|Back to home page|
The Story of the Game Black People Play
Book two, The Game's Mind
Mr. Pete and King Nothing
I had learned when I was real young, from dealing with my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and the older people in Long Leaf, that older people love for a younger person to ask their advice. They would repay you with liking you, and if they liked you, they would do things for you.
And it was from this point of view I was working hard on King Nothing, and especially Mrs. Bell my landlady. After a week had passed, I didn’t find a job, or find anybody to buy the silk sheets I stole, my money was gone. However the following Monday, I met Mr. Pete.
One morning as I was leaving to look for work, a good looking T-Model truck pulled up in front of the rooming house loaded with lumber. It looked like it had its original paint job, and didn’t have a scratch on it. And an older Black man got out. I went over and started asking him about the truck. I remembered seeing him having a heated conversation with King Nothing on a couple of occasions, but I never knew what their arguments were about.
Then I asked him what the lumber was for, and he said that he was going to build a storage room on the back of the rooming house. He got his toolbox and went around to the back of the house, and I followed him.
As he began to layout the room, I could see what he was doing and just naturally begin to help him, and he naturally started telling me things to do. Before long I could anticipate what he needed, and gave it to him before he asked. I was trying to impress him by “making myself useful,” and working real hard.
At first I was just trying to get him to give me a job, but after a while I really begin to enjoy learning to use different tools, and he seemed to work better when explaining what he was doing to somebody; plus I was using all of my tricks to make older people like me.
I knew I was successful when around noon he told me to pick up the tools and put them in the toolbox, all the while explaining to me that tools should never be left lying around when you left a job for any reason.
We put the toolbox in the truck and went to have something to eat. He was talking about what we were going to do next on the job; he paid for the food.
When he left that evening, we had made good progress on laying the foundation, and had begun framing the room. We still did not say anything about giving me a job, he just said “see you in the morning.” And that was how I started working for Mr. Pete.
The next morning when he arrived I was already at the work site picking up trash and putting it in a box I had found. When he saw how eager I was to learn he began teaching me more about using tools.
For example, he taught me how to cut a straight line with a hand saw, the best way to drive a nail with a hammer, and how to draw and cut a forty-five degree angle using a square; and as I got it right he would laugh. In that way he was just like grandpa Tom, he really enjoyed seeing people learn. And I begin to really get involved in learning.
After working three or four days, I liked working for him so much that I would have paid him to work; especially after he began telling me about why he liked being a jack-of-all-trades, and especially a builder. And he told me that I should follow that trade, he thought I would be good at it.
I told him that I was studying logic and philosophy because I was seeking wisdom and knowledge. He said that logic was just plain common sense, and explained to me that when you knew how to solve all of the problems that come up in building, you were in a better position to build your life like you wanted it; and that was the same thing that philosophy did.
He explained further, that the reason he became a handy man was because he thought that was the best way to learn logical thinking because you were dealing with figuring out real practical problems. And you are always dealing with something different. I asked him, “Are you saying that building is the study of philosophy and being a handy man is the study of logic?”
“That is exactly what I am saying.”
“My mama told me that traveling and reading books was the best way to get wisdom and knowledge.”
“There is no doubt that you can learn lots of things that way too but I found that my way is the best.”
I told him since I was a very little kid I always loved to take things apart and put them back together again. He went to on to say, “Then you have been studying logic and philosophy all of your life.”
After that conversation Mr. Pete continued teaching me about building, but then he begin to start giving me advice about living life, as he called it.
And I begin to notice that, sometimes, to make his points he used terms like, “You never see White people doing that.” Or, “You don’t hear Whites talking that way,” he did this in everything he said related to social values.
And when I told him about my generation changing the way White people treated Black people, he told me that the vast majority of Black people were backwards. And went on to tell me all the things wrong with “our people” in a way that lead me to the conclusion that it was our fault.
And if we just acted more like the White man every thing would be all right, Black people would be integrated into White society, and everybody would live happily ever after; I noted what he said, but I did not think about it.
When we finished building the addition to Mrs. Bell’s rooming house, and she paid him, he gave me five dollars and I didn’t even think about if that was enough for working for just about a week. If fact, I liked working for him so much, like I mentioned, I would have paid him.
But when I went to tell Mrs. Bell I would be short on another weeks rent, she told me that Mr. Pete had already paid my rent. She said that meant he liked me working for him, and wanted to make sure I have some place to stay “because young people throw their money away.”
We did not start work until eight or eight thirty and Mr. Pete always quit work about two thirty to go pick up his wife from work. (she was a school teacher)
Meanwhile, during the week when I got off work, I would go to the park to play ball till about five or six o’clock, then I would go steal me some supper. And on my way back I would stop and talk with King Nothing. At first he would not talk much no matter how much I “buttered him up.”
Until once, after I had been working for Mr. Pete for a couple of days, I passed by King Nothing and told him I had a job. He asked me what kind of work I was doing; I told him I was helping Mr. Pete build an extension onto Mrs. Bell’s rooming house. With a very serious look on his face, he replied, “Son, Pete is a very dangerous man; he will poison your mind, and kill your dreams.”
“The dream you have of turning the world right side up.”
(I didn’t know he remembered me telling him that).” That is not just my dream that is the destiny of my generation.”
“Before you could think of your dream, other things had to happen. You told me that in slavery Whites turned Black people’s world upside down, and you wanted to turn it right side up. We had the good luck to have someone come along at the right time to do just that, Marcus Garvey.”
“I heard about him, my grandpa and mother was, and still is, a believer in Marcus Garvey.”
King Nothing, looking more and more like Grandpa Tom, said, “In your seeking wisdom and knowledge there is one thing you should know. Pete and his kind, the Black middle class, think the world is fine the way it is, and they know everything. And along with the White man has been working to keep Black people’s minds in slavery since the Civil War.”
“And when Garvey came along and freed our minds, they attacked him, and with the help of the White people, sent him to the prison for five years. After which they deported him from the United States. All I am saying is to be careful, you have a good dream, protect it.”
I didn’t really understand what King Nothing meant, but I thought it was a big compliment that he remembered me telling him my dream. He seemed to understand its value to me, and he showed concern about my welfare; I didn’t think he cared.
On the other hand, I dismissed most of what he said about Mr. Pete, because I really believed in what Mr. Pete said about learning philosophy and logic from handy man work and building; I didn’t think about any other part of his conversations.
It was a couple of days later before I mentioned King Nothing to Mr. Pete. I just mentioned in passing that I talked with him, and Mr. Pete told me almost the same thing about King Nothing, as King Nothing had said about him. He told me, “Son, don’t mess around with Nothing, or you will become nothing.”
This reaction caught me by surprise, “What do you mean?”
“He calls himself King Nothing, and that is right, he never has been anything, and never will be anything. He is just a hate monger, he hates all Blacks that try to make something out of our selves and get ahead. And I don’t care if you tell him I said so.”
“I heard that he only hates Black policemen, but I don’t know why.”
“That is what he says, but he is a Marcus Garvey follower, and if they have their way, they will destroy all the gains Black people have made since the Civil War. We sensible Blacks work very hard to get eight Black policemen to patrol our neighborhood. This is better than having White policemen doing it, and all the time whipping Blacks up side the head with them Billy clubs. King Nothing thinks that was a bad idea, and we are only trading Whites for Blacks to be the ones to whip heads to control the Black community.”
“He said that Marcus Garvey was trying to free Black people’s mind from slavery, and you and the Black middle class has been working toward enslaving Black people’s mind every since the Civil War.”
Mr. Pete forcefully stated, “We are not enslaving anybody’s mind, we are just facing the reality of our situation. You hear King Nothing and Garvey followers saying that we should follow African values. Well the number one African Value is to survive the best way you can, and the best way to survive in our situation is to follow the pathway of values that White people hold. In other words, the only way we are going to survive and make progress is through courting the good will of White people, whether we like it or not.”
I asked, “Are you saying that my generation should do nothing to fight against racism?”
He explained, “No that is not what I am saying, that is what King Nothing would have you to believe I mean. I am saying that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and we too are warriors. I mean that the only way your generation is going to win is through their good will.”
“But Mr. Pete, I have it on good authority that each Black generation has made a step forward in our progress, and my generation will come up with an idea of making a major step in turning this whole situation around.”
“Look son, you say you are interested in logic, so look at the logic of your situation and you will see that the thing you have to come up with is a way of building lots of good will among White people for your cause; I am not saying that you won’t be successful.”
I didn’t like what Mr. Pete was saying, at first, my mind was so set on using physical force to force Whites into the position that I thought was necessary to accomplish out goals, and it took me a while to see the logic of what he was saying.
I could not figure out why Mr. Pete and King Nothing were so bitter towards each other just because they were fundamentally different in their approach to thinking about themselves, and Black people.
I also did not fail to see that they were trying to protect me from each other’s beliefs, and the foundation of both of their beliefs was centered on the like or dislike of Marcus Garvey and what he stood for.
I thought this was something I could take advantage of by playing one against the other to find out what was going on between these two old men; I thought I could learn something important from both of them.
The next day, when I saw King Nothing, I told him that Mr. Pete had convinced me that in order for Black people to make any progress in the United States, we must have the good will of White people; he replied.
“That is what I mean, Pete is a dangerous man. Of course you can make progress with the good will of White people, but that good will comes at a very high price. For example, if you let White people define who and what you are, and you live by what they think, then you will have their good will, but in the process, deep down inside you will hate yourself as a Black person.
Meanwhile, you will not admit your self-hate to yourself, you will sit behind the “better job” your White ass kissing has produced, and project all of your self-hate onto the Black people that don’t want to sell their manhood for a few dollars. This means that if you follow Pete’s thinking, you will kill your dream of turning the world right side up, you will kill it because you won’t believe that you deserve to be on top.”
I asked, “It makes sense to me that we will need good will of some Whites, so how is my generation going to make progress for our race, and not lose our manhood?”
“Look son, I am not saying that your generation doesn’t need the good will of some White people, all I am saying is that you will have to come up with a way to get that good will by acting Black instead of acting White.”
“If I understand you right King Nothing, you are telling me that I must stand up and be a man, and in doing so, convince some White people to actually help me be what they don’t want me to be, and get what they don’t want me to have.”
“That is exactly what must be done son; you’ve got to be creative. We can’t afford to trade our being who we are, Black men, to become less-than-a-man so White people will give us their good will. That would defeat the whole purpose of each generation making a step toward becoming men and women who are getting more and more control of our destiny as a people. That is a contradiction that White people have presented us with for close to four hundred years, destroy our self in order to be our self, in other words, they not only ask us, but try to force us, to commit spiritual suicide.”
I stated, “I have heard a lot of people talking about the tools that we have at our disposal, but this was the first time I understood exactly what position we are fighting from.”
I spent a couple of days thinking about what King Nothing said; it was like putting together a giant jig saw puzzle, and all of the things I was learning were pieces of this puzzle. And the things King Nothing said was a very important piece to this puzzle if I could only figure out where it fits in with all of the other important things I had learned, for example, from Mrs. Johnson in Denver, among others.
I really enjoyed myself thinking about it from a philosophical point of view, about Black people thinking about acting on a unified level, and just as important to me thinking about the pure logical process involved in seeing what my generation had to do to set everything up for the knock down.
In this kind of fight, according to King Nothing and Mrs. Johnson, winning and losing was totally depended upon our creative abilities, because as far as we know it had never been done before.
After thinking about King Nothing’s half of the ideas about our position in life, I turned my attention to finding out how Mr. Pete’s mind dealt with the point raised about selling manhood; when I mentioned it to him, his replied was:
“Look son, being Black middle class in a White middle class society is not the best position in the world, but it is the best one available to Black people at this time if you want certain things out of life, I know that.
I also know that White people have worked out a pretty good system for making a living with hard work. I am using that system to survive in a world that doesn’t like me and I don’t control, yet I want to live well; and I live that way without a threat to my manhood.”
“But I don’t understand Mr. Pete, the way King Nothing saw the situation, in order for the Black middle class to function is to sell their soul to the White man, and begin to hate themselves in the process.”
“That is what King Nothing believes, but I am thinking about life from a totally different direction than he does, and I have as much right to do things the way I see them as he does. And who has the right to say I am wrong, nobody. I cannot lose my Blackness if I tried, that is one thing I don’t have worry about; White people are going to remind me hundreds of times a day. So I am a man that has convinced the ruling group that my ultimate goal and their goal is the same; I think that is called a con game.”
My mind snapped to attention when I heard the terms con game, and I started to remember the things Mr. Pine Top in Los Angeles told me about how the game is played. “I know a little bit about con games, from when I was hanging around on skid row, but I know you are not talking about street cons, you being a Christian and all.
“Why son, Christianity doesn’t have anything to do with it, and all cons have the same foundation, the game don’t change, only thing that changes is the name. As far as losing my manhood is concerned, that is a whole other question, which cannot happen as long as I am master of the game, and not let the game master me. Because in this game I am playing, if I lose, it will be much more than my manhood. The name of the game I play is, for example, proving to someone, by their own standards, to take their money out of their pocket and put it in my pocket.”
“Yes sir, but that sounds like voodoo to me, I know something about how voodoo works from when I was growing up back home.”
“Oh no son, this game works by using other people’s highest valued beliefs against what they want most. In addition it uses the fact that White people think that Black people do not have enough sense to fool them, and that they don’t know anything about spirituality. But the energy that gives the game its life and power, is that I believe in their standards and values more than they do. My believing in them is what makes it work, and I believe in them like they are the commandments of my personal religion.”
I replied, “I know what you are talking about, it is call beating them at their own game.”
He answered, “In some ways that is exactly what I am doing, but it goes deeper than that, you see son, I took their middle class values, adjusted them to fit my situation, and use them to make progress for Black people.”
“Oh I see, if you really believe in what they are doing, well that is not a con game.”
“Whether or not it is a con game is not the question, let me put it to you this way. That White boy put together a thing called a constitution, which is the guiding force in this government we are living under. And that constitution says that we are all to be treated equal, and have the god given right to pursue our happiness. My African traditional bush intelligence tells me that is a good way to run a government. However, for some reason or another, the White boy put shit in the game. He is going to try to maintain the government of that constitution, and at the same time, take my right to pursue happiness away. He is violating his own standards, which is a contradiction in terms. I, and my fellow Black middle class friends, will use this contradiction to fight to force this government to do what it was designed to do, give freedom and protection for its entire people to pursue our happiness. I am not losing my manhood; I am fighting to protect it.”
“Well Mr. Pete that is something I have to think about a lot.”
Thinking about King Nothing and Mr. Pete reminded me about something I had heard about my grandpa Ben and Grandpa Tom. The family traditions said that one time grandpa Tom told Grandpa Ben that “the world was on a turtle’s back, and if he was not careful it would fall off.” Grandpa Ben’s response was “To me the question is, if the world is supported by the turtle’s back, what is supporting the turtle?”
To me they were like two Generals planning an attack from two different directions, and using two different methods. I knew this was a big piece of the puzzle, and I had to figure out where these two Generals were coming from and what was making them tick, and why did they use different approaches and attitudes.
I thought about what both of them said, King Nothing and Mr. Pete, a lot over the next couple of days. And the more I thought about them, I begin to get a strong feeling that it was very important for me to really get an understanding of where they were coming from. But something was missing, there was a piece of information that I did not have, and I did not know where to start looking for it, because I didn’t know the right questions to ask them or myself.
I played around with trying to figure it out, until Friday after I got off work and left the ballpark, then I decided that after supper I was going to go to my room and stay there until Monday morning, with the exception of going to get something to eat, until I had the answer to the question, what makes King Nothing and Mr. Pete tick.
All Friday night and Saturday morning I kept going over in my mind all the experiences I had and all of the things I had been told, but I couldn’t make any progress in finding what was missing. When I came back from stealing lunch, I felt kind of sleepy and took a nap. When I woke up there was Priest Sowa sitting on the side of the bed; Priestess Mabole was sitting in the chair, and little Ben and Bertha were playing on the floor.
Priest Sowa: “I have mentioned the end of the Civil War, and among other things the Ku Klux Klan. But that was not the whole story and did not go deep enough into the conflict between Blacks and Whites for you to understand where King Nothing and Mr. Pete are coming from.
Once the war ended, and the north had won, the next thing to be done was to change the organization of the south from a slave owning society to a society where the slaves were free—that process was called Reconstruction.
If you recall me telling you that, as the war was ending, April 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was killed and vice president Andrew Johnson, a southerner, became President. And President Johnson, between April and December 1865 established what became know as the Presidential Reconstruction, which consisted of returning landownership and political power to the old southern ruling class (slave owners).
Thereafter, the South wasted no time in, for all practical purposes, returning Blacks to a state of slavery. By passing a group of laws that became known as the southern Black Codes, even though a constitution amendment, the 13th, had been passed ending slavery for all times.
However, the northern Republicans, the party in control of congress at that time, did not like the course the South was taking, and saw that the whole reason for fighting the war, freeing of slavery, was being undermined. They came to the conclusion that they should be punished for that, and for starting the war in the first place.
So beginning in December 1865 through 1877, the Republican Congress overruled the President, and established what became known as Congressional Reconstruction to change the social make up of the south. And in the process, punished the South, and at the same time, freed Blacks from any resemblance of slavery.
To accomplish this end, in the late 1860s, Congress passed the 14th and 15th Amendments giving civil rights and voting rights to Blacks in the South, but not in the north. And at the same time, took the voting rights from all southerners who fought in the Civil War, which covered the vast majority of southern Whites.
After which, Blacks not only began to vote throughout the South, but also played a big role in writing the constitutions of the southern States; and held high offices in the national, state, and local governments after the States returned to civilian control. This was the North’s revenge on the South.
But now that those Blacks had more political power than the vast majority of southern Whites. The North had struck terror in the souls of southern Whites, because of the fear of what Blacks would do about the things that happened in slavery times.
Meanwhile, in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan came into being, and went on a rampage against northern Whites and Blacks to stop Blacks from voting; this was the answer by the South to the North’s revenge.
Thus is the force that drove southern Whites to begin the second civil war using their K.K.K. army, 1866-1877, against Blacks and Northern Whites; which the South won in one respect and lost in another.
The South won this war, not so much by the force of arms at the voting booth by the K.K.K., but because the North, after they got their revenge, had a special plan to make the South a colony ruled indirectly by the North.
Therefore, to really understand the so called 1877 compromise, and at the same time, get some insight into what was really happening in Reconstruction between northern Whites and southern Whites, we have to take a look at the nature of colonialism and the art of indirect rule of a foreign country.
Recall, the South, in 1860-61, became independent from the North, and set up their own government, which in effect made them a foreign country. After the North won the war, the South was put under military rule, and then under the rule of Northern Whites and Southern Blacks.
Thus they destroyed the way the government was set up, controlled by southern Whites, and rewrote the states constitution using northern Whites and southern Blacks while the majority of southern Whites could not even vote. Thus was the nature of Reconstruction.
However, in 1877, the North’s special plan to colonize the South called for a change from the direct rule, having the South under military occupation, to indirect rule by putting the South under the rule of ex-slave owners who were under the rule of the North.
This gave the ex-slave owners the responsibility of controlling the poor Whites and Blacks, while the North had the responsibility of managing the South’s economic affairs. That meant that southern money went to the North and the South was under economic slavery, and had the effect of making southern Whites and Blacks equal in the sense that they were all poor. Thus is the nature of colonialism.
Meanwhile, after 1877, being as southern Blacks and Whites were equally under economic slavery, the only way southern Whites could feel superior to Blacks was to deny them their social and political rights, this the North agreed to.
In fact the North was working toward this end before 1877, for example, in two northern controlled Supreme Court decisions.
In 1875 several indictments charged K.K.K. defendants with preventing Blacks from exercising their right to vote in elections.
In the United States vs. Reese, the Court held that the statute covered more offenses than were punishable under the terms of the Fifteenth Amendment and was, therefore, unconstitutional—in other words, giving the K.K.K. the right to continue their activities against Blacks.
And in the United States vs. Cruikshank, the Court declared that the Fifteen Amendment grantees citizens not the right to vote but, only a right not to be discriminated against by the States on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitudes.
In other words, the court was saying that southern Whites were free to settle its problems with Blacks any way they wanted to. However, Blacks were not going for it.
Meanwhile, southern Whites and Blacks were working real hard trying to make a living in very hard economic times, at the same time, fighting each other over social rights, and the economic scraps left by the North. Thus is the situation from 1877 until now, 1950, and is the foundation of the war between southern Blacks and Whites.
And at the time the Black man and the White woman began to reach an understanding, sexually. This was, and is, very hard for Southerners to take, especially the thing going on between the Black man and White woman physically and spiritually.
So after the compromise of 1877, they saw that they would not get their wealth back, but they could get their niggers back into a slave like position, and get their women under some kind of control; in part by becoming evil some of the time, and in part by living in the fantasy world of self denial.
Their fantasy world consisted of believing that they were going to return things to the way they were in the slave days, and, their belief that a White woman could not desire a Black man. They went insane every time Blacks would not fit into a slave like position and mess with one of their women. Their evilness took the form of racist laws, K.K.K., race riots, and especially lynching.
We Blacks were in a very unique position, after being in slavery for 246 years, all of a sudden we found ourselves free, and for the next twelve years we were a part of the ruling class. And just as sudden we found ourselves in a-do-or-die civil war with southern Whites to hold on to at least a little of our freedom. Those were some strong changes for a people to go through in only twelve years, 1865-1877.
Even so, we were not too concerned with what southern Whites were thinking; what could they do? They had done everything they knew how, trying to break our spirit and steal our soul in the slave days, and failed. And here they were using the same approach and attitude that had failed a thousand times before.
However, southern Blacks were very interested in everything the northern Whites were doing and saying, because even though they had sold us out to the south during the compromise, they still held the key to our future. And we did not know them well enough to predict what they would do, this was our position by 1880. Meanwhile, we had to continue to deal with the southern Whites attacking us with the full force of Mob Violence.
And at the same time, we had to split our energy between building the space and time we needed to be able to create all of the things we needed in our community and culture, and fighting this mob war.
And as Priestess Mabole told you, our community was created in two parts; one part was created and led by Preachers (the in-laws), whose headquarters was the Church House, and the other part was created and led by Pimps (the out-laws), whose headquarters was the Juke Joint; both of which had an army of warriors.
Also, they both had different approaches and attitudes toward warfare, because each attacked different aspects of the White social system. The Preachers and their warriors attacked their social and spiritual beliefs, while the Pimp and their warriors not only attacked their legal system, and began sleeping with their women, but also attacked them physically. Thus is the nature of the Black warriors. One side is fighting for respect, and the other, for equality.
As far as lynching is concerned, to keep the Northern Whites from knowing what they were doing, Southern Whites told the Whites in the North that the reason so many Blacks were being lynched and tortured was that Blacks were raping White women.
This was not true, the reason Whites were so angry was because, in the majority of cases, Blacks did not have to rape White women. White women would have sex with a Black man because they wanted to, but if they got caught, the woman would cry rape to save themselves. And it was a Black woman that exposed the big lie southern Whites were telling the North, and the world for that matter.
Black women warriors, Ida B. Wells
This is where Ida B. Wells came into the picture, she told the north just what southern Whites were doing and why, even though southern Whites threatened her life for doing so. In this sense, She became one of the many great Black in-law female warriors in her time, and the first Black to fight against lynching on a national level, and in the process, established a powerful Women’s Movement; during the time when lynching was at it peak.
Ida B. Wells was born in the middle of the Civil War, July 1862 in Holly Spring, Mississippi, which meant that she grew up during the reconstruction, and was twenty years old in 1882, when records of lynching began to be kept. After teaching school for a long while, she ended up being a newspaper owner-editor, and the cause she chose to fight for, after going through a number of changes, was federal laws against lynching. This was brought forcibly upon her attention in March 1892, as I mentioned, one of the years when lynching was at its peak.
And to make her case, she began to investigate different lynchings because of rape, and found out the facts and reported them in her newspaper. To find out what kind of warrior she was, I will quote excerpts from two of her books, her autobiography, and the one she wrote on lynching; where she tells of the experience that sent her in this direction in detail.
“While I was thus carrying on the work of my newspaper, happy in the thought that our influence was helpful and that I was doing the work I loved and had proven that I could make a living out of it, there came the lynching in Memphis, Tennessee, which changed the whole course of my life. I was on one of my trips away from home. I was busily engaged in Natchez (Mississippi) when word came of the lynching of three (Black) men in Memphis. It came just as I had demonstrated that I could make a living by my newspaper and need never tie myself down to school teaching.
Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart owned and operated a grocery store in a thickly populated suburb; Moss was a letter carrier and could only be at the store at night. Everybody in town knew and loved Tommie. An exemplary young man, he was married and the father of one little girl, Maurine, whose godmother I was. He and his wife Betty were the best friends I had in town. And he believed, with me, that we (Black people) should defend the cause of right and fight wrong wherever we saw it.
They had located their grocery store in the district known as the “Curve” because the streetcar line curved sharply at that point, there was already a grocery store owned and operated by a White man who hitherto had had a monopoly on the trade of this thickly populated colored suburb. Thomas’s grocery changed all that, and he and his associate were made to feel that the White grocer did not welcome them. The district being mostly colored and many of the residents belonging either to Thomas’s church or to his lodge, he was not worried by the White Grocer’s hostility.
One day some colored and White boys quarreled over a game of marbles and the colored boys got the better of the fight that followed. The father of the Whites whipped the victorious colored boy, whose father and friends pitched in to avenge the grown White man’s flogging of a colored boy. The colored man won the fight, whereupon the White father and grocery keeper swore out a warrant for the arrest of the colored victors. Of course the colored grocery keepers had been drawn into the dispute. But the case was dismissed with nominal fines. Then the challenge was issued that the vanquished Whites were coming on Saturday night to cleanout the People’s grocery Company (the name of the Black grocery store).
Accordingly, the grocery company armed several men and stationed them in the rear of the store on that fatal Saturday night, not to attack but to repel a threatened attack.
About ten o’clock that night, when Thomas was posting his books for the week and Calvin McDowell and his clerk were waiting on customers preparatory to closing, shots rang out in the back room of the store. The men stationed there had seen several White men stealing through the rear door and fired on them without a moment’s pause. Three of these (White) men were wounded, and the others fled and gave the alarm.
Over a hundred colored men were dragged from their homes and put in jail on suspicion.
A body of picked (White) men was admitted to the jail, which was a modern Bastille. This mob took out of their cells Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, the three officials of the People’s Grocery Company. They were loaded on a switch engine of the railroad, which ran in back of the jail, carried a mile north of the city limits, and horribly shot to death. One of the morning (White) newspapers held back its edition in order to supply its readers with the details of that lynching.”
From its columns were gleaned the above information, together with details which told that “it is said that Tom Moss begged for his life for the sake of his wife and child and his unborn baby; that when asked if he had anything to say, told them to “tell my people to go West—there is no justice for them here;” that Calvin McDowell got hold of one of the guns of the lynchers and because they could not loosen his grip a shot was fired into his closed fist. When the three bodies were found, the fingers of McDowell’s right hand had been shot to pieces and his eyes were gouged out. This proved that the one who wrote that news report was either an eyewitness or got the facts from someone who was.
Then a mob of Whites went to the Black store. This mob took possession of the People’s Grocery Company, helping themselves to food and drink, and destroyed what they could not eat or steal. The creditors had the place closed and a few days later what remained of the stock was sold at auction. Thus, with the aid of the city and county authorities and the daily (White) newspaper, that White grocer had indeed put an end to his rival Negro grocer as well as to his business.
As said before, I (Ida B. Wells) was in Natchez, Mississippi, when the worst of this horrible event was taking place. Thomas Moss had already been buried before I reached home. Although stunned by the events of that hectic week, the Free Speech (Ida’s newspaper) felt that it must carry on. Its leader (lead story) for that week said;
The city of Memphis has demonstrated that neither character nor standing avails the Negro if he dares to protect himself against the White man or become his rival. There is nothing we can do about the lynching now, as we are out-numbered and without arms. The White mob could help itself to ammunition without pay, but the order was rigidly enforced against the selling of guns to Negroes. There is therefore only one thing left that we can do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor gives us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by White persons.
This advice of the Free Speech, coupled with the last words of Thomas Moss, was taken up and re-echoed among our people throughout Memphis. Hundreds disposed of their property and left. Rev. R. N. Countee and Rev. W. A. Brinkley, both leading pastors, took their whole congregations with them as they, too, went west. Memphis had never seen such an upheaval among colored people. Businesses were practically at a standstill, for the Negro was famous then, as now, for spending his money for fine clothes, furniture, jewelry, and especially pianos and other musical instruments, to say nothing of good things to eat. Music houses had more musical instruments, sold on the installment plans, thrown back on their hands that they could find storage for.”
In two months time, six thousand Black people left Memphis. Businesses that depended on their trade began to fail. The superintendents of the street railway company asked Ida B. to advise her readers to ride the streetcars again. White housewives complained of a shortage of domestic workers; whole blocks of homes stood empty. I don’t see what you niggers are cutting up about, (a White real estate dealer said). You got off light. We first intended to kill every one of those thirty-one niggers in jail, but concluded to let all go but the leaders.
(This general southern White attitude led Ida B. to see that Thomas Moss, and his business partners was not an isolated event, but was part of a large southern White movement to intimidate Blacks in order to restore White supremacy in the south).
“The more I studied the situation, (she said), the more I was convinced that the Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his servant and his source of income. The federal laws for Negro protection passed during Reconstruction had been made a mockery by the White South. This same White South had secured political control of the several (Southern) states (after the compromise of 1877, but) this still seemed not enough to keep the nigger down, hence came lynch law.”
Reviewing the figures, Ida B. found that 728 Black men and women had been lynched during the past ten years, 1882-1892. Some had been shot or hanged, others burned alive or savagely dismembered. Often whole towns turned out to watch the executions and to cheer on the mob. The White press (newspaper) describes the Black victims as Burly Brutes who had committed the unspeakable crime—rape of a White woman. It was necessary to kill them, a Memphis paper explained, because there was no other way to restrain the brute passion of the Negro.
The cry of rape as a pretext for lynching had been repeated so often in recent years that even Black people had come to believe it. But Thomas Moss and his partners had not been rapists. Perhaps other lynch victims were equally blameless. Ida B. began to investigate.
Going back through the newspapers, Ida B. found that only one-third of the 728 lynched Blacks had even been charged with rape. Of those, how many had been innocent? When the Associated Press reported that a Black man was lynched in Indianola, Mississippi, because he had raped an eight-year-old White girl, Ida B. went to Indianola. There she found that the girl was eighteen years old and a regular visitor to the Black man’s cabin. In another Mississippi town, Ida B. talked to a woman whose son had been killed for raping his boss’s daughter. In a sworn statement, the mother insisted that the White girl had sought out her son until he had quit his job to escape her advances. When they were discovered together the girl charged rape, and a lynch mob formed. In Natchez, Ida B. learned of a wealthy society White woman who had had a long-term affair with her Black coachman. After she gave birth to a dark-skinned baby, the coachman left the state.
But southern Whites were telling the world that the reason Blacks were being lynched was because of the crime of rape when in fact that was not always so, as was shown in the case in Memphis, and in the situations where White women are concerned. And in the other cases where White women are concerned, rape was not the case either, as Ida B. found out.
Now to expose before the world the facts that indicated that White women desired Black men was too much for White men to handle; Ida B. wrote just such an article. After making her investigation, she wrote;
“Eight Negroes lynched since last issue of the Free Speech (Ida’s newspaper), one at Little Rock, Ark., last Saturday morning where the citizens broke into the penitentiary and got their man; three near Anniston, Ala., one near New Orleans; and three at Clarksville, Ga., the last three for killing a White man, and five on the same old racket—the new alarm about raping White women. The same program of hanging, then shooting bullets into the lifeless bodies was carried out to the letter.
Nobody in this section of the country (the south) believes the old threadbare lie that Negro men rape White women. If southern White men are not careful, they will over-reach themselves and public sentiment will have a reaction; a conclusion will then be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.”
These statements were published in newspapers in the South as well as in the North; what Ida B. was saying was just what White people, especially White men, did not want to hear, and did not want the world to know. This was a blow taken at the South’s White manhood and womanhood, and they had a strong reaction. For example, Ida B’s articles appeared in her newspaper May, 21, 1892, and the Whites answered her three days later in their newspaper, Daily Commercial paper of Memphis, on May 24th, 1892 which stated, and I quote.
“Those Negroes who are attempting to make the lynching of individuals of their race a means of arousing the worst passions (anger) of their kind are playing with a dangerous sentiment. The Negroes may as well understand that there is no mercy for the Negro rapist and little patience with his defenders." A Negro organ (Ida’s newspaper) printed in this city, in a recent issue publishes the following atrocious paragraph; (this was followed by him repeating everything Ida B had wrote, then he went on to say):
"The fact that a Black scoundrel (Ida B.) is allowed to live and utter such loathsome and repulsive calumnies is a volume of evidence as to the wonderful patience of Southern Whites. But we have had enough of it.
There are some things that the Southern White man will not tolerate, and the obscene intimations of the foregoing have brought the writer to the very outermost limit of public patience. We hope we have said enough.”
The Whites had threatened Ida B’s life, and it was not unheard of for Black women to be lynched, Ida B. goes on to tell us what happened next.
“Acting upon this advice (in the White newspaper), the leading (White) citizens met in the Cotton Exchange Building the same evening, and threats of lynching Ida B. were freely indulged, not by the lawless element upon which the deviltry of the South is usually saddled—but by the leading business men, in their leading business center.
Mr. Fleming (a Black man), the business manager and part owner of Ida B’s newspaper, had to leave town to escape the mob, and was afterward ordered not to return; letters and telegrams sent me in New York where I was spending my vacation advised me that “bodily harm awaited my return.” Creditors took possession of the office and sold the outfit, and the Free Speech (Ida’s newspaper) was as if it had never been. (Ida B continued with).”
The editorial in question, the one she wrote, was prompted by the many inhuman and fiendish lynching of Blacks that have recently taken place and was meant as a warning. “Eight lynched in one week and five of them charged with rape! The thinking public will not easily believe freedom and education (which Blacks got during reconstruction) were more brutalizing than slavery, and the world knows that the crime of rape was unknown during four years of civil war, when the White women of the South were at the mercy of the (Black) race which is all at once (after the war) with being a bestial one.
This statement is not a shield for the despoiler of virtue (real rapist), nor although a defense for the poor blind Black Sampson who suffer them to be betrayed by White Delilah. It is a contribution to truth, an array of facts, and the perusal of which it is hoped will stimulate this great American Republic to demand that justice be done through the heavens fall.
“Although I had been warned repeatedly by my own people that something would happen if I did not cease harping on the lynching of there months before; I had expected that happening to come when I was at home. I had brought a pistol the first thing after Tom Moss was lynched, because I expected some cowardly retaliation from the lynchers. I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or rat in a trap.
I had already determined to sell my life as dearly as possible if attacked. I felt if I could take one lyncher with me, this would even up the score a little bit. But fate decided that the blow would fall when I was away, thus settling for me the question whether I should go West or East.
Because I saw the chance to be of more service to the cause by staying in New York than by returning to Memphis, I took a position on the (Black newspaper) New York Age, and continued my fight against lynching and lynchers. They had destroyed my newspaper, in which every dollar I had in the world was invested. They had made me an exile and threatened my life for hinting at the truth. I felt that I owed it to myself, and my race, to tell the whole truth.
So with the splendid help of T. Thomas Fortune and Jerome B. Peterson, (Black) owners and editors of the New York Age, I was given an opportunity to tell the world for the first time the true story of Negro lynching, which was becoming more numerous and horrible. Had it not been for the courage and vision of these two men, I could never have made such headway in emblazoning the story to the world. These men gave me a one-fourth interest in the paper in return for my subscription lists, which were afterward furnished to me, and I became a weekly contributor on salary (as well as part owner).”
It was a big job Ida B. had taken on, the South had sold their story of rape so well everybody was believing them, including most Blacks, that this part of their attack on Blacks as a people were justified. This is what Ida set out to change in people’s minds, she had convinced Blacks, her next step was to convince Whites; and her first article in her new paper was a big step in that direction, for example, as follows.
“There are thousands of such cases (Black framed for rape) throughout the South, with the difference that the southern White men’s insatiate fury wreak their vengeance without intervention of law upon the Black man who consorted with their women. A few instances to substantiate the assertion that some White women love the company of the Black man will not be out of place: most of these cases were reported by the daily (White) papers of the South.
In the winter of 1885-6 the wife of a practicing (White) physician in Memphis, in good social standing whose name has escaped me, left home, husband and children, and ran away with her Black coachman. She was with him a month before her husband found out and brought her home. The (Black) coachman could not be found. The doctor moved his family away from Memphis, and is living in another city under an assumed name.
Sarah Clark (White) of Memphis loved a Black man and lived openly with him. When she was indicted (by the grand jury) last spring for miscegenation, she swore in court that she was not a White woman. This she did to escape the penitentiary and continued her illicit relation undisturbed.
A young girl living on Popular St., who was discovered in intimate relations with a handsome mulatto young colored man, Will Morgan by name, stole her father’s money to send the young fellow away from that father’s wrath. She has since joined him in Chicago.
The very week the leading (White) citizens of Memphis were making a spectacle of themselves in defense of all White women of every kind, a Black man, Mr. Stricklin, was found in a White woman’s room in that city. Although she made no outcry of rape, he was jailed and would have been lynched, but the woman stated she brought curtains from him (he was a furniture dealer) and his business in her room that night was to put them up. A White woman’s word was taken as absolutely in this case as when the cry of rape is made, and he (the Black man) was freed.
What is true of Memphis is true of the entire South. The daily papers last year reported a farmer’s wife in Alabama had given birth to a Negro child. When the Negro farm hand, who was plowing in the field, heard it, he took the mule from the plow and fled.
The dispatches also told of a (White) woman in South Carolina who gave birth to a Negro child and charged three (Black) men with being its father, every one of whom has since disappeared.
In Tuscumbia, Ala., the colored boy who was lynched there last year for assaulting a White girl told her before his accusers that he had met her there in the woods often before.
Hundreds of such cases might be cited, but enough have been given to prove the assertion that there are White women in the South who love the Black man’s company even as there are White men notorious for their preference for Black women”
As we can see, after going to New York, and writing for another newspaper Ida B. really let loose with both barrels, and began to really put all of the southern men and women’s business in the street. And proved her case to the point that northern Whites had to sit up and take notice.
And to drive her point home, Ida B. Wells not only continued to write about lynching in the newspaper, but also traveled to Europe to tell other parts of the world what White southerners were doing.
And at the same time, she started a national Black women’s movement against lynching that added more power to what she was doing. She even wrote a book documenting a lot more cases where White women were freely having sex with Black men, and eventually the facts of lynching begin appearing in the northern White newspapers. Soon after that, congress begins talking about passing anti-lynching laws: So Ida B. Wells had successfully exposed the lie about Blacks raping White women in the South to the whole world.
As you can see, 1892 was a very big year in the life of Ida B., who had just turned thirty years old that year.
In March her friend Thomas Moss, along with his partners, were lynched; in May her newspaper office and printing press was destroyed by an angry mob of White men who were looking to kill her; in June she wrote a long article, in a New York Black paper, making a big attack on the South’s White womanhood and manhood, which led to publishing two books on the subject; October 5th, the Black women leaders and community of New York and Brooklyn gave a testimonial in her honor, recognizing and giving support to what she was doing; thereafter, she began a lecturing career, took a trip to Europe, and afterward started a chain of Black women clubs to get the word out; and in the process she became one of the greatest Black women warriors in Black history.
However, the major point being, southern Blacks and Whites have been in a civil war for the last sixty-eight years, 1877-1950, and there is no end in sight.
And the war is because southern Whites think that Blacks are the scum of the earth, lowlifes, sub-human beings without character or moral values, and their worst nightmare is to be classified on the same level with us. To their way of thinking, if Blacks and Whites were equal, that meant that Whites, in their own minds, were also scum of the earth, lowlifes, and sub-human beings without character or moral values.
After getting their ass whipped by the North, and Blacks coming into power in reconstruction, southern Whites were suffering from a bad case of inferiority complex. And they were fighting as hard as they knew how, including lynching, to keep Blacks from getting any respect and, or, equality. While manufacturing all kinds of lies to tell themselves so they would to be able to think of themselves as being above Blacks and not have to face the reality of the situation. And as you can see, there are no limits to what they will do to accomplish that end.
On the other hand, Blacks well-understood, from experience, going back in slavery in any form was hell on earth, and we are going to fight to stop it from happening no matter what it cost.
The things Priest Sowa was telling me about the Black-White civil war, and warriors and the war-zone, made everything become clear to me. For the first time in my life I understood the changes that was happening in my life, and the purpose they served.
For example, that little incident in the train yard with that White man was just part of my mind leading me into becoming what I wanted to be, and the only thing I had to do was do what I wanted to do. I could also see that all of my experiences up to that point in my life were preparing me to become a Hard Core Outlaw-Warrior.
I already created a religion, and there was nothing about my lifestyle that showed much respect for the law. I could see myself becoming just like those Black warriors were in the 1880s that had to create a way to deal with that whole lynching thing; they had just became my all time heroes.
I knew that this was another piece of the puzzle that went right next to the puzzle piece that I got from Mrs. Johnson in Denver and what she had to say about spiritual warfare and creativity, but I also knew that there was a hell of a lot of other pieces of the puzzle still to be found before I got the whole picture.
I finally remembered that I wanted to ask Priest Sowa about what King Nothing had said about Marcus Garvey, that he turned Black people’s mind right side up, after slavery had turned it upside down. But when I looked around he was nowhere to be found, nor were Priestess Mabole, or Little Ben and Bertha.
I promised myself that was the first thing I would ask Priest Sowa the next time I see him, because I felt very strongly that Marcus Garvey was still another piece of the puzzle that also had something to do with the whole idea about warriors and warfare.
Book Two, The Game Black People Play
Ancient West African Spirituality
The Seven Spirits continued, “We will live on Earth in physical form for twenty years. Then we will be sacrificed by the Black Panther and Red Hawk, and as our blood is spilled on the Earth, a crystal palace will grow from our blood and become the home of our kingdom of their spirituality; known as the Mind and Soul of Black Folks.”
At that point, 1600 Priest and Priestess stood next to each shrine along the golden wall and presented a sacrificial meal to the 1600 Most Ancient Gods and Goddesses, who gave their approval for the destiny in an explosion of rainbow colors.
After blessing the group of the seven-spirit-souls with all of the qualities they will need to fulfill their chosen destiny, Papa SEVEN spoke thus:
“You must travel through the Middle Passage until you find the Keeper of the Gateway between Ideas and Reality, and get his seal of approval before your kingdom can cross over into reality. From this day forward, your group title will be the Sacred Seven, the Royal Family of the Salvation of Black Americans; JUST DO IT!”
With the words “JUST DO IT” ringing in their ears, the Sacred Seven went through the Archway of the Crystal Palace into the pathway leading to the Valley of the Middle Passage of making Commitments, the actual space between an idea and reality; better known as the space between Heaven and Earth.
After traveling for a long time they didn’t find the Gate Keeper. The Seven Spirits of the Black Family begin feeling as if they were lost and depressed. It took them a while to fight through the feeling, and as they left, Lost and Depression said to them, “You have defeated me, but you will not defeat our mother and father.”
Further down the path, they came to a crossroad, and confusion took over their minds; which road should they take? It took them a while to figure out a way around that obstacle; as they left Confusion said to them, “You have defeated me, but you will not defeat my mother and father.”
After they had traveled a ways, disunity took over the group. Some wanted to go look for food, some wanted to stop and rest, while some wanted to keep going. It took them a while to bring themselves back together, and as they left, Disunity said to them, “You may have defeated me, but you will not defeat my mother and father.”
As they traveled further down the path, ego delusion took possession of them, everybody wanted to be the leader, and nobody wanted to be followers. It took them a while to get their proper perspective back; as they left Ego Delusion said to them, “You have defeated me, but you will not defeat my mother and father.”
The Sacred Seven Souls were traveling along doing fine, and out of nowhere, distrust came into their minds about their ability to make the right choices, and they lost their self-confidence. This was more difficult to deal with, but they worked it out. And as they left, Distrust said to them, “You have defeated me, but you will not defeat my mother and father.”
They continued down the pathway thinking about the problems they came across, when all of a sudden, they were overcome with fear of the unknown. It took them quite some time before they could get rid of it; as they left Fear said to them, “You have defeated me, but you will not defeat my mother and father.”
Traveling further and further, after a while, a large Two-Headed Being, ugly and powerful, appeared on the path in front of the Sacred Seven blocking their way. “Who are you, and what do you want” they asked? The Being answered, “I am Jealousy and Greed, the Great Destiny Destroyer, I am the mother and father of the problems you had on the pathway, and I have thousands of other children whose sole reason for existing is to destroy what you have set out to do. And the biggest destroyer is my son, Slavery.”
The Sacred Seven replied, “You are the biggest threat to mankind’s purpose in life, which is to fulfill a chosen destiny. Without that, what is left? We don’t know where you came from, but we must use everything in our power to destroy you.”
Jealousy and Greed answered “Destroy me! I know you will fight me with everything you have, that is the nature of your destiny, and you may or may not defeat me as individuals, but to destroy me is impossible.”
“We are a warrior kingdom, and our nature is to serve and protect the people. You are evil, and to protect the people we must destroy you.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha. Protect the people from me, ha, ha, ha. You must be joking! The GREAT CREATOR Created the Universe, the Great Goddess OLYA NAL created the earth and the world, the Great God OLORUN created people, and it was the people that created me, Jealousy and Greed. People created me because they needed me to be their reason to get off their asses and do something.
OLORUN, being a palm wine junkie, but a good-natured drunk, gave the people permission to create me because it made them happy. And you are talking about destroying me! Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Through the ages I have been destroyed many times, and people only recreated me bigger, and more powerful than before. That means that in order to really destroy me, you will have to destroy the people you are duty bound to protect, ha, ha, ha.”
Jealousy and Greed laughed so hard, he-she was rolling on the ground holding their side, and while in this state, they were easily defeated by the Super Seven Spirit Souls, and they left. But no matter how far they traveled, they could still hear him-her laughing and saying, “Just wait until you meet my son, Slavery, he doesn’t have a sense of humor.”
Finally, the Sacred Seven reached the Keeper of the Gateway between Ideas (heaven) and Reality (earth), who checked their Destinies, confirmed their names to be The Sacred Seven, and let them enter into the world. And that is how Black people’s Historical Spiritual Self came into reality, and gave birth to the Black Culture.
Continued in the epilogue of Book Three of The Story of the Game Black people Play/ Trilogy, The Game’s Heart.
See you there
|Back to home page|