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Ada Fisher: Revisionist Black history leaves things out

By Ada Fisher

The recent action taken by the Quaker Oats family of products to change the name of Aunt Jemima to the Pearl Milling Company, which in 1888 developed self-rising flour, was a supposed bid to redress complaints of racism from the perceived belittling name for their pancake mix taking away from its legacy of good home cooking.

The face of Aunt Jemima was originally depicted by Nancy Green, a member of my grandfather’s Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago. Green, a woman of class, was not a mammy, per se, but one born into slavery and found to be a servant of God’s word. In a bid for cultural whatever, “nihilism” is a description for removing all vestige of truth in search of political correctness and by which Black History has been distorted with facts thought to be a disgrace haphazardly removed rather than allow such to exist on its own truth.

Another example of something that’s not quite the truth is an interpretation of the 1898 Wilmington Riots in North Carolina as simply race riots. They were a much more damning look at political retribution against the Republican Party. In the elections of that time in the city of Wilmington, though Blacks had claimed the public offices of that powerful port city, lost in the accounting of truth telling was that all of these elected people were registered Republicans.  Some were killed. Others were run out of town via trains where Democrats were behind the violence. Too many, whether white or Black, stood quiet to this travesty of justice.

Prior to 1935, the majority of Blacks in elected office and all in national office were Republicans. In order to seize their power, the Democratic Party used tactics of violence. “Jim Crow” laws, “poll taxes” and gerrymandering were designed to keep blacks from voting and assuming power. The Ku Klux Klan was at their behest and did their biding. How quickly we forget and are too fast in failing to correctly direct blame from its inception. The attribution of such racism solely to the Republican Party reflects, in part, that many of these Democrats were to later infiltrate the Republican Party trying to nullify its quest for equal rights in their championing of the 13th, 14th and 15th US Constitutional Amendments.

People are claiming the mantle of Black achievement that really didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to start or truly get in the fight. Even today, Colin Kaepernick, a sidelined San Francisco 49ers football player who put it all on the line in taking a knee against racism and injustice during the National Anthem, is a pivotal anchor whose action strengthened the Black Lives Matter movement. For such, he is still out of a job in football.  He, as well as others who’ve stood up for the right against discrimination, is persistently black balled and EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) hasn’t done a thing to help.

The Republican imprint on Black history is enormous. Though it is often erroneously denigrated and excluded from appreciation. We are the ones who fought long and hard for the recognition and promotion of Black achievement. Let us not forget that James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosemond wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 1906 in honor of Abraham Lincoln. Carter G. Woodson in 1915 founded the organization for the study of Negro life and history followed with Negro History Week in 1926. President Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 appointee, Arthur A. Fletcher, pioneered the notation of affirmative action during his stint as assistant secretary of the Department of Labor. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford recognized Black History Month as part of the U.S. Bicentennial. President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday in 1983. Most recently of note, it was President George W. Bush who on Sept. 24, 2016 authorized the establishment of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is now a part of the Smithsonian Institute.

Many of the historically Black colleges and universities also benefited from the generosity of Republican leadership in their founding and continued support.

Though the Black church is publicly being acknowledged as central to our history, missed to date in its telling is some understanding of what the nature of the slave songs’ hidden codes truly were about historically as well as the bonds of brotherhood used to bring on social change and Black revolutions. The prevalence of Black ministers as perceived leaders in the fight for equal rights misses the cloaked interconnectedness in this fight from the Black Masonic and fraternal orders, artisans, educational frameworks, merchants, artists as well as farmers and lay people of color.

On a metaphysical level, Black history is the tying of our souls in existence to the great architect of the universe; it is as if we are the embodiment of quantum entanglement (a cosmic phenomenon occurring when entities generate, interact or share spatial proximity in a manner that the quantum state of each cannot be described independently of the others, including when separated at a distance in time or space).

In dismantling certain historical statues of our nation’s early founders, trying to erase history to ignore what blinds us in our pain or rewrite it to suit our purposes, we often fail to understand or acknowledge significant contributions to who we were and are.  Let us give credit where credit is due. Our history should be a constant reminder and incentive for us to “do the right thing.”

Salisbury’s Ada Fisher is a licensed teacher, retired physician, former school board member and former N.C. Republican national committeewoman.

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