If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

My jaw dropped when I read the first sentence in this thoughtful and thought-provoking post by our friend Keith. I think yours will too. Trump’s desire to teach revisionist history can only lower us even further in the eyes of the world … it can only be thought of as the ‘dumbing-down of America’. Please take a minute to read Keith’s post and ponder on the direction we are headed. Thanks, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

I read this week from a UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today…

View original post 555 more words

Trump’s Attack on History: The 1776 Project, Racism, Nationalism, and Fraudulent Patriotism to Conform History to his Twisted Ideology

Today, in yet another extreme abuse of the power of his office, Trump signed an ‘executive order’ to demand that public schools teach revisionist history, that they exclude the darker past of this nation. I tried to write about this, but was too furious to put coherent words on paper. Fortunately, Padre Steve was more successful than I, so I share his work with you. Please do read this … it is another step … a huge one … in the destruction of the United States. Thank you, Padre!

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today President Trump launched a major attack on the history of the United States by announcing what he called The 1776  Project, a direct attack on the 1619 Project which aims to tell the story of how the English Colonists introduced what became the institution of slavery and entrenched racism in the United States. I know the subject well, my book which will be published sometime in the next year “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and why they Continue to Matter” deals extensive with this history, and I can say based on his actions and utterances that the President is using this to further divide the country on racial lines and to open American history as his next front of his culture war.

Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a…

View original post 3,599 more words

Understanding Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, and I would like to start with a few words from President Barack Obama …

Obama“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.”

I planned to write a piece about Juneteenth, but I found that it had already been done, much better and much more authentically than I could possibly have done it, by Jamelle Bouie, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and former chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.


Why Juneteenth Matters

It was black Americans who delivered on Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom.”

jamelle-bouieBy Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves.

“Slave resistance,” as the historian Manisha Sinha points out in “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” “lay at the heart of the abolition movement.”

“Prominent slave revolts marked the turn toward immediate abolition,” Sinha writes, and “fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement and led the abolitionists to justify revolutionary resistance to slavery.”

When secession turned to war, it was enslaved people who turned a narrow conflict over union into a revolutionary war for freedom. “From the first guns at Sumter, the strongest advocates of emancipation were the slaves themselves,” the historian Ira Berlin wrote in 1992. “Lacking political standing or public voice, forbidden access to the weapons of war, slaves tossed aside the grand pronouncements of Lincoln and other Union leaders that the sectional conflict was only a war for national unity and moved directly to put their own freedom — and that of their posterity — atop the national agenda.”

All of this is apropos of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the last week, as Americans continued to protest police brutality, institutional racism and structural disadvantage in cities and towns across the country, elected officials in New York and Virginia have announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, as have a number of prominent businesses like Nike, Twitter and the NFL.

There’s obviously a certain opportunism here, an attempt to respond to the moment and win favorable coverage, with as little sacrifice as possible. (Paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.) But if Americans are going to mark and celebrate Juneteenth, then they should do so with the knowledge and awareness of the agency of enslaved people.

Juneteenth-2

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.

To return to Ira Berlin — who tackled this subject in “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States” — it is useful to look at the end of slavery as “a near-century-long process” rather than “the work of a moment, even if that moment was a great civil war.” Those in bondage were part of this process at every step of the way, from resistance and rebellion to escape, which gave them the chance, as free blacks, to weigh directly on the politics of slavery. “They gave the slaves’ oppositional activities a political form,” Berlin writes, “denying the masters’ claim that malingering and tool breaking were reflections of African idiocy and indolence, that sabotage represented the mindless thrashings of a primitive people, and that outsiders were the ones who always inspired conspiracies and insurrections.”

By pushing the question of emancipation into public view, black Americans raised the issue of their “status in freedom” and therefore “the question of citizenship and its attributes.” And as the historian Martha Jones details in “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” it is black advocacy that ultimately shapes the nation’s understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. “Never just objects of judicial, legislative, or antislavery thought,” black Americans “drove lawmakers to refine their thinking about citizenship. On the necessity of debating birthright citizenship, black Americans forced the issue.”

After the Civil War, black Americans — free and freed — would work to realize the promise of emancipation, and to make the South a true democracy. They abolished property qualifications for voting and officeholding, instituted universal manhood suffrage, opened the region’s first public schools and made them available to all children. They stood against racial distinctions and discrimination in public life and sought assistance for the poor and disadvantaged. Just a few years removed from degradation and social death, these millions, wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America, “took decisive and encouraging steps toward the widening and strengthening of human democracy.”

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

Honouring Racism????

You remember the “Unite the Right” fiasco in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017?  The rally was organized by a large number of different groups, mainly white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  People died, more were injured, some beaten up, others injured when a car plowed into a group of people.  And remember in the aftermath, when Donald Trump said there were good people on both sides?  That rally was in protest of plans to remove a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.

In the days following Charlottesville, Confederate  statues began falling:  activists in Durham, North Carolina, used ropes to tear down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside the city’s former courthouse; authorities in Baltimore moved to take down the city’s Confederate monuments; and the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where state law prohibits the removal of a Confederate monument from a city park, ordered it covered up with plastic.

Confederate statues are a source of great controversy, as some claim they are a valuable part of U.S. history, while others say they enshrine evil – the evil that was slavery.  Some accuse those who want the statues removed of attempting to “wipe out any pride Southerners should have in their heritage.”  Trump argued that the removal of these monuments amounted to “changing history,” adding, “I wonder, is it George Washington next week?”; then later, tweeting that “the history and culture of our great country” are “being ripped apart” by those who wish to see the monuments gone.

There remain some 1,500 memorials to the Confederacy around the nation today.  One such is a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands 25 feet high and depicts Forrest on a horse, shooting behind himself, flanked by Confederate battle flags.  The sculptor of the statue is Jack Kershaw—who is primarily known for defending the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.  The statue is located in Nashville, Tennessee, in plain sight of Interstate Highway 65.  Since it is located on private property, it cannot be removed by state or county officials, and efforts to use landscaping to obscure it from view have failed. Forrest statue.jpegLet me tell you just a bit about Nathan Bedford Forrest …

Forrest was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War.  On April 12, 1864, he led the Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow massacre, at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee.  Fort Pillow was an African-American Union fort, and even thought the troops surrendered, they and their families who were residing within the fort were brutally tortured and murdered.  The total deaths were estimated at 350, including women and children, and there were almost as many injured or captured.

Nathan_B._Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Then in 1867, after the conclusion of the Civil War, Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a position he would hold for two years.  The Klan, with Forrest at the lead, suppressed voting rights of blacks and Republicans in the South through violence and intimidation during the elections of 1868.  Near the end of his life, he denied his role in the Fort Pillow Massacre, and claimed he had never been a member of the KKK, but his words are proven to be lies in the annals of history.

So why, you ask, am I giving you a history lesson today?  Because yesterday, the State of Tennessee celebrated the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  It is bad enough to have a statue of a Confederate figure, but to celebrate a man who was responsible for the deaths of African-Americans solely because their skin is dark … that, my friends, is an abomination.

Bill-Lee

Governor Bill Lee

In 1921, a state representative named John Travis of Henry County, Tennessee, got a bill passed marking the 100th birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and every year since, the state’s governor has signed a proclamation to observe “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”.  This year was no exception, and current Governor Bill Lee signed the proclamation on Thursday.

Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for whom I have more pity than respect, spoke against honouring a man who should have been tried as a war criminal …

“This is WRONG. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & a delegate to the 1868 Democratic Convention. He was also a slave trader & the 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) honoring him. Change the law.”

proclamation.jpgMy friend Herb tells me that I am too critical of the South.  Things like this might explain why.  Racism is alive and well all over the United States, but in most places it simmers beneath the surface, while in the South, they embrace it, they are proud of the heritage of slavery, proud to be the home of the KKK.  Sorry, folks, it’s time to change the law that honours a slave trader, murderer and racist extraordinaire.  You won’t find statues honouring Adolf Hitler in Germany, nor will you find a day dedicated to honouring his memory there.

We cannot forget the shameful past of this nation, nor should we.  But we do not have to celebrate it!

A SLAP In The Face …

In April 2016 the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 bill.  The change was to have occurred next year to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.  Why?  Because there have been only a few women on U.S. currency, and those were on the $1 coins. We thought it was about time.  There has also never been an African-American of either gender on U.S. currency. We thought that in honour of our winning the battle 100 years ago to convince men that we had a brain that functioned well enough to do something other than birth babies, cook and keep the house tidy, it would be nice to recognize a woman who had made notable contributions during her lifetime.

Harriet-Tubman.jpgI was excited to think of a woman finally appearing on a bill, and especially excited to see that woman be Harriet Tubman.  I used to teach a Black History class every February for Black History Month, and while there were many men and women who fought the fight against slavery, and then later to gain civil rights, Ms. Tubman was always one of my favourites.  Her courage and dedication were exceeded by none.  Not only did she devote her life to racial equality, she fought for women’s rights alongside the nation’s leading suffragists.

Andrew-JacksonSo, she was to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.  Let me tell you just a little bit about Andrew Jackson.  He was a slaveowner, known for his cruel treatment of slaves. At one point, he owned as many as 161 slaves and was well-known for brutally whipping them in public and putting them in chains.  He was also the man who was responsible for the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands.  Jackson’s Indian Removal Act resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 50,000 Native Americans and opened up 25 million acres of Native American land to white settlement.  Tens of thousands died during forced removals like the Trail of Tears in what is now Oklahoma.

Trail-of-Tears

Trail of Tears

And now, let me tell you a bit about Harriet Tubman.  Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1822. Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when in a fit of temper, her owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave but hit her instead.  In 1849, following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Harriet Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. Rather than remaining in the safety of the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue her family and others living in slavery via the Underground Railroad.  

Harriet-Tubman-3Altogether it is believed that she made some thirteen trips to guide a total of approximately 70 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, and then came the Civil War.  Harriet Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

Harriet-Tubman-4Compare these two people.  Andrew Jackson’s face is on the $20 bill, and Harriet Tubman’s was scheduled to be as of next year, but those plans have been nixed until 2028.  Why???  Because Treasury Secretary and bootlicker Steve Mnuchin does not wish to upset Donald Trump, whose hero is the abhorrent Andrew Jackson, that’s why!

See, Trump was on the campaign trail when the decision to put Ms. Tubman’s image on the currency was announced, and he expressed his displeasure, calling it “pure political correctness” …

“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

He then suggested that perhaps Tubman could grace the $2 bill … a denomination that is no longer being printed.  In this writer’s opinion, Trump’s statement was a slap in the face, not only to Harriet Tubman, but to women, and particularly African-American women, throughout the nation.

mnuchin-4

Steve Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin’s attempt to justify the postponement was laughable b.s., something pertaining, he said to ‘security’ and ‘counterfeiting issues’.  The reality, however, was reported in the New York Times on Wednesday …

Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said.

And there you have it, folks.  A great woman, a courageous woman who saved many lives, cannot be honoured because it might upset the idiot-in-chief who is a fan of a misogynistic racist.  It is said that Trump has called Jackson a populist hero who reminds him of himself.  He even has a portrait of Jackson hanging in the Oval Office.  If you ever doubted that Donald Trump is a racist and denigrator of women, wonder no more … this is the proof.

Slavery and Chocolate: Some Not-So-Sweet Truths

Blogging buddy Brendan is a warrior for social justice, and this afternoon I came across this post that cries out to be shared. I must admit that I was clueless about all of this until I read this post. I only wish I had seen it before I bought candy yesterday for the girls’ Easter baskets. Well, live and learn, yes? Thank you, Brendan, for shining a light on these abuses, for I think it likely that many are unaware, as was I.

Blind Injustice

Every Valentine’s Day, Easter, birthday, and Christmas, many of us in the United States like to give chocolate to friends and/or family. Most of us look forward to getting that sweet goodness during those times of year.

For better or for worse, I’m about to sour that sweetness because of some ugly truths about slavery and chocolate.

Namely, there is a good chance that the chocolate you eat was made by slaves. But not just any slaves. Child labor.

A variety of sources have widely reported on how the three major American chocolate manufacturers—Hershey, Nestlé, and Mars (the makers of M&Ms)—all produce chocolate made with child labor. It has been a persistent problem, and a problem that isn’t getting resolved quickly.

Fortune Magazine best describes this problem in an article they wrote about the issue:
“The major chocolate companies—from Mars to Nestlé to Hershey—are heavily reliant on these countries…

View original post 636 more words

In Case You Missed It …

Tuesday’s election was about more than the Senate, the House and the governorships.  Little attention was given to some of the ‘issues’ on that ballot, but a few are of major importance.


On gerrymandering …

Michigan, one of the most gerrymandered states in the Union, overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment which provides that future legislative maps will be drawn by an independent commission. At the peak of its effectiveness, in 2012, Michigan’s gerrymander allowed Republicans to win 9 of the state’s 14 U.S. House seats, despite the fact that President Obama won the state by over 9 points that year.  Granted, it is only one state out of fifty, but added to Ohio and Pennsylvania that have already made progress against gerrymandering, it is a start.  Remember that Rome was not built in a day, and racism in politics will not be defeated in a day, either.

On funding education …

Education funding has dropped drastically in recent years. Twenty-nine states were providing less total school funding per student in 2015 than in 2008!  In 19 states, local government funding also fell. In more than half of the states in the United States, the poorest districts — districts with the highest rates of poverty — get $1,000 less per pupil in state and local funding than districts with the lowest poverty rates.

On Tuesday, six education initiatives passed overall, in Seattle, Washington; Georgia; Maryland; Montana; and two in the state of Maine.  Four others were defeated in Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah.  Although Colorado is the 12th richest state in the United States, it ranks low in terms of its education spending. It ranked 42nd in spending on public education and 39th in per pupil spending.  The reason for its failure on Tuesday?  The funding for the initiative would have come from a corporate tax increase that was turned down flat.  Those investment portfolios are a lot more important than the education of our future leaders, yes?

On abolition …

Yep, you heard right.  The State of Colorado’s Constitution still had a clause left over from 1865 stating …

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The state tried to pass an amendment to remove this clause in 2016, but the amendment failed because the wording on the ballot was so confusing that people weren’t sure whether they would be voting for or against.  The state finally got it right this year with …

“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and thereby prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in all circumstances?”

It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support … 65%.  Um … so 35% want to keep the potential for slavery?  Sigh.  Some things just die hard.  It’s Colorado, the state that turned down increased educational spending.

Tough on guns …

The voters in Washington State deserve a two-thumbs-up and an ‘attaboy’ from us all, for on Tuesday, they passed one of the toughest gun regulations in the country with a 60% margin.  The measure will raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21. To obtain such weapons, people will need to pass an enhanced background check, take a training course and wait 10 business days after a purchase.  In addition, they will enact a storage law. Gun owners who don’t secure their firearms with devices such as a trigger lock or safe could be charged with gross misdemeanor or felony “community endangerment” crimes for allowing prohibited people (such as children) to access and display or use the weapons.

A group funded by the NRA (go figure) called Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has announced its intention to sue in an attempt to block the measure.  Let us hope there are some sensible judges in Washington State.

On restoring voter’s rights …

Florida voters have approved a ballot initiative which provides former felons with the right to vote, re-enfranchising 1.4 million people.  I applaud this one with all of my hands.  I know there are many of you who disagree with me on this issue, but my thoughts are that a person who commits a felony is nonetheless still a citizen of this nation … he or she should still have a voice in the way the nation is run and who does the running.  The ‘punishment’ for their crime is, as meted out by the courts, imprisonment or probation, but does not include revocation of citizenship.  Especially when you consider how many convicted felons’ only crime was drug-related.  So, I am thrilled that Florida took the initiative and hope to see more states follow suit.

Last but not least …

The State of Michigan passed Proposal 1, legalizing marijuana aka pot, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalize pot for both medicinal and recreational use.  The proposal passed by 56%.  Two other states, Utah and Missouri, legalized it for medicinal use only.


There were other issues, initiatives, proposals and measures covered in Tuesday’s election, some important, such as Florida’s constitutional amendment banning both offshore drilling and indoor vaping, and several states’ proposals to limit a woman’s right to choose in abortion cases, and I will have more about those at a later date.  These were all largely overlooked in the feeding frenzy over the House elections, but now we can step back and see what else was either fixed or broken by voters.

Slavery in the 21st Century???

You might have missed this one, for it wasn’t as widely reported as Trump’s rambling rants on Friday morning to a Fox News crew.   And honestly, the first time I saw the headline this evening, I almost kept going, for it sounded like tabloid news.  But then I checked the source and it was CNN.  And I double checked to see if other sources were carrying the story, and sure enough, NPR, one of the most reliable, as well as a number of locals ran it.  It reads exactly like something from the 1940s – 1950s.

Restaurant Manager Beat Black Employee for Years and Forced Him to Work Without Pay

John C Smith

John Christopher Smith

John Christopher Smith began working at a family-owned restaurant, J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, when he was only 12-years-old.  He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up … to … slave.  Smith has an IQ of about 70 and is considered to be ‘intellectually disabled’.  Things seemed to go okay for Mr. Smith and he even liked his job … until 2009, when a man named Bobby Paul Edwards, the owner’s brother, took over as the restaurant’s manager.

Things changed for Mr. Smith once Edwards took over.  First, he stopped paying Smith a salary, then he forced him to move into an apartment behind the restaurant, and insisted he work 17-hour days Monday through Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday.  For all intents and purposes, John Christopher Smith was a slave and Bobby Paul Edwards the cruel overseer.

Bobby Paul Edwards

Bobby Paul Edwards

Edwards used both violence and threats to keep Mr. Smith ‘in line’.  He was said to have beaten Smith with a belt, or with his fists, or with pots from the kitchen, when he believed Smith was working too slowly or doing something wrong. On at least one occasion Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease, then placed them on Mr. Smith’s neck.  The court document states that the burn was treated immediately by other employees.  Think about that one a minute.  Edwards refused to let Smith speak to his family and threatened to have him thrown in jail if he tried.  Remember that Smith’s IQ is only 70, so where you or I might realize the futility of such a threat, he likely did not.  By Edwards’ own admission, other members of his family were aware of the abuse but said nothing.

Finally, in 2014, a local woman, Geneane Caines, heard from her daughter-in-law, an employee of the restaurant, about the treatment of Mr. Smith, and decided to go check things out herself.  She immediately saw the scar on Smith’s neck, and coupled with what her daughter-in-law had told her, it was enough to convince her to make a report to the authorities.

According to Ms. Caines …

“Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn’t know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby. they wouldn’t tell them then what it was.”

Ms. Caines first took her concerns to the NAACP, who brought it to the attention of the authorities.  Initially, Edwards was charged only with one charge of misdemeanor assault.  One charge???  Misdemeanor???  You have got to be kidding me!!!  But then Abdullah Mustafa, the president of the local NAACP, pushed for greater punishment, including federal involvement. “It should be more than just assault … we are talking about enslavement here.” After investigation by the FBI in conjunction with assistance from the Department of Labour’s Wage and Hour Division, the misdemeanor charge was dropped and Edwards was charged with one count of forced labour.  He faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine, and restitution to Mr. Smith to be determined at the time of sentencing.

On October 10, 2014, police and NAACP officials removed Smith from the restaurant to an ‘undisclosed location’ for his safety, and the first charges were filed against Edwards just over a month later.  The restaurant owner, Edward’s brother Ernest Edwards, claims to have been unaware of the abuse, as he spends most of his time vacationing in Myrtle Beach.  Nonetheless, charges have also been filed against both the restaurant and its owner.

I have some questions about this:

  • It was 2014 that Ms. Caines reported the situation, first to the NAACP. Why the Sam Heck did it take four years … four years … for this case come up for sentencing?

  • If Bobby Paul Edwards is willing to plead ‘guilty’ to these heinous crimes, what else is there? The charges are said to be a result of a plea deal, so … is there something even more despicable he has done that he is willing to plead guilty to forced labour and hope for a light sentence?


  • Those customers who asked questions about what was happening?  Why didn’t they at least report their suspicions?


  • Why didn’t other employees, who surely must have realized something was not right, report the situation. Perhaps they were afraid of losing their job, but come on, people … it is J&J Cafeteria, not Maxim’s!!!


  • Smith had family in the area … they even came into the restaurant from time to time, but were not allowed to see John C. Smith. Did they not think something was off?  FIVE YEARS this went on!  Surely somebody must have thought something was not right!

What would you do if you worked in a restaurant and saw a fellow employee, black or white, being physically abused by a member of management?  It’s not hard to answer that, is it?  So why did the other employees of J&J Cafeteria allow this abuse to continue non-stop for 5 bloomin’ years???  I really cannot imagine being so afraid of losing my job that I would see a person treated as Mr. Smith was treated.

Ask yourself the question … would it have been different if Mr. Smith had white skin?  Think about it.

Black History In Ontario – The 19th Century – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Today is 28 February … the last day of February and the final day of Black History Month in both the U.S. and Canada.  I have let the ball drop this month, for reasons at least partly beyond my control, but our friend John Fioravanti has helped by sharing with us so much of Canada’s black history!  Last week, I published Part I of John’s guest post, and we thought it fitting to save Part II for the final day of February, to wrap up the month.  I would like to thank John for all the hard work he put into these wonderfully informative posts!  Hey John … what say we do it again next year?

Text dividersPrologue

Upper Canada did not flourish, and Loyalist settlements remained scattered and isolated. Simcoe’s vision of a prosperous, English-speaking province was not shared in London. Britain viewed the fledgling colony as a mere appendage of Lower Canada (Quebec). Simcoe was succeeded by several ineffective British governors in the ensuing years who did little to foster growth in Upper Canada.

In 1812, America declared war on Britain while she was embroiled in a life and death struggle against Napoleon in Europe. For President Madison, Canada looked like easy pickings. Most of the settlers of Upper Canada were former American citizens, and the French in Lower Canada had no great love for their British rulers. America underestimated the determination of the Loyalists and Indigenous Loyalists led by Joseph Brant, and most of the French decided to remain neutral.

The War of 1812-1814 featured many cross-border skirmishes between U.S. Regulars & Militia and British Regulars and Loyalist militia. It eventually ended in a stalemate punctuated by the burning of the government buildings in Toronto by American invaders and the retaliatory burning of the White House in Washington by the British.

Black Volunteers Fight For Britain

In the summer of 1812, Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint petitioned the government of Upper Canada to raise a company of Black troops to help protect the Niagara frontier. After some debate, the government agreed. A company of Blacks was formed under the command of a White officer, Captain Robert Runchey Sr.

Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812. Fearing American conquest (and the return to slavery), many Blacks in Upper Canada served heroically in colored and regular regiments. The British promise of freedom and land united many escaped slaves under the British flag. (See the story of Richard Pierpoint)

In 1813, British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s offer of transportation for anyone wanting to leave the United States was widely circulated among the Black population. Four thousand former slaves deserted to the British side and were transported to the British colonies. About 2000 refugees set sail for Nova Scotia from September 1813- August 1816. Canada’s reputation as a haven for Blacks grew substantially during and after the War of 1812. 

Post-War Upper Canada

Between 1815 and 1865, tens of thousands of Blacks in America sought safety and freedom in Upper Canada by way of the Underground Railway. It isn’t easy to find documentation about the Underground Railway because out of necessity it operated under strict secrecy in America – and even in Canada where they wished to avoid border incidents. One notable exception to this in Canada was a contemporary newspaper, the Voice of the Fugitive, which was the first black-owned and -operated newspaper in Upper Canada. It was founded and published in Sandwich / Windsor by Henry Bibb, who escaped, first to Detroit and then to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. The newspaper first appeared on January 1, 1851, and ceased publication in 1854.

Underground RailroadThis excerpt from Daniel Hill’s publication, The Freedom Seekers, outlines the main areas of settlement of Black refugees in Upper Canada (renamed Canada West in 1841).

Daniel Hill, in the “Freedom Seekers,” wrote:

“Before the middle of 19th Century small Black communities were firmly rooted in six areas of Canada West: along the Detroit frontier, that is at Windsor, Sandwich, Amherstburg and their environs; in Chatham and its surrounding area, where the all- Black settlements of Dawn and Elgin were established; in what was then the central section of the province particularly London, the Queen’s Bush, Brantford, and the Black settlement of Wilberforce (now Lucan); along the Niagara Peninsula at St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Newark (Niagara on the Lake)and Fort Erie; in the larger urban centres on Lake Ontario, that is Hamilton and Toronto; at the northern perimeter of Simcoe and Grey Counties, especially in Oro, Collingwood and Owen Sound. Besides these centres of Black population, small clusters of Blacks, as well as individual Black Families, were settled throughout Canada West.”

Underground RR MapIn Upper Canada, the Underground Railroad fugitives tended to concentrate in settlements, not because of government policy but for the sake of mutual support and protection against white Canadian prejudice and discrimination and American kidnappers – looking for rewards for returning fugitive slaves to their American owners. The fugitive blacks who had arrived in Upper Canada via the Underground Railroad typically arrived destitute, and without government land grants were usually forced to become laborers on the lands of others, although some farmed their own land successfully, and some worked for the Great Western Railway.

In their concentrated settlements, the early Blacks had the opportunity to retain cultural characteristics and create a distinct community. Styles of worship, music and speech, family structures and group traditions developed in response to the conditions of life in Canada. The chief institutional support was the separate church, usually Baptist or Methodist, created when white congregations refused to admit blacks as equal members.

The churches’ spiritual influence pervaded daily life and affected the vocabulary, routines, and ambitions of their members. Inevitably, they assumed a major social and political role and the clergy became the natural community leaders. The many fraternal organizations, mutual-assistance bands, temperance societies and antislavery groups formed by 19th-century Blacks were almost always associated with one of the churches. In the 20th century, the churches led the movement for greater educational opportunity and civil rights.

In slavery, Black women were forced to work to support themselves, and economic circumstances perpetuated this tradition in Canada. Black women have always played an important economic role in family life and have experienced considerable independence as a result. Raised in a communal fashion, frequently by their grandparents or older neighbors, Black children developed family-like relationships throughout the local community. A strong sense of group identity and mutual reliance, combined with the unique identity provided by the churches, produced an intimate community life and a refuge against white discrimination.

Buxton School.jpg

Buxton School

During the 19th century, British and American societies established schools for blacks throughout Ontario. In addition, the governments of both Nova Scotia and Ontario created legally segregated public schools. Although almost every black community had access to either a charity or a public school, funding was inadequate, and education tended to be inferior. When combined with residential isolation and economic deprivation, poor schooling helped to perpetuate a situation of limited opportunity and restricted mobility. In 1965 the last segregated school in Ontario closed.

My hope is that this overview of Black history in Upper Canada during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries will serve to illustrate that this has been a story of desperate circumstances punctuated by great accomplishments by heroes who bravely struggled to survive and thrive in an often, less than hospitable environment. I’ve heard it said by a Black Canadian who has lived both in Canada and the United States that Black Canadians and Black Americans are quite different. They live in their respective countries for different reasons. As well, American Blacks are approximately 13% of their country’s population, but Canadian Blacks are just 4% of Canada’s population – a visible minority and an almost invisible minority.

The plight of Black Canadians was aided by urbanization – which led to desegregated opportunities – and the influx of thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean. I wish I could report that racism and discrimination aimed at Black Canadians is a thing of the past but that is simply not true. Happily, segregation of the races was not entrenched in Canadian law as it was in America. Tragically, many Caucasian Canadians suffer from the same cultural White supremacy tendencies that presently exist in other predominantly White countries.

A  million thanks, John, for these guest posts, and for the ones you have so generously allowed me to share throughout the month!