“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon’?” ― Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
We are grateful for the response to Black on Black Compassion’s announcement of this work – Black History Unleashed. Please continue to share this and future editions with family members, friends, co-workers, faith partners, and neighbors. Remember us during phone conversations, social media engagements, and other interactions. We listen to our Subscribers, particularly, and integrate comments and questions into presentations. One Subscriber posed these questions, “With the endless availability of scholarship on past events, why is BBC taking on this work? And for that matter, why black history ‘unleashed’; and not simply, black history?”
What Is Black History Unleashed ?
Dan Brown suggests that humans share a theater of ongoing cultural conflicts. The reflections on these contests, told from the vantage point of prevailing actors. He goes on to refer to Napoleon’s observation that what we refer to as history is not a collection of transcendent truths. But rather, a kind of collective nod of agreement [by winners] for the set of reflections that will serve as surrogates for truths.
An unleashed black history, wrestles with the realities of Eurocentric history. We agree with Brown’s premise in a conceptual sense. That is, BBC does not hail Europeans as winners and non-Europeans as losers. But we acknowledge that assimilation into America’s Eurocentric Melting Pot requires acceptance of certain rules; including the acceptable historical narrative. Even when such rules amount to self-marginalization of non-Eurocentric cultures. Consequently, how we approach history takes on moral, psychological, and social dimensions. Namely, shall we proceed in conventional ways when fables hide the truth and psychologically injure the so-called non-winner? Or is there a moral imperative to investigate, present, and discuss history in pursuit of [inconvenient] truths? An unleashed look at history is one that pursues truth over broader acceptance. It avoids neither the convenient, nor the inconvenient. It affirms the demoralized. And critiques what the dominant worldview deems as ostensibly ‘above reproach’.
BBC sheds traditional treatment of the African [American] story. An unleashed history that challenges norms or conventions in the following four areas.
Black History Year
BBC promotes Black History Month is a daily, year-round endeavor, and accessible to the whole of our community. Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s establishment of Negro History Week in 1926 emerged at a pivotal point in America’s social order. Jim Crow segregation was a normative function in virtually every aspect of American society. And the eugenics movement had solidified itself as a welcomed fixture inside the corridors of academia, health, and politics. The movements espoused a master-race ideology that asserted the supremacy of Nordic, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon lineage. By today’s standards, a week-long observance seems mundane and underwhelming. But in the context of his times, Woodson’s leadership was a frontal attack on genetic bigotry.
It would take 50 years for the nation to see Woodson’s efforts in an expanded form. In the form of Black History Month. President Gerald Ford’s seminal proclamation in 1976 came during my sophomore year at Walnut Hills High School (Cincinnati, Oh.). Among our nations’s elite institutions, Walnut requires incoming seventh graders to complete three consecutive years of Latin. Consequently, by 1976 and in my tenth-grade year, black classmates at predominantly white Walnut Hills were submerged into the virtues of Greco-Roman civilization. As such, Black History Month in 1976 was a time of considerable esteem that the nation would pause to consider the noble narratives of persons who looked like me.
What is now 43 years later, we celebrate the birth of Frederick Douglass by placing the annual spotlight on black history in the month of his birth. But is there any doubt that Douglass would take issue with continuing the spotlight after February 29th? Does anyone question Dr. Woodson’s voice that whispers in the prophetic winds of our times, “We should emphasize no Negro history but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice. “
If we are to honor the significance of Africa and people of African descent in God’s plan for mankind, the legacy of this peculiar people:
- Deserves our attention beyond 29 days in February.
- Cannot be left to “information geeks” or the “conscious community”.
- Is equally legitimate, whether the sources of information are young, old, scholars, or ordinary citizens.
- Is instructive for all occasions.
BBC promotes the idea of unleashing a sharing and/or receiving a new knowledge point about black history each day. An inventory or business. A black town or organization. Something that refreshes one’s soul in the same way a warm towel in the morning refreches one’s face. This is not to shatter Black History Month per se, but to transform a point-in-time to a lifestyle commitment.
History with Purpose In-Mind
BBC has a transparent agenda for the treatment of black history. One that not only recalls the people, places, and events, but also interprets them. Classical historians suggest that legitimate historical inquiry must occur without agendas. We reject this idea as a convenient shackle manufactured by self-professed winners. Besides, the idea falls apart when looking at popularized histories and celebrated historians. Did Christopher Columbus and pilgrims arrive in the new world as models of morality? Grade school textbooks, written from the perspective of the so-called discoverers, imply as such in their depictions of European encounters with the indigenous peoples of the Americas. But the history of massacres and manipulation tell a different story. In History Not Taught is History Forgot: Columbus’ Legacy of Genocide, Ward Churchill notes,
Columbus’s programs reduced Taino numbers from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496. Perhaps 100,000 were left by the time of the governor’s departure. His policies, however, remained, with the result that by 1514 the Spanish census of the island showed barely 22,000 Indians remaining alive. In 1542, only two hundred were recorded. Thereafter, they were considered extinct, as were Indians throughout the Caribbean Basin, an aggregate population which totaled more than fifteen million at the point of first contact with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, as Columbus was known.
Hardly, the history a sixth grader receives during the annual Thanksgiving Day school concert season. Despite the decimation of indigenous people, historians pursued a collective agenda.
It’s interesting that mainstream historians across the ages, who claim that legitimate history is void of agendas, imposed restrictions that they themselves have not honored. Consider that over 15,000 books have emerged on the life of Abraham Lincoln.
That’s more than one book for every 33 hours of Lincoln’s life. Timelines, relationships, and his raw facts about his career might explain a portion of these writings. But it’s reasonable to conclude that many of these books were written with an agenda in mind. Richard Wightman Fox’s work, “Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History” , best illustrates this point. Fox looks at Lincoln in an existential sense. Exploring cultural meanings and myths attached to this evolving public figure.
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the foremost account of the Middle Ages. And yet, Edward Gibbon’s agenda was to, in-part, blame Christianity for the empire’s loss of civic virtue and tragedies that so-called savage Christians visited upon Rome. Writing on the gory death of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Neoplatonist philosopher, Gibbons asserts:
A rumor was spread among the Christians, that the daughter of Theon [a famous mathematician] was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the prefect and the archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day, in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader, and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. 1
Similarly, Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States is unambiquous about its agenda to overlay America’s chronology with an alternative narrative. Even Christian scholars that hold to the authenticity of the Holy Bible acknowledge that the writers of the Synoptic Gospels had respective purposes in-mind; John being to demonstrate the deity of Jesus Christ. These are but a few examples that reveal fallacy of the indifference. And thus, we unleash black history from the dictates a few have placed on the many.
History recalled and distributed with an expressed agenda. Unleashed for specific purposes. Without permission and without an appeal for forgiveness. An agenda might be to validate a worldview of position. Dispel myths. To inspire and provide direction. Or to remind ourselves, “We’ve been here before. We made it through then and we will make it again.” In the Hebrew tradition, the Scriptures retells of twelve stones laid after the Israel’s crossing of the Jordan. Laid for more than nostalgic exercise but for a purpose:
4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: 5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? 7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel forever. — Joshua 4: 4-7
Challenging myths, assumptions, and conventional views
An unleashed freedom to look at the causal nature of one set of events on another set. This being yet another problem with classical methods. In the absence of an absolute truth, a fine line seperates causality from agenda. And so, when we look at The War of the Rebellion (i.e., Civil War), scholars differ as to what actually caused the war. Historians, likewise, differ on the meaning of American icons from The Consitution to The Emancipation Proclamation, particularly from the vantagpoint of the dehumanized and demoralized enslaved African. Our presentation of black history will take us into topics related to non-blacks that factored into the extended African narrative in America and across the globe. Ulimately, BBC’s treatment introduces historical content, not simply as a matter of fact, but also as an existential quest for meaning.
Histsory Through Prisms
An unleashed approach views history as intertwined with philosophy, science, and other disciplines. Conventional wisdom locates people, events, and places on ordered conveyor belts. And those who study them, as such, are literally taught how to view these objects of study. Even how to rationalize their less appealing dimensions. All to, what Dan Brown noted, “…glorify their own cause”.
An unleashed approach holds that history is comprised of many prisms. And we must apply each to the study at hand, whether that is of Robert E. Lee or President Barack Obama, the Roman Catholic Church or The Nation of Islam. Whether shattering popular myths or embracing unpopular truths. Whatever the topic under examination, we must unleash the analysis to pose the difficult questions and lead us to sometimes difficult conclusions.
Why the Urgency in Unleashing ?
Engaging history requires commitment, time, and effort; whether as the presenter, reader/view, or person engaged in conversation. Each are at a premium, exhausted by the demands of living in our modern society. So, why now? Why make history a focal point in the launch of Black on Black Compassion? The answers rest in the following.
A rise in ethnic hostilities
We are living in a time of heightened ethnic hostilities, both in America and abroad. Multiculturism is under attack in countries such as France, the United States, Israel, and Germany. The political ascent of Donald Trump finds white nationalism pulling our nation back to repugnant social norms that defined its beginnings. In Europe, Brexit resurrects the idea of ‘the state’ as an ethnic construct. And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed an interest in forcibly removing African migrants or throwing them in prison. Beneath the surface of these tensions are longstanding claims of cultural superiority. Even in societies that affirm some form of a Melting Pot ethos, the resulting ‘stew’ or ‘soup’ is palatable if, and only if, the resulting taste is indistinguishable from the predominant ingredient. A healthy sense of history equips us to make affirmative claims about our people and to avoid the entrapments of internalizing a diminished narrative.
The power of history to inform
Against postmodern urges to question and discard traditions, are kernels of insights that can guide us through Trumpism and the re-emergence of white nationalism. The treatment of history as described above, then, lends itself to more than nostalgic escapism. We believe the unleashing leads to the unlocking. Approaching a study of past times on our terms offers offers keys that navigate our present circumstances.
A time for inspiration
We have set out to offer a refreshing collection of content that grows our ethno-cultural appreciation after a long period of demoralizing assaults. From watching justice hide itself in cases such as Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and Tamir Rice. To witnessing the august bully pulpit of the White House exploited to call peacefully protesting black NFL players, sons of bitches. To Virginia Governor Northam’s unimaginable surprise, 35 years later, that next to his medical college photo album’s picture is a racist pair; one in black-face and the other dressed like a Ku Klux Klan member. From nine church-goers executed during a prayer meeting/bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. To a Jeffersontown, Ky. couple murdered in a Kroger parking lot.
An unleashed history deepens our understanding of key moments, sad and celebratory. Inspires greatness in a peculiar people whose roots reach to the origins of mankind. And this collection informs the broader society that the dignity of black lives is self-evident in rich traditions. Not waiting for external affirmation. And at the risk of sounding like a scripted cliché, there is no better time than now to have these discussions.
In Our Next Edition…
This article outlines what we mean by history unleashed and the need for it. The next edition begins a series on Africans in God’s creative order. It presents provocative information that counters myriad assaults on the dignity of people of African descent. Assaults that have, unfortunately, left many blacks seeing themselves as of lesser significance, relative to other peoples of the world.
The series will present original and third-party content that cover:
- The Curse of Ham, its dubious history, fallacies, and deliberate damage;
- The “Chosen People”, Modern Jewish mythology, and how this undermines black identity;
- Chatel slavery: a conspiracy between segments in the world’s big three religions;
- Africans in The Bible and What You Missed in Sunday School?
- We must be special: theories as to why people of African descent are under constant attack.
People of African descent will not be the same after receiving this information. The series operates on the psyche of a great people that every quarter of the globe has attempted to demoralize over centuries. As for non-blacks, you will find some of the discussion challenging, if not difficult to consume. However, given the centuries of nefarious dealings with Africans people, we must tackle this topic for healing within and between.
- Gibbon, Edward Gibbon. “Ecclesiastical Discord.” In The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Volume 4, Chapter XVLII, Part II. London: Strahan & Cadell, 1788. http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/04/daf04038.htm.
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