglo-Saxon model: Benjamin Franklin, he was dealing with science, he had an almanac. But over in the pluralistic multi-cultural model, African centered you have: Benjamin Banaker, living at the same time, knowing each other, dealing with inventions and almanacs. And Banaker being part of that contribution of Africa to the unity of this nation which led to the building of Washington, D.C.
When the Frenchmen got disgusted and left they had to tap into Benjamin Banaker. Benjamin Banaker represents more than Franklin. He represents a principal struggle for freedom, justice and equality. And he challenged Thomas Jefferson in his beliefs in the inferiority of African peoples, even though Thomas Jefferson never had a white woman by his side after the white wife died in 1782 and for the next twenty years as he was ambassador to France, secretary of state, president of the United States, Jefferson only had a Black woman by his side, Sally Hemmings. And we need to understand the principle stand that our people represent as opposed to a Thomas Jefferson, because Thomas Jefferson never freed any of the children of Sally Hemmings or Sally Hemmings herself and that’s not a principled liberator or freedom lover in my book.
When a Banaker challenged Jefferson, so that’s what we said, put that in the history books. That’s a fantastic dialogue. Of someone up from an enslaved population, although Banaker’s parents were free, challenging the greatest of American spiritician, etc. But more than that. Put it into the books that the people who really fought for freedom, justice, and equality in the revolutionary war on the principle basis were Black folks. They fought on both sides. They fought on the British side; they fought on the American side. They answered the call for freedom. Washington, Jefferson, and others were writing about it and trying to protect the slave system. Black folks were fighting for freedom.
But then you not only have the Banakers, you have the situation when you have Thomas Edison on the Anglo side. And on the pluralistic side you have Lewis Latimer, who was his partner. And Latimer’s carbon-filament invention helped to make the light bulb functional. Plus they were together for 20 or 30 years. So you have a relationship with Latimer, it’s legitimate, it’s very real. Then you can put Granville Woods, on the Black side and put Alexander Graham Bell on the white side. They were involved with communications. But Granville Woods was a principled Black man who said, « I’m not going to be bought off by a white man, » and he and his brother set up the Woods Electric Co. out in Ohio.
In other words, this is the story. This is post-slavery. The waves of immigrants ain’t come in yet. You ain’t got the waves of Jews, the waves of Italians, the waves of Greeks, waves of Russians. This is us dealing with the Anglos, trying to establish the foundation of America’s technology and it’s industrial development. And here you have an interesting development that is very real. Louis Latimer worked with Edison. Grandville Woods took Edison to court two times for stealing his patents and won. Now that’s got to be in everybody’s history book. That that Black man took the white leader of America industrial development to court and won. And these are the type of things we’re saying you need to put in the history book. That’s what real inclusion is. But for us the real inclusion has to be to put this stuff in our homes, in our communities. And then walk it into the schools. And then we don’t have to worry about Miss Daisy.
Suggested Readings …
Woodson, Carter G. The Mis-Education of the Negro. Washington, D.C.: Associated publishers, 1933.
Jackson, John G. Introduction to African Civilizations. Secaucus, NF: Citadel Press 1970.
Williams, Chancellor. The Destruction of Black Civilizations: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Chicago: Third World Press, 1974.
James, George G. M. Stolen Legacy. San Francisco: Julian Richardson Associates, 1976.
Rogers, J. A. World’s Great Men of Color, Volumes I & II. Collier-MacMillan, 1976.
Van Sertima, Ivan Van. They Came Before Columbus. New York: Random House, 1976.
Hilliard, A. L. Williams and N. Damali. Eds. The Teachings of Ptahhotep The oldest Book in the world. Atlanta: Blackwood Press, 1987.
Carruthers, J., and M. Karenga, eds. Kemet and the African World view. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press, 1986.
Diop, Cheikh Anta. Civilization or Barbarism. New York: Lawrence Hill Books 1991.
Ben-Jochannan, Yosef. Africa: Mother of Western Civilization. New York: Alkebulan Books, 1971.
Van Sertima, Ivan. Ed. Black Women in Antiquity. New Brunswick, NJ: Journal of African Civilizations, 1985.
Hilliard, A.L. Payton-Stewart, and L. Williams. Eds. Infusion of African and African American Content in School Curriculum. Morristown, NJ: Aaron Press, 1990.
Clarke, John H. and Yosef ben-Jochannan. New Dimensions in African History. Trenton, NJ: African World Press, Inc., 1991.
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May 12th, 2011
This jaw-dropper of a story about a lynching in Houston, Texas, ran in the Los Angeles Times on June 21, 1928, and is notable for its wry and cynical tone. “In ordinary circumstances, it would have been just one of those things,” Harry Carr reported, but the city was hosting the Democratic National Convention at the time. So a little more tact was called for. “This was no time for such frivolities.”
Here’s the portion of the story dealing with the lynching:
An old-fashioned lynching on the outskirts of Houston has put the Democrats in what is technically known as a “hot spot.”
Even the southern colonels from the black belt agree that the boys should have shown more judgment and tact.
On the eve of the Democratic convention and in view of the antilynching plank of the Kansas City platform, it creates political embarrassment.
In ordinary circumstance, it would have been just one of those things. A young negro tough, named Robert Powell, shot a popular Houston policeman and was wounded himself. Last night some armed, but unmasked, men forced a way into a hospital where he lay and left him dangling from the girders of a railroad bridge in the outskirts of Houston.
The Houston press hastened this morning to assure the convention visitors that it was most unusual and “not typical of Houston, or Houston spirit.”
Jesse H. Jones, the oil baron king and real-estate proprietor of Houston, comes forth in an interview in his own newspaper, the Chronicle. He rebukes the mob as being “too self-indulgent.”
The Mayor deplores; the City Council offers a reward and the State troopers come at a handy gallop, but the Sheriff’s guard, the only white eye-witness, remarks with discretion that he doesn’t hardly think he would be able to recognize the lynchers if he saw them again—they being his fellow-townsmen and not wearing masks. The two negro nurses at the hospital also know the better part of valor.
The negro vote of Texas isn’t what’s worrying them. Yesterday the Texas Democrats at the State capital at Austin, with airy disregard of the Constitution of the United States, passed a resolution flatly barring negroes from voting in the July primaries. But there is a large negro vote in the North which may not view these midnight soirees with such complacency.
Many of the ardent Southern Democrats now pouring into Houston deplore the whole affair as lacking in tact. This was no time for such frivolities.
IMAGE: From left to right: Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1928; The Washington Post, June 22, 1928; The Washington Post, June 23, 1928