Note: There is probably no city in America that symbolizes ‘Voting Rights’ struggles and accomplishments like Selma, Alabama that, in the 1960s, led to the ‘1965 Voting Rights Act’. Of course, I am referring to the renowned and historic ‘Selma to Montgomery March!’ and all the organizing in the South and the country as millions demanded justice and voting rights for all.
Below is an account about one of our country’s leading attorney advocates for justice – Faya Rose Toure – who is now in jail in Selma for attempting to protect election integrity in Selma – her city of residence. To say this is an outrage instigated by Selma’s authorities is an understatement.
Please read the narrative below by her husband, Alabama Senator Hank Sanders.
And, as they say in southern Africa, “a luta continua,” which in English is, “the struggle continues.” Indeed!
July 18, 2018
Faya Rose Toure in Jail in Selma
for Attempting to Protect Election Integrity
Senator Hank Sanders
My wife, Faya Rose Toure, has been arrested concerning the election in Dallas County. The City of Selma was taking down the signs of Black candidates but not taking down the signs of White candidates. She went to City Hall and complained and wrote a letter, and they continued to take down Black candidates’ signs while leaving White candidates’ signs on city right of ways.
And the City Police, who cannot solve the many murders that take place here, sent nine or more police officers to arrest one person, Faya Toure, for taking down the political signs they left while removing all Black candidates’ signs.
This is part of the scheme to throw the election, and everybody who sees this needs to tell everyone they know in Dallas County to vote tomorrow and to tell everyone they know to tell everyone THEY know to vote tomorrow. Please share this on your Facebook pages and with your friends. I am at the jail house now as this is being posted. I have not been able to see Faya, but I have talked to some people who were on the scene with her. At this moment they will not allow me – her attorney and husband – to see her or to talk to her. Again, please share this, and I’ll keep you up to date when I know more. Thank you.
UPDATE #1: First, I was at City Hall, and they refused to allow me to see her as her lawyer even though she is my client as well as my wife. Every client is entitled to see their lawyer. And when I got there, I saw this big Switzer sign in the police station. Of course, I don’t know why it was there. The sign in the police station reinforced my perception that this is about the election. I did learn that Faya’s arrest was about a sign that was in front of Tabernacle Baptist Church, the very first church that allowed voting rights mass meetings to be held during the Voting RIghts Movement. Church members came out and thanked Faya for removing that sign from right there in front of the Church.
The police decided it was a crime, although it was on public property. They had her in the city jail, and now they have moved her to the county jail, which is a few miles away. I am arriving there now, and I will update you further in this post as I know more. Police have set a $2,000 cash bond for her removing a sign outside Tabernacle Baptist Church, and Faya decided she was not going bond out. So she is in the county jail now. Thank you for sharing this and for your words, actions, thoughts, and prayers. I will continue to update you in this main post. Thank you.
UPDATE #2: I am now in the Dallas County jail with Faya Rose Toure as her lawyer as well as her husband. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to meet with her and talk to her in private. She has another important legal case set for tomorrow, and I am trying to prepare to handle that case in her stead. They have set her particular case arising out of this sign for sometime in September. I don’t know how long she may stay in jail. She refuses to pay an illegal and unjust bond for an illegal and unjust arrest.
The first step is for everybody in Dallas County to see that everybody votes because this is about trying to stop people from voting. The second step is to make sure she is alright while she is here in jail. Her not coming out of jail is designed to focus attention on the injustice not only of this situation but of the Selma authorities in general. If they will do this to a lawyer, who is the wife of the state Senator, what are they doing to others, especially to poor Black people?
I will have further updates coming. I have never asked anyone to share any of my Facebook posts before, and Faya and I and our family appreciate the hundreds of people who have done so and continue to do so as well as all those who continue to pray, think of her, and take action. Thank you.
UPDATE #3: I want to contrast the reaction of law enforcement about a sign that was illegally on public property with how they reacted on another much more serious case in December of last year. Faya Rose Toure, on December the 12th, the day of Doug Jones’ election victory, was in Orrville, another small town in Dallas County. She was driving my car, which had a “Vote or Die” sign on it. A White man came up and banged on my car, then tore the “Vote or Die” sign off my car, and then said, “Somebody is going to be killed tonight.”
Faya Rose was the only person in the car. She has tried diligently since that time to have the man arrested. No warrant has been issued; no person arrested; no person questioned; no action taken. This involved a death threat in front of multiple people, including a minister. Not one person with law enforcement has taken any action. Just compare this with the nine officers showing up to arrest Faya Rose concerning a sign placed illegally in front of Tabernacle Baptist Church where the first mass meetings were held during the Voting Rights Movement.
UPDATE #4: I just left the Dallas County jail meeting and talking with Faya Rose Toure. I can’t say that she is in good spirits for who could be in good spirits under these circumstances? I can say that she is in a determined spirit to meet this injustice with the full weight of moral force. That is why she will not post this outrageously unjust bond of $2,000 cash.
One of her regrets is that she will not be able to cast a vote in the Dallas County Probate Judge race tomorrow. She has worked so hard on this election with “Vote or Die.” She has, in fact, risked her life. Several White men threatened to kill her a couple of weeks ago just because they were mad and White and she was determined and Black. She knew she was risking her life, but she didn’t know she was risking her freedom. She indeed risked her freedom and lost because she is incarcerated in the Dallas County jail.
All she asks is that people in Dallas County go to the polls and vote tomorrow. Your vote is her freedom. Your vote is her reward for risking her life. Your vote is for justice and for history. I will go back to see her at the jail early tomorrow morning before guest hosting “Faya’s Fire” on Z105.3 FM Radio and online at http://newz1053radio.com/. Then I will go to court on another case of injustice she has been fighting for years. And then I will go vote. Please vote tomorrow.
VOTE! Thank you.
UPDATE #5 (Tuesday morning): I am just leaving the Dallas County jail, and I was shocked that they have charged Faya Rose with shoplifting a sign from public property in a town that has an ordinance that prohibits any candidates’ signs from being on public property. Again, this sign was in front of the historical Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Normally they let people out on misdemeanors. They sign their own bonds. But this was not the case with Faya Rose Toure. In fact, the $2,000 bond is a cash bond. In other words, they will not allow a bail bondsman to let you out. You have to put up the whole $2,000 in cash. But Faya Rose feels so strongly about this injustice, she would not make a bond even if a bail bondsman could do it.
What disturbs her the most is the actions of the police. Our 11-year-old granddaughter was with her, and as the police were taking Faya Rose away, she asked them if she could call someone to come pick up our 11-year-old granddaughter. They would not allow her to make that call or any call. The 11-year-old granddaughter was left on the street with strangers.
At 8:00 a.m. today, in just a few minutes, I will be on Z105.3 FM Radio and online at http://newz1053radio.com/. Again, thank you for all your thoughts, prayers, actions, and sharing of what is happening. Faya and all of us appreciate you so much. I will be voting today after I leave court handling a case that Faya Rose was representing that is also a case of great injustice. Remember to VOTE, get your friends and family to vote, and get everyone you know to vote. Thank you.
UPDATE #6: I hosted “Faya’s Fire” for Faya Rose Toure. It was a unique and powerful experience. Several people called in to talk about the injustice. My 11-year-old granddaughter came in and shared how she felt witnessing police brutality and how it made her feel when they wouldn’t let her grandmother call to make arrangements for someone to pick her up.
Then Dr. Robert White of Alabama State University called in to talk about how these tactics of law enforcement often backfire. He felt strongly that this was designed to make sure that Faya Rose was in jail on election day so that she could not mobilize voters to come out to the polls. But he said that could backfire and more people may come out to vote as a result of this and other injustices.
I talked about the contrast between law enforcement’s reaction to a campaign sign with Faya Rose with their reaction to when someone tore a “Vote or Die” sign off my car, which she was driving, and issued a death threat. I talked about the three White men who confronted her on the street a few weeks ago and how she stood up to them and their threats but how nothing was done about their threats of violence in spite of complaints. I did not complete the hour because I had to rush to court to handle the case that Faya Rose had been working on for the last couple of years to help fight injustice.
Things did not go well in court, but that is a story for another day. I am going back to the jail to see Faya Rose and then I am going to vote. She wanted very much to be able to vote in this runoff election in Dallas County because she had worked so hard to get others out to vote. But she will not be able to vote. We urge others to make sure you vote for yourselves and for Faya Rose. Vote today in the Dallas County runoff election. Thank you.
UPDATE #7: Faya Rose is in jail because of this run-off election in the Democratic Primary. The candidate whose sign was at issue lost by around 1,700 votes. The other candidate won by around 1,700 votes. The losing candidate is the candidate whom City employees were allowing to place and maintain signs on city right of way in violation of the City’s laws. The winning candidate is the candidate whom City employees were actively removing his signs while intentionally ignoring the other candidate’s signs and leaving them in place.
I do not know how anyone can get a good night’s sleep in jail, but I believe that Faya Rose will sleep a little better tonight. I also believe that their arresting her and putting her in jail under these unjust circumstances helped African American voters and others who supported the winning candidate to come out in greater numbers. Again, I thank everyone for your words, thoughts, prayers, actions, and sharing the information I posted yesterday and today. THANK YOU!
Being involved in the civil rights movement in the ‘South’, in the 1960s, means that you would know and/or hear about the great H. Rap Brown (now known as Jamil Al-Amin) in his early organizing work for justice, such as in Alabama. This was prior to his remarkable activism north of the Mason Dixon line. Yes, Brown and others were challenging Alabama’s Governor George Wallace and the prevailing white supremacy that denied Blacks virtually everything in terms of what is referred to as democratic rights. The unjust and racist system was entrenched in the South and in the country as a whole, resulting in H. Rap Brown, along with his Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) colleagues, challenging it all.
The activism in the Brown family is and remains remarkable. H. Rap Brown’s older brother, the late Ed Brown, was also engaged in every conceivable movement for justice across the South. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ed was ultimately living in Atlanta where he served as the head of the Voter Education Project and other leadership roles. Throughout his on-going career, wherever there was an issue of injustice to be addressed, Ed Brown was there on the front lines, that included, of course, the anti-apartheid movement. He was a very dear friend of mine.
H. Rap Brown ultimately took the name of Jamil Al-Amin and, as a Muslim leader, was the influential Imam in Atlanta’s West End where he consistently attempted, among other missions, to end the drug invasion in the West End community. Then, in 2000, an Atlanta policeman was killed and Al-Amin was accused of this crime, yet all the indications are that he was not the killer. In fact, as from the ‘Fact Sheet’ below, “Evidence that an individual, Otis Jackson, confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense-Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.”
When Jamil Al-Amin was first in prison in Atlanta for this alleged crime, I visited him briefly, along with Alabama attorney J.L. Chestnut who had been defending Al-Amin while he was in Alabama just after the killing of the Atlanta policeman.
During the 2002 trial, that ended in the conviction of Jamil Al-Amin, we consistently held radio shows on WRFG-Atlanta, along with Al-Amin’s brother Ed Brown, regarding updates of the trial and many of us, including myself, were observers in the courtroom.
Al-Amin is now in the United States Prison (USP) in Tucson, Arizona where he is housed in the general population. “He continues to declare his innocence, and supporters are advocating for his return to a Georgia facility where he will be able to assist his legal team in appealing his conviction.”
The following ‘Jamil Al-Amin Series’ will provide updates on his case and his remarkable history.
FACT SHEET ON THE CASE OF
JAMIL ABDULLAH AL-AMIN
WHO IS JAMIL AL-AMIN?
Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, was sentenced to life without parole in the Georgia prison system. He became involved in the civil/human rights movement primarily in the southern part of the United States as early as 1962. As a result of his participation, speech-making, and subsequent election as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in May 1967, the United States government targeted him in its illegal surveillance and entrapment programs, specifically COINTELPRO, initiated by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
During his earlier years, the United States government and its state and local branches charged and imprisoned him for counseling to arson, inciting to arson and riot, federal fire arms violations, and bond violations. These charges were fabricated and unfounded. By 1968 while under house arrest, U.S. Congress members, and governors were calling for law enforcement to arrest him, and “slam the doors” of the prisons behind him. On April 11, 1968, the “Rap Brown” Federal Anti-Riot Act passed as an amendment to a fair housing law. This law against dissent made it illegal to travel from one state to another, write a letter, make a telephone call, or speak n radio or televeiion with the “intent” to encourage any person to participate in a riot. By 1970, Imam Jamil was placed on the FBl’s “10 Most Wanted List,” simply for failing to appear for trial on the fabricated ‘inciting to arson and riot’ charges.
From 1971 until 1976, Imam Jamil was imprisoned in the State of New York on charges related to eradicating drug activity in African American communities. Upon his release, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he immediately began to establish and organize a Muslim community. He devoted years to traveling throughout the United States, the Sudan, Pakistan, India, the West Indies, and Saudi Arabia. He also served on boards of major Islamic organizations with a national and international agenda. After 24 years, he was arrested on March 20, 2000, and charged with the death of one and the assault of another Fulton County Georgia Sheriff’s deputy.
FACT SHEET ON THE CASE OF
JAMIL ABDULLAH AL-AMIN
The Case of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin
In January 2002, the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia summoned a jury pool of approximately 1500 residents of the county to be considered to serve as jurors in the case against Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Charged with 13 counts, including the murder of one Fulton County sheriff’s deputy and the wounding of another deputy on the evening of March 16, 2000, Imam Jamil retained a team of four attorneys to present his defense. The jury of nine African Americans, two Caucasians, and one Hispanic took less than 10 hours to reach its verdict in the three-week trial. The sentencing phase began on March 11, 2002, with relatives of the deputies reading victim impact statements. For three days, Imam Jamil’s defense team called 20 character witnesses. On March 14, 2002, the same jury that found Imam Jamil guilty of all 13 counts of the indictment, pronounced the sentence of life without the possibility of parole on the murder and felony murder counts. In addition, the presiding judge imposed an additional 30 years to the sentence as punishment on the remaining 11 counts.
The jury declined to pronounce the death penalty. Imam Jamil immediately was moved to Georgia’s maximum security state prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He remained in Reidsville in 23-hour involuntary lock-down until Georgia turned him over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On August 1, 2007, with no federal charges or convictions, Imam Jamil was moved to the Supermax ADMAX USP in Florence, Colorado.
As a Georgia state prisoner, Imam Jamil was transferred into federal custody based on a March 1990 Agreement between Georgia and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) to house an inmate for the state, Georgia turned Imam Jamil over to the FBOP after determining that Muslin Georgie inmates wanted him to serve as the Imam for all Georgia state inmates. The Department of Corrections, along with the FBI, maintained that this “solidarity movement” would be a “threat” to the security of the Georgia prison system. With the prompting of the FBI, Georgia conceded to the transfer, although Georgia maintained that it was not recommending any particular prison for Imam Jamil to be held.
Imam Jamil remained at the Florence ADX in solitary conﬁnement for seven years. His status at Florence as a state prisoner prevented him from participating in the institution’s step-down program. As a result, he remained in limbo while other federal inmates had the capability to work their way out of solitary confinement to another federal institution.
APPEALING THE CONVICTION
Imam Jamil continues to challenge his Georgia conviction. There is consensus that Imam Jaml was convicted well before the jury announced its verdict. Contradictions highlighted during the trial and comments made by the prosecution smacked at First Amendment rights. Moreover, Imam Jamil’s history as a civil/human rights leader at the time of the trial spanned nearly 35 years of governmental surveillance and harassment. Additionally, before the trial ended, the trial judge ruled that the Imam’s initial May 31, 1999 stop, search, and arrest by the Cobb County police officer indeed was an illegal and unjustified stop.
Supporters continue to raise the following issues that surfaced during the trial:
* Prosecution almost systematically eliminated older African American women who could have been expected to have some knowledge of the FBl’s COINTELPRO program, which targeted African American leaders.
* Deputies stated that one or even both deputies had shot the assailant.
* The surviving deputy was emphatic when describing the assailant as having grey eyes – Imam’s eyes are brown.
* The crime scene contained blood on the street and in a neighboring abandoned house, however the blood was discounted.
* The deputies offered conflicting accounts of the description of the assailant and clothing worn – the description did not match the Imam.
* The testimony of 911 tapes confirming reports of a wounded person in the area of the Imam’s store on the night of the shooting was not admitted into evidence.
* The Imam’s fingerprints were not found on any firearm associated with the crime.
* Pieces of evidence relating to the sheriff’s vehicle were either lost or destroyed prior to court proceedings.
* FBI agent Ron Campbell who admitted to kicking and spitting on the Imam during the White Hall, Alabama arrest, escaped total scrutiny as to his role in the case; and local residents refuted the account of the U.S. Marshals who claimed the lmam shot at them in White Hall.
* Evidence that an individual, Otis Jackson, confessed to be the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense-Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.
Imam Jamil’s federal habeas addresses discrepancies as well as constitutional errors that occurred during the Georgia trial that resulted in his conviction. His federal appeal will continue, during 2018, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting among other issues that the prosecutor’s closing argument and actions were not “harmless error,” therefore, the conviction should be overturned.
In 2013, lmam Jamil became ill with a dental problem that ultimately caused two abscesses that the Florence FBOP ADX medical staff ignored. As a result of a major campaign by family members, human rights activists, organizations, supporters and ultimately Congressional reps, the Imam received tests that indicated the presence of a stage of multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells, which required a bone marrow biopsy. After further public pressure urging the FBOP to stop the “execution by medical neglect” of the Imam, he was moved on July 15, 2014, from the Florence supermax prison to the federal Butner Medical Center, in North Carolina.
On July 23, 2014, at the Butner FMC, Imam Jamil received medical results that he had smoldering myeloma, an intermediate pre-cursor stage of multiple myeloma, which needed to be monitored. He was moved from Butner, in October 2014, to the USP Canaan federal prison, in Waymart, PA, where he was placed in general population after 14 years of being subjected to administrative and solitary confinement.
Supporters continue to urge the FBOP to monitor the Imam’s medical condition and to provide quality treatment at a facility in a warmer climate, Imam Jamil subsequently was moved, in December 2015, from Waymart to the USP, in Tucson, Arizona where he is housed in general population. He continues to declare his innocence, and supporters are advocating for his return to a Georgia facility where he will be able to assist his legal team in appealing his conviction.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Regarding Weaver’s great great grandfather Frederick Douglas (1818-1895), I have posted in the past on the Justice Initiative, Douglas’ excellent commentary on “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro“.
Below is a beginning biography about Fredrick Douglas while he was in slavery and then freed through his own initiatives. This is from the “Frederick Douglas Family Initiatives” website and will be followed by more history and some of his speeches/writing.
Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895
“Through my many speeches about justice, and through my newspaper and other writings,
I discovered that the power of the word is the best means to bring about permanent positive changes, both for myself and others.” (Frederick Douglas)
Frederick’s mother, Harriet Baily, worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes Hill.
He knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony, had sired him. Because Harriet Baily was required to work long hours in the fields, Frederick had been sent to live with his grandmother, Betsey Baily. Betsy Baily lived in a cabin a short distance from Holmes Hill Farm. Her job was to look after Harriet’s children until they were old enough to work. Frederick’s mother visited him when she could, but he had only a hazy memory of her. He spent his childhood playing in the woods near his grandmother’s cabin. He did not think of himself as a slave during these years. Only gradually did Frederick learn about a person his grandmother would refer to as Old Master and when she spoke of Old Master it was with certain fear.
At age 6, Frederick’s grandmother had told him that they were taking a long journey. They set out westward, with Frederick clinging to his grandmother’s skirt with fear and uncertainty. They had approached a large elegant home, the Lloyd Plantation, where several children were playing on the grounds. Betsy Baily had pointed out 3 children which were his brother Perry, and his sisters Sara and Eliza. His grandmother had told him to join his siblings and he did so reluctantly. After a while one of the children yelled out to Frederick that his grandmother was gone. Frederick fell to the ground and wept, he was about to learn the harsh realities of the slave system.
The slave children of Aaron Anthony’s were fed cornmeal mush that was placed in a trough, to which they were called. Frederick later wrote “like so many pigs.” The children made homemade spoons from oyster shells to eat with and competed with each other for every last bite of food. The only clothing that they were provided with was one linen shirt which hung to their knees. The children were provided no beds or warm blankets. On cold winter nights they would huddle together in the kitchen of the Anthony house to keep each other warm.
One night Frederick was awakened by a woman’s screams. He peered through a crack in the wall of the kitchen only to see Aaron Anthony lashing the bare back of a woman, who was his aunt, Hester Baily. Frederick was terrified, but forced himself to watch the entire ordeal. This would not be the first whipping he would see, occasionally he himself would be the victim. He would learn that Aaron Anthony would brutally beat his slaves if they did not obey orders quickly enough.
Frederick’s mother was rarely able to visit her children due to the distance between Holmes Hill Farm and the Lloyd plantation. Frederick last saw his mother when he was seven years old. He remembered his mother giving a severe scolding to the household cook who disliked Frederick and gave him very little food. A few months after this visit, Harriet Baily died, but Frederick did not learn of this until much later.
Because Frederick had a natural charm that many people found engaging, he was chosen to be the companion of Daniel Lloyd, the youngest son of the plantation’s owner.
Upon Frederick’s arrival at the Auld Home, his only duties were to run errands and care for the Auld’s infant son, Tommy. Frederick enjoyed the work and grew to love the child. Sophia Auld was a religious woman and frequently read aloud from the Bible. Frederick asked his mistress to teach him to read and she readily consented. He soon learned the alphabet and a few simple words. Sophia Auld was very excited about Frederick’s progress and told her husband what she had done. Hugh Auld became furious at this because it was unlawful to teach a slave to read. Hugh Auld believed that if a slave knew how to read and write that it would make him unfit for a slave. A slave that could read and write would no longer obey his master without question or thought, or even worse could forge papers that said he was free and thus escape to a northern state where slavery was outlawed. Hugh Auld then instructed Sophia to stop the lessons at once!
Frederick learned from Hugh Auld’s outburst that if learning how to read and write was his pathway to freedom, then gaining this knowledge was to become his goal. Frederick gained command of the alphabet on his own and made friends with poor white children he met on errands and used them as teachers. He paid for his reading lessons with pieces of bread. At home Frederick read parts of books and newspapers when he could, but he had to constantly be on guard against his mistress. Sophia Auld screamed whenever she caught Frederick reading. Sophia Auld’s attitude toward Frederick had changed, she no longer regarded him as any other child, but as a piece of property. However, Frederick gradually learned to read and write. With a little money he had earned doing errands, he bought a copy of The Columbian Orator, a collection of speeches and essays dealing with liberty, democracy, and courage.
Frederick was greatly affected by the speeches on freedom in The Columbian Orator, and so began reading local newspapers and began to learn about abolitionists. Not quite 13 years old but enlightened with new ideas that both tormented and inspired him. Frederick began to detest slavery. His dreams of emancipation were encouraged by the example of other blacks in Baltimore, most of whom were free. But new laws passed by southern state legislators made it increasingly difficult for owners to free their slaves.
Frederick was sorry to leave Baltimore because he had recently become a teacher to a group of other young blacks. In addition, a black preacher named Charles Lawson had taken Frederick under his wing and adopted him as his spiritual son. In March of 1833, the 15 year old Frederick was sent to live at Thomas Auld’s new farm near the town of Saint Michaels, a few miles from the Lloyd plantation.
Frederick was again put to work as a field hand and was extremely unhappy about his situation. Thomas Auld starved his slaves, and they had to steal food from neighboring farms to survive. Frederick received many beatings and saw worse ones given to others. He then organized a Sunday religious service for the slaves which met in near by Saint Michaels. The services were soon stopped by a mob led by Thomas Auld. Thomas Auld had found Frederick especially difficult to control so he decided to have someone tame his unruly slave.
In January 1834, Frederick was sent to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had gained a reputation around Saint Michaels for being and expert “slave breaker”. Frederick was not too displeased with this arrangement because Covey fed his slaves better than Auld did. The slaves on Covey’s farm worked from dawn until after nightfall, plowing, hoeing, and picking corn. Although the men were given plenty of food, they had very little time allotted to eat before they were sent back to work. Covey hid in bushes and spied on the slaves as they worked, if he caught one of them resting he would beat him with thick branches.
After being on the farm for one week, Frederick was given a serious beating for letting an oxen team run wild. During the months to follow, he was continually whipped until he began to feel that he was “broken”. On one hot August afternoon his strength failed him and he collapsed in the field. Covey kicked and beat Frederick to no avail and finally walked away in disgust. Frederick mustered the strength to get up and walk to the Auld farm, where he pleaded with his master to let him stay. Auld had little sympathy for him and sent him back to Covey. Beaten down as Frederick was, he found the strength to rebel when Covey began tying him to a post in preparation for a whipping. “At that moment – from whence came the spirit I don’t know – I resolved to fight,” Frederick wrote. “I seized Covey hard by the throat, and as I did so, I rose.” Covey and Frederick fought for almost two hours until Covey finally gave up telling Frederick that his beating would have been less severe had he not resisted. “The truth was,” said Frederick, “that he had not whipped me at all.” Frederick had discovered an important truth: “Men are whipped oftenist who are whipped easiest.” He was lucky, legally, a slave could be killed for resisting his master. But Covey had a reputation to protect and did not want it known that he could not control a 16 year old boy.
After working for Covey for a year, Frederick was sent to work for a farmer named William Freeland, who was a relatively kind master. But by now, Frederick did not care about having a kind master. All Frederick wanted was his freedom. He started an illegal school for blacks in the area that secretly met at night and on Sundays, and with five other slaves he began to plan his escape to the North. A year had passed since Frederick began working for William Freeland and his plan of escape had been completed. His group planned to steal a boat, row to the northern tip of Chesapeake Bay, and then flee on foot to the free state of Pennsylvania. The escape was supposed to take place just before the Easter holiday in 1836, but one of Frederick’s associates had exposed the plot and a group of armed white men captured the slaves and put them in jail.
Frederick was in jail for about a week. While imprisoned, he was inspected by slave traders, and he fully expected that he would be sold to “a life of living death” in the Deep South. To his surprise, Thomas Auld came and released him. Then Frederick’s master sent him back to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. The two brothers had finally settled their dispute. Frederick was now 18 years old, 6 feet tall and very strong from his work in the fields.
Hugh Auld decided that Frederick should work as a caulker (a man who forced sealing matter into the seams in a boat’s hull to make it water tight) to earn his keep. He was hired out to a local shipbuilder so that he could learn the trade. While apprenticing at the shipyard, Frederick was harassed by white workers who did not want blacks, slaves or free, competing with them for jobs. One afternoon, a group of white apprentices beat up Frederick and nearly took out one of his eyes. Hugh Auld was angry when he saw what had happened and attempted to press charges against the assailants. However, none of the shipyard’s white employees would step forward to testify about the beating. Free blacks had little hope of obtaining justice through the southern court system, which refused to accept a black person’s testimony against a white person. Therefore, the case had to be dropped.
After Frederick recovered from his injuries, he began apprenticing at the shipyard where Hugh Auld worked. Within a year, he was an experienced caulker and was being paid the highest wages possible for a tradesman at his level. He was allowed to seek his own employment and collect his own pay, and at the end of each week he gave all his earnings to Hugh Auld. Sometimes he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. But as time passed, he became resentful of having to give up his hard earned pay.
In Frederick’s spare time he met with a group of educated free blacks and indulged in the luxury of being a student again. Some of the free blacks formed an educational association called the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, which Frederick had been admitted to. This is where Frederick learned his debating skills. At one of the society’s meetings, Frederick met a free black woman named Anna Murray. Anna was a few years older than Frederick and was a servant for a wealthy Baltimore family. Although Anna was a plain, uneducated woman, Frederick admired her qualities of thriftiness, industriousness and religiousness. Anna and Frederick were soon in love and in 1838 they were engaged.
Love and courtship increased Frederick’s discontent with his status. After Frederick’s escape attempt, Thomas Auld had promised him that if he worked hard he would be freed when he turned 25. But Frederick did not trust his master, and he resolved to escape. However, escaping would be very difficult due to professional slave catchers patrolling the boarders between slave states and free states, and free blacks traveling by train or steamboat had to carry official papers listing their name, age, height, skin color, and other distinguishing features. In order to escape, Frederick needed money to pay for traveling expenses. Frederick arranged with Hugh Auld to hire out his time, that is, Frederick would take care of his own room and board and pay his master a set amount each week, keeping any extra money for himself. This also gave him the opportunity to see what it was like living on his own.
This arrangement had been working out quite well until Frederick returned home late one night and failed to pay Hugh Auld on time. Auld was furious and revoked his hiring-out privilege. Frederick was so enraged over this that he refused to work for a week. He finally gave in to Auld’s threats, but he also made a resolution that in three weeks, on September 3, 1838, he would be on a northbound train. Escaping was a difficult decision for Frederick. He would be leaving his friends and his fairly comfortable life in Baltimore forever. He did not know when and if he would see Anna Murray again. Furthermore, if he was caught during his escape, he was sure that he would be either killed or sold to slave traders. Taking all of this into consideration, Frederick was resolved to escape to freedom.
With money that he borrowed from Anna, Frederick bought a ticket to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also had a friend’s “sailor’s protection,” a document that certified that the person named on it was a free seaman. Dressed in a sailor’s red shirt and black cravat, Frederick boarded the train. Frederick reached northern Maryland before the conductor made it to the “Negro car” to collect tickets and examine papers. Frederick became very tense when the conductor approached him to look at his papers because he did not fit the description on them. But with only a quick glance, the conductor walked on, and the relieved Frederick sank back in his seat. On a couple of occasions, he thought that he had been recognized by other passengers from Baltimore, but if so they did not turn him in to the authorities.
Upon arriving in Wilmington, Delaware, Frederick then boarded a steamboat to Philadelphia. Even after stepping on Pennsylvania’s free soil, he knew he was not yet safe from slave catchers. He immediately asked directions to New York City, and that night he took another train north. On September 4, 1838, Frederick arrived in New York City. Frederick could not find the words to express his feelings of leaving behind his life in slavery. He later wrote, “A new world had opened upon me.” “Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted, but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”
Note: In a 2010 article by Ralph Paige, who was Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund at the time, he wrote: “When President Abraham Lincoln created the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1862 he referred to it as the ‘People’s Department.’ The problem is that its services have never been available to ‘all’ the people.” Although, with the Clinton and Obama administrations, efforts had been made to correct discriminatory problems at the USDA. It’s an unfortunate fact, however, that the USDA’s policies and behavior have been marred by rampant discrimination. This is why Black farmers filed a 1997 lawsuit against the USDA that focused on discrimination in the administration of its farm programs in the 1980s and into the 1990s.There were two phases of the lawsuit. One was filed under the Clinton administration and the second phase for late filers was settled under the Obama administration.
The litigation, referred to as Pigford vs. Glickman (now Pigford vs. Vilsack) was named after Tim Pigford, a Black farmer in North Carolina, and the then Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman. Tom Vilsack, in the second phase, was the Secretary of Agriculture under the Obama administration. It was settled in 1999, and more than 15,000 Black farmers obtained relief for the discrimination they experienced at the hands of the USDA. But the settlement itself triggered such an outpouring of pent-up frustration and demands for justice that more than 11 years later the case was still ongoing.
Attorney Hank Sanders is one of the class counsels in the lawsuit and, at the time of this transcribed interview below, the Pigford lawsuit was in phase two.
The interview took place in 2010 on WRFG-89.3FM in Atlanta, Georgia. The program is “Just Peace” which is produced by Heather Gray.
By Heather Gray
May 2, 2018
Justice Initiative International
HEATHER GRAY – Hank, you were involved the Emergency Land Fund (ELF) that was created in the 1970’s. It worked exclusively on Black land loss issues.
HANK SANDERS – Absolutely – it was a dynamic organization with a lot of energy and a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work. It eventually became a part of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in 1985.
GRAY – One of the things you were involved in the 1980’s, along with your wife Rose, was a study on heir property. Could you tell us about that study?
SANDERS – Yes. We knew that a lot of heir property was being lost in tax sales, in partition sales, in other kinds of ways, and no one was quite sure how many acres of land Black folks had originally and what was being lost. So a study was done in connection with the ELF and other organizations and supported by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. The USDA’s Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA) ended up providing a grant for this purpose. That study documents the loss of land and how many acres we had left and how land was being lost at a very fast rate. Rose took off a year from the law firm in order to concentrate on that study. I helped and a lot of other folks helped with it, as well, but she was the driving force.
GRAY – What was particularly significant about that study for you Hank?
SANDERS – I think it was how fast we were actually losing land and how many different ways we were losing land. It’s one way of seeing it from the work you do, and see it on a first hand basis, but it’s another thing when you start seeing from states across the south, and seeing it happen time and time again in state after state after state. Land is such a powerful force in our lives and it means so much when you have land so it’s important to try to keep it. But another thing that was brought forcefully to our attention was that much of the heir property was not being used. And that made it a lot easier to actually be lost and we worked a lot on trying to get people to go ahead and put it into production. If it wasn’t row crops, then put it into tree production – put it into some kind of production because then it was less likely to be lost.
GRAY – Would you define what heir property is?
SANDERS – Heir property is property that goes to heirs. When people die and do not have a will, then the state says how the property will descend to the heirs. So the state really makes the decision. So it was important that people makes their own wills so they can determine how their real property goes. If they don’t determine it, then the state determines it. Heir property means that all the heirs of a particular person have an undivided interest in it. So, any one person can sell their interest to somebody. They can’t sell the whole, but they can sell their interest. The person who’s supposed to pay the taxes may not even live on the land, though there might be other family members who are living on the land or using it. So everybody has responsibility which means nobody has responsibility.
GRAY – Why is land ownership so important? And, I must say, there were many Black farmers who owned land along Highway 80, the route on the ‘Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March’ in 1965, and many of them helped in the movement. Is that right
SANDERS – Yes, certainly white farmers were not going to let Black folks on their land as they made the 5-day march from Selma to Montgomery. So it was Black farmers who provided the land for folks to stop on and spend the night and cook and eat and do all those kinds of things. Also, whites began to put Blacks, who were living on the white owned land, off the white owned land just because Blacks were trying to register to vote. Or all you had to do was to hear somebody was talking about registering and they would force people off their land. So, it was Black farmers who provided a place and land for people to live on, even when in a modest shack or something like that. So just having your own land is such a powerful thing.
I’d like to tell a story that happened to my mother. When we were growing up we lived on heir property, but my grandfather on my father’s side was still living so that means that my father had no interest in the land. He wasn’t an heir yet. My grandfather was an heir and a lot of other heirs lived on the land as well. We lived in a 3-room house and my mother had 9 children and so we had 11 people living in this 3-room house. But the long and short of this was that we would stand on the side of the road when she was on her way to work in the morning, and when she was coming back in the evening, the whites would say would say, “Look, you don’t have any right to live on this land, you’re not an heir. We’re going to put you off.” My mother was generally a really fiery woman, but she didn’t know where she would go with the huge houseful of children, so she just kind of took it. But finally she got fed up and told us one summer, “Whenever ya’ll pick cotton this Fall you’re not going to buy school books, you’re not going to buy school clothes, or whatever. I’m going to take the money and I’m going to buy me a piece of land. I’m tired of them threatening me every morning and every evening.”
So when we got up to $50 she took it and went to another county and put the $50 down on one acre of land that cost $150. So the word must have traveled. When she walked the next morning there was nobody out there to threaten her then or ever again. We never lived on that land but it was an umbrella of freedom for her. That’s the power of owning a piece of land. When you own land you look at yourself differently, but everyone else looks at you differently as well.
GRAY – The FHMA was created in 1942 and was considered the lending institution of last resort for small farmers. The problem is, however, that Black farmers were never able to access those resources to any degree.
SANDERS – It was terrible how the FMHA treated African American farmers. Going and coming, they just didn’t want to make loans to them. They tried to find every way to try to not make loans and even if they made a loan it was too little and too late. It was just a real problem and that was the root cause of the first Black farmers lawsuit.
When we were growing up, Black farmers just knew not to go to the Farmers Home office – there wasn’t any sense of you even trying because they simply were not going to make you a loan. You were just wasting your time. People just did the best they could with what they had.
GRAY – I know it was because of all this that farmers filed suit against the USDA in the 1990’s. Also, during the Reagan administration, the Office of Civil Rights at USDA was abolished which made it difficult for farmers to complain to the government about this on-going discrimination. There was no recourse.
SANDERS – As you pointed out, the Reagan administration actually abolished the Office of Civil Rights. So when the lawsuit was filed you could only go back two years because that was the statute of limitations. In order to get the lawsuit to go back to 1981, Congress had to pass something to authorize that and, in order to do that, the attorneys agreed not to accept any attorney fees from the farmers but instead to collect fees from the government. So that means that instead of going back to 1996 you could go back to 1981, which meant that thousands more farmers could be covered in the lawsuit.
Eventually, more than billion dollars was paid the farmers in the lawsuit. But, as we well know, a lot of folks were left out. Still, it was the biggest civil rights lawsuit in the history of this country against the government.
It was a great victory, but it was incomplete because a lot of farmers just didn’t apply. It’s likely that a lot of farmers didn’t think anything would come of the lawsuit. We’ve been disappointed too many times over the years starting out with the promise of 40 acres and a mule. We now have second phase of the lawsuit, that we call Pigford II, which is for those thousands of farmers who filed late petitions but have not yet been able to file a claim in the lawsuit.
Some people think that this is reparations, and that the lawsuit is open for everybody. Now, it’s a form of reparations for Black farmers but it is not open to everybody. You had to have been involved in farming or had been attempting to be involved in farming to be a part of this lawsuit.
GRAY – What is this lawsuit actually accomplishing?
SANDERS – Well, it provides some money for Black farmers who have been wronged. But it doesn’t enjoin the government from stopping discrimination in the future. I do think, under this administration, we will see a lot less wrongdoing but sometime down the road these problems could return. The people who committed discrimination are still in place throughout the south and throughout the chain at USDA, so I don’t want to give the idea that this is a cure-all. We’ll have to continue fighting. This is not something you can relax on and think everything is going to be all right. You have to be prepared to fight and fight and fight.
GRAY – Are you saying there could have been something else in the lawsuit, and as Attorney Chestnut once told me, that he was hoping to take the case of Black farmers to court so that all of America could hear about the plight of Black farmers – and this would be in lieu of a settlement. You were saying, however, that some decisions were made during the Clinton administration that there should be a settlement. That the lawsuit could go on forever. There could be appeals and, chances are, no farmer would get anything.
SANDERS – Let me say that J.L. Chestnut was one of the most brilliant attorneys that ever lived. He was a tremendous person and a tremendous warrior, and a tremendous fighter for all Black folks and all folks who been left out or wronged or misused in some kind of way. But the lower level in the government didn’t want to settle because they thought they would eventually win. Some of the higher-ups in the Clinton administration had to force this to a settlement at that time.
GRAY – I thought there was also a concern that the Congress was becoming more right wing and it was thought that, if the Republicans got in, it might not be possible to achieve anything in the lawsuit.
SANDERS – Actually, the people in the Justice Department who had been there before the Clinton administration did not want to settle it. That, if they could just drag it out, eventually Black farmers wouldn’t get anything.
I think, however, that the present Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack (under the Obama administration), has a genuine desire to correct some of the wrongs of the past in terms of discrimination against farmers. But, you know, sometimes you can be the Secretary of Agriculture and still not have the power that you think you might because the Justice Department is really representing the Secretary of Agriculture, and many of the people who were involved in this lawsuit in the Justice Department are still there.
When we first started on the Pigford lawsuit in the 1990’s, we had 13 attorneys and some 30 staff. The Pigford lawsuit just broke us financially. Now we’re down to 3 lawyers. We paid a high price in fighting for justice for Black farmers.
GRAY – There are a lot of people out there who are saying that attorneys made a lot of money on the Pigford lawsuit.
SANDERS – Some attorneys did make a lot of money but it wasn’t the plaintiff’s attorneys. The monitor made a lot of money. The arbitrators made money because the government paid their bills and they fought with us about our bills.
GRAY – What was the major thing that you learned from this lawsuit Hank?
SANDERS – Well, first, what was reinforced was that when you take on the United States government, that’s one heck of a challenge and it takes a lot of courage and fortitude to do that. The United States government has so much, compared to the limited resources that individual lawyers have. But the thing is, even when you are outnumbered, or with limited resources, if you fight with everything, you then you still can help folks.
A billion dollars that went to Black farmers in the lawsuit is a lot of money. So, it is not all that Black folks deserve, but still it’s a lot and is a victory. Maybe you can’t succeed 100%, but still there are victories.
HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news.
By Heather Gray
I wrote the first version of the article below regarding a Palestinian “sense of place” for
Counterpunch in 2006 and sent it out also in a 2016 Justice Initiative posting. Yet, given the intensity of struggles and the ongoing Israeli violence against the Palestinians, I am sending out an edited version. Land and the struggles for indigenous integrity are hugely important all over the world. Those of us of European descent (which includes many Israelis) have much to atone for over the centuries regarding grabbing land from others as well as grabbing people to enslave them and the struggles and reverberations of it all are on-going. The impact of abusive and arrogant behavior is seemingly endless particularly when the efforts for reconciliation, reparations, justice and peace are not taken seriously.
Contemporary Israeli/Palestinian Conflict and some solutions by the Peled family
Now the contemporary impact of this is becoming all the more intense in the Middle East given the increased Israeli and American arrogance – as with Trump’s outrageous plans to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the recent and on-going killings by Israelis of Palestinians and all this is coupled with the huge US military support of Israel.
The Israelis might grab the Palestinian land and claim it as their own but they are wrong in assuming that it will be “their” land. It is not theirs and it never will be. It’s way past time for peace, justice and reconciliation. As Israeli Miko Peled has recently stated – “Israel is an illegitimate state and the area should be called Palestine!” Below is his quote in a recent interview:
The United States is a top supporter of the occupation through funding of the Israeli military and providing cover for Israeli violations of international law in the United Nations. Peled emphasizes that activists in the US have a responsibility to take action to end the occupation of Palestine and outlines many ways to do this, including an aggressive BDS campaign and support for legislation in Congress. Peled says “Israel” is an illegitimate state and the area should be called Palestine.
(Miko Peled – Popular Resistance – March 30, 2018)
Over the years I have been fortunate to interview both the father and son – Matti and Miko Peled.
Once retired from the Israeli military in 1969 as a Major General, Matti Peled (1923-1995) received his PhD in Arabic literature from the University of California and he then went back to Israel to, in fact, teach Arabic literature.
In 1992, I interviewed the Matti Peled who was visiting the United States to encourage a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Click here for the PDF of the transcribed interview with him, entitled “Predictions of the Present Day Turmoil in the Middle East.”
Below is a summary of some of Matti Peled’s comments:
As it can be noted, much of what Matti Peled stated in 1992 is still, unfortunately, relevant to today’s situation in the Middle East. As mentioned, I was also fortunate to interview Matti Peled’s son, Miko Peled, who was visiting Atlanta in 2014. Click here for the link to his 2014 Atlanta speech.
A Palestinian “Sense of Place”
Israel’s bombing and reckless destabilization of Palestinian communities is ongoing.
Yet, given the past century and the consistent abuse by Israelis, it has become clear that Israel can attempt to diminish the Palestinian claims on Palestine or weaken their resolve, but it’s highly unlikely it will succeed. No matter the strength of bombs, missiles and Caterpillar bulldozers or whatever the Israelis use, can never destroy the ancestral stories and culture that are rooted in the Palestinians themselves.
Probably no one says this better than Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:
I Come From There
I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland…..
The land holds the stories, the history. The land holds the roots. The land embraces the ancestry of thousands of years. The Palestinian people will preserve this no matter what. This is the most powerful weapon of all. You cannot bomb it away. Middle Eastern Jews also have this history, but it’s a shared history with Palestinians.
The Israelis have tried to erase the Palestinian history in any number of ways. Destruction of records is one example. Years ago, in bombings in the city of Nablas, the Israelis decimated an administration building holding thousands of Palestinian documents, some more than 100 years old, of deeds and family histories connected with land. In Gale Courey Toesing’s article “First Destroy the Archives: 9/11 Nablas” (Counterpunch July 27, 2006), she quotes Abed Al Illah Ateereh, the director of the Ministry of the Interior in Nablus:
“There is 100 percent damage,” Ateereh said. “They destroyed the building completely, but that wasn’t enough for the Israelis. They then used their Caterpillar bulldozers to churn up everything and mix all the documents with the soil so that nothing is able to be preserved,” Ateereh said.
The ministry had at least 175,000 individual case files each containing multiple documents. It will be impossible to recover an entire case file, Ateereh said. Some of the newer documents are backed up on a computer, but the old historical records are priceless and irreplaceable.
In David Barsamian’s “Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward W. Said” (2003) Barsamian writes that in one of the 1982 incursions into Beirut, Lebanon led by Ariel Sharon the Israelis destroyed offices holding Palestinian archives. Then 20 years later in another Sharon led invasion, the Israelis “ransacked” the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah.
The late Edward Said noted that the Center was named after Khalil Sakakini who was a friend of his family.
“He was famous for a school that he ran (prior to 1948) it was a national school. It was non-sectarian. And it taught young Palestinian men the understanding of their cultural and political heritage. So the Center in Ramallah, which is named for him, is a symbol of Palestinian national, intellectual, and cultural life, and therefore a target for the Israelis.”
Regarding Palestinians, Edward Said says,
“There’s a whole assembly of cultural expression that has become part of the consolidation and persistence of Palestinian identity. There’s a Palestinian cinema, a Palestinian theater, a Palestinian poetry, and literature in general. Culture is a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration. Culture is a form of memory against effacement.” (Edward Said)
And while longing to return to Palestine, the refugees maintain their culture. Said also notes that,
“The inflection of Palestinian colloquial speech are preserved into the third and fourth generation. My son, for example, grew up in New York, subsequently learned Arabic. When you hear him speak, you can hear the accents of his grandfather. He obviously heard it from me and he heard it from other Palestinians when we speak together. So speech itself is the great tablet of memory.” (Edward Said)
A sense of place? What is it? It’s hard to say. Yet, Mahmoud Darwish says it best in his poem above. In most instances it appears that the “place” of a people is associated with history and culture that is usually land-based. Both Palestinians and Middle Eastern Jews have this. And land ownership? It’s a very complex issue. Further, grabbing land unjustly never totally succeeds. There is almost always a backlash. There’s almost always the threat of violence and retribution. People will not allow injustice against their own to continue indefinitely. If anything, this abuse strengthens their resolve.
The stories, history and culture associated with land are profound. They are always there, always in the hearts and minds, regardless of attempts to destroy them. In fact, they are far stronger than any bomb. For the safety of us all, the Israelis and Americans should attempt to learn this and give up their reliance on bombs, aggression and desire for empire and instead work toward peace, justice and reconciliation.
And, for one, as Peled says, calling the area Palestine instead of Israel seems like an excellent idea. Hopefully this would include more reconciliation initiatives, as well, with both Arabs and Jews perhaps even living together in peace….finally! And, if so, it could possibly serve as a significant way to begin other reconciliation processes throughout the world. Palestinians – now both Arabs and Jews – could take the lead in world reconciliation efforts. Wouldn’t that be nice!
HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. This is an update of the original article posted on Countepunch in 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Day of Infamy, 50 Years Ago Today
Atlanta and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King
Sisters Chapel, Spelman Campus
April 7, 1968
by Heather Gray (1996)
The line moved in unison up the stairs and through
the chapel door.
No one spoke.
I could barely lift my feet.
It was April, the onset of Spring.
I was shivering.
His body was still.
His eyes were closed.
He was peaceful.
His compassionate voice was no more.
I wanted to run.
Yet, so desperately did not want to leave.
What now? I thought. What now?
April 4, 2018
Justice Initiative International
In 1968, the tragic events in the first week of April turned the world upside down. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on Thursday, April 4. He was there to support the sanitation workers who were on strike and later to launch the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC. Harry Belafonte described the sequence of events that day. He was in Atlanta when Coretta Scott King received the news of her husband’s death. The grieving Mrs. King asked him to help select the clothes for her deceased husband’s showing and funeral. She expressed her concern, like millions of us across America and the world, about the aftermath of his assassination and what she could or should do. Belafonte recommended that she continue in the support of the Memphis sanitation workers. She did exactly that.
On Monday, April 8, the day before her husband’s funeral, Mrs. King was in Memphis marching with the sanitation workers. This remarkably brave and determined woman, along with her three of her children, marched in silence in the company of 15,000 supporters from all over the country. Mrs. King told the crowd, “His work must go on. We are concerned about not only the Negro poor but the poor all over America and all over the world. Every man deserves a right to a job and an income so that he can pursue liberty, life and happiness.”
I was in Atlanta at that time as well. Earlier in the week a Chinese friend, who taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, had asked me to attend an event at Spelman on the weekend and then spend the night in the campus dorms. That was my plan. Little did my friend or I know how events that week would dramatically affect us all. Dr. King was assassinated on Thursday, April 4 and by the weekend his body was in state at Sister’s Chapel on the Spelman campus.
In the introduction to his excellent book “Undaunted by the Fight: Spelman College and the Civil Rights Movement 1957-1967” (2005) Harry Lefever provides a brief history of Spelman. It is “the nation’s oldest and best-known black liberal arts college for women, founded in 1881. In 1929, Spelman signed an Agreement of Affiliation with Morehouse College and Atlanta University, two black institutions located directly across the street from Spelman.” Ultimately other black schools of higher learning in the adjoining location joined the agreement. “….known as the Atlanta University Center (AUC), (it) represents the largest affiliation of predominantly black institutions in the United States.” Dr. King received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in 1948.
That weekend, a long line of mourners stood outside Sister’s Chapel to honor the fallen leader. The silence was deafening. It was April, the onset of Spring, and I stood there in line and shivering. All you could hear was the sound of feet slowly walking toward the chapel and people crying. I was the only “white” person in line at that time. As we walked into the Chapel and down the aisle toward the coffin, there were pastors on either side of the coffin “wiping away the tears” that fell on the glass over Martin King’s body. Only later did I learn that because so many people were crying, resulting in tears cascading into the coffin and over Dr. King, that a decision was made to cover the open coffin with glass. Once by the coffin, I observed this physically small, yet great man of peace, and found it virtually impossible to believe that his resounding, powerful voice was no more. It was an incredibly sad moment for me to witness his still body and to even think of the contemptible violence that killed him. But I was also angry. I kept thinking “What now? What on earth is now in store for America?”
By Monday, April 8, people started arriving into Atlanta for the King funeral. I drove for the Student Non-Violent Committee (SNCC) to greet people arriving at the airport. My parents and hundreds of others were doing the same in their own cars.
Along with two students from Atlanta University, the first person I drove from the airport was Ralph Bunche. Dr. Bunche was the first black Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He had received the award in 1950 for his negotiations in the creation of the State of Israel after World War II. In 1968 he was an Undersecretary of the United Nations and was representing the UN at the King funeral. The City of Atlanta had sent its Vice Mayor, Sam Massell, to accompany Dr. Bunche, but Bunche insisted on coming with us SNCC folks instead. Arrangements had been made for him at Atlanta’s Regency Hyatt, but he insisted on staying at Paschals, Atlanta’s renowned Black owned hotel and restaurant on Hunter Street, now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. So here I was, driving Dr. Bunche, who sat in the passenger seat of my little car and he was asking me questions. His son was squeezed into the back with two Atlanta University students. Bunche’s son had brought his tennis racket. Life goes on, I realized!
Lyndon Johnson was the U.S. President at the time. Johnson had decided to send his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, to the funeral. We were told that this decision was made because of Humphrey’s advocacy for civil rights. That being the case, protocol called for U Thant, the UN General Secretary, to send someone under him of rank at the UN, such as Ralph Bunche, so as not to up-stage Johnson.
Interestingly, Bunche had been one of prominent Black leaders in 1967 encouraging the NAACP to write a statement criticizing King’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Bunche said King should not be both a civil rights leader and an anti-war advocate and that he needed to be one or the other. He later called King to apologize for his public statement and that he agreed with King’s position on the war. King complained that Bunche did not have the courage to state his views in public.
The next person I picked up at the airport was Allard Lowenstein, an attorney in the movement, along with one of his colleagues Dennis Sweeney (see note below). He first wanted to pay his respects to Mrs. King. I drove them to her house that was surrounded by at least a hundred or more people. While I waited outside, along with these throngs of people, first I saw Harry Belafonte walk out of the house and then Sammy Davis, Jr.
Mrs. King was serving fried chicken to her guests. There were so many guests and therefore empty boxes of chicken that the boxes were being burned in her back yard. I said to the young man next to me, “I love the smell of these burning boxes.” He said, along with a smile, “Oh, do you?” We both knew this was in reference to “burn, baby, burn” as the riots in the US in response to the King assassination had already begun.
Next, Lowenstein wanted to greet Reverend Ralph David Abernathy, known as King’s right-hand man, who was to take over the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), now vacated by King, of course. Lowenstein said that this time he was taking me into the house with him.
As we drove toward Abernathy’s house down Hunter Street (now “Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive”) in southwest Atlanta, my car stalled. Here we were, three whites in the predominantly Black part of the town and five days after King had been killed. Suddenly about three black youth started aggressively shaking my car. Lowenstein said, “Heather, you need to get your car going and out of here!” It was of course what I was trying to do. Then suddenly and rather miraculously, my car started again and we were off. We then drove to Reverend Abernathy’s house and what a dramatic experience this was.
To set the stage again, King had just been assassinated. No one knew what this meant exactly. No one knew what other violence could be expected. It was not known how white and black communities across the country would respond or what challenges and threats where ahead in the movement. It was assumed, of course, that the work was to be increasingly more dangerous.
As we walked into the Abernathy house there were four men sitting in silence in the living room. The Reverend was resting at the time. Then we walked into the kitchen where Mrs. Juanita Abernathy was on the phone. Lowenstein knew Mrs. Abernathy, but suddenly, here I was, a young white student who had never met her. Once off the phone she grabs my hand, holds on to it and recounts the events of the past few days. For some five minutes or so, she described her husband’s frightening experience of being at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where King had been killed just five days ago, and how nervous and concerned she was about her husband taking over the leadership of SCLC. I stood there in awe while listening and silently sympathizing. This became one of the most profound experiences of my entire life.
Then Reverend Abernathy appeared. He seemed rested and congenial. I was amazed at his composure but then thought what else could he do? Everyone knew the work had to continue and he was clearly prepared to do precisely that. We all shook hands, spoke briefly, and I then drove Lowenstein and his friend to a hotel in downtown Atlanta.
The funeral was on Tuesday, April 9 at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta-affectionately known as the King family church. I joined the funeral march through the City of Atlanta. The Reverend James Orange, of Birmingham protest fame, had organized the mule drawn funeral cart to take Dr. King to his resting place. Thousands of us of all races followed the cart while holding hands and singing an abundance of chants. It was a movement funeral to be sure.
One of the most memorable experiences that day was walking in front of the Georgia State Capitol. A wire fence barricade, along with the ominous presence of military sentries, surrounded it. As was intended, the whole area seemed bleak and foreboding.
The arch segregationist and erratic Lester Maddox was Georgia’s governor at the time. I fully expected him to run out of the building at any moment, stand on the Capitol steps, and shout all kinds of curses at us. And now, I might add, as of last year, thankfully – yet close to 50 years after his King’s death – a statue of Dr. King resides on those very Georgia capitol grounds.
There has been and will continue to be speculation as to why J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, under the Johnson administration, intensified its surveillance and propaganda against King. It was known, for one, that Johnson was furious about King’s outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, but it is also clear that King was shifting his emphasis to economic justice. While economic justice had always been a part of his message, the primary focus of civil rights and voting rights took precedence in the early movement work. By 1964 the Civil Rights Bill had passed in Congress and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was also a reality. All of this took enormous energy and a death toll as well. But King and others acknowledged that if there was the right to stay in a hotel, what was the point if you couldn’t pay the bill? Challenging civil rights was one thing but going after America’s economic infrastructure was quite another threat to America’s corporate world and western capitalist leaders overall. Clearly the white powers that be were determined not to let King’s leadership empower America’s workers and ultimately spread the wealth.
At the end of his life, King was advocating for the economic rights of sanitation workers in Memphis and this was just the beginning. SCLC was in the planning stages of the national Poor People’s Campaign march to be held in Washington, DC on April 22. On April 3 in Memphis, in his last speech – known as the “Mountaintop Speech” – King called for boycotts against Wonder Bread, Hart’s Bread, Sealtest Milk and, importantly, Coca Cola, for their appalling and unfair hiring practices. He encouraged everyone to follow through on this and to put pressure where it hurts. He said “if something isn’t done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed.”
In relation to the loss of Dr. King, years later I have often thought about the insightful and powerful song by “Sweet Honey and the Rock” about Stephen Biko, the black leader who was killed by South African authorities in 1977. They sang, “You can kill one human body, I see ten thousand Bikos!” This message rings true. You can kill the messenger, but not the message. As Lefever states in his book on Spelman College activism, that while he focused on individuals in the movement “it is clear” he said, “that their successes were much more than ‘individual’ successes. The study reveals the significance of the ‘group’ context in their actions.” This has been true in our human history overall. A Filipino organizer once told me, “You can’t organize yourself, you have to organize yourselves.“
But it is also rather sobering to realize that when the economic or civil status quo of western “white” dominance is seriously challenged, countless young leaders of color all over the world have either been killed directly by those of us of European descent or by our proxies. Harry Belafonte describes King once telling him that given the outrageously violent and unjust behavior of white America that they were attempting to “integrate” into a burning house. Belafonte asked what should be done. King said, “we all need to become firemen” and ‘firewomen’ I might add. (Note regarding Dennis Sweeney: Sweeney, who was with Lowenstein in Atlanta for the King funeral, in an odd twist of fate, shot and killed Lowenstein in 1980 in New York. Go here for more information about this tragic occurrence.)
“A movement like this proves that your voice does matter”
MAR 26, 2018
About 30,000 people turned out at the March For Our Lives in Atlanta Saturday to advocate for changes to gun laws.As volunteers worked the crowds to register voters, South Cobb High school student Niles Francis held his sign high above his head. It listed lawmakers who took money from the NRA. He’s still two years away from voting for the first time. But he’s determined to be heard now.
“A movement like this proves that your voice does matter,” Francis said.
This year Francis lobbied for SB 457 , a bill mandating school safety drills. It passed the Georgia house and awaits a vote in the senate.
Marching alongside him was his grandfather, Jerry Pennick. “I like the idea that these kids are taking the baton. Instead of us passing it, they took it,” Pennick said.
He was a student activist in the Civil Rights movement 50 years ago. Pennick said if history is repeating, “it will be better this time around.”
NRA-FUNDED US SENATORS
1. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) $7,740,521
2. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) $6,986, 620
3. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) $4,551,146
4. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) $4,418,012
5. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) $3,879,064
6. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) $3,303,355
7. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) $3,124,273
8. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) $3,061,941
9. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) $2,896,732
10. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) $2,861,047
Deep within each heart
There lies a magic spark
That lights the fire of our imagination
And since the dawn of man
The strength of just “I can”
Has brought together people of all nationsThere’s nothing ordinary
In the living of each day
There’s a special part
Every one of us will playFeel the flame forever burn
Teaching lessons we must learn
To bring us closer to the power of the dream
As the world gives us its best
To stand apart from all the rest
It is the power of the dream that brings us hereYour mind will take you far
The rest is just pure heart
You’ll find your fate is all your own creation
And every boy and girl
As they come into this world
They bring the gift of hope and inspiration
Feel the flame forever burn
There’s so much strength in all of us
Feel the flame forever burn
Feel the flame (forever burn)
To realize the power of the dream
Songwriters: David Foster / Kenny B. Edmonds / Linda Thompson
The Power of the Dream lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
“We need to base of nation’s growth not on the ‘Rockefeller’s’ but on the ‘little fellers’ because if we do it will be based on genius and not greed.”
(From 1983 to 1991 Hightower served as elected commissioner
of the Texas Department of Agriculture)
By Heather Gray
March 25, 2018
Justice Initiative International
Through his tax and other policies Trump has largely been empowering concentrated wealth (the 1%) in America at the expense of the rest of us (the 99%). How about a new paradigm, like a “just distribution of wealth and resources”? Occasionally, there is information that helps to justify this glaring need for economic justice, and, for me, the study by anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt in the 1940’s is one of the most compelling! Below is information about this legendary mid-20th century study on the negative impact of concentrated wealth.
I first wrote this article about the Goldschmidt study in 2006 that was posted on Counterpunch, that I am now editing somewhat. I wrote the article after countless late night phone discussions with one of my mentors, the late agriculture journalist Al Krebs who was a colleague of Walter Goldschmidt. Krebs is noted for his remarkable 1992 book entitled “The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness“. It was Krebs, therefore, who introduced me to Goldschmidt’s research and book “As You Sow“. If we think we’ve been manipulated and lied to by the Trump administration in the 21st century at the behest of corporate America, just hearken back to the mid-20th century and the reaction to the Goldschmidt research that was funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Franklin Roosevelt was President at the time. In response to the 1930’s depression, Roosevelt had been successful in establishing his New Deal policies and, for the first time, the U.S. government assumed a central role in the responsibility for the economic security of the people and the economic growth of the nation. More than anything, Roosevelt probably saved American capitalism. A lot of the New Deal measures (i.e. social security, insurance for the jobless) served in the interest of American capitalists to ensure there was a pool of satisfied workers available to them. Some will also note that this was a program when affirmative action was for whites, which, of course has been on-going. But these corporate elite, and Congress itself, were not going to let the government go too far in the protection of workers – regardless of color – and certainly not in offering vast amounts of wealth creation for average Americans. But some within the US government in the Roosevelt era actually did want to explore what should or could be “just economic policies” to help the average Americans advance economically, but these efforts were also curtailed by corporate America’s 1% and corporate America’s Congressional/governmental allies. The Roosevelt Era on Concentrated Wealth Issues and Research on the Dramatic Impact of Concentrated Wealth on Rural Communities The Roosevelt era was a time of reflection and analysis on the impact of unregulated capital along with the concentration of wealth and its impact on the economy, society and culture. An abundance of questions arose as Americans lived through what is referred to as the Great Depression of the 1930’s. One division within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was central to this debate and it was the legendary and now defunct Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE). This is a rather innocuous sounding name of a USDA department that was so incredibly threatening to the American corporate giants. The BAE and the Bureau of Reclamation had the temerity to actually consider the impact of excessive wealth on the quality of life in rural America. In the 1940’s, the BAE wanted to study whether the 160-acre limitation should be applied to the growing California agricultural production sector. BAE wisely thought it best to engage in a scientific study of the issue, as in, that the impacts should actually be known, or at the very least intelligently understood, before initiating policy! The young social anthropologist, Walter Goldschmidt, was given the responsibility for conducting this California research, which became known as the “Arvin-Dinuba” study.
Goldschmidt, in fact, ultimately became the president of the American Anthropological Association. The results of his work resonate for today’s and the world’s rural and urban communities. Prior to him receiving the contract from USDA, Goldschmidt had looked at similar issues in Wasco, California. In his “What If” presentation in 1993, Goldschmidt said:
“Half a century ago I was in the town of Wasco, California making a study of community life and social organization. The study showed that industrial farming creates an urbanized social system. That is, where agricultural production is dominated by highly mechanized labor with necessarily high capital requirements and the use of large amounts of hired labor the result is a social order characterized by impersonal social relationships, social class differentiation and conflict, and the dominance of monetary over other social values. As you sow, so shall you reap? The study was published under the title “As You Sow.”
This finding was far from trivial, obvious as it may now seem. Republicans as well as Democrats have espoused the Jeffersonian agrarian philosophy; the Great American Myth is fundamentally agrarian and the small town has long been seen as the bastion of basic American values.
It is the very heart and soul of our egalitarianism and therefore our democratic institutions and central to our values. In this view the California situation was seen as an aberration, as had the slavery of our southern plantation economy — over which we fought a major war.
Three years after Wasco, I was asked to provide an answer to a simple question: What difference does it make if the farm units are large or small? The question was asked as part of the Central Valley Project Studies; a research program designed to examine the impact of that project and set the basis for policy matters.
The Central Valley Project (CVP) in California was developed by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau operated under a then 40-year old ruling that irrigation waters developed (and subsidized) by it must be sold to land units of 160 acres or less. The Question therefore was: Should this ruling be applied to the beneficiaries of CVP?
I initiated a study comparing the two towns of Arvin and Dinuba, one representing those communities dominated by large-scale enterprises and the other representing the towns where small family-sized operations were the rule.
The study showed unequivocally that the town surrounded by the small farms was far superior by every measure that I could devise.”
Agriculture scholar Al Krebs notes the following regarding Goldschmidt’s research:
“What the Arvin-Dinuba study revealed has become near legend in the argument for perpetuating the ‘family farm system’ of agriculture throughout rural America. Dinuba was found far superior to Arvin as the quality of life in each community was directly related to the inequities in landholdings and directly reflected in the difference in the community’s economic, political and social stability.
‘Large scale farm operations was immediately seen to take an important part in the creation of the conditions found in Arvin,’ Goldschmidt reported. ‘Its direct causative effect is to create a community made up of a few persons of high economic position, and a mass of individuals whose economic status and whose security and stability are low, and who are economically dependent directly on the few. In the framework of American culture, more particularly that of industrialized farming, this creates immediately a situation where community participation and leadership, economic well-being, and business activities are relatively impoverished.’
The small-farm community of Dinuba was supporting 62 separate businesses with a volume of trade of $4.3 million, while the large-farm community of Arvin had 35 established business establishments; expenditures for household supplies and building equipment were over three times greater in the small-farm community; Dinuba had a larger dollar-volume of agricultural production; over one-half of the breadwinners in the small-farm community were independently employed, while in the large-farm community less than one-fifth were so employed: public services in the small-farm community were far better; the small farm community had two newspapers while the large-farm community had one, and the small-farm community had twice the number of organizations for civic improvement and recreation. As applied to a small-farm community the 160 acreage limitation principle was also found not only to be justified, but one that should be encouraged and supported.
Reaction to the Arvin-Dinuba study was immediate and ominous. Repeated efforts were made to block its publication, the study having been completed in 1944. When it finally was issued in December, 1946, due principally to the efforts of Dewey Anderson of the Senate Small Business Committee and U.S. Senator James E. Murray, committee chairman, it was with a quid pro quo that no mention WHATSOEVER be made of USDA’s involvement in the study.
Efforts, principally by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and its corporate agribusiness allies, were made in the press, on the radio, and in Congress to discredit the study and the activities of the BAE, a long-time adversary of the AFBF.
In fact, the USDA’s Appropriations Act for 1947 contained the following codicil: ‘That no part of the funds herein appropriated or made available to the [BAE] under the heading `Economic Investigation’ shall be used for state or county land and planning, for conducting cultural surveys, or for the maintenance of regional offices.’ (emphasis added)
In further reflection on the events surrounding this study, Goldschmidt now believes those who sabotaged his expanded research into a larger sample of communities knew exactly what it would reveal. It was much easier to discount the Arvin-Dinuba conclusions than it would have been to dismiss the results of a much more comprehensive study.
Nearly sixty years later that “sabotaging” by corporate agribusiness and its same allies like the AFBF who sought to discount Goldschmidt’s findings, continues to this very day.
Professionalization of the Farm Worker Goldschmidt said further that, ‘My recommendations in “As You Sow” were that it was essential to recognize the industrial quality of farming, which clearly was already diffusing throughout the nation, and its urban consequences, (this) meant that the regulations of the Labor Relations Act should be applied to the agricultural sector and that unions should not only be allowed to develop, but should be encouraged. What was needed was a professionalization of the farm worker.’ He continues, ‘These recommendations were also not followed. Instead, we have had the continued exploitation of the farm workers, the increased concentration of land ownership in the hands of the few, greater difficulties for the small farmer precisely because they were not protected from such centralized control of the markets, and all the other difficulties that derive from an unregulated industrialized agricultural system.’ Congress and Corporate America Threatened by Goldschmidt’s Findings
As mentioned above, corporate America and the USDA did not want Goldschmidt’s findings to be revealed and Congress made sure that the BAE no longer engaged in rural ‘quality of life’ studies. Once again, corporate America attempted to belittle the opportunities for wealth creation and creative competition in the American economy – both rural and urban. Americans lost considerably because the government, as it is inclined, bowed to corporate America rather then in the interests of the masses of American citizens.
More than that, however, we lost efficiency and land saving policies. As Goldschmidt and others have noted, we have let industrial agriculture expand almost unabated. Yet, small family farmers and a diverse economy in rural or urban America are not only best for the development of a strong thriving economy, but for a healthy planet as well. Small farmers have always been known as the most efficient producers and the best conservationists and many Americans, at long last, are finally beginning to realize this fact.
What we have witnessed in the past century, of course, is the Walmartization of the American economy, as in the devastation of small local businesses and “driving displaced workers into low paying chain store jobs” (Collins).
And this Walmartization is being applied to American foreign policy as well, as through trade initiatives and the likes of the World Trade Organization. Under the NAFTA agreement, for example, the U.S. forced Mexico to change its land tenure laws allowing for foreigners to purchase land for the first time and to open up more intensive dumping of industrially produced cheap corn and other products on the Mexican markets. As we expected, the trade policies resulted in the undercutting of prices as well as the destabilization of small farmers. This has had a devastating impact on Mexico’s excellent small farming communities and likely one of the reasons we witnessed huge numbers of Mexican economic refugees attempting to come across the U.S. border. Some 2 million Mexican farmers had been forced off the land. The “poor” immigrants are unfairly blamed for disruption, when the finger needs to be pointed at Congress, corporate America and the U.S. trade policies.
Concentrated wealth is not healthy for any community – rural or urban – and is counter-productive to both quality of life and democratic principals. The current US paradigm of support for excessive wealth and trickle down economics doesn’t work; is not good for anyone. A new paradigm of common wealth and resource distribution is necessary to let human genius have an opportunity to flourish and be sustainable. Americans need to pay attention to this and stop bowing to greed. As Goldschmidt concludes, “the price of liberty is external vigilance. I fear that we have been insufficiently vigilant.”
(1) Aftermath of Goldschmidt study and on-going research by Heather Gray:
Since the Goldschmidt study in the 1940’s, numerous rural anthropologists and economists have attempted to replicate his study, which has never been successfully refuted. In fact, in the 1990s, at a Kellogg Foundation meeting in North Carolina, I met a scholar from Cornell University who was surprised I knew about the Goldschmidt studies, as the assumption is that most people don’t. Nevertheless, he also said that for years Cornell had engaged in research challenging the Goldschmidt findings and that they had never been able to invalidate Goldschmidt’s research.
(2) Excerpts from doctoral dissertation by Isao Fujimoto (February 2010) that refers to Goldschmidt as well as the history of post-World War II community development to stop the spread of communism:
….community development has always centered around two basic questions: (1) what should be done and (2) who will do it?
The first community development projects in the post-World War II era (1946- 65) answered these two questions as follows: (1) focus on growth and (2) engage large institutions and governmental agencies (Goran, 1998). The Marshall Plan targeting Greece, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Western Germany, aimed to stop the spread of communism by initiating economic development projects that would increase growth and gross national products. This top-down effort was extended to less-developed countries throughout the Third World under the Point Four Program, initiated in 1949. The Ford Foundation’s programs in India and other developing countries, especially in South Asia, for example, were quintessential “top down” efforts during that era. The emphasis was on large-scale growth and population control managed by experts. The underlying assumption was that poorer communities would benefit through a “trickle down” effect (Richmond, 1998). It was further supposed that such growth would suppress the spread of communism in the Third World (Bell, 1971).
This approach had its limits, however, and during the second phase (1965-75) efforts were made to decentralize the process. The focus was still on growth but with modifications to include citizen participation so as to get that “trickle” to actually make it to the bottom. An example is the U.S. War on Poverty, which directed attention to the local level with federal government funding for major poverty alleviation programs.
The energy crisis of the 1970s, the restructuring of the capitalist mode of production, and growing realization of the negative consequences of industrial agriculture on the quality of life in rural communities again forced a shift in community development theory and practice (Halpern, 1995; O’Connor, 2001). What became clear is that continued emphasis on growth, even with modified decentralization, did not necessarily improve the quality of life for people at the local level.
The appropriate technology and sustainable agriculture movements which followed in the 1970s addressed these concerns and led to an even more profound shift within the community development field. From 1975-1985 the focus moved from reliance on growth and experts to approaches stressing equity and people’s involvement in the decision-making process. For example, to deal with the energy shortage, community groups emphasized conservation and alternative sources of energy, rather than encouraging oil companies to search for more oil in environmentally-sensitive locations. Food production that relied on chemical and petroleum inputs, rather than environmentally sound approaches, was increasingly seen as detrimental to long range goals for sustainable and healthy economies and people….
….Beyond the traditional observations that east side farms are smaller scale family operations while larger scale corporate farms dominate the Westside, there is an additional east-west contrast within the southern San Joaquin worth noting. This revolves around the control of water. The Westside is a region in which the federal Central Valley Project and the California water projects operate. The Westside is also the region in which discussions regarding water marketing are taking place. Underlying those discussions is a more basic question: Given the extreme importance of water, to agriculture in the Central Valley and to life in general, who should make key decisions about water use, water pricing and now water sales?
The scale and approach of farming in the Central Valley are such that farming approximates what agricultural geographer Howard Gregor called “plantation agriculture.” According to Gregor, plantation agricultural production involves monoculture for distant markets produced on large tracts of land, dependent on large scale machinery, and employing laborers of ethnic backgrounds often physically distinct from managers or owners (Gregor, 1962).
Whereas smaller scale operations have prevailed on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, plantation scale agriculture characterizes the Westside. The social impact of such contrasting approaches on the quality of rural life was the subject of Walter Goldschmidt’s classic 1947 study of the Central Valley towns of Arvin and Dinuba (Goldschmidt, 1978). Dinuba in Tulare County, a community of small farms on the Valley’s east side was compared with Arvin in Kern County, surrounded by large scale operations. In all matters of community vibrancy such as participation in civic life, diversity of services and opportunities, pride and well being of its citizens, the community of Dinuba fared much more favorably than in Arvin. Questions regarding agricultural structure and its impact on the quality of life in communities of the Central Valley are still pertinent today. The preceding discussion, charts, and tables suggest that many of the negative features that marked life in 1940s Arvin still persist in many places today.
Heather Gray is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news.