LOCAL VOICES: Inhumanity to Black sharecroppers never to be forgotten
The end of slavery in 1863 was not the end of America's inhumanity to Black-Americans, which continued long after, such as the 1919 mass lynching of sharecroppers in Arkansas Editor’s Note:The Compton Herald story last week
The end of slavery in 1863 was not the end of America’s inhumanity to Black-Americans, which continued long after, such as the 1919 mass lynching of sharecroppers in Arkansas
Editor’s Note:The Compton Herald story last week (“Local Voices: America’s forgotten mass atrocity of 1919,” Sept. 3, 2016) infuriated many who were unaware of the mass murder of 237 Black sharecroppers in Arkansas by enraged White vigilantes, simply because they sought to organize a union to protect their farming interests. No one was ever brought to justice and the slayings never solved, even though it was widely-known that the Union army sparked the bloodletting. The victims’ story has been passed down through generations — a part of America’s heinous legacy of the lynching of Black men, women, and children in the aftermath of slavery — from 1863 through the 1960s.
The following represents some local sentiments about the tragedy and what most agree on — “We should never forget!”
Gloria J. Willingham-Toure: “In truth, these 237 hangings were unfortunately just a few of the real numbers of persons who met such unjust fates. I am the granddaughter of grandparents who were born enslaved and later freed. Their parents and grandparents before them were born enslaved. My father’s generation was the first generation to be born free in his family since the first group of enslaved Africans in his family first landed in this country. We have a traceable history and the stories have been passed down thanks to their longevity with generations living to be 100 years and older.
There were times when the stories were so painful to listen to, we didn’t want to hear them. We called them “slavery time” stories. The pain in [the eyes of] our grandparents and eldest uncles was evident. They worked very hard to assure that we would never have to experience what they experienced, and they applauded our every success and encouraged us to stand boldly no matter what. They taught us how to live in the White world while being very conscious of the dangers that could befall us simply because of the color of our skin. Similar to many families of former slaves there were many racially mixed relatives in my family and some are so fair-skinned until they passed as White. They too brought stories back to us about the other world and some of the differences that we would encounter.
When people speak of this as a part of our history, in many ways I see it even deeper than that. “History” is too often used as a euphemism for “In the past,” and to me that [doesn’t say] enough. These atrocities are deeper than just being “in the past.” They affect me just as strongly as they affect persons who were not alive during the holocaust and other “genocides” around the world, [but who] are still affected generations later. They affect me just as strongly as persons who have witnessed and/or participated in atrocities during war times. And, yes, I am originally from Arkansas where both sides of my family had deep roots. Our family has personally experienced the pain of the lynching of a family member, and other atrocities. That pain does not go away.
I have heard many people say, “All of that is history and should just be forgotten” — as though it is something so simple to do. Somewhere the truth must be told, and acknowledged as an important part of what happened to Blacks in this country just as we acknowledge the atrocities of the Holocaust. Atrocities in this country have [impacted] so much of our legal system, our economic policies, our educational systems, and Blacks in many cases have been disproportionately victimized by these systems whether their histories are the same as that of my family or different; and yet we are asked by many to just forget them and move on, which is often just another way of saying “shut up,” and leave things the way they are if you want to be accepted in the mainstream. And too many people do just that until something happens that affects them.”
Charlie Acevedo: “Wow… terrible.”
Larry Dozier: “We must never forget.”
John DiCecco: “The legacy of slavery is embedded in American culture. Its remnants and the beliefs that supported the machinery of slave states — are very much with us today. Full documentation, lessons in school, reparations to victims, and prosecution for crimes committed are the international standards set forth by Germany in full acknowledgement of its “extermination” program via eugenics carried out against Jews, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Romanian gypsies, and other people of color (of African and Asian descent). American slave states operated on the belief that slaves were sub-human and governable only by a strong show of force. America has a very long way to go to cleanse its soul of this legacy and set [a] new course as a free nation.”
Marjorie Mcdonald: “Never forget. Never stop learning!”
Gloria J. Willingham-Toure: “…And teaching. Too often we are too silent about this part of our history.”
Don Shaw: “If history is not addressed, it’ll repeat itself through our actions. Please continue to share [these] stories.”
Dunn Eric: “There is still deeply entrenched hatred against American descendants of African slaves. Truth is, the heinous criminal acts against humanity such as the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide are not allowed to be forgotten, dismissed, or shrugged off as if they are mythical fairy tales. What’s real in reference to slavery is the evil and atrocious treatment that slaves endured, and being considered 3/5ths of a human being. Much of the bigotry and discrimination, today can be traced to this perception of Black people — American or otherwise. It cannot be forgotten what one culture has done to another when the “freed” culture still battles inhumane treatment based on a capitalistic/oppressive past. If we forget, we will regress. If we remember, we have the opportunity to prevent a recurrence in various forms now and in coming generations.”
Phillip Senteno: “People keep saying — ‘Make America Great Again.’ To that I say, America needs to acknowledge its own history in order to heal.”
Anne Swanson-Leadbetter: “Amen, amen…may this never be allowed again in any form!”
Sunnie Andreu: “We cannot forget!”
David Thompson: “How far removed is this historical incident from the seething, angry-White-man rage which flared at Donald Trump rallies during the primary election season earlier this year? Not so very far, I am afraid.”
Tom Magin: “The stark realities of then and now are about the same in more or less degrees. Naked acts of horror and terror, for whatever the cause (was the French Revolution something else because it was a Whites-only thing?) Violence served up with hate and ignorance seems to be just what nobody wants, but people justify or legalize some bad things… especially White guys lately; although the violent religious problems in the Middle East are something. Violence is a part our world, justified or not. There’s a fine line trampled by history and current events. We are a nation full of frothing Trump supporters and shrugging Clintonites. One more ring and it would be a circus — a sad circus.”
Tom Asbridge: “Racism has been the underbelly of our society for a long time. More important is those of us who live in North Dakota have been in denial as to its existence here at home. Time for a lot of soul searching. And as long as we have such economic disparity, it will persist. Gandhi said that poverty is the worst violence. We have the ability to fix this. Leadership. Character. Vote.”
John Thompson: “I appreciate Mr. Jarrette Fellows for sharing this profound, yet disgusting part of our American history. Without question, the total loss of life will never be recognized or accounted for. The loss of life during the Middle Passage will never be known. Even worse, the number of our women who were raped and humiliated will never be known, nor will the number of our brothers who were tortured and slaughtered on a daily basis during slavery, ever be known.
“Mr. Fellows brought up a fact of truth when he stated that many people, including our own, want us to forget that these atrocities happened many years ago and that we should move on with our lives. I say, “hell no to anyone who has that mindset!” It’s not just the people who were tortured and murdered, that we should mourn, but the emotional and mental scars that are still left to those that survived the trauma of this onslaught. There are still films and documentaries being talked about every day when it comes to the Holocaust. Clearly, the Jews have never forgotten. And, by the way, we lost a hell of a lot more people in the Middle Passage,” than the Jews lost in the Holocaust.
“Also, people want us to act like slavery never happened, but they will never tell us to do that when 9/11 is mentioned. As a youngster growing up in the 60s, I can never forget police brutality or police dogs in the South, barking at and biting our people? How about the use of powerful “water hoses” on our men, women, and children. Yes, they want us to forget everything wrong that has been done to us. Then, we still have the “Uncle Tom” brothers that go back and tell Mr. Charlie, everything we’re doing!
“I will never be silenced from talking the truth. I’ve never been a follower; I’ve always been my own man. I know there are some people that don’t like it, but I walk it like I talk it. When God calls me home, I don’t want to leave anything on the table. I’m not here to teach hatred, but I’m going to call it like I see it.
“You all had great posts! You keep me pumped up and motivated. Thanks for sharing!”
Christina Langolf: “My thought is if people keep picking at the scab called the past the present can’t get a chance to heal. Am I wrong?”
Phillip Senteno Most people do not know this country’s history. And when people bring up issues of the past, many respond with, ‘let it go; that happened a long time ago.’ You cannot heal anything until you acknowledge it happened. Our history books were written to portray America as giving equality to all. Every major change that has occurred in this country was the result of its populace standing up against the government demanding change and holding [government] accountable for the crimes it sweeps under the rug. And always because the powers that be are motivated by greed.
“Did you know that it was the Democratic party who were the slave owners and the Republican Whig party, as they were called, pushed for the abolishment of slavery. Up into the 60s, there was still segregation throughout most of the country. And Lyndon B. Johnson made a statement in a speech respective of the civil rights movement with regard to government programs such as Welfare; LBJ said, ‘with these government entitlement programs we will own them for the next two hundred years.’ Christina, knowledge is power. I spent the better part of my adult life in prison — most of it reading everything I could get my hands on. Again, just my opinion and belief on this matter.”
Christina Langolf: “I know I’m ignorant when it comes to politics. And you are right; knowledge is power but I still think there is too much dwelling on the past. Who isn’t acknowledging the past? It seems to me we are going backward instead of forward. And it’s scary! I hate politics and am too lazy to learn. I have to trust someone to tell me the truth.”
Jackie Miller: “That’s the problem, Christina. It behooves you to learn about all of our nation’s history. It behooves all of us to learn. The majority of White Americans don’t know anything about Black history beyond the obvious sports and entertainment stars. I certainly never heard of anything like this atrocity in 1919. It was difficult for me to read. I’m ashamed that White people could even stand around and watch something like this. Surely some repented, but I’m sure some of them carried guilt to the grave. Reprehensible, Lord God Almighty!”
Phillip Senteno: “Truth is we don’t know what we don’t know. This country still twists the truth of the past. As for living in scary times. Stop and think about the 60s and the people speaking out against the Vietnam [Conflict]. The government lied as to why we were there. Student protests and students dying at the hands of our National Guard during these protests made headlines. The media educated people who otherwise would have remained naive. The only difference is with all the technology [today] we see everything as it happens.”
Christina Langolf: “Like I said… I hate politics, but I guess I could listen, huh?”
Phillip Senteno: “Remember, hate is a powerful word. Instead of seeing the problem, consider a solution. And always ask yourself why?”