Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let me say--putting all my cards on the table so to speak--that the Sherrods are my friends. Charles Sherrod, the husband of the now controversial, fired USDA official Shirley Sherrod, was one of the founders and leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). We worked together.

So what are we looking at? Well, the whole video shows Shirley Sherrod using an anecdotal story to describe a prejudicial attitude she had 24 years ago about her reservations with helping white farmers given the plight of black farmers; she used it as an illustration of racial reconciliation. It was important, she said, to get beyond race when it came to helping farmers in need.

Here's the conclusion Sherrod comes to in her remarks on this matter: ''Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't. And they could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic--it made me realize that I needed to help poor people.''

In truth, nobody black--at least of a certain age--completely escapes the inclination to mentally mutter: How come the white people get most of the help? That Sherrod was willing to use her own attitude from a quarter century ago seems like a positive thing; especially with a U.S. government department that has been as notoriously racist and discriminatory as the USDA.

I know Charles Sherrod better than Shirley Sherrod. Back in the day when he was SNCC project director for southwest Georgia, he insisted on a racially integrated organizing team. Those of us stationed in Mississippi were reluctant, saying, that our assignment was dangerous enough without adding to the danger in this way. But Charlie insisted that we had to force the issue. This history adds to the strangeness of the kind of controversy swirling around Shirley Sherrod.

As a reporter, I know how easy it is to take an excerpt and project it in such a way as to distort the position of someone, especially if you have a political agenda.

After watching the entire video of Sherrod's remarks, NAACP president and chief operating officer Ben Jealous has now retracted his organization's initial renouncement of Shirley Sherrod, declaring that the NAACP had been  ''snookered.'' Jealous even suggested that the controversy was a deliberate deception by the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who ''broke'' this story.

At least the NAACP's Jealous took the time to look at the entire video. Apparently neither the White House nor the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack bothered to do so once they felt the flames of right-wing criticism. But then again, blacks traditionally have been expendable at this level of politics.

Charles Cobb Jr. is senior analyst for All Africa. His latest book is On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail.

Shirley Sherrod and the Politics of Overreaction
By: Terence Samuel
July 20, 2010

I feel bad for Shirley Sherrod. Not just because she lost her job. Not just because it may be that she did not do what she is accused of doing. Not because her only crime may be the very postmodern transgression of being on video and out of context. (Hear her remarks in context here.) I feel bad for Shirley Sherrod because she is only the latest example of how difficult it is for us to get beyond our own racial race. I feel bad for her because I feel bad for all of us. We're stuck. Her firing and the overreaction from the White House, the USDA and the NAACP are just more depressing plot points in the sad story of race in America.

The irony here is so rich that it is almost farcical. After almost 150 years of the USDA being a bastion of racist and discriminatory practices that hurt hundred of thousands of black people, a black USDA employee is accused of not helping a white farmer because he was white, and gets fired. It's a small thing, but that's what racism is: small, stupid and always painful. It appears that Sherrod told this story on herself, but she is bigger and smarter than that and was actually making the opposite point.

Sherrod is not just a victim of current partisan circumstances; she is also a victim of our long, tangled and painful history of race. Her "confession" that she did not apply "the full force of what I could do" to help a white farmer save his farm is exactly the kind of thing that had been happening to black farmers who dealt with the USDA since President Abraham Lincoln established the "people department" in 1862. Only that is not what Sherrod did. For generations, white employees of the USDA, particularly in the South, used the full force of what they could do to make sure that black people were shut out of loan, grant and housing programs that should have been open to everyone.

The class-action suit that tried to redress this harm, famously known as Pigford, was filed in 1997 and settled in 1999. Pigford has achieved iconic civil rights status for the light it cast on the historical wrongs committed by the department. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman, who issued the ruling in the case, looked squarely at the history: "Today there are fewer than 18,000 African-American farms in the United States, and African-American farmers now own less then 3 million acres of land," he wrote. "The United States Department of Agriculture and the county commissioners to whom it has delegated so much power bear much of the responsibility for this dramatic decline."

The suit alleged that not only had the Agriculture Department discriminated against black farmers, but when they complained about that discrimination, the USDA did not investigate or respond to those charges of bias. One of the conditions of the settlement was that the federal government would pay $50,000 to each farmer who sought USDA help and did not get it.

But when the Obama administration took office, the farmer found a champion in former Iowa governor and new Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who announced that fixing the civil right enforcement problems and the department's poor reputation were among his top priorities.

Vilsack concluded that the eight years of the Bush administration that followed Pigford only made a bad problem worse. More than 14,000 civil rights claims were filed against the USDA during the Bush administration, but almost none got any attention.

Vilsack ordered a review. "We just need to know," he told me in the spring of 2009. "One of two things happened: Either we don't let people know when they have a legitimate claim or we were not reviewing them properly."

The sensitivity and focus attached to this case is such that in February of this year, Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder announced a settlement of $1.25 billion to pay more Pigford claims, and the administration budgeted $1.15 billion in a 2010 supplemental budget request for those settlement costs.

This was not the time for Sherrod to say that she did not do what she could to help a farmer because of his race. This is the kind of this that will get you fired at USDA. In a statement released by the USDA Tuesday, Vilsack said he had accepted Sherrod's resignation, and took the time to repeat that the department would not tolerate discrimination.

The irony, of course, is that Shirley Sherrod may be guilty of no such thing. Just to recap:

Sherrod's story about the white farmer took place more than two decades before she worked for USDA, and the entire point of the story was that race is not an issue. The story was about how she and the family became friends and how she eventually helped them save their farm.

In the wake of her resignation, the farmer's wife, Eloise Spooner, told CNN that Sherrod went all out to help them. "She's the one I can credit with helping us saving our farm," Spooner said, but 26 years later, conservative bloggers could rewrite that story to great effect.

Soon after Obama took office, Vilsack noted that some of the lingering problems had to do with USDA'S troubled history: "I think it is a reflection of the past and decisions that were made long ago, and we are still dealing with the consequences," he said.

Add Shirley Sherrod to the list of consequences. We're stuck in consequences.

Terence Samuel is The Root's editor-at-large. His first book, The Upper House: A Journey Behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate, was released in May by Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Twitter.




Rachel Maddow Cuts to The Chase on Racist Smear of Sista Sherrod


Shirley Sherrod To Sue Andrew Breitbart

SAN DIEGO — Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will sue a conservative blogger who posted a video edited in a way that made her appear racist.
Sherrod was forced to resign last week as director of rural development in Georgia after Andrew Breitbart posted the edited video online. In the full video, Sherrod, who is black, spoke to a local NAACP group about racial reconciliation and overcoming her initial reluctance to help a white farmer.

Speaking Thursday at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, Sherrod said she would definitely sue over the video that took her remarks out of context. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has since offered Sherrod a new job in the department. She has not decided whether to accept.

Sherrod said she had not received an apology from Breitbart and no longer wanted one. "He had to know that he was targeting me," she said.

Breitbart did not immediately respond to a call or e-mails seeking comment. He has said he posted the portion of the speech where she expresses reservations about helping the white farmer to prove that racism exists in the NAACP, which had just demanded that the tea party movement renounce any bigoted elements.

Some members of the NAACP audience responded approvingly when Sherrod described her reluctance to help the farmer.

The farmer came forward after Sherrod resigned, saying she ended up helping save his farm.

Vilsack and President Barack Obama later called Sherrod to apologize for her hasty ouster.

Obama said Thursday that Sherrod "deserves better than what happened last week."

Addressing the National Urban League, he said the full story Sherrod was trying to tell "is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America."

Obama has acknowledged that people in his administration overreacted without having full information, and says part of the blame lies with a media culture that seeks conflict but not all the facts.

At the journalists convention, Sherrod was asked what could be done to ensure accurate coverage as conservatives like Breitbart attack the NAACP and other liberal groups.

Sherrod, 62, responded that members of her generation who were in the civil rights movement "tried too much to shield that hurt and pain from younger people. We have to do a better job of helping those individuals who get these positions, in the media, in educational institutions, in the presidency, we have to make sure they understand the history so they can do a better job."

She said Obama is one of those who need a history lesson.

"That's why I invited him to southwest Georgia. I need to take him around and show him some of that history," Sherrod said.

Sherrod said the description of the new job she has been offered in the office of advocacy and outreach was a "draft," and she questioned whether any money had been budgeted for its programs.

"I have many, many questions before I can make a decision," she said.

Despite her experience, Sherrod said she believes the country can heal its racial divisions – if people are willing to confront the issue.

"Young African-Americans, young whites, too, we've done such a job of trying to be mainstream that we push things under the rug that we need to talk about. And then we get to situations like this," she said.

"I truly believe that we can come together in this country. But you don't (come together) by not talking to each other. You don't get there by pushing things under the rug."
Sherrod said her faulty firing should not be blamed on all media.

Before the full video was released, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said Sherrod should be fired, and others called her speech racist. O'Reilly later apologized.

"They had a chance to get the facts out, and they weren't interested," Sherrod said.

She said she declined to give Fox an interview because she believed they were not interested in pursuing the truth. "They would have twisted it," she said.

A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He is reachable at jwashington(at)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Basil Davidson has died in England aged 95. 
Why should that concern me as an African?

Basil Davidson, journalist-historian
Cameron Duodu is a Ghanaian journalist, writer and commentator Well, soon after my country Ghana gained its independence in 1957, thoughts that we had never been exposed to, in our missionary and government schools, began to sneak into our consciousness. For instance, one black American historian/artist called Earl Sweeting, arrived in Accra and tried to interest us in a series of colourful post-cards he had drawn that carried such 'provocative' titles as 'Africans teaching the Greeks mathematics'; 'Africans teaching the Greeks medicine'; and 'Africans teaching the Greeks philosophy.' As editor of the monthly magazine, Drum, I was approached not by Sweeting himself but by his wife, a thin, husky-voiced African-American lady, to run an article on Sweeting's work. I was quite keen to do it, but unfortunately, Sweeting said he had left the books that would support his claims in the US. As a hard-boiled journalist, this sounded like a self-serving excuse, and I stalled the lady by saying that it wasn't possible for me to do anything until I could verify his statements independently.

I wasn't happy to stall them, for I wanted - emotionally - to accept 
Sweeting's claims. But intellectually, I was apprehensive that if I ran 
his claims, which stood on its head the orthodox view that almost 
everything we knew about civilisation was to be traced to the Greeks, I 
would become a laughing stock, at least in academic circles.

muslimsfirstonland by earl sweeting.jpg
Earl Sweeting's depiction of African Muslims arriving in North America BEFORE Columbus
My caution was, however, not baseless: Even as I was trying to find ways of making sense of Sweeting's work, the American magazine, Newsweek, got hold of some of his postcards and made fun of them in a derisive article entitled, 'If you have no history, write one!' That, fortunately, did not deter Ghana's ruling party, the Convention People's Party (CPP) from commissioning Sweeting to paint some very beautiful murals that greeted visitors to the CPP Headquarters in Accra, with the themes he was so keen to propagate - the Greeks sitting at the feet of African savants, acquiring knowledge. It was to take 30 years or so for Martin Bernal to publish 'Black Athena' (published by Rutgers University Press (1987) ISBN 0-8135-1277-8) and provide the intellectual substance that conclusively supported the ideas in Sweeting's postcards. Meanwhile, very soon after my encounter with Earl Sweeting, friends of mine studying history or archaeology at the University of Ghana, Legon - among them the late Chris Hesse (who became Ghana's High Commissioner in Zimbabwe) Annan Cato (former Ghana High Commissioner in London and Jimmy Anquandah, now Professor of Archaeology at Legon - began to talk excitedly about a writer called Basil Davidson, who, they said, was writing the 'real' history of ancient Africa. These discussions were done in hushed tones - almost as if they were discussing contraband - because the firm line Legon at the time (an institution mainly staffed by Britons, of course) was that any touting of African historical greatness stemmed from 'charlatan' sources. The historical tradition taught at Legon in those early days was largely predicated upon the view, expressed by a respected British historian and philosopher, David Hume that: 'I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general, all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation... Not to mention our colonies, there are Negroe slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; tho' low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession.'

Anton Wilhelm Amo
But Hume's pronouncement was a blatant lie. For a Ghanaian, Anton Wilhelm Amo
an Nzema (a sub-group of  the Akan people of Ghana) had, even before Hume wrote in 1753, 
established himself in Germany as one of the great thinkers of his time.

Amo was born in Awukena, near Axim, in 1711. When he was only about four
 years old, he was taken to Amsterdam by the Dutch East India Company. 
There, he was given as a present to Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick- 
Wolfenb├╝ttel, to whose palace in Wolfenb├╝ttel Amo was taken. Treated as a
 member of the Duke's family, he was educated at the University of 
Halle. He finished his preliminary studies in 1729 - a mere two years, 
his dissertation being: 'The Rights of Moors in Europe'.

Amo then moved to the University of Wittenberg, where he studied logic, 
metaphysics, physiology, astronomy, history, law, theology, politics, 
and medicine. He also acquired six languages (English, French, Dutch, 
Latin, Greek, and German). He gained his doctorate in philosophy at 
Wittenberg in 1734. His thesis was 'On the Absence of Sensation in the 
Human Mind and its Presence in our Organic and Living Body.' That was a 
full 21 years before David Hume made his ignorant remark quoted above.

Amo achieved more: He returned to Halle as a lecturer in philosophy and 
was made a Professor in 1736. In 1738, he wrote his second major work: 
'Treatise on the Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately'. 
Ironically, the Wikipedia biography of Amo states that Amo, writing 15 
years before Hume published his racist views, 'developed an empiricist 
epistemology very close to that of philosophers such as John Locke and 
David Hume'. So Hume might well have been influenced by Amo's work, 
whilst condemning Amo's race!

If David Hume could be excused for not knowing any better, the same 
cannot be said of the famous British historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper 
(Professor of History at Oxford university and author of 'The Last Days 
of Hitler'), who stated in 1963 - in terms that suggested that the world
 had stood still since David Hume's days - that 'perhaps in the future, 
there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is 

It can be seen from the foregoing that when Basil Davidson published his
 'Old Africa Rediscovered' [Victor Gollancz, London, 1959] and it fell 
into the hands of my student friends in the Ghana of the early 1960s, 
they were handed an intellectually revolutionary weapon. They changed 
the central themes of African history from: When Europeans first came to
 our continent; what they did once here; and the 'benign' changes they 
wrought in the lives of the 'savage' natives they came to find - to: 
What great civilisations existed on African soil at a time when the 
people of many European countries were still clothed in skins.

The recommendation of my student friends induced me to buy 'Old Africa 
Rediscovered'. Reading that book was like being knocked on the head with
 a hammer! A soft hammer, however, that benignly scraped away part of 
one's brain cells and replaced them with new, vibrant ones that ensured 
that one maintained a sane attitude to the world thereafter. For how 
could the finely balanced society in which I was brought up, and which 
had survived slavery, ethnic wars, famine and pestilence, be dismissed 
as 'barbarous' by 'historians' who did not even speak my language?

The history I had been taught in school, in such textbooks as 'A Short 
History of the Gold Coast', by W E F Ward, talked endlessly about wars 
between, say, the Ashantis and the British, or the Ashantis and other 
Ghanaian ethnic groups. I still remember two names from that type of 
history - Kwadwo Otibu and Kweku Aputae. They seemed to have cost their 
people a lot of blood and yet for absolutely nothing, as far as I can 

It appeared from such 'histories' that Africa was a land full of 
barbarous peoples 'until the whiteman came'. Then the whiteman endured a
 lot of troubles, but succeeded in stamping out such evils as 'human 
sacrifice', 'panyarring' and 'slavery' (which incidentally, was carried 
out only by such slave raiders as 'Samory and Babatu' or some Ashanti 

The role of the whiteman in the slave trade - in building boats 
specifically meant to transport as many slaves as possible from Africa 
to overseas destinations; in bringing to Africa iron chains, leg 
shackles, handcuffs, branding irons, neck-irons and other instruments 
specially designed and forged in Europe and then brought to Africa - 
were conspicuous by their almost total absence from the history we 

But even more shocking - from a backward glance - was the dearth of 
information about relevant African empires such as Ghana, Mali, Songhai,
 Mossi, Zulu, Xhosa, Matabele, Great Zimbabwe, Bakongo and others which 
had not only impressed visitors with their wealth, but were immensely 
resilient because they had somehow evolved highly advanced social 
intervention mechanisms that enabled their peoples to survive war, 
disease and famine, and to even resist - temporarily, alas! - the guns 
and cannons with which the whitemen often announced their arrival.

Most of these books, such as the aforementioned 'Old Africa 
Rediscovered', 'The Search For Africa' (ISBN: 978-0-85255-714-3 
Published by James Currey, Oxford,1994) Black Mother (Victor Gollancz, 
London 1961) and many others, can be found on the Internet.

Basil Davidson began to fill in the gaps for us. Each book - he wrote 
more than 30 - was a revelation. Then, in 1984, he crowned his research 
into the history of Africa by using the powerful medium of television to
 link the past and the present of the continent. In a production called 
simply, 'AFRICA', he and my very good friend, the late, erudite 
television producer, John Percival (whom I worked with in producing the 
documentary, 'Rich Man, Poor Man', for BBC Television) brought the 
continent alive for viewers of Channel 4 TV in Britain.

John Percival gave me advance copies of the tapes of the AFRICA 
programmes before they were televised, and I had an absolutely 
marvellous time running them and digesting the information. Basil 
Davidson had come full circle in my mind. When I attended the premiere 
of the series in London, I had the unique honour of meeting Father 
Trevor Huddleston, another pioneer historian of Africa, whose book, 
'Naught For Your Comfort', was the first book to present to me, a vivid 
description of the oppression blacks were living under in apartheid 
South Africa.

So much has Basil Davidson's work enriched the world's understanding of 
Africa that one scholar, Barbara Ransby (community organiser and 
co-founder of the Ella Baker-Nelson Mandela Centre, Ann Arbor, Michigan,
 USA, who teaches history at De Paul University, Chicago) has accorded 
Davidson this supreme accolade: 'I assumed he was an African or of 
African descent!'

Barbara Ransby wrote:

'I first encountered the writings of Basil Davidson when I was an 
undergraduate student at Columbia University in the early 1980s. I had 
already been a political activist and organiser for several years before
 returning to college... I was told right away by my professors that in 
order to be an objective scholar, one had to be totally divorced from 
one's subject emotionally and in every other way. The prescription for 
quality scholarship was what has been termed by Parker Palmer and others
 as "bloodless objectivism".

'I thought to myself how could I ever write about the struggles of 
oppressed people without infusing my own passions and strivings into my 
work? ... How could I research and write about movements for liberation 
in the so-called Third World, without revealing my partisanship and 
forfeiting my credibility?

'Fortunately, Basil Davidson offered me a way out. Although we never 
met, he was one of a handful of scholar-activists who offered me an 
alternative model of what and who a radical intellectual could be, and 
demonstrated to me that political activism and good academic work were 
not mutually exclusive...'

Davidson was a major influence on a whole generation of young scholars 
who wanted to research African history more out of solidarity with 
progressive forces on the continent, rather than as a result of some 
vague interest in an exotic dissertation topic. Writing in the 1950s and
 1960s, at a time when Africa herself was in the throes of a 
revolutionary struggle against colonialism, Davidson's early work was 
not only an inspiration to progressives inside academia, but was an 
important resource for African leaders themselves. Ransby wrote:

'It is unclear to me whether his relationship with and respect for 
leaders like [Amilcar] Cabral grew out of his research, or whether his 
research was inspired by his personal relationship with African 
revolutionaries. In any case, those interests and experiences became 
inseparable over the years and are reflected in Davidson's writings...

'When Davidson began his research and writing on Africa, racist Tarzan 
movies were the main channel through which most westerners experienced 
Africa... One of the myths that Davidson's powerful book, 'The African 
Slave Trade' (James Currey 1961) effectively debunks is the notion that 
sub-Saharan Africa really had no significant history before the 
Europeans arrived ... Basil Davidson gave us a very different image; one
 which belied the racist myths which had permeated academic discourse as
 much as popular culture ...
'I must confess that, after reading some of his work and initially 
knowing nothing about Davidson, the man, I assumed he was African or of 
African descent, largely because he wrote with such honesty and 
compassion about his subject ... I was surprised to learn otherwise.' 
(Published in Race and Class October 1994)

Basil Davidson was born in Bristol, England, on 9 November 1914 and died
 on 9 July 2010. His writing ability and the discipline that saw him 
through 30 books is all the more amazing because he left school at the 
early age of 16. His first break came when, after editing some obscure 
publications, he was appointed to be a correspondent of The Economist 
magazine in Paris. 

Whilst travelling around Europe for the magazine, he learnt several 
European languages. So when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and 
he joined the British army, he was considered excellent material for the
 British wartime secret service, the 'Special Operations Executive' 

The SOE sent him to Hungary, from where he also worked in the Balkans. 
He was captured by the Italian allies of Hitler. Luckily for him, the 
British had also captured some minor Italian royal duke in Ethiopia and a
 prisoner swap was arranged whereby Davidson was exchanged for the duke.
 Davidson ended the war as a Colonel, decorated with the Military Cross,
 the 3rd highest medal for British officers.

However, after the war, the brave and extremely intelligent Davidson was
 passed over for any official position in Britain, because officialdom 
had tagged him as a 'dangerous fellow traveller' mainly because of his 
association with Tito and other European communists who fought against 
Hitler. The British embraced the wartime heroism of these leftists and 
exploited it to the full. But once the war was over, they just became 
Cold War undesirables. Even when Davidson was offered an appointment 
outside the UK - as a UNESCO editor in Paris - British officials vetoed 
the appointment.

Thrown on his own resources as a journalist once again, Davidson 
described accurately, the rise of apartheid in South Africa, and was 
promptly listed as a 'prohibited immigrant' to South Africa. He turned 
his attention to the racists in Central African Federation, as well as 
the Portuguese territories in Africa - Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and 
Angola. He faced hostility everywhere imperialism reigned. Once, he was 
invited to stay with a police commissioner whom his family knew - even 
as the man's office was in the process of ejecting him from the (then) 
Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He politely declined to become the guest of 
his 'enemy'!

His books on Africa contain exquisite, clearly-written quotes that show 
no ambiguity about where he stood. One is this:

'There is a false myth [Davidson wrote] that surrounds this majestic 
[Egyptian] civilization. Visiting Europeans refused to believe that 
Africans indigenous to inner Africa could have created it. They would 
rather us believe that this city was created in its own bubble, apart 
from the rest of Africa and its people. But, the evidence shows that the
 main migration toward the Nile River and Egypt was from the African 
communities of the Sahara. Some evidence of this includes the fact that 
even the Egyptian Pharaohs are painted as black in surviving artwork. 
[emphasis added]. Many [ancient] Egyptians were reddish-pink in colour, 
showing a mix of the indigenous people and the Nubians. The Pharaohs 
built temples which were absolutely African, obviously to impress the 
southern Africans ... The Greek explorer Herodotus described the scene 
most accurately when he said that the various races in the world were 
'different but equal.'

Another valuable quote is this:

'While searching for gold, white explorers first saw a city in the heart
 of Africa built of stone hundreds of years ago ...These kingdoms were 
as good and well governed as the European medieval ones. Evidence shows 
that earlier records prove that other outsiders admitted this about 
Africa, proving that racism is a relatively new concept...The mutual 
respect between black and white, which once existed, was also destroyed 
[by racism]. Science has given us a new look into Africa's history ... 
It debunks the preposterous myth of the inferiority and sub-human status
 of the African people.'

And finally, this judgement on perhaps the most controversial issue in 
African history: in the 'balance' of what might be called the 'profit 
and loss' account of the Atlantic slave trade, who does bear the greater
 responsibility for the heinous crime against humanity that slave trade 
was: Europe or Africa?:

Judge Basil Davidson: 'Africa and Europe were jointly involved [in the 
slave trade]. Yet it is also true that Europe dominated the connection, 
vastly enlarged the slave trade, and continually turned it to European 
advantage and to African loss.'

No wonder it was assumed by some that Basil Davidson was an African! 
Africa thanks him. May he rest in peace. Our condolences go to his wife 
Marion, and their three sons.

Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
Dear Sam,

John Henrik Clarke seeded quite a bit during his years as a teacher- activist in Harlem.

It was at his home, one evening, that he had Basil Davidson in to visit for dinner and a chat. They were friends of long standing with a common interest in digging deep into African history. For this particular evening, John invited me as the third person. I had begun to read Basil Davidson as my major content for embarking upon the teaching of African history in a program designed by John for the HAR - YOU ACT Heritage classes part of the Poverty Program at the Harlem YMCA and other venues in the Harlem community. Keith E. Baird rounded out our Heritage team during this period.

The dinner for this evening was delicious as well as I can remember. The moving excitement for this young teacher was to be sharing in, by mainly listening to, their discussion of world history, the ebb and flow of then current struggles on the continent, their global connections and the relationship of forces. Rich indeed! Very heady stuff and heavy! Afterwards, Basil and I rode the "A" train down to the Village. He was staying in that area during this visit. I lived in the East Village at the time and he was not comfortable with the NYC subways. After a while, during the ride, I became embarrassed for asking so many questions and apologized for my eagerness. He was at all times patient, relaxed and unhurried with the calm, attentiveness to detail and clarity that lifelong students/teachers possess. This last is a much later understanding of and insight into revolutionary intellectuals whose paths I've wandered across and been instructed by. He was generous enough with his time to accept my offer of a drink when we got off the train.

I've forgotten the exact drink, the details of the conversation and the name of the Village bar we visited; what I carry with me until this day, some fifty years later, is the profound and lasting impression of continuing and consistent serious scholarship, that we are forever students of history and the dialectical development of contradictions over enormous spans of time and dedicated struggle. That impression has become my life's instruction.

Our Movement has lost a true brother, friend and comrade, but his work, monumentally,remains and continues to instruct our Movement.

On a corner in the West Village of New York City, almost fifty years ago, we shook hands, shared 'so long's' and I thanked him for being so very generous with his time and powerfully instructive with his work.

Basil Davidson, Presente!


Jim Campbell
(Elder Educator/Activist now residing in South Carolina)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Politoon- "Back in Black"

More Bush than Bush: 
Obama Promotes Assassination of US Citizens and Even More Torture