Monthly Archives: December 2016

Albert Einstein on Socialism


Note: In Einstein’s profound statement below about socialism, he essentially describes today’s world of concentrated wealth – the 1% versus the 99%  – and it’s control over the American political system. As Einstein states “The result of these developments (i.e concentrated wealth) is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. “

And while Einstein wrote this piece in 1949, he wisely echoes – decades later – the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 Citizens United decision that basically handed over, on a silver platter, the American democracy to the corporate “concentrated wealth” elite.

Regarding the methods of control of concentrated wealth, Einstein states, “… the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. “

And further, regarding the insidious methods used by America’s capitalists to control the people, Einstein notes: “Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights”.

Heather Gray

Why Socialism?

by Albert Einstein
Monthly Review (1949)

Albert Einstein is the world-famous physicist. This article was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949). It was subsequently published in May 1998 to commemorate the first issue of MR’s fiftieth year.
-The Editors

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has-as is well known-been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and-if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous-are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society-in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence-that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished-just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time-which, looking back, seems so idyllic-is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor-not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production-that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods-may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production-although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.


FDR and the New Deal: Programs, Timeline, Did It Work? 3 Surprising Ways the New Deal Affects You Today

Note: As America is about to begin another presidential administration that will, as is already noted, challenge some of the excellent on-going New Deal programs established by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, I wanted to share information about some of these profound programs. Many of them were meant specifically to help the poor and/or those overall who struggled from the impact of the depression in the 1920’s and 30’s.

The programs were, in addition to assisting millions of Americans, also a considered a challenge by America’s wealthy corporate, political and military elite many of whom cried “socialism”.  Yet this label of “socialism” was far from true. It was largely a “mixed” economic system promoted by New Dealers. It included both public monies being appropriately used to assist and protect the masses of the people along with  on-going capitalist ventures in the private sector.  The New Deal programs then and today probably saved and continue to save American capitalism.  As author Kimberly Amadeo notes below:

Even today, New Deal programs soften the extremes of the business cycle. Before the New Deal (1797-1929), there were 33 major economic downturns, 22 recessions, four depressions and seven bank runs and panics. They impacted 60 of the 132 years covered. Recessions were more severe than they are today because there weren’t the New Deal federal agencies to control corruption, fraud, and exploitation.

The New Deal was, nevertheless, far from perfect. Some refer to it as affirmative action for whites as the programs were mostly not equitable in terms of services and opportunities for the Black community in education, agriculture, housing and other job opportunities, etc. Nor was there protection and services offered for farm workers across the country.  In many instances, the programs were not equitable thanks largely to the discriminatory/racist staff throughout the country that implemented the programs and not necessarily because of the actual legislation. (This scenario is echoed by one of my colleagues at Tuskegee University in Alabama regarding agriculture policies. He noted that “the closer you are to the farmer the harder it is to implement policy” – and this is because of on-going “white” racist staff in agriculture offices throughout the South.)

The New Deal programs, however, need to be continued as well as improved upon to be more inclusive to protect American individuals and society overall.

Heather Gray

FDR and the New Deal: Programs, Timeline, Did It Work?
3 Surprising Ways the New Deal Affects You Today
November 08, 2016
The Balance
Definition: The New Deal was a promise made by Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the Great Depression. Americans, battered by 25% unemployment, Dust Bowl droughts, and four waves of bank failures, were ready for the government to be the champion and come to the rescue. The New Deal was a far cry from the previous “…hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government,” derided by FDR in his 1936 Campaign speech.
Why Did FDR Propose the New Deal?
FDR’s predecessor, Herbert Hoover, didn’t do much to stop the Depression. He believed in a free market economy that would self-correct. He was also concerned that economic assistance would make people want to stop working. Hoover’s biggest concern was keeping the budget balanced. As the Depression wore on, government revenue fell. To keep from running a deficit, Hoover cut spending.
Even when Congress pressured Hoover to take action, he focused on stabilizing businesses. He believed that this would trickle down to the average person.
Instead, the Depression worsened. FDR proposed the New Deal to reverse this downward spiral. The goal was relief, recovery, and reform, for those who were hardest hit. (Source: Collin County Community College District, The Great Depression and the New Deal)
New Deal Programs
FDR launched the New Deal in three waves from 1933-1939.
Congress passed these 47 programs to stabilize the U.S. financial system, provide  relief to farmers and jobs to the unemployed, and build private-public  partnerships to boost manufacturing. Here’s a timeline of when they began and what they did.
  • Emergency Banking Act – March 9: FDR closed all banks as soon as he was inaugurated to stop bank runs. This Act allowed banks to reopen once  examiners found them to be financially secure.  Five thousand banks reopened in the next three days.
  • Government Economy Act – March 20: Cut the pay of government and military employees by 15%, and cut government spending by 25%. The $1 billion saved went to finance New Deal programs.
  • Beer-Wine Revenue Act – March 22: Ended Prohibition and taxed alcohol sales, raising federal revenue.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps – March 31: Hired 3 million workers over the next ten years to conserve public land by planting forests, building flood barriers and maintaining roads and trails.
  • Abandonment of Gold Standard – April 19: FDR stopped a run on the precious metal by ordering everyone to exchange all gold for dollars.
  • Federal Emergency Relief Act – May 12: Funded a wide variety of jobs in agriculture, the arts, construction, and education.
  • Agricultural Adjustment Act – May 12: Paid farmers to limit crops. Doubled crop prices by 1937. Overturned by Supreme Court in 1935 because it taxed processors, then gave funds to farmers. Was remedied in 1938.
  • Emergency Farm Mortgage Act – May 12:  Provided loans to save farms from foreclosure.
  • Tennessee Valley Authority Act – May 18: Built power stations in the Tennessee Valley, the poorest area in the nation.
  • Securities Act – May 27: Required corporations to provide information to investors before issuing stock.
  • Abrogation of Gold Payment Clause – June 5: The government no longer had to repay dollars with gold.
  • Home Owners Refinancing Act – June 13: Established the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), which refinanced mortgages to prevent foreclosures. It also provided additional capital to mortgage lenders. When it closed in 1935, it had refinanced one million homes (20% of all urban mortgages).
  • Glass-Steagall Banking Act – June 16: Separated investment banking from retail banking, which prevented banks from using depositors’ funds for risky investments. It gave regulation of retail banks to the Federal Reserve, prohibited bank sales of securities, and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
  • National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) – June 16: Set up the Public Works Administration (PWA) to create public works jobs, like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and New York City’s Triborough Bridge. Created the National Recovery Administration to outlaw child labor, establish a minimum wage of $1.25, and limit the workday to eight hours. It gave trade unions the legal right to bargain with employers. It was declared unconstitutional in 1935.
  • Emergency Railroad Transportation Act – June 16: Attempted to coordinate the national railway systems, reduce duplication and improve profitability to railroad companies. It expired in 1935.
  • Civil Works Administration – November 8: Created 4 million higher-paying jobs in construction. Cities and towns had to add to the $400 million in federal funds. It was canceled in 1934 due to cost.
In 1934, conservative businessmen criticized the New Deal as for being too socialistic. Others, like Louisiana politician Huey Long, said it didn’t do enough for the poor. Nevertheless, FDR pushed for these additional programs:
  • Gold Reserve Act  – January 30: FDR prohibited private gold ownership. He increased the price of gold to $35 per ounce, up from $20.67 per ounce where it had been for 100 years. That nearly doubled the value of the gold held in Fort Knox from $4.033 billion to $7.348 billion, making the U.S. the world’s largest owner of gold.
  • National Housing Act – June 27: Established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) which provides Federal insurance for mortgages.
  • Securities Exchange Act – Created the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates stocks and the stock market.
  • Federal Communications Act – Consolidated all federal regulation of telephone, telegraph, and radio communications under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 1935, the Supreme Court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act. Concerned that other programs would also be eliminated, FDR launched the second round of New Deal programs. These focused on providing more services for the poor, the unemployed and farmers. FDR spoke about helping the “…millions who never had a chance — men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms.”
  • Soil Conservation & Domestic Allotment Act – February 26:   Paid farmers to plant soil-building crops,  like beans and grasses, to counteract the Dust Bowl.
  • Emergency Relief Appropriation – April 8: Replaced FERA and funded the new Works Progress Administration (WPA) with $5 million. It employed  8.5 million people to build bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports. It paid artists to create 2,566 murals and 17,744 pieces of sculpture to decorate the public works.
  • Rural Electrification Act – May 20: Provided loans to farming cooperatives to generate electricity for their rural areas.
  • National Labor Relations Act /Wagner Act – July: Protected the rights of employees to organize and address working conditions, with or without a union, and created the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Resettlement Act:  Created Resettlement Administration (RA), which  trained  farmers, and administered farm debt adjustment activities. It bought ten million acres of submarginal farm land and paid farmers to convert it to pasture, preserves, or parks. It resettled farmers onto better land and taught them modern conservation and farming techniques.
  • Social Security Act (SSA) – August:  Created the Social Security Trust Fund and Administration to provides income to the elderly, the blind, the disabled and children in low-income families.
In 1937, FDR rolled out the Third New Deal. However, he was concerned about budget deficits, so did not fund it as strongly as the previous two.
  • Federal Security Agency – Administered Social Security, federal education funding, and food and drug safety. It was abolished in 1953. For more, see Timeline of the Great Depression.
Did It Work?
The table below shows clearly that the New Deal worked. After the first New Deal was launched, the economy grew 10.8% in 1934. When the second New Deal rolled out, the economy grew 8.9% in 1935 and 12.9% in 1936. After government spending was cut in 1937, the economy contracted 3.3%.

From 1932, the year before the New Deal, to 1941, when the U.S. entered the war, the debt only grew by $3 billion. The next year, defense spending quadrupled the amount added to the debt by a whopping $23 billion. The amount added tripled to $64 billion in 1943. If that much had been spent in the first year of the New Deal, it would have ended the Depression right there and then.

That disproves those who say the New Deal didn’t work because the Depression lasted for ten years.  They point out that defense spending on World War II was the only thing that ended the Depression. (Source: “The New Deal,” Roosevelt Forward.)

Even today, New Deal programs soften the extremes of the business cycle. Before the New Deal (1797-1929), there were 33 major economic downturns, 22 recessions, four depressions and seven bank runs and panics. They impacted 60 of the 132 years covered. Recessions were more severe than they are today because there weren’t the New Deal federal agencies to control corruption, fraud, and exploitation. For more, see Effects of the Great Depression.
Since WWII, there have been 11 recessions that impacted just ten out 60 years. They were milder than those before, thanks to the safety nets of the New Deal. (Source: “Forgetting the Why of the New Deal,” Consortium Beverly Bandler,”FDR and the New Deal.” pdf, 20 pp, August 27, 2012)
Could It Have Prevented World War II?
Consider this. FDR spent thirty times more in 1943 on the war than he did in 1933 on the New Deal. There was no resistance on war spending as there was on domestic spending. No one was worried about the budget deficit when the world was worried about Hitler’s military dominance. However, concerns about the budget deficit sabotaged the New Deal from ending the Depression’s global economic catastrophe. Why do military threats engender so much more public support than economic ones?

If FDR had spent as much on the New Deal in 1933 as he did in the war in 1943, it would have ended the Depression by creating jobs, demand, and economic growth. The Depression’s misery helped propel the German people to put the Nazis and Hitler in power. If FDR and the New Deal had ended the Depression in the early 1930s, the U.S. could have turned its resources sooner to helping its allies, Great Britain, and France. It would have at least shortened, if not prevented, World War II.
FDR and the New Deal Timeline
What Happened
1929 – Hoover became President. Stock market crash in October kicked off Depression. $1 billion surplus. Unemployment at 3.2%.
1930 – Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff to protect jobs. Trading partners retaliated, driving world trade down 65%. The economy contracted 8.5%, unemployment rose to 8.7%. Another $1 billion surplus.
1931 – Fed raised rates to defend the gold standard, worsening depression. The economy contracted 6.4%, unemployment rose to 15.9%, and debt increased by $1 billion.
1932 – FDR campaigned on New Deal promises. The economy contracted 12.9%, and unemployment rose to 23.6%. Lower revenues added. $3 billion to debt.
1933 – FDR took office, immediately launched 16 programs in First New Deal. Added $3 billion to debt. Depression started to lift, as economy only contracted 1.3%. Unemployment rose to 24.9%.
1934 – Economy grew 10.8%, and unemployment fell to 21.7%. $5 billion added to the debt.
1935 – FDR added 2nd New Deal, adding $2 billion to debt. The economy grew 8.9% and unemployment fell to 20.1%.
1936 – Economy grew, 12.9%, reducing unemployment to 16.9%. $5 billion added to the debt.
1937 – FDR started 2nd term. Fearing budget deficit, he cut spending only adding $3 billion to debt, despite rolling out Third New Deal. The economy grew 5.1% and unemployment fell to 14.3%.
1938 – No more New Deal legislation was passed, and spending was cut., so only $1 billion added to the debt. Unemployment rose to 19%, the economy shrank 3.3%.
1939 – Dust Bowl drought ended. U.S. spent to build up the military as Europe entered WWII, adding $3 billion to debt. The economy grew 8.0%, unemployment fell to 17.2%.
1940 – Unemployment fell to 14.6% as U.S. started the draft. FDR won reelection. Assisted Great Britain by sending weapons, adding $3 billion to debt. The economy grew 8.8%.
1941 – FDR began his third term. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December. U.S. entered WWII. Spending eliminated Depression, adding $6 billion to debt. The economy grew 17.7%, unemployment fell to 9.9%.
1942 – Unemployment fell to 4.7% while the economy grew 18.9%. War spending added $23 billion to debt.
1943 – War added $64 billion to debt. GDP growth was 17.0%, unemployment fell to 1.9%. Italy surrendered.
1944 – War added $64 billion to debt. GDP growth was 8.0%, unemployment was 1.2%. The Bretton-Woods Agreement made the dollar the global currency.
1945 – FDR died in April. Truman became President. Added $58 billion to debt. Germany surrendered in May. Truman dropped a nuclear bomb in August. Japan surrendered in September, ending WWII. The economy contracted 1.0% and unemployment edged up to 1.9% as soldiers returned home.

What is genocide?

Preface: Yesterday I sent out information about the 65th anniversary of the 1951 “We Charge Genocide” document submitted to the United Nations by many leading Black activists in the United States. One of the notes I received about “We Charge Genocide” was as follows that basically questions the accusation of “genocide”:

Hello, Heather,

Apart from dramatic flair, I don’t see what is gained by erasing the distinction between the mass murder sense of genocide and racism or colonialism and their associated. white supremacist ideologies. If the term has meaning, the African American people of the US (as opposed to Native Americans) have plainly not been the victims of genocide.

Some of those in the 1940s and 50s also questioned this accusation of genocide until they looked closely at the United Nations definition of “genocide” which is, importantly, inclusive of much of what Black America has experienced since Africans they were brought in chains to the American shores as slaves. So in the 1940s and 50s they developed the document “We Charge Genocide” along with evidence of genocide in the United States and, importantly,  delivered it to the United Nations in 1951. Below is the definition of “genocide” from the United Nations delineated in 1948.


Heather Gray



What is genocide?


The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (article 2) defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group … ”, including:
  1. (a)  Killing members of the group;
  2. (b)  Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. (c)  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about   its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. (d)  Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. (e)  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Convention confirms that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention undertake “to prevent and to punish” (article 1). The primary responsibility to prevent and stop genocide lies with the State in which this crime takes place.

Genocide often occurs in societies in which different national, racial, ethnic or religious groups become locked in identity-related conflicts. However, it is not the differences in identity per se that generate conflict, but rather the gross inequalities associated with those differences in terms of access to power and resources, social services, development opportunities and the enjoy- ment of fundamental rights and freedoms. It is often the targeted group’s reactions to these inequalities, and counter-reactions by the dominant group, that generate conflict that can escalate to genocide.
The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and fore- most with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the emergent concept of the responsibility to protect. The three pillars of the responsibility to protect, as stipulated in the Outcome Document of the 2005 United Nations World Summit, are:
  1. (1)  The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;
  2. (2)  The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;
  3. (3)  The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
If the root causes of genocide revolve around inequalities between iden- tity groups, preventing genocide begins with ensuring that all groups within society enjoy the rights and dignity of belonging as equal citizens. Early prevention therefore becomes a challenge of good governance and equitable management of diversity. That means eliminating gross political and economic inequalities, and promoting a common sense of belonging on equal footing.

65th Anniversary of “We Charge Genocide!” 1951 American report to the United Nations


by Heather Gray
December 17, 2016
URL: Justice Initiative International  


Sixty-five years ago today, on December 17, 1951, Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson presented to the United Nations a document entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People”. Below please find 2 reports:

(1) “We Charge Genocide!” from Liberty and Justice for All, that provides details about the document and it’s presentation to the  United Nations in the United States and Paris on December 17, 1951; and

(2) The beginning narrative of  “We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (1951)” from Black Past. (The entire document is 237 pages that includes examples of genocide in the United States.)

At the end of these 2 reports are also links to the entire 1951 “We Charge Genocide” petition to the United Nations from the incredibly valuable and resourceful website “Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement“.

This historic document present issues that are relevant today and given the ongoing atrocities in America, many are in agreement that an updated contemporary version of “We Charge Genocide” should presented to the United Nations. Below please find information about youth from Chicago doing precisely that by presenting  information about atrocities in Chicago to the UN during its “Convention Against Torture Committee Review of the U.S.” in 2014.

I am thankful to activists/journalists Marian Douglas-Ungaro and Ernest Dunkley for their advice and support of this call for action regarding presenting an update to the United Nations of “We Charge Genocide”. If you are also interested in this call for action please send me an email at Heather Gray –

We Charge Genocide!

Liberty and Justice for All

“We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People” is a paper accusing the United States government of genocide according to the UN Genocide Convention. This work was written by the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) and presented to the United Nations at meetings in Paris in December (17) 1951.

The document pointed out that the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defined genocide as any acts committed with “intent to destroy” a group, “in whole or in part.” To build its case for black genocide, the document cited many instances of lynching in the United States, as well as legal discrimination, disenfranchisement of blacks in the South, a series of incidents of police brutality dating to the present, and systematic inequalities in health and quality of life. The central argument: the US government is both complicit with and responsible for a genocidal situation based on the UN’s own definition of genocide.

The document received international media attention and became caught up in Cold War politics, as the CRC was supported by the American communist party. Its many examples of shocking conditions for African Americans shaped beliefs about the United States in countries across the world. The American government and white press accused the CRC of exaggerating racial inequality in order to advance the cause of Communism. The US State Department forced CRC secretary William L. Patterson to surrender his passport after he presented the petition to a UN meeting in Paris.

Soon after the United Nations was created in 1945, it began to receive requests for assistance from peoples across the world. These came from the indigenous peoples of European colonies in Africa and Asia, but also from African Americans. The first group to petition the UN regarding African Americans was the National Negro Congress (NNC), which in 1946 delivered a statement on racial discrimination to the Secretary General. The next appeal, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1947, was more than 100 pages in length. W. E. B. Du Bois presented it to the UN on 23 October 1947, over the objections of Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of the late president and an American delegate to the UN. Du Bois, frustrated with the State Department’s opposition to the petitions, criticized president Walter White of the NAACP for accepting a position as consultant to the US delegation; White in turn pushed Du Bois out of the NAACP.

The petitions were praised by the international press and by Black press in the United States. America’s mainstream media, however, were ambivalent or hostile. Some agreed that there was some truth to the petitions, but suggested that ‘tattling’ to the UN would aid the cause of Communism. The Soviet Union did cite these documents as evidence of poor conditions in the United States.

The Civil Rights Congress (CRC), the successor to the International Labor Defense group and affiliated with the communist party, had begun to gain momentum domestically by defending Blacks sentenced to execution, such as Rosa Lee Ingram and the Trenton Six. The NNC joined forces with the CRC in 1947.

On 17 December 1951, the petition was presented to the United Nations by two separate venues: Paul Robeson, concert singer and activist, together with people who signed the petition, handed the document to a UN official in New York, while William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, delivered copies of the petition to a UN delegation in Paris. W. E. B. Du Bois, also slated to deliver the petition in Paris, had been classified by the US State Department as an “unregistered foreign agent” and was deterred from traveling. Du Bois had previously had an expensive legal battle against the Justice Department.

The 125 copies Patterson mailed to Paris did not arrive, allegedly intercepted by the US government. But Patterson distributed other copies, which he had shipped separately in small packages to individuals’ homes.

The document was signed by many leading activists and family of blacks who had suffered in the system, including:

W. E. B. Du Bois, African-American sociologist, historian and Pan-Africanist activist
George W. Crockett, Jr., African-American lawyer and politician
Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., African-American lawyer and communist 
Ferdinand Smith, New York councilman
Oakley C. Johnson, Communist activist
Aubrey Grossman, labor and civil rights lawyer
Claudia Jones, Communist and black nationalist activist
Rosalie McGee, the widow of Willie McGee, who in 1951 was executed after being controversially convicted of rape by an all-white jury
Josephine Grayson, the widow of Francis Grayson, one of the “Martinsville Seven”, who in 1951 were executed in Virginia after a much-publicized trial and conviction by an all-white jury
Amy Mallard and Doris Mallard, remaining family of Robert Childs Mallard, lynched in 1948 for voting
Paul Washington, veteran on death row in Louisiana
Wesley R. Wells, prisoner in California facing execution for throwing a cuspidor (a spittoon) at a guard
Horace Wilson, James Thorpe, Collis English, and Ralph Cooper, four of the Trenton Six

Patterson said he was ignored by US ambassador Ralph Bunche and delegate Channing Tobias, but that Edith Sampson would talk to him.

Patterson was ordered to surrender his passport at the United States embassy in France. When he refused, US agents said they would seize it at his hotel room. Patterson fled to Budapest, where through the newspaper Szabad Nép, he accused the US government of attempting to stifle the charges. The US government ordered Patterson to be detained when he passed through Britain and seized his passport when he returned to the United States. As Paul Robeson had been unable to obtain a passport at all, the difficulty these two men faced in traveling led some to accuse the American government of censorship.

“We Charge Genocide” was ignored by much of the mainstream American press, but the Chicago Tribune, which called it “shameful lies” (and evidence against the value of the Genocide Convention itself). I. F. Stone was the only white American journalist to write favorably of the document. The CRC had communist affiliations, and the document attracted international attention through the worldwide communist movement. Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term “genocide” and advocated for the Genocide Convention, disagreed with the petition because the African-American population was increasing in size. He accused its authors of wishing to distract attention from genocide in the Soviet Union, which had resulted in millions of deaths, because of their communist sympathies. Lemkin accused Patterson and Robeson of serving foreign powers. He published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Blacks did not experience the “destruction, death, annihilation” that would qualify their treatment as genocide.

The petition was particularly well received in Europe, where it received abundant press coverage. “We Charge Genocide” was popular almost everywhere in the world except in the United States. One American writer traveling India in 1952 found that many people had become familiar with the cases of the Martinsville Seven and Willie McGee through the document.

The American delegation heavily criticized the document. Eleanor Roosevelt called it “ridiculous”. Black delegates Edith Sampson and Channing Tobias spoke to European audiences about how the situation of African Americans was improving.

At the request of the State Department, the NAACP drafted a press release repudiating “We Charge Genocide”, calling it “a gross and subversive conspiracy”. However, upon hearing initial press reports of the petition and the expected NAACP response, Walter White decided against issuing the release. He and the board decided that the petition did reflect many of the NAACP views; for instance, the organization had long been publishing the toll of blacks who had been lynched. “How can we ‘blast’ a book that uses our records as source material?”, asked Roy Wilkins.

The CRC’s power was already declining due to accusations of Communism during the Red Scare, and it disbanded in 1956.

The United Nations did not acknowledge receiving the petition. Given the strength of US influence, it was not really expected to do so.

The document has been credited with popularizing the term “genocide” among Black people for their treatment in the US. After renewed interest generated by Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, We Charge Genocide was republished in 1970 by International Publishers. Allegations of genocide were renewed in relation to the disproportionate effects of crack cocaine and HIV/AIDS in the black communities in the United States. The National Black United Front petitioned the United Nations in 1996-1997, directly citing We Charge Genocide and using the same slogan….

During the UN Convention Against Torture Committee Review of the U.S. in November 2014, a group of eight young activists from Chicago, Illinois, (Breanna Champion, Page May, Monica Trinidad, Ethan Viets-VanLear, Asha Rosa , Ric Wilson, Todd St. Hill, and Malcolm London) submitted a shadow report using the name, We Charge Genocide. Their report addressed police brutality toward blacks in Chicago, the lack of police accountability, and the misuse of tasers by the Chicago Police Department.

On December 11th_ the We Charge Genocide youth delegation spoke at a public report back on their experiences in Geneva, Switzerland to an audience of over 200 in Chicago The entire event was live-streamed and the video is available here.

We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (1951)


Black Past


Out of the inhuman black ghettos of American cities, out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease.,  It is a record that calls aloud for condemnation, for an end to these terrible injustices that constitute a daily and ever-increasing violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

It is sometimes incorrectly thought that genocide means the complete and definitive destruction of a race or people.  The Genocide Convention, however, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948, defines genocide as any killings on the basis of race, or, in it specific words, as “killing members of the group.”  Any intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethnic or religious group is genocide, according to the Convention.  Thus, the Convention states, “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” is genocide as well as “killing members of the group.”

We maintain, therefore, that the oppressed Negro citizens of the United States, segregated, discriminated against and long the target of violence, suffer from genocide as the result of the consistent, conscious, unified policies of every branch of government.

The Civil Rights Congress has prepared and submits this petition to the General Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of the Negro people in the interest of peace and democracy, charging the Government of the United States of America with violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

We believe that in issuing this document we are discharging an historic responsibility to the American people, as well as rendering a service of inestimable value to progressive mankind.  We speak of the American people because millions of white Americans in the ranks of labor and the middle class, and particularly those who live in the southern states and are often contemptuously called poor whites, are themselves suffering to an ever-greater degree from the consequences of the Jim Crow segregation policy of government in its relations with Negro citrines.  We speak of progressive mankind because a policy of discrimination at home must inevitably create racist commodities for export abroad-must inevitably tend toward war.

We have not dealt here with the cruel and inhuman policy of this government toward the people of Puerto Rico.  Impoverished and reduced to a semi-literate state through the wanton exploitation and oppression by gigantic American concerns, through the merciless frame-up and imprisonment of hundred of its sons and daughter, this colony of the  rulers of the United States reveals in all its stark nakedness the moral bankruptcy of this government and those who control its home and foreign policies.

History has shown that the racist theory of government of the U.S.A. is not the private affair of Americans, but the concern of mankind everywhere.

It is our hope, and we fervently believe that it was the hope and aspiration of every black American whose voice was silenced forever through premature death at the hands of racist-minded hooligans or Klan terrorists, that the truth recorded here will be made known to the world; that it will speak with a tongue of fire loosing an unquenchable moral crusade, the universal response to which will sound the death knell of all racist theories.

We have scrupulously kept within the purview of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which is held to embrace those “acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such.”

We particularly pray for the most careful reading of this material by those who have always regarded genocide as a term to be used only where the acts of terror evinced an intent to destroy a whole nation.  We further submit that this Convention on Genocide is, by virtue of our avowed acceptance of the Covenant of the United Nations, an inseparable part of the law of the United States of America.

According to international law, and according to our own law, the Genocide Convention, as well as the provisions of the United Nations Charter, supersedes, negates and displaces all discriminatory racist law on the books of the United States and the several states.

The Hitler crimes, of awful magnitude, beginning as they did against the heroic Jewish people, finally drenched the world in blood, and left a record of maimed and tortured bodies, and devastated areas such as mankind had never seen before.  Justice Robert H. Jackson, who now sits upon the United States Supreme Court bench, described this holocaust to the world in the powerful language with which he opened the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders.  Every word he voiced against the monstrous Nazi beast applies with equal weight, we believe, to those who are guilty of the crimes herein set forth.

Here we present the documented crimes of federal, state and municipal governments in the United States of America, the dominant nation in the United Nations, against 15,000,000 of its own nationals-the Negro people of the United States.  These crimes are of the gravest concern to mankind.  The General Assembly of the United Nations, by reason of the United Nations Charter and the Genocide Convention, itself is invested with power to receive this indictment and act on it.

The proof of this face is its action upon the similar complaint of the Government of India against South Africa.

We call upon the United Nations to act and to call the government of the United States to account.

We believe that the test of the basic goals of a foreign policy is inherent in the manner in which a government treats its own nationals and is not to be found in the lofty platitudes that pervade so many treaties or constitutions.  The essence lies not in the form, but rather, in the substance.

The Civil Rights Congress is a defender of constitutional liberties, human rights, and of peace.  It is the implacable enemy of every creed, philosophy, social system or way of life that denies democratic rights or one iota of human dignity to any human being because of color, creed, nationality or political belief.

We ask all men and women of good will to unite to realize the objective set forth in the summary and prayer concluding this petition.  We believe that this program can go far toward ending the threat of a third world war.  We believe it can contribute to the establishment of a people’s democracy on a universal scale.

But may we add as a final note that the Negro people desire equality of opportunity in this land where their contributions to the economic, political and social developments have been of splendid proportions and in quality second to none.  They will accept nothing less, and continued efforts to force them into the category of second-class citizens through force and violence, through segregation, racist law and an institutionalized oppression, can only end in disaster for those responsible.

Respectfully submitted by the Civil Rights Congress as a service to the peoples of the world, and particularly to the lovers of peace and democracy in the United States of America

William L. Patterson
National Executive Secretary Civil Rights Congress

To the General Assembly of the United Nations:

The responsibility of being the first in history to charge the government of the United States of America with the crime of genocide is not one your petitioners take lightly.  The responsibility is particularly grave when citizens must charge their own government with mass murder of its own nationals, with institutionalized oppression and persistent slaughter of the Negro people in the United States on a basis of “race,” a crime abhorred by mankind and prohibited by the conscience of the world as expressed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948.

Genocide Leads to Fascism and to War

If our duty is unpleasant it is historically necessary both for the welfare of the American people and for the peace of the world.  We petition as American patriots, sufficiently anxious to save our countrymen and all mankind from the horrors of war to shoulder a task as painful as it is important.  We cannot forget Hitler’s demonstration that genocide at home can become wider massacre abroad, that domestic genocide develops into the larger genocide that is predatory war.  The wrongs of which we complain are so much the expression of predatory American reaction and its government that civilization cannot ignore them nor risk their continuance without courting its own destruction.  We agree with those members of the General Assembly who declared that genocide is a matter of world concern because its practice imperils world safety.

But if the responsibility of your petitioners is great, it is dwarfed by the responsibility of those guilty of the crime we charge.  Seldom in human annals has so iniquitous a conspiracy been so gilded with the trappings of respectability.  Seldom has mass murder on the score of “race” been so sanctified by law, so justified by those who demand free elections abroad even as they kill their fellow citizens who demand free elections at home.  Never have so many individuals been so ruthlessly destroyed amid many tributes to the sacredness of the individual.  The distinctive trait of this genocide is a cant that mouths aphorisms of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence even as it kills.

The genocide of which we complain is as much a fact as gravity.  The whole world knows of it.  The proof is in every day’s newspapers, in every one’s sight and hearing in these United States.  In one form or another it has been practiced for more than three hundred years although never with such sinister implications for the welfare and peace of the world as at present.  Its very familiarity disguises its horror.  It is a crime so embedded in law, so explained away by specious rationale, so hidden by talk of liberty, that even the conscience of the tender minded is sometimes dulled.  Yet the conscience of mankind cannot be beguiled from its duty by the pious phrases and the deadly legal euphemisms with which its perpetrators seek to transform their guilt into high moral purpose.

Killing Members of the Group

Your petitioners will prove that the crime of which we complain is in fact genocide within the terms and meaning of the United Nations Convention providing for the prevention and punishment of this crime.  We shall submit evidence, tragically voluminous, of “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such,” – in this case the 15,000,000 Negro people of the United States.

We shall submit evidence proving “killing members of the group,” in violation of Article II of the Convention.  We cite killings by police, killings by incited gangs, killings at night by masked men, killings always on the basis of “race,” killings by the Ku Klux Klan, that organization which is charted by the several states as a semi-official arm of government and even granted the tax exemptions of a benevolent society.

Our evidence concerns the thousands of Negroes who over the years have been beaten to death on chain gangs and in the back rooms of sheriff’s offices, in the cells of county jails, in precinct police stations  and on city streets, who have been framed and murdered by sham legal forms and by a legal bureaucracy.  It concerns those Negroes who have been killed, allegedly for failure to say “sir” or tip their hats or move aside quickly enough, or, more often, on trumped up charges of “rape,'” but in reality for trying to vote or otherwise demanding the legal and inalienable rights and privileges of United States citizenship formally guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States, rights denied them on the basis of “race,” in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the United Nations Charter, and the Genocide Convention.

Economic Genocide

We shall offer proof of economic genocide, or in the words of the Convention, proof of “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.”  We shall prove that such conditions so swell the infant and maternal death rate and the death rate from disease, that the American Negro is deprived, when compared with the remainder of the population of the United States, of eight years of life on the average.

Further we shall show a deliberate national oppression of these 15,000,000 Negro Americans on the basis of “race” to perpetuate these “conditions of life.”  Negroes are the last hired and the first fired.  They are forced into city ghettos or their rural equivalents.  They are segregated legally or through sanctioned violence into filthy, disease-bearing housing, and deprived by law of adequate medical care and education.  From birth to death, Negro Americans are humiliated and persecuted, in violation of the Charter and Convention.  They are forced by threat of violence and imprisonment into inferior, segregated accommodations, into jim crow busses, jim crow trains, jim crow hospitals, jim crow schools, jim crow theaters, jim crow restaurants, jim crow housing, and finally into jim crow cemeteries.

We shall prove that the object of this genocide, as of all genocide, is the perpetuation of economic and political power by the few through the destruction of political protest by the many.  Its method is to demoralize and divide an entire nation; its end is to increase the profits and unchallenged control by a reactionary clique.  We shall show that those responsible for this crime are not the humble but the so-called great, not the American people but their misleaders, not the convict but the robed judge, not the criminal but the police, not the spontaneous mob but organized terrorists licensed and approved by the state to incite to a Roman holiday.

We shall offer evidence that this genocide is not plotted in the dark but incited over the radio into the ears of millions, urged in the glare of public forums by Senators and Governors.  It is offered as an article of faith by powerful political organizations, such as the Dixiecrats, and defended by influential newspapers, all in violation of the Untied Nations charter and the Convention forbidding genocide.

This proof does not come from the enemies of the white supremacists but from their own mouths, their own writings, their political resolutions, their racist laws, and from photographs of their handiwork.  Neither Hitler nor Goebbels wrote obscurantist racial incitements more voluminously or viciously than do their American counterparts, nor did such incitements circulate in Nazi mails any more than they do in the mails of the United States.

Through this and other evidence we shall prove this crime of genocide is the result of a massive conspiracy, more deadly in that it is sometimes “understood” rather than expressed, a part of the mores of the ruling class often concealed by euphemisms, but always directed to oppressing the Negro people.  Its members are so well-drilled, so rehearsed over the generations, that they can carry out their parts automatically and with a minimum of spoken direction.  They have inherited their plot and their business is but to implement it daily so that it works daily.  This implementation is sufficiently expressed in decision and statute, in depressed wages, in robbing millions of the vote and millions more of the land, and in countless other political and economic facts, as to reveal definitively the existence of a conspiracy backed by reactionary interests in which are meshed all the organs of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government.  It is manifest that a people cannot be consistently killed over the years on the basis of “race” – and more than 10,000 Negroes have so suffered death – cannot be uniformly segregated, despoiled, impoverished, and denied equal protection before the law, unless it is the result of the deliberate, all-pervasive policy of government and those who control it.

Emasculation of Democracy

We shall show, more particularly, how terror, how “killing members of the group,” in violation of Article II of the Genocide Convention, has been used to prevent the Negro people from voting in huge and decisive areas of the United States in which they are the preponderant population, thus dividing the whole American people, emasculating mass movements for democracy and securing the grip of predatory reaction on the federal, state, county and city governments.  We shall prove that the crimes of genocide offered for your action and the world’s attention have in fact been incited, a punishable crime under Article III of the Convention, often by such officials as Governors, Senators, Judges and peace officers whose phrases about white supremacy and the necessity of maintaining inviolate a white electorate resulted in bloodshed as surely as more direct incitement.

We shall submit evidence showing the existence of a mass of American law, written as was Hitler’s law solely on the basis of “race,” providing for segregation and otherwise penalizing the Negro people, in violation not only of Articles II and III of the Convention but also in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.  Finally we shall offer proof that a conspiracy exists in which the Government of the United States, its Supreme Court, its Congress, it Executive branch, as well as the various state, county and municipal governments, consciously effectuate policies which result in the crime of genocide being consistently and constantly practiced against the Negro people of the United States.

The Negro Petitioners

Many of your petitioners are Negro citizens to whom the charges herein described are not mere words.  They are facts felt on our bodies, crimes inflicted on our dignity.  We struggle for deliverance, not without pride in our valor, but we warn mankind that our fate is theirs.  We solemnly declare that continuance of this American crime against the Negro people of the United States will strengthen those reactionary American forces driving towards World War III as certainly as the unrebuked Nazi genocide against the Jewish people strengthened Hitler in his successful drive to World War II.

We, Negro petitioners whose communities have been laid waste, whose homes have been burned and looted, whose children have been killed, whose women have been raped, have noted with peculiar horror that the genocidal doctrines and actions of the American white supremacists have already been exported to the colored peoples of Asia.  We solemnly warn that a nation which practices genocide against its own nationals may not be long deterred, if it has the power, from genocide elsewhere.  White supremacy at home makes for colored massacres abroad. Both reveal contempt for human life in a colored skin.  Jellied gasoline in Korea and the lynchers’ faggot at home are connected in more ways than that both result in death by fire.  The lyncher and the atom bomber are related.  The first cannot murder unpunished and unrebuked without so encouraging the latter that the peace of the world and the lives of millions are endangered.  Nor is this metaphysics.  The tie binding both is economic profit and political control.  It was not without significance that it was President Truman who spoke of the possibility of using the atom bomb on the colored peoples of Asia, that it is American statesmen who prate constantly of “Asiatic hordes.”

“Our Humanity Denied and Mocked”

We Negro petitioners protest this genocide as Negroes and we protest it as Americans, as patriots.  We know that no American can be truly free while 15,000,000 other Americans are persecuted on the grounds of “race,” that few Americans can be prosperous while 15,000,000 are deliberately pauperized.  Our country can never know true democracy while millions of its citizens are denied the vote on the basis of their color.

But above all we protest this genocide as human beings whose very humanity is denied and mocked.  We cannot forget that after Congressman Henderson Lovelace Lanham, of Rome, Georgia, speaking in the halls of Congress, called William L. Paterson, one of the leaders of the Negro people, “a God-damned black son-of-bitch,” he added, “We gotta keep the black apes down.”  We cannot forget it because this is the animating sentiment of the white supremacists, of a powerful segment of American life.  We cannot forget that in many American states it is a crime for a white person to marry a Negro on the racist theory that Negroes are “inherently inferior as an immutable fact of Nature.”  The whole institution of segregation, which is training for killing, education for genocide, is based on the Hitler-like theory of the “inherent inferiority of the Negro.”  The tragic fact of segregation is the basis for the statement, too often heard after murder, particularly in the South, “Why I think no more of killing a n—-r, than of killing a dog.”

We petition in the first instance because we are compelled to speak by the unending slaughter of Negroes.  The fact of our ethnic origin, of which we are proud-our ancestors were building the world’s first civilizations 3,000 years before our oppressors emerged from barbarism in the forests of western Europe-is daily made the signal for segregation and murder.  There is infinite variety in the cruelty we will catalogue, but each case has the common denominator of racism.  This opening statement is not the place to present our evidence in detail.  Still, in this summary of what is to be proved, we believe it necessary to show something of the crux of our case, something of the pattern of genocidal murder, the technique of incitement to genocide, and the methods of mass terror.

Our evidence begins with 1945 and continues to the present.  It gains in deadliness and in number of cases almost in direct ratio to the surge towards war.  We are compelled to hold to this six years span if this document is to be brought into manageable proportions.

The Evidence

There was a time when racist violence had its center in the South.  But as the Negro people spread to the north, east and west seeking to escape the southern hell, the violence, impelled in the first instance by economic motives, followed them, its cause also economic.  Once most of the violence against Negroes occurred in the countryside, but that was before the Negro emigrations of the twenties and thirties.  Now there is not a great American city from New York to Cleveland or Detroit, from Washington, the nation’s capital, to Chicago, from Memphis to Atlanta or Birmingham, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, that is not disgraced by the wanton killing of innocent Negroes.  It is no longer a sectional phenomenon.

Once the classic method of lynching was the rope. Now it is the policeman’s bullet.  To many an American the police are the government, certainly its most visible representative.  We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Negroes has become police policy in the United States and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.

Our evidence is admittedly incomplete.  It is our hope that the United Nations will complete it.  Much of the evidence, particularly of violence, was gained from the files of Negro newspapers, from the labor press, from the annual reports of Negro societies and established Negro year books.  A list is appended.

But by far the majority of Negro murders are never recorded, never known except to the perpetrators and the bereaved survivors of the victim.  Negro men and women leave their homes and are never seen alive again.  Sometimes weeks later their bodies, or bodies thought to be theirs and often horribly mutilated, are found in the woods or washed up on the shore of a river or lake.  This is a well known pattern of American culture. In many sections of the country police do not even bother to record the murder of Negroes.  Most white newspapers have a policy of not publishing anything concerning murders of Negroes or assaults upon them.  These unrecorded deaths are the rule rather than the exception-thus our evidence, though voluminous, is scanty when compared to the actuality.

Causes Celèbres

We Negro petitioners are anxious that the General Assembly know of our tragic causes celèbres, ignored by the American white press but known nevertheless the world over,  but we also wish to inform it of the virtually unknown killed almost casually, as an almost incidental aspect of institutionalized murder.

We want the General Assembly to know of Willie McGee, framed on perjured testimony and murdered in Mississippi because the Supreme Court of the United States refused even to examine vital new evidence proving his innocence.  But we also want it to know of the two Negro children, James Lewis, Jr., fourteen years old, and Charles Trudell, fifteen, of Natchez, Mississippi who were electrocuted in 1947, after the Supreme Court of the United States refused to intervene.

We want the General Assembly to know of the martyred Martinsville Seven, who died in Virginia’s electric chair for a rape they never committed, in a state that has never executed a white man for that offense.  But we want it to know, too, of the eight Negro prisoners who were shot down and murdered on July 11, 1947 at Brunswick, Georgia, because they refused to work in a snake-infested swamp without boots.

We shall inform the Assembly of the Trenton Six, of Paul Washington, the Daniels cousins, Jerry Newsom, Wesley Robert Wells, of Rosalee Ingram, of John Derrick, of Lieutenant Gilbert, of the Columbia, Tennessee destruction, the Freeport slaughter, the Monroe killings-all important cases I which Negroes have been framed on capital charges or have actually been killed.  But we want it also to know of the typical and less known-of William Brown, Louisiana farmer, shot in the back and killed when he was out hunting on July 19, 1947 by a white game warden who casually announced his unprovoked crime by saying, “I just shot a n—r.  Let his folks know.”  The game warden, one Charles Ventrill, was not even charged with the crime.
(1) “Civil Rights Congress, We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People (New York: Civil Rights Congress, 1951)”, pp xi-xiii, 3-10.

– See more at:

(2) Full text of “We Charge Genocide” petition from the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement website listed below:

Atlanta’s Mayor & Police Department Appalling Irresponsibility 

The City of Atlanta does not protect all its citizens as demonstrated by deliberate efforts to marginalize and not protect  Atlanta’s Task Force for the Homeless
Board members and press at Task Force Press conference December 14, 2016

By Heather Gray
December 15, 2016
WRFG Radio and Justice Initiative
ATLANTA: On December 14, 2016, the “Metro-Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless” held a press briefing to discuss the recent alarming and dangerous circumstances facing the Task Force and threats to its inhabitants. For more than 20 years the Task Force has owned and operated a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta for Atlanta’s poor and struggling citizens. Now Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta Police Department, for all intents and purposes, are attempting to force the Task Force from its location by shamefully even making the very lives of Task Force staff and residents vulnerable. The Task Force is calling for concerned Atlantans to immediately call the Mayor’s Office (404-330-6100) and Police Chief Turner’s Office (404-906-9825 or 404-906-0125) and demand protection for the residents and guests of the homeless shelter.
Recently for the first time ever there were gunshots fired directly into the Task Force building. While no one was hurt, still this unprecedented occurrence has alarmed residents, staff and board members. The question is how and why did this happen and many point their fingers directly at the city’s Mayor and the police department itself.
Here is a description of this shooting by Ms. Walker of the Task Force for the Homeless:

Ms. Walker decribing recent shooting into the Task Force shelter
Ms. Walker describing recent shooting into the Task Force shelter
The staff of the Task Force also revealed that even though there is an Atlanta Police Precinct office directly across the street from the Task Force building on Peachtree Street and Pine Street in Atlanta, there is clearly a directive from the higher-ups in Atlanta to not protect the Task Force residents and building.
Listen to Task Force board member Joe Beasley as he describes the Task Force history and present appalling negligence on the part of Mayor Reed and the Police Department to protect its citizens: 

Joe Beasley, Board member Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless
Joe Beasley speaks about City of Atlanta’s irresponsibility 


Some staff members mentioned that they had been informed by some in the police department that if they, as police officers, help the Task Force they will be removed from that precinct.
Others also informed us that it appears there is a deliberate attempt to encourage those selling illegal drugs in the area to locate close to the Task Force building to denigrate the neighborhood, cast a bad light on the Task Force, make the residents more vulnerable and to essentially force the Task Force out of its building by linking drugs and violence to the Task Force itself. To demonstrate this intent, at the press conference we were also told that some have witnessed the police observing the drug sellers around the Task Force building and have not done anything about this as they would in other areas of Atlanta.
As Executive Director Anita Beatty wisely told us, the Task Force recognizes that most drug sellers are in need of assistance as well, but that the Task Force has rules and regulations that will not allow residents to have guns and illegal drugs on the premises.
Listen to Executive Director Anita Beatty as she provides an update on pressure against the Task Force by the government and corporate Atlanta. As she also notes that even though the city appears to be attempting to marginalize and malign the Task Force, still, on a routine basis, the City of Atlanta sends many of those in dire need to the Task Force for assistance as there is no other entity in the city that will take them in and has the wherewithal to assist them!

Anita Beatty describes how the Taskforce is made vulnerable
Anita Beatty describes how the Taskforce is made vulnerable
For years there have been entities partnering with the City government to remove the Task Force shelter from the Peachtree and Pine location. The Task Force has, in fact, been in foreclosure for some 6 years. Yet, so far, the Task Force has won in the courts – in particular in the Georgia Supreme Court in 2015 – here is brief information about this:
(From Atlanta Progressive News) This morning, Monday, November 23, 2015, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued a ruling that is favorable to the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, upholding prior summary judgment rulings, and paving the way for a trial on the merits of the case.
Also included in the Atlanta Progressive News article was that:
The Task Force claims that Central Atlanta Progress, Manny Fialkow, and other individuals and entities conspired to sabotage the Task Force, by depriving it of funds and maneuvering the organization into foreclosure so that a member of the conspiracy could obtain the building.
Beatty has inferred that some entities in the city will on occasion have “operatives” to spy on the organization as a further attempt to undermine the Task Force. Lurking on the corner prior to the press conference on December 14 was George Chidi, who is on staff of the Central Atlanta Progress as its “social impact director”.  He did not attend the press conference.
To further demonstrate this corruption by Atlanta’s wealthy elite, board member Joe Beasley mentioned that the Task Force was offered $11 million if they would leave their site. This offer was coupled with a non-disclosure directive. The Task Force refused the offer and opted instead to continue serving Atlanta citizens in need!
Listen to Task Force Board member Myrtle Davis – former Atlanta City Council Member – speak about how neighborhoods are protected except for the Task Force for the Homeless! Shame on Atlanta!

Board member Myrtle Davis - addresses lack of protection!
Board member Myrtle Davis – addresses lack of protection!
In conclusion, I personally want to thank the “Metro-Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless” for its tireless commitment all these many tears to those in need!!! As one who has traveled and lived in many parts of the world I recognize that what makes a city or country “great” is the inclusion, kindness and compassion that its people and officials offer to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or economic status. And to ensure this is the case it takes vigilance on the part of all citizens. Atlanta still has a lot to learn!

Below is the press statement from the Task Force that provides
more details about their concerns:

PHONE: 404-787-5826    FAX: 404-941-9143
HOTLINE: 404-447-3678
Press Release:  Police Refuse to Help Homeless Shelter
Media Contact: Anita Beaty – 404-729-5366
Press Conference at Task Force – December 14, 2016

The Board, staff and residents of the Task Force at Peachtree-Pine cry “foul” on Mayor Reed and the Atlanta Police Department (APD) for allowing violent drug and alcohol in the streets and on sidewalks surrounding the facility.

The children, mothers, single women and men residing at 477 Peachtree Street have a right to protection from street violence, drug use, and sales, as well as general harassment that preys on them day and night.
Two daytime drug-related shootings terrorized residents and outside volunteers during the serving of a meal. Never before have shots been fired at the building, while mothers and children, to say nothing of men and volunteers, work together to serve dinner.
How can our Resident Volunteer Security Staff protect us when the APD refuses to respond?
* Peachtree-Pine has sheltered and served with Case Management support services more than 15,000 individuals annually, with no public funds and constant threats from City Hall.
* 28% of all those who completed intakes in the past year went on into transitional or permanent housing subsequently.
*  Peachtree-Pine is the only Atlanta emergency overflow facility open 24/7 all year long.
*  Peachtree-Pine volunteer staff provide Case Management, which includes paying for and providing access to State ID, with partner Fulton County Health Department provides on-site TB/RPR screening, and provision of all documents necessary for moving on into more stable shelter or housing.
 Residents of Peachtree-Pine are transported to Good Samaritan Clinic weekly as needed for treatment and health maintenance, including dental care, counseling and general medical primary care, which is offered indefinitely, wherever the individual goes.

Chief Turner’s Office (404-906-9825 or 404-906-0125) and demand protection for the residents and guests of Peachtree-Pine. 

Note: the photos and videos are by Heather Gray.

It Is Bigger Than the Election

By William Small
December 16, 2016


For many years Americans have viewed the political health of America through a prism provided by the United States Constitutional frame work for selecting government representatives. The popular expectation is that those who are elected to represent the voters will, by some reasonable standard, effectively honor and perform that responsibility. Time, technology and education have arguably destroyed that myth.

However, a serious review of the political history of this country makes it clear that the concept of the United States Government existing as a Government of the people, by the people and for the people has always been more myth than fact. Daniel Shays Rebellion, 1786-1787, should stand as a reminder to all Americans of the need to remain vigilant.

The very foundation for America’s growth and prosperity rests on a pattern of behavior that is supported by two important and immoral pillars. The first pillar is the policies and practices that virtually led to Native American political and cultural annihilation. The second pillar is the adoption and development of a system of chattel slavery that was probably the worst that the world had ever known. These factors along with the alliances America was able to form with the powers of Europe enabled the super powers of the day to explain their imperialistic and expansionist colonial practices as initiatives intended to uplift humanity. In fact, the human concerns expressed were never able to survive the impacts of the practices adopted to maximize riches for the elite rulers of the “mother land”.

Europe took Africa at the Berlin Conference in 1884 and the US had earlier claimed the entire United States and South American hemisphere “as a no trespass zone” with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, thereby protecting United States interests from efforts of European expansion. “Regime Change” and the exploitation of natural resources became the acceptable practice of the day. The policies and practices that insured the perpetual suffering and human underdevelopment of the local populations was seen as little more than a natural and acceptable entitlement to the superior races of the earth. Nothing more was required to justify the profits that were being derived from all of “this noble effort”.

The current disintegration of the American political fabric cannot be fully understood or appreciated independent of this history creating America.  The culture of competition between nations for power, resources and privilege is as old as the concept of nationhood.  No one can be legitimately surprised that Russia or anyone else would use existing technologies to influence political decision-making and policy development in a competitor nation. The United States is on record of having employed much more brutal tactics and strategies to accomplish the same or similar results in countries such as: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, many parts of Africa, Chile, Cuba, Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and let us not forget Vietnam.

With this said, the list continues to stand incomplete but here are some other particulars.  Let us not forget the US policy that formally existed to resist “democracy” and to support the apartheid and racist/ segregationist governments of Southern Africa.  Let us not forget the operation of the Counter Intelligence Program and the role played by the FBI in intentionally undermining civil and human rights initiatives for Black Americans and for Puerto Ricans and other Latino ethnic groups in South and Central America.  Neither should the Bay of Pigs attempted coup and the innumerable attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro or the US complicity in the kidnapping of President Aristide in Haiti be forgotten, nor the kidnapping of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, nor the assassination of President Salvador Allende of Chile.   The United States has been actively using military intervention to select foreign leaders in “non- declared wars” for how long?

The attempt to call attention to what Russia is doing, and probably every other nation that can, is a dangerous distraction of the attention that should be given to the erosion of the opportunity structure presumed to guarantee political, economic and civil rights to American citizens.

While the US Supreme Court equates the power and influence of corporate dollars with that of an individual’s vote, and jobs are incentivized to go off shore while cheap labor is being imported, America needs to take a good look at itself. While new methods to suppress voter participation are being rapidly and creatively explored and prisons are being run for profit as virtual forced labor camps, one might think that the real problem is not “Russian hacking”.

When American citizens are being encouraged to turn on themselves and press for a “roll back”of the policies and practices that created space and prosperity for an expansion of the American middle class; and when both major political parties are so out of touch with the needs and interests of the American people, the times in which we find ourselves must be classified, at a minimum, as “dangerous”. When more Black and Brown men and women are being killed annually by policemen than were killed annually by the Klan in previous generations, it is not Russia or China that is our problem. When America can remain in a state of perpetual war and the only undisputed beneficiaries are the capitalistic industries that compose the military industrial complex and the private profiteering military contractors, “hacking” has to be a subterfuge and an intentional distraction.

When the losing major political party in a Presidential election spends eight years keeping its promise to insure that the winning party and the first African American President will not be successful or supported, the Nation should at least be shocked. However, when they follow through on such an outrageous pledge so seriously, until the Nation suffers, the Nation should be outraged.

Both major parties have failed the American people. The Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Justice Department all have something worse than egg on their faces. As bad as these conditions are, I am convinced that the worst is yet to be seen when the next administration takes office in January.

I, and an increasing number of others, fear that America’s descent on this slippery slope towards Fascism will be accelerated when the new administration takes office in January. The President Elect boldly declares that he knows more than the generals. He brags that he does not have to attend security briefings because he has no confidence in the security establishment. He does not have to reveal his financial holdings or his economic connection to the global economy, because, custom aside, there is no law that says he must. The President Elect has been utterly dismissive of protocol and his pledge to “Make America Great Again” remains reed thin, in terms of the particulars and details as to what that means or how and at the expense of whom will that happen? So far the conversation is all about “the deal” as he surrounds himself with ex-generals and billionaires who harbor philosophies very different from those espoused by an earlier and a substantially, more democratically centered and less right winged America. The views of those nominated for appointment to some of the most powerful non- elected positions in government remind us of the time when America was truly a “great place” for the white and the wealthy.

If Americans stand by, blinded by racism, fear, greed and frustration and permit the best hope for the future of this nation to vanish in the illusion of some undefined notion of previous national greatness, the world will have experienced perhaps the slickest political Coup D’état in modern political history.   Military and Capital interests will be the officially declared de facto owners and architects of American political, social, economic and civil rights policies. If the citizens of this nation permit this to go forward, “The United States of America” will be fundamentally indistinguishable from the rest of the “non-democratic Third World”.

Dr. William Small, Jr., is a retired educator and a former Trustee and Board Chairman at South Carolina State University. He can be reached at

Yarrow Mamout: Freedman


Yarrow Mamout was 73 years old when artist Charles Willson Peale painted his portrait in Georgetown in 1819. Born in Guinea, Yarrow arrived in Maryland on a slave ship in 1752. He won his freedom in 1796 and four years later purchased property on today’s  Dent Place in Georgetown.


Yarrow Mamout: Freedman 
July/August 2016 PDF
Written by Ramin Vellotti
Aramco World

3324 Dent Place NW is a narrow lot in the middle of one of the many tony streets in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It lies fallow, sandwiched and fronted by the stately brick-and-clapboard townhomes for which the area is known. Jackie and John F. Kennedy lived across the street as newlyweds. Donald Rumsfeld lived on the street and, for a short time, so did the New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
Today, Secretary of State John Kerry makes his home just blocks away. In the early 1800s, lawyer Francis Scott Key, author of the poem that would become America’s national anthem, lived less than a kilometer away, near the banks of the Potomac.
But it is one of Dent Place’s earliest residents-a man who bought his house here when it was one of only two homes on the street-who is perhaps the most interesting: Yarrow Mamout, a Muslim African who endured 44 years of slavery in Maryland and Virginia by the Beall family of Maryland before being manumitted in 1796 and buying a house in Georgetown in 1800.

Of the West African Fulani people, Mamout was a devout Muslim who spoke the Fula language and could read and write Arabic and rudimentary English. His actions after securing his freedom are what make him remarkable. He went on not only to buy land in Georgetown, but also to invest in the Columbia Bank there and become a financier for both black and white local merchants.
As a freshman senator in 1953, John F. Kennedy lived with his wife, Jackie, at 3321 Dent Place NW, across the street from the property that Yarrow Mamout had bought some 150 years before. The Kennedy’s lived on Dent Place for a year, while Yarrow resided there from 1800 until his death in 1823.

Mamout was also unusual among his contemporaries-free and enslaved-because his portrait was done in 1819 by famed painter Charles Willson Peale. Peale had painted George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and others made famous on the stage of the American Revolution and the early republic. It is this image, Portrait of Yarrow Mamout, that allows us a glimpse into the man himself.

When Mamout died in 1823, it was Peale who penned his obituary, leaving what remains the most intriguing clue to the man’s past. “He was interred in his garden, the spot where he usually resorted to pray,” Peale wrote.

Fueled by this knowledge, in 2015 the Washington, D.C., archeologist’s office mounted a six-month dig at 3324 Dent Place aimed at finding tangible clues to the life of Yarrow Mamout. The team turned up several thousand items, including two ceramic pipe stems and a few partial bowls, a number of which are now being analyzed to determine if they date to the early 1800s.

With or without artifacts, the legend of Mamout as a fixture of early Georgetown always remained a wispy memory to locals, but the details of his remarkable   existence-including the Charles Willson Peale obituary-had largely been forgotten.

“We knew Yarrow’s house was somewhere in this vicinity, but the house that stood most recently on the site was from a much later time, so it was definitely not Yarrow’s,” says Dik Saalfeld whose home is next door to Mamout’s lot and whose property may once have been part of his original holding. “That house fell into serious disrepair until it was crushed by a falling tree in 2013.”
Today there is an empty space between townhouses in Georgetown where Yarrow Mamout’s home once stood. That house was replaced by another in the late 1800s. It was damaged in a storm and razed in 2013.
After the ruined house was cleared, new construction might have progressed on the site without a backward glance were it not for James H. Johnston, a lawyer and historical scholar who had become intrigued by an 1822 portrait of Mamout holding a long-stemmed pipe by local artist James Alexander Simpson-later an art professor at Georgetown University-that hangs in the Georgetown Public Library’s Peabody Room.
“I was surprised to see a portrait of a poor black man at the Georgetown library,” remembers Johnston. “After all, Georgetown’s whole image is rich and white.”


Yarrow Mamout would have been familiar with this wharf at Georgetown, portrayed above in an aquatint by George Isham Parkyns in 1795. In his youth Mamout was “the best swimmer ever seen on the Potomac River,” according to one shipowner.

Johnston went on to spend eight years researching Mamout’s story, resulting in his book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family, published in 2012 by Fordham University Press. It follows Mamout’s life and the lives of his descendants-one of whom, Robert Turner Ford, graduated from Harvard University in 1927.

It was Mamout’s leap from an enslaved person to landowner and entrepreneur that most stirred Johnston’s curiosity. Even for white Americans of the laboring


Slaves load barrels of tobacco on board a ship in an illustration taken from a 1751 map of Virginia and the Province of Maryland.

class at the time, that level of success was barely attainable. So how did Mamout do it? The main secret to his success seems to have lain in his faith and persistence.

“I think a remarkable part of this story is that he wasn’t freed until he was 60 and immediately has enough money to invest, which he loses. He starts over again and earns another $100 and loses that too-both times because of the actions of the men holding the money for him,” says Johnston.

“He sets out to earn money again, but now he’s learned from his experience. He has enough savvy to know about corporations and puts his money into a bank to keep it safe. He goes on to loan money to white merchants, which would have been risky at the time but by then he understands the system and has the confidence to use it.”

Understanding the system was no small feat-an enslaved person couldn’t come by this knowledge easily. In Mamout’s case, it’s likely that his personal intellect combined with the Qur’anic education he received as a young man in Guinea prepared him a lifetime of learning. In short, he was able to recognize valuable information when he heard it.
Johnston’s detective work also tells us that according to Fulani child-naming traditions, which would have been done with the consultation of an imam, Yarrow was his mother’s fourth child (Yero) and born on a Monday -Mamout, Mamadou and Mohammed being names traditionally chosen for that day. The teenage Mamout, Johnston writes, may have been taken prisoner in a war with a non-Muslim tribe.

Mamout’s literacy in Arabic as well as his native language likely put him in a category above other enslaved people forced into crossing the Atlantic on the Elijah, a ship owned by two colonial Marylanders, according to Johnston. This potentially even afforded him “privileges” like working as a crew member on a voyage lasting up to two months, rather than being constantly shackled in the ship’s putrid, inhumane below-decks area.
The location of Yarrow Mamout’s home in Georgetown is marked in red above on this 1820 map of Washington and its environs.
“He was only sixteen and looked younger,” writes Johnston. “He may have worked topside. Records of his life later in Georgetown show that he knew his way around a ship and water. His owner at the time rented him out to work on the oceangoing sailing ship the Maryland while it was in port. The Maryland’s owner said Mamout was the best swimmer ever seen on the Potomac River.”

When the Elijah arrived in America in June 1752, the prosperous Maryland tobacco farmer Samuel Beall bought Mamout directly from where the ship moored just off Annapolis.
Since Beall’s main business was tobacco farming, Mamout would have been quickly put to work in some aspect of that enterprise. Soon, however, he was promoted to the position of Beall’s “body servant,” not only tending his daily needs but accompanying him on all his business journeys near and far. This would have placed Mamout in the indirect company of the most prosperous merchants, planters, lawyers and politicians of the day.

It is also possible that Mamout’s status as a Muslim-a member of an Abrahamic faith-led the Christian whites who enslaved him, and those who interacted with him at large, to extend him somewhat greater opportunities than they did to other enslaved people.

Among those opportunities would have been the chance to earn his own money. At the time it was common practice for slaves to be “lent out” to work. Most of their earnings went to the slave owner, but they kept a small portion for themselves. Mamout often performed such work, using a variety of skills-brickmaking among them-to earn the money that later enabled him to acquire the lot in Dent Place with a small frame house.

Taib Shareef, imam at Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., offers salat al-janazah-the traditional Muslim funeral prayer-for Yarrow Mamout on the site of his former home at Dent Place. Mamout was said to have been buried in the corner of the garden where he “resorted to pray” at the time of his death in 1823.

When Mamout bought his property in 1800, Georgetown had already made a name for itself as a key port on the Potomac River. Land developers built new streets and infrastructure around the time it was incorporated as a town in the 1780s. In 1791, when the new national capital was created, Georgetown was included. Indeed, the men who made the major property deals for the District of Columbia met in the Suter Tavern, only blocks from where Mamout’s house would stand, and included George Washington, fellow Revolutionary War General Uriah Forest and Maryland statesman Benjamin Stoddert. All were major slaveholders of the era.

On the outskirts of town, where Dent Place lay, the land would have been cheap enough for Mamout to afford. And with only one other neighbor on the street, there were few to object to living near a former slave.

Nearly everything we know about Mamout’s life in Georgetown is thanks to Charles Willson Peale who was in


A poster for the dig at Yarrow Mamout’s Dent Place home where the Washington, D.C., archeologist’s office carried out the dig in 2015. The team found no human remains, but it discovered cultural artifacts that are now being studied at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.

Washington in 1819 to paint President James Monroe. Peale had heard of the elderly Mamout, whom local lore wrongly touted as more than a hundred years old, and sought him out to learn the secret of his longevity. He recorded their meetings in his diary with entries like this:

Yarrow owns a house and lotts and is known by most of the Inhabitants of Georgetown and particularly by the Boys who are often teasing him which he takes in good humor. It appears to me that the good temper of the man has contributed considerably to longevity. Yarrow has been noted for sobriety and a chearfull conduct, he professes to be a mahometan, and is often seen and heard in the Streets singing Praises to God-and conversing with him he said man is no good unless his religion comes from the heart.

By 1800 Mamout’s Georgetown hosted a small but thriving free African American community that remained until the 1950s. He would have likely also enjoyed the company of fellow Muslims who resided in the Rock Creek area, near where the National Zoo now sits, about a one and a half kilometers away. Often, they were considered trustworthy by contemporaries because of their faith and specifically its proscription against alcohol.
“My theory is that these men and women would have been the best of the best,” says Muhammad Fraser Rahim, who worked on the dig at Mamout’s house and is a Ph.D. candidate at Howard University specializing in the histories of enslaved African Muslims.
“Arabic would have been their third or fourth language. Then they would have learned English. Their devotion and training would have equipped them to deal with the hardships of life as an enslaved person here,” says Rahim, who is an officer for Africa programs at the us Institute for Peace and a former National Counterterrorism Center expert in the capital.

James H. Johnston, author of From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family, stands, second from left, at the Dent Place dig site. He is flanked, left, by retired archeologist Charlie LeeDecker and, right, by Mia L. Carey, project field director, and Ruth Trocolli, city archeologist.
For Rahim, Yarrow and the small African Muslim communities of early America are part of the American immigrant narrative. They present an opportunity for Muslim Americans at large to feel a greater connection to the earliest days of American history.
“There is a deep connection between Islam and America that most miss, and Yarrow is an embodiment of that,” says Rahim. “Thomas Jefferson owned Muslim slaves and studied Arabic at the College of William and Mary. Along with France, the Muslim nation of Morocco was the first to recognize American independence. I think the current interest in Yarrow speaks to the fact that we, as Americans, are realizing we’ve been getting it all wrong.”
For Dent Place resident Kelley Phillips, one ideal way to “get things right” would be to make Mamout’s former property a park or memorial garden.
“Turning the property into a place of peace and remembrance would be a lovely tribute to Yarrow,” she says. But since the land is privately owned, that is a lovely but unlikely dream.
Even though a new luxury home is soon likely to take up the spot where Yarrow Mamout lived and died, he and other enslaved Muslim Africans won’t soon be forgotten again. This fall the Smithsonian Institution will be borrowing the Simpson portrait of Mamout for three years to include in the American Origins galleries, where it will be used to explore the question of what it meant to be an American in the earliest days of the republic. Curators are planning educational programs revolving around the portrait that will explore the stories of Muslim Americans since that time.

Note: I am interested in providing information about Islam in America – if you can cite other stories and information about  the history of Islam in American please share them with me by sending an email to me, Heather Gray, at

Thank you advance for your assistance on this, The above article about Yarrow Mamout

was sent to me by one of the leading Imam’s in Atlanta.

Pearl Harbor Questions and Other US War Catalyst Questions

by Heather Gray
December 7, 2016

It was on this day 75 years ago that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This was largely the catalyst to convince Americans to enter WWII. Questions continue to surround the whole incident. But then questions surround the catalysts leading the United States into virtually every other war in the late 19th as well as the 20th and 21rst centuries such as: the Spanish American War (1898-1902); WWII (1941-1945); the Vietnam War (Johnson’s escalation 1963-69); the Iraq War (2003 invasion). What were the catalysts needed to convince the American people to send their youth into these wars? Below are some scenarios.

Spanish American War and The Maine

In the late 1980s I visited the Philippines. While there, I began to learn about “Spanish American War” (1898-1902) directly from the Filipinos. The Filipinos often describe it as the first Vietnam War and rightly so.

As the Filipinos had finally wrenched themselves from some 400 years of Spanish colonialism in the late 1800s and had begun to build their own independent government, the Americans invaded the country at Manila Bay in May 1898 – even before the US had defeated the Spanish in Cuba in August 1898.

The battle in Manila was also before the Paris Treaty was affirmed and signed in December 1898 that ceded the Spanish colonies (Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) under US control. This was the first overseas empire initiative by the United States.

Fast forward to Cuba, that I visited in 2014. where I began to learn from the Cubans as well about this short, yet dreadful war.

The beginning of the Spanish American War was largely launched thanks to the blowing up of the American battleship known as the USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbor in March 1898. This led to a declaration of war against Spain by the United States.

What happened? It was widely reported in the United States in 1898 that the USS Maine was blown up by a Spanish mine, whereas, subsequently, it has been found this was likely not the case at all. First, here is a report about the incident:

A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard….

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war…. (History)

Years later in 1976, however, it was determined by American naval investigators that the Maine was not blown up by the Spanish but rather more likely by a fire that ignited the ammunition on the ship (History).

World War II and Pearl Harbor

While war was raging in Europe by the late 1930’s, America had not yet formerly joined with its British ally against Germany. President Franklin Roosevelt seemed openly noncommittal about joining in this battle even in spite of the fact that Prime Minister Winston Churchill kept trying to convince him otherwise. But apparently secretly Roosevelt actually desired entrance into the war to, with England, defeat the Germans.

Given the American people were, overall, not supportive of the prospect of joining in yet another European war, it is thought that Roosevelt recognized there needed to be a catalyst. There needed to be an act of war against the United States to rally the Americans into a war mentality. The Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7, 1941 by Japan was just such a stimulus. Here was the destruction and loss of life.

All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona (BB-39) were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. One Japanese sailor, Kazuo Sakamaki, was captured (Wikipedia).

What is also not known by most Americans is about the brilliant Australian named Captain Eric Nave who had broken the Japanese code prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and, therefore, knew it was to happen.

Nave was born in Adelaide, Australia and died in 1993 at the age of 94. He had joined the Australia navy in 1916 and by 1919 had decided to study Japanese, “learning it so well that in 1924 a Japanese admiral called him a genius” (NY Times).

Prior to his death, however, Nave along with British author James Rusbridger published a book in 1991 entitled “Betrayal at Pearl Harbor“. In the book, Nave describes what happened in 1941. Below is an except from the book review of “Betrayal at Pearl Harbor” by Dr. Richard M. Ebeling (who, at the time, was Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel):

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor by James Rusbridger and Eric Nave traces the history of the American and British breaking of the Japanese secret codes. They show how, from the 1920s on, both the British and Americans were able to intercept and translate most of the Japanese diplomatic and military messages. Therefore, Britain and the U.S. had direct and inside information about practically all the Japanese plans and strategies leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But the British had been able to break some codes that the Americans had not. As a result, the British were able to track both the departure of the Japanese fleet that had left the Kurile Islands for the attack on Pearl Harbor and its refueling point in the North Pacific half-way to Hawaii. It was clear to both the British intelligence agents reading the codes and to Winston Churchill (who received all the Japanese code information every day) that the Japanese were planning to attack, that the attack would be against Pearl Harbor, and that the attack would be on the weekend of December 7. This information was not passed on to either Roosevelt or U.S. military intelligence.

Passing on this information might very well have provided the time for the U.S. to prepare defensive measures – including a counterattack – against the Japanese. And if these defensive plans, in turn had been discovered by the Japanese, they might have precipitated a decision by the Japanese to call off the attack. War thereby would have been prevented or delayed in the Pacific, and the “back door” to America’s entering the war as Britain’s ally may have been closed shut.

Thus, the British kept the information to themselves; the Japanese attacked; and Winston Churchill got what he wanted – but at the cost of thousands of American lives.

The New York Times reports, however, that military historian Stephen E. Ambrose, wrote that this charge against Churchill “makes no sense at all.

He said that if Churchill “knew the attack was coming, he certainly would have wanted the United States Navy to meet and defeat it — after all, the United States would be fully into the war the moment the battle began” (NY Times).

Yet another book written a few years later, “Day of Deceit” (2001) by Robert Stinnett, details it all with extensive American references. Stinnett, “a decorated Navy veteran, longtime journalist and BBC consultant” notes that:

At the center of the scheme to spark a war was (US) Lt. Cmdr. Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East Section at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Code-named “F-2.”

McCollum-born to Baptist missionary parents in Nagasaki and well versed in Japanese language and culture-oversaw the routing of communications intelligence to the president from early 1940 to December 7, 1941. Every intercepted and decoded Japanese report destined for the White House passed through McCollum’s office, which was an element of Station U.S., a secret cryptographic center at the Navy Department in Washington (Historynet).

Indications are from this that Roosevelt knew and helped to orchestrate what was to occur and those in Pearl Harbor were sacrificed for this purpose.

Here is some more detail about Stinnett’s book:

Explosive, revealing and disturbing, this book gets to the heart of the debate about America’s leadership as the nation was swept into the war. It is a sober and careful study, however, without sensationalism. Stinnett has simply done his homework doggedly and thoroughly, and has sought to present what he believes is the full story behind the Japanese attack.

One of the most shocking of McCollum’s proposals, says the author, was Action D, the deployment of U.S. warships within or adjacent to Japanese territorial waters. During secret White House meetings, Roosevelt personally took charge of Action D, labeling the provocations “pop-up” cruises. According to Stinnett, Roosevelt said, “I just want them to keep popping up here and there and keep the Japs guessing. I don’t mind losing one or two cruisers, but do not take a chance on losing five or six.” Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet, objected, saying, “It is ill-advised and will result in war if we make this move.”

From March through July 1941, Stinnett writes, White House records show that FDR flouted international law and dispatched naval task groups into Japanese waters on three such cruises. One of the most provocative was a sortie into the Bungo Strait, southeast of Honshu, the principal access to Japan’s Inland Sea….

The commanders in Hawaii, Admiral Kimmel and Army Lt. Gen. Walter Short, were deprived of intelligence that might have made them more alert to the risks entailed in FDR’s policy, but they obeyed his order. After the Pearl Harbor raid, both men were relieved of command (Historynet).

The above is offering two different perspectives. One is that Churchill had prior knowledge of the bombing but was not revealing information to Roosevelt and the other was that Roosevelt was deliberately scheming to provoke the Japanese into an attack. Nevertheless, it does appear that once the Japanese code was broken, by the likes of Nave and the Americans as well, that the Japanese were no longer doing anything in secret and that the Pearl Harbor event was, for all intents and purposes, a set-up.

On December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, the United States Congress declared war on Japan. The rest is history as they say!

The Vietnam War in the 1960s

On August 10, 1964, the US Congress passed the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.” It was of historical significance because it accelerated the US war in Vietnam and in the Southeast Asian region overall:

“…it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty“. This included involving armed forces (Wikipedia).

The resolution to expand the war was based on two reported incidents at the Gulf of Tonkin, both described as “sea battles”. One took place on August 2, 1964 in which the USS Maddox fired warning shots at North Vietnamese torpedo boats. There were no American casualties in this incident that left 4 Vietnamese dead and 6 wounded. “(USS) Maddox” was unscathed except for a single bullet hole from a Vietnamese machine gun round” (Wikipedia).

It was said the second Gulf of Tonkin incident was on August 4, 1964 and apparently never actually occurred, as noted later by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Yet it was also used as a rationale for Congress to accelerate the US war against the Vietnamese:

It was originally claimed by the National Security Agency that a Second Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred on August 4, 1964, as another sea battle, but instead evidence was found of “Tonkin ghosts” (false radar images) and not actual North Vietnamese torpedo boats. In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened (Wikipedia).

Iraq War in 2003

George W. Bush was president at this juncture. He advocated for and won approval from Congress, on October 2, 2002. for the American invasion of Iraq. It was known as the Iraq Resolution. It was passed after the September 11, 2001 tragic strike against the two World Trade Center buildings in New York, the Pentagon strike and an absconded United Airline flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania.

“The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage and $3 trillion in total costs” (Wikipedia).

Al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, was largely blamed for the incident.

Strangely, Iraq, headed by Saddham Hussein, became a culprit as well after this tragedy that led to the US invasion of the Iraq in 2003. The rationale was partly that Iraq was claimed by the Bush administration to have nuclear capabilities, which have largely been reported as false claims (Huffington Post). The Bush administration had said it wanted to rid Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction” that could be used by the so-called terrorists, many of whom, Bush said, were being harbored in Iraq.

Questions also prevail about the actual strike against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There was, in fact, another building – World Trade Center building 7- that also imploded and was not struck by a plane. The two Trade Center buildings collapsed to the ground as did building 7 in what many seem to infer was carefully orchestrated and perhaps with bombs planted inside the buildings, as in a planned demolition.

Was all this, along the false claims about Iraq having nuclear weapons, coordinated by the United States as a rationale to convince Americans to go to war against Iraq? That is what is largely inferred by the conspiracy theorists.

Conspiracy theories continue to prevail on the 9/11 incident and its subsequent result with the invasion of Iraq along with on-going destabilization of the region, massive deaths of Iraqis, the killing of Saddham Hussein, increased surveillance in the United States, etc.


In all these instances mentioned above there are questions as to the catalysts to start these wars. The question also remains, who or what benefits from sending young Americans to be killed and/or to kill other human beings? Invariably, the beneficiaries in these painful and violent conflicts are the Military Industrial Complex and corporate America that also largely control the American government. But also there is clearly a demand by the US and other western countries, in particular, to grab and control natural resources in the world wherever they might be. It was General Smedley Butler who, in the mid 1900’s, warned us that “war is a racket” to benefit corporate America and we’ve not taken heed of his profound warning.

In the Iraqi debacle, for example:

The Center for Public Integrity’s… (2003) published investigation into private contractors and the war on “terror” reveals that over 70 American companies have secured close to $8 billion in government contracts to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. They also shared ongoing and close relations with the federal government and provided more in campaign contributions to George Bush than any other official over a twelve year period” (James Carter).

The question remains, should we be forced into wars that kill our youth and have them kill others to benefit the military industrial complex and corporate America? I think not. Many innocent Americans and those in countless other countries have been ruthlessly used as pawns. All of us need to be more aware of these tactics and who and what benefits from it all and, importantly, who suffers from these violent policies. There’s got to be another way. To repeat, as many of us have noted, Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, when asked about western civilization, that it would be a good idea. Clearly we are not there yet.

War? Is it unreasonable to say we should not use Americans and others as pawns?  Is it unreasonable to start talking more with each around the world while maybe even offering some compassion, respect and perhaps considering sharing our resources with each and/or being respectful of resources that rightly belong to others rather than American corporations? Is it unreasonable to try some of the above recommendations rather than using greed and violently grabbing from others as a rationale and method? Something to think about!

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. In the early 1990’s one of her photographs on the exhumation of graves in Negros, Philippines was included in Amnesty International’s national photographic tour on the “Disappeared.” She can be reached at:

Obama support of Native Rights in 2010

Introduction: In light of what is now happening in North Dakota with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation protests and the concerns about the integrity of water, it might be wise to consider the announcement by President Obama in 2010 regarding the “Protection of Native American Lands and the Environment, and Redress.”

In fact, it was in December 2010, that the Obama administration issued this  statement of support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples . It was adopted by the UN in 2007.

Below is both an excerpt from the “Annex” of the 2007 UN Declaration followed by excepts from Obama’s statement that includes his section on “Protection of Native American Lands and the Environment, and Redress.”

Heather Gray



United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly (excerpt)

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and good faith in the fulfilment of the obligations assumed by States in accordance with the Charter,

Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such,

Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heri- tage of humankind,

Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust,

Reaffirming that indigenous peoples, in the exercise of their rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind….

Announcement of U.S. Support for the United Nations Declaration

on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Initiatives to Promote the Government-to-Government Relationship & Improve the Lives of Indigenous Peoples


 I. Introduction

In his Presidential Proclamation last month honoring National Native American Heritage Month, President Obama recommitted to supporting tribal self-determination, security and prosperity for all Native Americans. He recognized that while we cannot erase the scourges or broken promises of our past, we will move ahead together in writing a new, brighter chapter in our joint history.

It is in this spirit that the United States today proudly lends its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration). In September 2007, at the United Nations, 143 countries voted in favor of the Declaration. The United States did not. Today, in response to the many calls from Native Americans throughout this country and in order to further U.S. policy on indigenous issues, President Obama announced that the United States has changed its position. The United States supports the Declaration, which-while not legally binding or a statement of current international law-has both moral and political force. It expresses both the aspirations of indigenous peoples around the world and those of States in seeking to improve their relations with indigenous peoples. Most importantly, it expresses aspirations of the United States, aspirations that this country seeks to achieve within the structure of the U.S. Constitution, laws, and international obligations, while also seeking, where appropriate, to improve our laws and policies.

U.S. support for the Declaration goes hand in hand with the U.S. commitment to address the consequences of a history in which, as President Obama recognized, few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans-our First Americans. That commitment is reflected in the many policies and programs that are being implemented by U.S. agencies in response to concerns raised by Native Americans, including poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime, and discrimination.

II. The Review of the U.S. Position on the Declaration

The decision to review the U.S. position on the Declaration came in response to calls from many tribes, individual Native Americans, civil society, and others in the United States, who believed that U.S. support for the Declaration would make an important contribution to U.S. policy and practice with respect to Native American issues. The decision by the United States to support the Declaration was the result of a thorough review of the Declaration by the relevant federal agencies.

In conducting its review of the Declaration, U.S. agencies consulted extensively with tribal leaders during three rounds of consultations, one in Rapid City, South Dakota, and two in Washington, D.C. In addition, the agencies conducted outreach to indigenous organizations, civil society, and other interested individuals. Tribal leaders and others contributed to the review through their attendance at the consultation and outreach sessions, participation in those sessions by means of conference calls, and written submissions. In total, over 3,000 written comments were received and reviewed.

Tribes, groups, and individuals who participated in the review of the U.S. position on the Declaration presented a wide range of views on the meaning and importance of the Declaration. While they could not all be directly reflected in the U.S. position on the Declaration, they were all considered in the process.

III. 2  Protection of Native American Lands and the Environment, and Redress

The United States recognizes that some of the most grievous acts committed by the United States and many other States against indigenous peoples were with regard to their lands, territories, and natural resources. For this reason, the United States has taken many steps to ensure the protection of Native American lands and natural resources, and to provide redress where appropriate. It is also for this reason that the United States stresses the importance of the lands, territories, resources and redress provisions of the Declaration in calling on all States to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories, and natural resources. Consistent with its understanding of the intention of the States that negotiated and adopted the Declaration, the United States understands these provisions to call for the existence of national laws and mechanisms for the full legal recognition of the lands, territories, and natural resources indigenous peoples currently possess by reason of traditional ownership, occupation, or use as well as those that they have otherwise acquired. The Declaration further calls upon States to recognize, as appropriate, additional interests of indigenous peoples in traditional lands, territories, and natural resources.

Consistent with that understanding, the United States intends to continue to work so that the laws and mechanisms it has put in place to recognize existing, and accommodate the acquisition of additional, land, territory, and natural resource rights under U.S. law function properly and to facilitate, as appropriate, access by indigenous peoples to the traditional lands, territories and natural resources in which they have an interest.

U.S. agency initiatives in this area are numerous.

Perhaps most significantly, the Obama Administration has acquired over 34,000 acres of land in trust on behalf of Indian tribes, which is a 225 percent increase since 2006. Lands held in trust for tribes are used for housing, economic development, government services, cultural and natural resource protection, and other critical purposes. Recovering and protecting the tribes’ land base is a hallmark objective of this Administration. After the recent Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, Congress introduced, and the Administration has fully supported, legislation to reaffirm the authority of the United States to take land into trust on behalf of all federally recognized Indian tribes.

In addition, the United States intervened in a federal suit, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and United States v. Granholm, and worked to facilitate a settlement that recognizes the tribe’s entire reservation to be Indian Country, resolving over a century of disputes over the boundaries and existence of the reservation. The court approved that settlement on November 23, 2010. This settlement, which involves the tribe, the United States, the State of Michigan, and local governments, will promote greater intergovernmental cooperation and provide the clarity necessary for effective law enforcement and civil regulation on the reservation. The United States has also sought to protect tribal lands, and tribal jurisdiction over those lands, in several other court cases, including the City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation, Cayuga Nation v. Gould, and Water Wheel v. LaRance.

Other agency initiatives include the release by the Forest Service of $37.3 million in Recovery Act funds directly to tribes for wild land fire management and the improvement of habitat and watersheds. Of the total Forest Service funding received under the Recovery Act, $213 million was provided to benefit tribes and tribal lands.

The Obama Administration has also made extensive efforts to resolve longstanding Native American legal claims against the United States and private entities related to lands, natural resources, and other issues.

In 2009, the United States reached an agreement for over $1.79 billion to address contamination at over 80 sites in 19 states pursuant to resolution of the American Smelting and Refining Company, LLC (ASARCO) bankruptcy. The settlement includes approximately $194 million for the recovery of wildlife, habitat, and other natural resources managed by the federal, state, and tribal governments at more than a dozen sites. The settlement is part of the largest environmental damage bankruptcy case in U.S. history, and resolves ASARCO’s environmental liabilities from mining and smelting operations that contaminated land, water, and wildlife resources on federal, state, tribal, and private land.

In late October 2010, the Administration reached a $760 million settlement with Native American farmers and ranchers, in Keepseagle v. Vilsack, a case alleging discrimination by the Department of Agriculture in loan programs. Under the agreement, the Department of Agriculture will pay $680 million in damages and forgive $80 million of outstanding farm loan debt. The federal government also agreed to create a 15-member Native American Farmer and Rancher Council to advise the Department, appoint a Department ombudsman, provide more technical assistance to Native American borrowers, and conduct a systematic review of farm loan program rules.

On December 9, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Claims Resolution Act, which includes the Cobell v. Salazar settlement agreement. In 1996, Elouise Cobell charged the Department of the Interior with failing to account for billions of dollars that it was supposed to collect on behalf of more than 300,000 individual Native Americans. After fourteen years of litigation, enactment of the Claims Resolution Act finally closes an unfortunate chapter in our history. The Act creates a fund of $1.5 billion dollars to address historic accounting and trust management issues, and it also allocates up to $1.9 billion dollars to convert some of the most highly fractionated individual Indian lands into land that can be managed for the broader benefit of the respective tribe. As part of the $1.9 billion, a trust fund of up to $60 million dollars is being created for a scholarship fund for Native Americans.

In addition, this law includes an unprecedented package of four water settlements benefiting seven tribes in Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico. This law finally gives the Crow, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the Pueblos of Taos, Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque, and San Ildefonso permanent access to secure water supplies year round.

As noted by Secretary of the Interior Salazar, Congress’ approval of the Cobell settlement and the four Indian water rights settlements is nothing short of historic for Indian nations. He explained that the settlements represent a major step forward in President Obama’s agenda to empower tribal governments, fulfill our trust responsibilities to tribal members and help tribal leaders build safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities. They demonstrate not only that the United States has a well-developed court system that provides a means of redress for many wrongs suffered by U.S. citizens, residents and others – including federally recognized tribes and indigenous individuals and groups — but also that redress is available from the U.S. Congress under appropriate circumstances. The United States will interpret the redress provisions of the Declaration to be consistent with the existing system for legal redress in the United States, while working to ensure that appropriate redress is in fact provided under U.S. law.

The Administration is likewise committed to protecting the environment, and recognizes that many indigenous peoples depend upon a healthy environment for subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering. The Administration therefore acknowledges the importance of the provisions of the Declaration that address environmental issues. While there is far more that needs to be done, the United States is taking many steps to address environmental challenges in Indian Country and beyond.

In July 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13547, Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, drafted with substantial input from tribes, which established a Governance Coordination Committee with three tribal representatives, as well as tribal engagement in developing priority action areas. Of special interest are the priority areas of the Arctic and developing coastal and marine spatial plans.

In 2010, the Department of the Interior (DOI) provided grants worth more than $7 million through the Tribal Wildlife Grants Program for 42 Native American tribes to fund a wide range of conservation projects in sixteen states. The Tribal Wildlife Grants program has provided more than $50 million in the past eight years for 400 conservation projects administered by 162 federally-recognized tribes. The grants provide technical and financial assistance for the development and implementation of projects that benefit fish and wildlife resources and their habitat, including non-game species.

DOI has also engaged in numerous cooperative resource protection efforts with tribes, including a water quality and biologic condition assessments agreement with the Sac and Fox on the Iowa River, restoration of the Klamath River though possible dam removal and in partnership with the Klamath River Basin tribes, and assistance to the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to assess the impact of land use and climate change on wetlands.

Over the past year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded targeted grants to tribes for specific preventative tasks to address environmental degradation, including $150,000 to the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council to establish a Brownfields Tribal Response Program that will promote environmental health for several Pueblos and tribes in New Mexico and West Texas. Two additional grants were made for projects run by tribes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a part of President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a $475 million program that represents the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. The grants are to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to develop a sustainable hazardous waste collection program to serve tribal and non-tribal community members, and help prevent toxic contaminants from entering Lake Superior, and to the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa to improve habitat and water quality in the Bear River Watershed, which directly affects waters flowing into Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

The Department of Agriculture also invested $84.8 million dollars in water and environmental projects benefiting tribal communities in the lower 48 U.S. states during FY 2010 and an additional $66.2 million dollars for similar projects benefiting tribal communities in Alaska through the Rural Alaska Village Grants program. A further $120.8 million was invested in essential community facilities benefiting tribal communities.

The Department of Energy (DOE) provides grants to many Indian communities to allow them to develop renewable energy resources and energy efficiency measures in their communities in ways that benefit not only those communities, but the whole planet, while serving as models for other U.S. communities. With DOE assistance, tribes are developing a wide-range of renewable energy resources and conservation measures, including geothermal, solar energy, wind and biomass technologies and comprehensive recycling programs. These programs reduce the carbon footprint of tribal communities, while creating jobs and reducing costs.

DOE has also worked closely with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to clean up contamination from Cold War storage of hazardous waste at the Idaho National Laboratory, the tribes’ ancestral home. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have the technical capabilities and qualifications, funded by a DOE-Idaho Cooperative Agreement, to assist the Department and the regulators in reviewing the effectiveness of the cleanup work and a

ssuring that the environment, and particularly the Snake River Plain Aquifer, are not contaminated or threatened.

The Fisheries and the Northwest Protected Resources Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also consults formally and informally with the Northwest treaty tribes when considering the designation of critical habitat for endangered species, including salmon, to ensure the agency is informed of relevant tribal science and any potential impacts to the tribe that may arise from a designation of tribal lands as critical habitat. Documented information from these consultations with NOAA has ensured the protection of listed species and minimized any impact to tribal trust resources.

Additionally, NOAA Fisheries and NOAA General Counsel for the Northwest consult with four tribes with ocean treaty fishing rights for groundfish in conjunction with the Pacific Fishery Management Council process. An example of the success of this practice is that, in 2010, NOAA Fisheries adopted a tribal whiting allocation that was agreed to by all affected tribes and the State of Washington.