Monthly Archives: May 2008


May 29, 2008, 3:29 PM

Clinton’s Latest Claim: She’s The Most “Fiscally Responsible” Candidate

From CBS News’ Fernando Suarez:

HURON, S.D. — On her last day of campaigning in South Dakota, Hillary Clinton told a group of supporters huddled inside a ballroom that South Dakotans should pick her on Tuesday because of her economic experience. “If you will vote for me next Tuesday, you are voting for the most fiscally responsible candidate in this race on either side of the aisle,” Clinton said, a blatant jab at both Barack Obama and John McCain. Clinton was referring to her practice of offering explanations on how she will pay for all of the programs she has laid out, including her very expensive universal health care plan.

“We need a president who will put us back on the path to fiscal responsibility,” she said. “I am the only candidate running who has told you specifically how I will pay for everything I propose because I want you to hold me accountable.”

There are a couple of problems with this claim, though. First, her campaign is approximately $20 million in debt, even after she loaned over $11 million of her own money to the cause. Several vendors and suppliers have come forward to say they are owed money by the campaign, and her former chief strategist, Mark Penn, is owed $5 million for his services before he parted ways with Clinton.

Second, Clinton received more than five times the number of earmarks than any other senator, according Taxpayers for Common Sense. Their report also found that Clinton is responsible for receiving over $2 billion in earmarks from 2002 to 2006, which is more than either Barack Obama or John McCain.

The report set off controversy when it was revealed that Clinton, and the senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer, supported a $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum. McCain knocked the project during a Republican debate last year, calling Woodstock a “cultural and pharmaceutical event.” He added that he didn’t attend Woodstock because he was “tied up at the time,” a reference to his day as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.


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In this June 1, 2007 file photo, Rev. Michael Pfleger, left, of Saint Sabina Catholic Church is seen with Rev. Jesse Jackson during a news conference at Rainbow/Push Coalition headquarters in Chicago. Pfleger apologized Thursday, May 29, 2008, for the sermon given Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ, during which he said Clinton cried in January because she felt “entitled” to the Democratic nomination and that a “black man is stealing my show.” (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File) (AP PHOTO)



Barack Obama again distanced himself Thursday from a controversial sermon given at his Chicago church, saying he was “deeply disappointed” to hear a priest mock Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tears just before the New Hampshire primary.

Obama supporter the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Chicago activist, also apologized Thursday for the sermon given last Sunday, during which he said Clinton cried in January because she felt “entitled” to the Democratic nomination and that a “black man is stealing my show.”

In a video circulating on the Internet, Pfleger said the former first lady expected to win the nomination before Obama’s sudden popularity.

“She just always thought that, ‘This is mine. I’m Bill’s wife. I’m white.’ … And then, out of nowhere, came ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama.” And she said, ‘Oh damn, where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show,”‘ Pfleger said at Trinity United Church of Christ.

He then went on to parody Clinton, sobbing and wiping his face with a handkerchief.

“She wasn’t the only one crying,” he said. “There was a whole lot of white people crying.”

Obama won the Iowa caucuses, the opening contest of the nominating season, in January. Days later, Clinton’s eyes brimmed with tears and her voice broke as she talked with voters in New Hampshire on the eve of the primary, which she won.

In his statement, Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” by Pfleger’s comments.

“As I have traveled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us,” he said. “That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

Clinton’s campaign denounced Pfleger’s sermon Thursday night.

“Divisive and hateful language like that is totally counterproductive in our efforts to bring our party together and have no place at the pulpit or in our politics,” the campaign said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Senator Obama didn’t specifically reject Father’s Pfleger’s despicable comments about Senator Clinton, and assume he will do so.”

Pfleger, the white pastor of the predominantly black Saint Sabina Roman Catholic Church on the city’s Southwest side, said Thursday he regretted his choice of words.

“These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama’s life and message and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them,” Pfleger said.

Pfleger’s statements were met with rounds of applause and in some cases standing ovations from the congregation.

In March, Pfleger invited Obama’s embattled former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to speak at an event at Saint Sabina, embracing Wright in the church.

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I went over to brownfemipower’s site to pay her a visit today. While scrolling down her list of posts, I came upon the following:  “Prince Among Slaves”, . Brownfemipower had questioned why were there no documentaries on brave African women who resisted slavery?I commented in my response the following:

“So–I agree it was a really important documentary–I just would like to see some documentaries about african women as well.”

I agree with you Brownfemipower.

When many people think of black people they often visualize black men, not black women. Same goes for the word woman—black women are not envisioned.

All the Blacks Are Men, All the Women Are White……………

………….but, many of Us (Black Women) Are STILL BRAVE.

I also did a post on PBS’s broadcast of this film, but, you know, and I know that this program has significance in the Muslim angle of this African prince’s religion. Fine. Especially what you picked upon, I picked upon as well:

“It even pointed out that some of his inroads that he made in getting himself free and his family free were due to racist ideas of western politicians that a muslim must be *arab* (and thus light skinned/more like white people), and thus it was ‘wrong’ to enslave them.”

But, damn, black women are a part of the black race too.

Black women get left out so much a person would think that black men gave birth to the black race.

Even during the time of the enactment of the 15TH Amendment, black women felt that if they stepped aside for black men to receive the vote, that black men in going through that door, would take black women along with them. Sadly, after slavery was abolished, some black men took up the same barbaric mistreatment of black women that white men had done to black women during slavery—black men beating and abusing their black wives. Some black men felt that (due to internalizing racism, coupled with sexism) that THEY had just as much right to beat and hurt their wives just as the slave master did.

When people think of the lynchings of black people, the first image that comes into many people’s mind is that of a black man hanging from a rope attached to a tree. Yes, many, many black men were lynched——-but so too were black women——-and many of those black women were gang-raped BEFORE they were lynched!

Black women have contributed so much but for those who are ignorant of black American history, many people think that black women have done NOTHING in this country’s history. I am sure you know that if one goes to my site, you will find MUCH that black women have done that I have posted on.

But, since this is a country that worships maleness, endeavors of women—especially black women—are always pushed to the margins under the rug. As for the resistance to slavery before and during slavery, no one listened to or cared for the feelings of enslaved black women. Even in many slave narratives written by abolitionist to stir up anger against slavery, many abolitionists looked to BLACK MEN SLAVES as the TRUE representative of ALL enslaved black people. As a result of that, the voices of millions of enslaved black women (before 1808, and after 1808) were lost to history.

The first novel written by an enslaved black woman:

“The Bondwoman’s Narrative” by Hannah Crafts, written circa 1850s.

Her novel was not “discovered” until 2001, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Slaves who escaped from slavery were not ALL men, no matter what many people wish to believe. True, the proportion of women slaves escaping (especially those with children) was small, but, black women were not weak-willed, cringing cowards who did not take it upon themselves to flee to freedom. It bore silent testimony to the INDOMITABLE SPIRIT of those who rejected the cruelty of slavery. Afterall, they were women, and millions of them had children whether those children were the black male slave’s—or the slave master’s—and those black women who could run with their children——ran:

-”Pleasants, a slave mother, took her four children—Billey, Catey, Joe and James—when she set out. The record does not show whether the four naked slaves were her children when they were captured and put in the Surry County, Virginia jail. It does show, however, that Pleasant’s owner did not want nor claim her or the children and that while in jail she gave birth to another child. Perhaps as punishment, Pleasant was forced to languish in jail for a year with the children and baby.”

-”In 1826, Lazette, or Elizabeth, a South Carolina slave avoided being jailed, but her owner seemed not to be worried. She would not get far, he said in the Charleston Mercury—-with a six-month-old baby.”

-”Pregnant women also ran away. Twenty-one-year-old Lucille, a Louisiana woman who set out in 1833, was in “an advanced stage of pregnancy”. “The captains of vessels are requested not to give her shelter”, the New Orleans widow who owned her threatened, “under the pain provided by law”to punish the captains.

[”Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation” by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger.]

Black women on slave ships threw themselves overboard rather than suffer longer from inhumane degradations and debaucheries from white male slavers; black women on slave ships refused to eat the filth that was considered food by the slave ship monsters; black women fought back against white rapists on slave ships as best they could; black AFRICAN women were not the silent weak spineless many people wish to paint them as.



They refused to be ENSLAVED just as much as the African men refused.

They would be NO ONE’S slave.

But, since much of black history, especially of the Middle Passage and during slavery, and after slavery, was written by BOTH white AND black men, only now are many people after all these centuries and decades FINALLY learning of the beautiful history of black women—–black women who have been silenced for so long—–black women who will no longer be silenced anymore.

“Also–I was thinking about this as I was getting ready for work–I remember watching an hour-long documentary on nat turner’s rebellion. WHich is astounding to me, because nobody knows anything about nat turners rebellion!!! the whole show was basically based on a few clips found in newspapers and some slave rebellions that had happened at different times–they took all this and speculated–this is what could have happened. Again, not that it isn’t interesting and necessary, it is—but I think that when it hasn’t even been documented all of what DID happen, why is it already moving into what COULD have happened?”

And that people do not know of Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser—and ESPECIALLY Denmark Vesey—-is unconscionable and pathetic.

I would say that if they do not know of those men, most notably Vesey, then, there is no way they could ever know of William Pencil, George Wilson, OR Peter Desverney.

Black women did not take enslavement lying down. They fought with black men—and if need be, they fought by themselves. But, black women today have to continue to speak up for black women along with those (like yourself, Brownfemipower) who speak up for us. They must continue to unearth all the buried history of black women—a proud history that includes both black men as well.

Knowledge of black history is not just knowledge of black men.

It is knowledge of BLACK WOMEN as well.

In Praise of Black Women:

-the Candaces of Kush
-Makeda, Queen of Sheba
-Daurama, Mother of the Hausa Kingdoms
-Yennenga, Mother of the Mossi people
-Ana de Sousa, Nzinga—-the queen who resisted Portuguese conquest

Until the lioness learns to write, history will continue to be written by the hunter.

So, I shall begin.





• Elizabeth Key, whose mother was a slave and father was a white planter, sued for her freedom, claiming her father’s free status and her baptism as grounds — and the courts upheld her claim


• Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law that a child’s status followed the mother’s, if the mother was not white, contrary to English common law in which the father’s status determined the child’s


• Maryland passed a law under which free white women would lose their freedom if they married a black slave, and under which the children of white women and black men became slaves


• Virginia legislature declared that free black women were to be taxed, but not white women servants or other white women, or black men; that “negro women, though permitted to enjoy their freedom” could not have the rights of “the English.”



Besson 29.  By refusing to accept slavery like dumb animals, by regularly raising their voices, women in their way, forced their presence on the consciousness of many: this was the thin end of the wedge in undermining the system of slavery.  For once the slave is seen or heard, as a human being, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify his or her existence as a chattel: 

The iconic example of the enslaved woman who refused to remain silent is Anastasia, black slave and martyr from Brazil.  Her story is told in In Praise of Black Women 2.  Anastasia was possessed by the goddess Yemenja, queen of the deep water and mother of all gods, the very same one the whites called the Virgin Mary.  The message from the goddess through Anastasia was for the slaves to flee and set up a land of welcome for the gods of Africa.  Those who were unable to leave due to age, infirmity or the weight of their chains were to from then on look the white man in the eyes as if they were creatures just like him.  They tried to silence her by placing an iron mask over her face but Yemenja kept speaking through her eyes, and those words were even deeper and more moving than the words spoken by her mouth.   Imprisonment and a spiked iron collar eventually led to her death but even in death she continues to speak as she is revered as a saint.  Black women in Brazil in particular address their most common and powerful prayer to her: Anastasia, holy Anastasia, You who were borne by Yemenja, our mother; Give us the strength to struggle each day So we may never become slaves; So that, like you, we may be rebellious creatures.  May it be so.  Amen.

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Part Sevenlumumba01
by Milton Allimadi
The same racist propaganda that prepared European and American public opinion for the divvying up of Africa in the late Nineteenth Century, reemerged with a vengeance as African nations won nominal independence in the mid-Twentieth Century. Western media paved the way for the assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and the subsequent rise of puppet regimes in service of old colonial and newer American “interests.”  Africans that tried to resist neocolonialism in the 1960s were “a rabble of dazed, ignorant savages,” according to Time magazine. Three decades later, the New York Times Magazine published a celebratory article titled, “Colonialism’s Back – And Not A Moment too Soon.”
The Hearts of Darkness: How European Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa
lumumba04Part Seven
by Milton Allimadi
Mr. Allimadi is CEO and Publisher of The Black Star News, based in New York City. He has graciously given BAR permission to serialize his work.
Time Magazine Denigrates Congo Nationalism
Time magazine was once the mouth-piece for Western domination of Africa, serving as apologist for the British in Kenya during the Mau-Mau uprising, and later in the Congo when Patrice Lumumba was agitating for independence, and later when he was fighting for his life.
One memorable Time magazine article was published on December 4th, 1964, when the Simba guerrillas were defeated by a mercenary army backing the Belgian stooge, Moise Tshombe, who led the secessionist Katanga province. Time magazine’s cover carried the photograph of Paul E. Carlson, a 36-year-old American doctor, who had volunteered to work in the Congo and had reportedly been murdered by the Simba. He had been killed along with 26 other whites in Stanleyville (now Kisangani), in the north.
“Lumumba was demonized by Western media as a pro-Soviet Communist leader.”
The Congo at that time was torn by chaotic civil war following Lumumba’s murder, with at least four rival administrations in place. Belgian mining and business interests, determined to continue their colonial exploitation of the Congo’s resources, had backed Tshombe and other secessionists amenable to their business interests. Tshombe, in turn, had declared himself prime minister of mineral-rich Katanga. He was favored by the Belgian mining companies and backed Western occupation of the Congo, so he became a darling of the Western media.
Lumumba, the elected leader of the central government and a nationalist, was demonized by Western media as a pro-Soviet Communist leader. This paved the way for the military intervention of Colonel Joseph Desire Mobuttu (later Mobuttu Sese Seko) and Lumumba’s eventual murder with backing from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Belgian government.
The United States assisted Belgium when it mounted a paratroop mission to “rescue” 1,300 Europeans reportedly trapped in Stanleyville as a result of the fighting reported by Time magazine.  After the paratroopers landed on the outskirts of the city, the Simba rounded up 250 whites, Time reported.  Also foreshadowing the use of radio to incite violence, as occurred in Rwanda 30 years later, Radio Stanleyville broadcast a simple message, “Ciyuga! Ciyuga! (Kill them all),” according to Time, and the targets were presumably meant to be whites.
The message was from a “major Babu,” described by Time as a “deaf-mute ex-boxer addicted to hemp.” The article added, “Babu’s order could not have been a scream, but in its strangled, inarticulate, ferocity must have expressed the blood lust of the Simbas.”
According to the article, all but 60 of the whites were rescued by the paratroop operation. Twenty-five of the dead were identified as Belgians, along with two Americans, including Dr. Carlson – the others were not accounted for.
Perhaps recognizing that it needed to explain why one American’s death commanded so much attention in the publication, while an entire country was aflame and disintegrating, Time magazine explained it this way: “A single life, or even a hundred may not appear to mean much in the grim reckoning of Africa. The tribes butchered each other for centuries before the white man arrived and in colonial days when white soldiers killed countless, nameless Africans. Dr. Carlson’s murder, along with the massacre of another hundred whites and thousands of Blacks, had a special tragic meaning.”
Time magazine: ‘The rebels were, after all, for the most part, only a rabble of dazed, ignorant savages.'”
Why was this? “Carlson symbolized all the white men – and there are many – who want nothing from Africa but a chance to help,” the article stated. “He was no saint and no deliberate martyr. He was a highly skilled physician and who, out of a strong Christian faith and a sense of common humanity, had gone to the Congo to treat the sick.” Then came the punch line that the magazine had wanted to deliver all along: “His death did more than prove that Black African civilization – with its trappings of half a hundred sovereignties, governments and U.N. delegations — is largely a pretense. The rebels were, after all, for the most part, only a rabble of dazed, ignorant savages, used and abused by semi-sophisticated leaders.”
When Tshombe’s brutal mercenaries, led by major Mike Hoare, described by Time as “a starchy South African,” committed atrocities when they retook Stanleyville, the magazine glossed over their violence. “They were not above searching bodies for cash or blowing a few safes in the Stanleyville banks,” the article stated. “But a great many of them are fighting for Tshombe’s government out of conviction. Certainly, the ‘mercenaries’ are no more mercenary – and far less brutal – than the African soldiers on either side of the Congolese civil war.”
The article added, “Tshombe’s tough Katangese gendarmes hunted down Simbas. Black residents of Stanleyville took to wearing white headbands to show their allegiance to the Leopoldville government, but that did not always work, and many a headband was soon stained red.”
The article also accused every African of “insanity” because African presidents had backed the Simba “without even a hint of condemnation for their bestialities.” It continued, “Virtually all these nations echoed the cynical Communist line in denouncing the parachute rescue as ‘imperialist aggression.’  When this happened, the sane part of the world could only wonder whether Black Africa can be taken seriously at all, or whether, for the foreseeable future, it is beyond the reach of reason.”
Finally, anyone who knows anything about Africa will attest, no Western writer ever departs from a visit to Congo without invoking that racist novel, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. “Stanleyville, the ‘Inner Station’ of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, stands at the very center of the continent,” the Time magazine article stated, obligingly. “As Conrad wrote of the journey upriver to Stanleyville, ‘It was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rotted on earth and the big trees were kings. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. You thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once – somewhere – far away – in another existence perhaps.’ So it must have seemed to the soldiers who last week made the voyage to the Inner Station.” One can almost envision the Time writer flipping feverishly through Conrad’s novel to lift a suitable section for his article.
“Tshombe was praised effusively by the writer as the antithesis of the savage African.”
Tshombe, on the other hand, was praised effusively by the writer as themoise_tshombe antithesis of the savage African because he pursued a “patient formula” and recognized that white men “will hold as many positions as possible for as long as it takes to mold an effective army and administration.” For that reason, Tshombe was “beyond the pale of his peers in other African nations.”
Thankfully for the rest of the world, concluded the article, “Africans respect a winner and so Tshombe banked on his firm stand against the rebels in Stanleyville. If he succeeds, the Congo could become a watershed in the history of emerging Africa. For five years, African politicians have indiscriminately whip lashed the Western world with such airy phrases as ‘African personality’ and ‘African socialism.’ Tshombe – that rarest of Africans who seems to have no complexes about being black – recognizes the brutal side of the African personality, and the phony side of African socialism.”
Africa’s Coming Anarchy & Doom
Responding to the spread of civil conflict in Africa during the 1980s and the early 1990s major Western publications including The New York Times intensified their tribalization of Africa. Finally, the series of disastrous wars in Africa had paved the way for frustrated racists to openly express themselves again.
An article by Alan Cowell – the same Cowell the Zimbabweans had denied permission to cover their country while based in South Africa – was published in The New York Times Magazine under the headline “Mobuttu’s Zaire: Magic and Decay,” on April 5, 1992. The article began with the author informing readers about his adventures with “new friends” through La Cite which he described as a “reptilian slum” in Kinshasa where the “music throbbed with primal energy.”
“All the worn truths about modern Africa,” Cowell explained, “it’s myriad tribes and fake boundaries, its recourse to tyranny; the absence of hope or accountability – seem to tumble together in the streets of Kinshasa, the hot moist capital.”
“The bush has grown over the Belgian-built roads so that no one can even find them,” he continued, without noting that Belgium was more notorious for chopping off the hands of Congolese rather than building the country. “There is no single highway or railroad connecting north and south. The best route to the interior is by a river ferry laden with whores and traders dabbling in parrots and monkeys and booze and dope. Somewhere out there are Pygmies and rebels, diamond smugglers and jungle.”
mobutu1 “There are many others like him,” Cowell wrote, of Mobuttu, without focusing on the fact that this kleptomaniac and Patrice Lumumba‘s assassin was created and sustained by the United States. “In Zambia, before his fall in 1991, President Kenneth Kaunda devised ‘one-party participatory democracy’ and decreed that the country’s currency bear his portrait, as a symbol of national unity. In Guinea, President Ahmed Sekou Toure‘s image likewise adorned the national currency, which was called the Syli (pronounced silly) – a frivolous sideshow to a bloody despotic rule.”
Cowell’s portrayal of Zaire was not any different from Homer Bigart’s contemptuous representation of the Congo and Nigeria more than 30 years earlier. “Julius K. Nyerere in Tanzania became the Teacher, although the lessons were only in how to run an economy to the ground. Kamuzu Hastings Banda in Malawi – the conqueror – waved a fly whisk. At festivals, he had big-bottomed women dance around his diminutive figure so that all the spectators could see was the fly-whisk – the wand of power – held magically, quiveringly, irrepressibly aloft.”
“The author lamented that British colonial rule in Africa had ended prematurely.”
Western writers cannot resist the temptation of dumping on Pygmies whenever they write about the Congo. In his article, Cowell recalled that many years earlier, in 1977, he had gone in search of Pygmies when he learned that Mobuttu employed a crack military unit to help fight rebels. “When later in the campaign, in the town of Kasaji, I found a man of no great stature clad in government uniform, carrying a bow and poisoned arrow,” Cowell wrote, “I felt obliged to ask him: Are you a Pygmy? ‘No,’ he replied, politely but firmly and with wry dignity. ‘I am a small Zairian.'”
On April 18th, 1993 The New York Times Magazine published an article under the pernicious headline, “Colonialism’s Back – And Not A Moment too Soon.” The article, by Paul Johnson, praised the intervention by the United States and the United Nations to try and restore order in Somalia, a mission initially supported by many Somalis and other Africans. Might not this intervention serve as a model for other operations in African countries facing similar political collapse, the writer wondered? The author lamented that British colonial rule in Africa had ended prematurely.
It never occurred to Johnson to argue that preparation for self-rule had never been part of the agenda in all the years of colonial misrule. After dominating the Congo for more than a century, Belgium managed to produce only a half-dozen college graduates to take over a country of millions when they left the vast territory. In almost four centuries of contact with Mozambique and Angola, the Portuguese were unable to produce educated Africans. Now, suddenly, these countries were to be blamed for their political, economic and social malaise after 30 years of self-rule, following more than a century of ruin in some cases? “There is a moral issue here,” Johnson insisted, in his article. “The civilized world has a mission to go out to these desperate places and govern.”
When editors believe there is a vigorous organized constituency, they often solicit an opposing opinion when they publish controversial, pernicious, or outright racist viewpoints. By 1993, with several African countries engulfed in conflict, with images of starvation, death and destruction flashed all over the world, editors felt no need to offer counter-balancing arguments.  After all, Africa was simply reverting to its natural state – barbarism.
The Times’ magazine article paved the way for the publication of similar articles. “The Coming Anarchy,” by Robert D. Kaplan, the most apocalyptic of them all, was published by The Atlantic Monthly magazine in its March 1994 issue, and years later, it was published as a book.
“Kaplan wrote that people in West Africa no longer resembled human beings.”
Kaplan’s gloomy Malthusian observations and doomsday prognoses were similar to those found in Richard Burton‘s Wandering In West Africa (1862), a book he happily consulted, and quoted from. “Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increased erosion of nation-states and international borders,” Kaplan warned, “are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism.” Things became so bad that people in West Africa no longer resembled human beings, he emphasized.
Wherever he traveled in a taxi, Kaplan wrote, young men, with “restless scanning eyes” surrounded him. “They were like loose molecules in a very unstable social fluid, a fluid that was clearly on the verge of igniting.”  In order to protect himself against the diseases, the author complained that he had spent $500 in inoculations. Even then, he was not sure whether this precaution was sufficient since mutation in malaria and AIDS made Africa more dangerous today than in 1862 when Burton traveled there before antibiotics were available. 
As Burton had observed in the 19th Century, and as Kaplan repeated in 1994, the health conditions in Africa were “deadly,” “a golgotha,” “a jehanum.”
The Rwanda war, beginning with the 1990 invasion by Uganda-backed Tutsi insurgents, and the subsequent genocide four years later, offered the best case study of stereotypical Western reporting on Africa. The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) insurgents, many of whom were soldiers in the Ugandan national army, cultivated and exploited the sympathy of gullible, or culpable, Western reporters, years before the 1994 genocide. 
One of the earliest apologias that romanticized the RPF insurgents, “Rwanda’s Aristocratic Guerrillas,” by Alex Shoumatoff, appeared in The New York Times Magazine on Dec. 13th, 1992. As already demonstrated in a previous essay, historically, Western writers portrayed Africans with “European” features relative to those with emphatic “negroid” features more sympathetically. In the Rwanda conflict the Tutsis, with their leaner frames and narrower facial features relative to the Hutus’ became “honorary” whites.
Shoumatoff traveled to Uganda where the RPF had its headquarters and had been met at Entebbe airport by RPF officials who led him to areas inside Rwanda that they controlled. Shoumatoff comfortably resorted to the 18th Century travel writers’ style, contrasting the “noble” Africans (Tutsis in this case) with the “true negroes” (the Hutus). He wrote that the Tutsis were “refined” with “European” features, while the Hutus were “stocky” and “broad nosed.” Once the article was placed in this context who do you imagine the majority of white readers all over the world wanted to prevail in this conflict?
“In the late 19th Century,” Shoumatoff continued, describing the Tutsis, “early ethnologists were fascinated by these ‘languidly haughty’ pastoral aristocrats whose high foreheads, aquiline noses and thin lips seemed more Caucasian than Negroid, and they classed them as ‘false negroes.’ In a popular theory of the day, the Tutsis were thought to be highly civilized people, the race of fallen Europeans, whose existence in Central Africa had been rumored for centuries.” He added: “They are not a race or a tribe, as often described, but a population, a stratum, a mystical, warrior-priest elite, like the Druids in Celtic society.” As for the Hutus, they were far from resembling warrior priests; they were the “short, stocky local Bantu agriculturalist.”
The New York Times was irresponsible and had no justification for publishing such racist nonsense, particularly when the editors knew that Shoumatoff was married to a Tutsi woman who was a second cousin to an RPF spokesperson. Shoumatoff may have as well been an RPF press agent posing as an independent journalist; he employed all the ugly words that have historically been used to denigrate and dehumanize Africans for centuries. Shamefully, he was aided and abetted by one of the world’s most influential and powerful media companies.
Shoumatoff published a second article in another major American magazine, The New Yorker, on June 20th, 1992. On that occasion, he wrote about how he reflected upon the difference in physical features between Tutsis and Hutus while he was in Burundi that year.
While traveling in a taxi in Bujumbura, the capital, he turned around and “checked out the ethnic mix” of the passengers, he recalled. “There were three obvious Tutsis. Tall, slender, with high foreheads, prominent cheekbones, and narrow features,” Shoumatoff wrote. “They were a different physical type from the five passengers who were short and stocky and had the flat noses and thick lips typical of Hutus.”
“Shoumatoff employed all the ugly words that have historically been used to denigrate and dehumanize Africans for centuries.”
The Hutus were thoroughly and effectively demonized by Shoumatoff, and many subsequent writers covering the conflict followed this racist theme. Suddenly there was no need for Shoumatoff to explain a critical point to his readers: How would the RPF, essentially a Tutsi insurgency, govern effectively, were they to seize power in Rwanda where Hutus made up 85 percent of the population? Shoumatoff had reduced the conflict to simplistic terms that uninformed readers in the West could relate to; a contest between the “beautiful” versus the “ugly.” So many Western writers, following a similar simplistic theme, ignored the critical role that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni‘s militarism and expansionism played in the conflict, with his training and arming of the RPF.
Shoumatoff had simply resurrected the Western writers’ tendency to venerate “European” looking Africans, which has been employed for centuries, including in Aphra Behn’s 17th century novel, Oroonoko, The Royal Slave. In the more recent era, three decades before Shoumatoff’s articles about the Tutsis, the notorious Elspeth Huxley used similar linguistic skills while glorifying Tutsis in her reports from Africa. “Their small, narrow heads perched on top of slim and spindly bodies,” Huxley wrote, in a report in The New York Times on February 23rd, 1964, “remind one of some of Henry Moore’s sculptures.” She went on to compare the original Tutsi conquest of Hutus in the 16th Century to the Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon England.
Next week, Part Eight: Why Africans Are Not Tribesmen
Part One in BAR’s January 24 issue
Part Two in the January 31 issue.
Part Three in the February 7 issue.
Part Four in the February 14 issue.
Part Five in the February 21 issue.
Part Six in the February 28 issue.
The Hearts of Darkness: How European Writers Created the Racist image of Africa
Published by The Black Star Publishing Co.
P.O. Box 64, New York, N.Y., 10025
To order copies call (212) 481-7745

Or visit the author’s site:

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Supernova 2008D.jpg
SN 2008D, a Type Ib supernova, shown in X-ray (left) and visible light (right) at the far upper end of the galaxy. Captured by the NASA Swift-X-ray Telescope, on January 9, 2008.   NASA image.




Keplers supernova.jpg
Multiwavelength X-ray, infrared, and optical compilation image of Kepler’s Supernova Remnant, SN 1604. (Chandra X-ray Observatory)



Crab Nebula.jpg
The Crab Nebula is a pulsar wind nebula associated with the 1054 supernova.



SN 1994D in the NGC 4526 galaxy (bright spot on the lower left). Image by NASA, ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team, and The High-Z Supernova Search Team.


This composite image shows X-ray (blue) and optical (red) radiation from the Crab Nebula’s core region. A pulsar near the center is propelling particles to almost the speed of light. This neutron star is travelling at an estimated 375 km/s.  NASA/CXC/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al. image credit.




Supernova remnant N 63A lies within a clumpy region of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud. NASA image.



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Congo UN Abuse

U.N. Aid Workers Accused of Sex Crimes in Congo

Didier Bourguet, a U.N. official from France, is pictured here in one of the images found on his hard drive, which was obtained by ABC News. Also on the hard drive were thousands of photos of him having sex with hundreds of young girls.
(ABC News)
The report by Save the Children UK, based on field research in southern Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti, describes a litany of sexual crimes against children as young as 6.
It said some children were denied food aid unless they granted sexual favors; others were forced to have sex or to take part in child pornography; many more were subjected to improper touching or kissing.
“The report shows sexual abuse has been widely underreported because children are afraid to come forward,” Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, told Associated Press Television News.
“A tiny proportion of peacekeepers and aid workers are abusing the children they were sent to protect. It ranges from sex for food to coerced sex. It’s despicable.”


Congo UN Abuse

U.N. Aid Workers Accused of Sex Crimes in Congo

Aimee Tsesi, of Bunia, holds her 5-month-old grandchild, Deiudonne. Seated directly behind is Tsesi’s 15-year-old deaf mute daughter, who gave birth to Deiudonne after being raped by a U.N. soldier from Uruguay.
(ABC News) 
At the U.N. headquarters, spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban “is deeply concerned” by the report.
“We welcome this report. It’s fair, and I think it’s essentially accurate,” Montas said.
She noted the report states the United Nations has already undertaken steps designed to tackle the problem, from establishing conduct and discipline units in all U.N. missions to strengthening training for all categories of U.N. personnel. She said the United Nations also needs to strengthen its investigative capacity.
The study was based on research, confidential interviews and focus groups conducted last year. The charity emphasized it did not produce comprehensive statistics about the scale of abuse but did gather enough information to indicate the problem is severe.
The report said that more than half the children interviewed knew of cases of sexual abuse and that in many instances children knew of 10 or more such incidents carried out by aid workers or peacekeepers.
The Save the Children UK researchers, who met with 129 girls and 121 boys between the ages of 10 and 17, and also with a number of adults, found an “overwhelming” majority of the people interviewed would never report a case of abuse and had never heard of a case being reported.
Children carry buckets to collect water from a well in Port-au-Prince,Thursday, March 20, 2008.

(Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo)
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The threat of retaliation, and the stigma attached to sex abuse, were powerful deterrents to coming forward, the report said.
Ann Buchanan, an Oxford University expert in statistical attempts to quantify rates of child abuse, said the topic is so taboo it is virtually impossible to come up with reliable numbers. But she said the new report provides a useful starting point.
“This will never be a statistical study,” she said. “We’d call it a pilot work exploring the start of an issue. All the research shows kids don’t make it up.”
Buchanan, who directs the Oxford Center for Research into Parenting and Children, said the biggest obstacle to accurate numerical studies of child sexual abuse is the reluctance of children to come forward and tell adults they have been taken advantage of.
“Sexual abuse is a hugely difficult, sensitive area and it’s not something that you can usually do surveys about because kids feel terrible shame and are afraid to say what’s happened to them,” she said. “Given what we know about underreporting of sex abuse, I would say this report is probably true. They’ve gone about it as sensitively as you can.”
Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt said U.N. peacekeepers are involved in many abuse cases because they are present throughout the world in such large numbers. But he praised the United Nations for improving its reporting and investigative procedures regarding sex abuse.
“We’re not singling out the U.N. In some ways they do a good job. It’s all peacekeepers and all aid workers, including Save the Children,” that are involved in sexual abuses, he said.
The report says several Save the Children workers were fired for having sex with 17-year-old girls in violation of agency guidelines.
In its report, Save the Children UK makes three key recommendations: establish a way for people to report abuse locally, create an international watchdog agency this year to deal with the problem, and set up a program to deal with the underlying causes of child abuse.
Tom Cargill, Africa program manager at the London think tank Chatham House, said there is no “magic bullet” that can solve the problem quickly.
“The governance of U.N. missions has always been a problem because soldiers from individual states are only beholden to those states,” he said. “So it’s difficult for the U.N. to pursue charges and difficult for the U.N. to investigate them.”
Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.




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Published: May 25, 2008
Every once in a while as a journalist you see a scene that grips you and will not let go, a scene that is at once so uplifting and so cruel it’s difficult to even convey in words. I saw such a scene last weekend at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore. It was actually a lottery, but no ordinary lottery. The winners didn’t win cash, but a ticket to a better life. The losers left with their hopes and lottery tickets crumpled.

The event was a lottery to choose the first 80 students who will attend a new public boarding school — the SEED School of Maryland — based in Baltimore. I went along because my wife is on the SEED Foundation board. The foundation opened its first school 10 years ago in Washington, D.C., as the nation’s first college-prep, public, urban boarding school. Baltimore is its second campus. The vast majority of students are African-American, drawn from the most disadvantaged and violent school districts.
SEED Maryland was admitting boys and girls beginning in sixth grade. They will live in a dormitory — insulated from the turmoil of their neighborhoods. In Washington, nearly all SEED graduates have gone on to four-year colleges, including Princeton and Georgetown.
Because its schools are financed by both private and public funds, SEED can offer this once-in-a-lifetime, small-class-size, prep-school education for free, but it can’t cherry-pick its students. It has to be open to anyone who applies. The problem is that too many people apply, so it has to choose them by public lottery. SEED Maryland got more than 300 applications for 80 places.
The families all crowded into the Notre Dame auditorium, clutching their lottery numbers like rosaries. On stage, there were two of those cages they use in church-sponsored bingo games. Each ping-pong ball bore the lottery number of a student applicant. One by one, a lottery volunteer would crank the bingo cage, a ping-pong ball would roll out, the number would be read and someone in the audience would shriek with joy, while everyone else slumped just a little bit lower. One fewer place left …
It was impossible to watch all those balls tumbling around inside the cage and not see them as the people in that room tumbling around inside, waiting to see who would be the lucky one to slide out and be blessed. No wonder a portrait of hope and anxiety was on every face.
“I am so hopeful about the school and just so overwhelmingly anxious about what happens to the students who don’t get in,” said Dawn Lewis, the head of the SEED Maryland school.
“During the six or seven months of recruiting, we heard all the stories of all the problems these kids are confronting in their schools, and each time [parents] would tell us, ‘This kind of school is the answer — the thing this child needs to be successful.’ When we were completing the applications, we received so many letters from guidance counselors and teachers and principals and even pastors saying, ‘Please, just exempt this kid from the lottery — because without this, there is no chance for this kid, there may not be another opportunity.’ ”
If you think that parents from the worst inner-city neighborhoods don’t aspire for something better for their kids, a lottery like this will dispel that illusion real fast.
Ms. Lewis said she’s seen people on crack walking their kids to school. “We had parents who came into our office who were clearly strung out,” she added. “They could not read or write, but they got themselves there and said, ‘I need help on this application’ for their son or daughter. Families do want the best for their children. If they have a chance, they don’t want their kids to inherit their problems. … These aspirations are so underserved.”
Ms. Lewis said that she and her colleagues would meet with parents begging to get their kids in, help them fill out the applications and then, after the parents left, go into their offices, shut the door and cry.
Tony Cherry’s son Noah, an 11-year-old from Baltimore County, was one of the lucky ones whose number got pulled. “His teacher said if he got picked they’re going to have a party for him,” said Mr. Cherry. “This is a good opportunity. It’s going to give him a chance. … Wish they could take all of them.”
Not everyone selected was in attendance, said Carol Beck, SEED’s director of new schools development. So, on Monday SEED notified those who had won. “We called one school counselor the next day and told her that so-and-so was chosen,” said Ms. Beck, “and she said: ‘Thank you. You have just saved this child’s life.’ ”
There are so many good reasons to finish our nation-building in Iraq and resume our nation-building in America, but none more than this: There’s something wrong when so much of an American child’s future is riding on the bounce of a ping-pong ball.

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Chris Ramirez for The New York Times
Leonard Julien Jr. by the home where he grew up in Donaldsonville, La. Mr. Julien’s father invented a machine to plant sugar cane.
Published: May 25, 2008
STRIDING across the rain-soaked field of an abandoned Louisiana plantation, Mitch Landrieu, the state’s lieutenant governor, waved his hands impatiently. “C’mon, you’ve got to see this,” he called out, sounding more P. T. Barnum than politician. Marching beside him was the Whitney Plantation’s owner, John Cummings, a wealthy Louisiana lawyer turned preservationist who, with Mr. Landrieu’s help, hopes to prove that the old Southern plantation, or at least this one, is still very much in business.
May 25, 2008    

Chris Ramirez for The New York Times.

Natale Sers, first communicant at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Natchitoches, La. More Photos »

Centuries past its prime, the Whitney Plantation sits grandly beneath a canopy of oak trees along a dusty road in St. John the Baptist Parish, a sleepy river community 35 miles northwest of New Orleans. The estate, promoted as the most complete plantation in the South, is an antebellum gem. It includes, among other things, a Creole and Greek Revival-style mansion, an overseer’s house, a blacksmith shop and the oldest kitchen in Louisiana.
Built in the late 1700s by Jean Jacques Haydel Jr., the grandson of a German immigrant with a penchant for fine art, the house walls are adorned with murals said to be painted by the Italian artist Domenico Canova, a relation of the neo-Classical sculptor Antonio Canova.
Yet Mr. Landrieu is far less interested in the Haydels than the legacy of the 254 slaves who once inhabited the nearly dozen shacks behind the big house during Whitney’s reign among the largest sugar farms in Louisiana. His muddy shoes planted in front of a row of neatly situated sun-bleached shacks during a recent visit, Mr. Landrieu nudged a reporter toward what he likes to call a living museum:
“Go on in. You have to go inside. When you walk in that space, you can’t deny what happened to these people. You can feel it, touch it, smell it.”
He compared the experience to visiting the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Personal politics aside, in an era of proliferating theme parks and “Girls Gone Wild” spring breaks, it is entirely possible that hanging out in former slave quarters — or, for that matter, the adjacent so-called “nigger pen” lockup — runs counter to most Americans’ idea of a vacation. But in post-Katrina Louisiana, where an antidote to recent images of black disillusionment, despair and displacement has so far proven elusive, the recently started African-American Heritage Trail offers a disarmingly triumphant immersion into Louisiana’s rich black history and culture through such powerful juxtapositions of freedom and bondage and the creativity that sprung out of both conditions.
Served up in heaping gumbo-style portions, the African-American Heritage Trail is not always easy to digest: it spans 26 sites, wending its way through museums, marketplaces and cemeteries from New Orleans to Shreveport.
To be sure, this is one wandering, race-obsessed road trip: not even those tasty Cracklin or Boudin balls at Highway 190 truck stops, or the reassuring baritone of the actor Louis Gossett Jr., who narrates a fact-filled audiotape of people and places, can always cut the lull of hundreds of miles of often barren, rural highway. And if you’re toting kids as this trailee was, you might feel at points as if you’re driving the African-American Headache Trail.
But if you can hang in, there’s a realism to this traveling history lesson, with a richly tactile and authentic quality. You’ll find it as you stand in front of the childhood home of Homer Plessy, whose refusal to move from the “whites only” section of a rail car would lead to the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson; as you take in the story of Madame C. J. Walker, the hair-care entrepreneur who bootstrapped her way out of poverty to become the nation’s first black female millionaire; as you stroll through Armstrong Park in New Orleans, named to honor the jazz pioneering work of Louis Armstrong. And of course it’s there in the Cajun and Creole cooking that puts an exclamation mark behind each stop.
In a state that relishes its contradictions, Louisiana’s African-American trail is actually the brainchild of Mr. Landrieu, the white liberal scion of a famous Louisiana political family. In the 1970s, his father, Maurice Edwin Landrieu, known as Moon, made history, and his share of enemies, when as New Orleans mayor, he hired the first blacks into his administration. Mitch, a self-proclaimed champion of social justice, said he conceived the trail as a way of brokering dialogue between the races at a time when the nation sorely needed it, an idea that gained urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“We want to transform the discussion about race and poverty in America,” said the 47-year-old Mr. Landrieu, who served 16 years in the State House of Representatives (his father and sister, Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat and currently a United States Senator, held the same seat). “Many, many white people and black people of good will have been separated by ideological fights that have been powerful. But you can’t transform the discussion if you can’t remember what happened.”
Mr. Cummings puts it another way: “Is black men not caring for their children today in any way connected to slavery? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. I want to get beyond the moonlight and magnolia myths of the plantation.”
There is a more practical basis for the trail also. “There’s not enough money to build a museum in every parish in Louisiana,” Mr. Landrieu said. So, over the past couple of years, he has spearheaded an effort to link private-sector cultural attractions into a network of state-sponsored tourism programs, from bird-watching to golf tours. The African-American Heritage Trail is but the latest example of fiscal creativity with Louisiana’s tourism program.
“The whole state of Louisiana really is a museum,” he said.
At the turn of the 19th century, Louisiana was a major player in the Deep South in international slave trade, thanks to its location on the Mississippi River and its rise as a sugar capital. Far more compelling than its robust slave population, though, was the culture that developed around it, as a blend of French governance, liberal manumission laws and tradition of racial mixing created an especially unique twist to an already peculiar institution.
A trail weighted with such historical crosscurrents could easily turn into a kind of four-wheel Rubik’s Cube in the wrong guide’s hands. That is why what appears at first blush a freewheeling journey that can begin and end virtually anywhere in Louisiana is best approached with a degree of conformity.
There are some obvious reasons to start the trail in New Orleans, including the fact that airfares to there will most likely be cheapest. But perhaps the most compelling reason to begin in New Orleans is that one of the oldest, richest strains of African-American culture flows directly from there, or more specifically, from Tremé, which according to historians, is the nation’s oldest surviving black community. On the northern fringe of the French Quarter, Tremé, also known as Faubourg Tremé, bears resemblance to a well-to-do Caribbean community, with pastel-colored Creole and shotgun-style cottages and Greek Revival-style homes lining narrow shaded streets.
Throughout the 19th century, Tremé (named after Claude Tremé, a Frenchman who split up the lots and sold them off) was populated by free people of color — many of them fair-skinned French-speaking Creoles — who identified more with their European than African ancestry as they dominated the trades as merchants, businessmen and real estate speculators.

Louisiana Travel Guide

May 25, 2008    
Chris Ramirez for The New York Times
Mass at St. Augustine Church in Natchitoches, La. More Photos >
The River Road African-American MuseumInteractive

The River Road African-American Museum



In many cases, their ascension up the social ladder was orchestrated through Cordon Bleu or quadroon balls, private soirees in which wealthy Creole families presented their daughters to white suitors for long-term relationships.
So fascinating are the quadroon balls that you’ll want to visit the African-American Museum, located in the heart of Tremé, for more nitty gritty on these affairs, as well as the lowdown on Tremé’s most infamous Creole woman, Marie Laveau, known as the voodoo queen, who is believed to have resided, at one point, in the Passebon Cottage on the museum’s property.
The centerpiece of Tremé, though, is St. Augustine Catholic Church, which embodies much of the community’s complex cultural narrative. Built in the mid 1800s at the request of people of color, St. Augustine remains the spiritual nerve center of the New Orleans black community.
The church also has the distinction of being one of the nation’s first integrated churches thanks to a legendary “War of the Pews” in which free people of color and whites one-upped one another in purchasing family pews for Sunday Mass. Free blacks not only nabbed two pews for every white family pew, but also gave them as gifts to their enslaved black brethren. After church, and filled with the spirit, colored congregants would migrate to Congo Square (today within Louis Armstrong Park) where they would sing, dance and play music in their native African traditions.
With the French Quarter so nearby, dinner at the Praline Connection, a black-owned, child-friendly Creole soul food joint in neighboring Faubourg Marigny, is a good way to cap the evening — and the New Orleans portion of the trail. While this unpretentious, affordable place, isn’t exactly historic — it was founded in 1990 — its gumbo has earned praise from locals, as have the smothered pork chops and other specialties. And kids, exhausted by now, will squeal as straight-faced waiters serve up fried alligator as nonchalantly as a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.
A few sites on the heritage trail veer from Mr. Landrieu’s “living museum” construct, though they are not necessarily any less satisfying. Among them is the River Road African-American Museum, in the town of Donaldsonville, about 65 miles north of New Orleans. The River Road area is brimming with historical significance: Donaldsonville elected the nation’s first African-American mayor, Pierre Caliste Landry, in 1868, Others who hail from the area include King Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s musical mentor, and a corps of enslaved African-American soldiers who fought with the Union at nearby Fort Butler.
The museum’s founder, Kathe Hambrick, a native of Donaldsonville, enthuses over their tales to audiences as though reminiscing over her own family scrapbook. Ms. Hambrick started the museum in 1994 after living for several years in California.
“Everywhere I turned, there was this word ‘plantation,’ ” Ms. Hambrick said. “And every time I heard it, I would get this knot in my stomach. One day I decided to take one of these plantation tours. It was all about antiques, furniture, architecture and the wealthy lifestyle. But I wanted to know how many lives of my ancestors did it take to produce one cup of sugar.”
Since then, Ms. Hambrick has assembled a collection that combines everything from shackles and plantation tools with antebellum maps and deeds from slave auctions. The production is heavy stuff, and its details, while fascinating to adults, may be less so to small children yearning to return to the open air.
But a couple of hours north, the Louisiana landscape opens wide, and as you travel along Highway 1 toward the town of Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish), home of the Cane River Creoles, the hard stories in Donaldsonville fade under the great magnolias that shade the entrance of Melrose Plantation. This is where the love story of Marie-Therese, known as Coincoin, the grand matriarch of Melrose, took place.
Raised as a slave in the household of a Louisiana military commander, Marie-Therese was later sold to Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a French merchant. The two fell in love and she eventually bore him 10 children. Marie-Therese and her children eventually gained their freedom and became wealthy landowners in their own right. As the story goes, Marie-Therese Metoyer owned slaves but also bought many slaves their freedom along the way.
One of her sons, Nicholas Augustin Metoyer, financed the first Catholic church in the United States built for people of color. St. Augustine Catholic Church was founded in 1803 and is located in Natchitoches.
The story of the Metoyers seems to illustrate Mr. Landrieu’s belief that the trail “is about so much more than civil rights — it’s about hope.” He paused, and rephrased his thought for wider appeal. “This trail is really about how hope hits the streets.”
The Web site for the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail,, offers maps and detailed information on the trail’s sites. You can also call (800) 474-8626.
The Praline Connection (542 Frenchman Street; 504-943-3934; in the New Orleans neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny offers affordable local dishes like gumbo and smothered pork chops. Entrees $12.95 to $19.95.
In a restored Art Deco building in historic Donaldsonville, the Grapevine Cafe and Gallery (211 Railroad Avenue; 225-473-8463; offers arty atmosphere and lauded South Louisiana cuisine, like crawfish étouffée ($13.95) and seafood gumbo ($5.25).
The major hotel chains might offer convenience for families, but Louisiana boasts a wide array of B & B alternatives. In New Orleans, the Hubbard Mansion Bed and Breakfast (3535 St. Charles Avenue, 504-897-3535;, set behind oaks along St. Charles Avenue, blends modern amenities with classic charm for about $160 a night.
Farther north, near Melrose Plantation along the Cane River in historical Natchitoches, there’s the cozy Creole Rose Estates Bed and Breakfast (318-357-0384;, a three-bedroom waterfront getaway with scrumptious Creole meals cooked by the host, Janet LaCour. Rates range from $145 for two people to $250 for six people a night.
RON STODGHILL, a former staff writer for The Times, wrote “Redbone: Money, Malice and Murder in Atlanta.”
(Article courtesy of The New York Times )

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Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879- April 18, 1955) is most well-known for his famous Theory of General  Relativity (E = mc2 ) , an aspect that is important to the field of astronomy. Written in 1915, it postulates that mass can manipulate space and time thus making large masses such as stars emit light. His Theory helped astronomists understand and discover black holes, event horizons, gravitational waves, space-time continuum, wormholes, the Big Bang, warp speed, and special relativity’s importance (1905) in the realm of high relative velocities, among many other aspects of astronomy and as well as quantum physics and theoretical physics.

What is not well-known are his views on America’s so-called “Negro problem”.

Mr. Einstein wrote the following to address the blighting and damaging effects of racism on Americans. His cool insight and logic in how this sickness pervades the daily lives of all Americans is very succint and clear in his essay.


I am writing as one who has lived among you in America only a little more than ten years. And I am writing seriously and warningly. Many readers may ask:

“What right has he to speak about things which concern us alone, and which no newcomer should touch?”

I do not think such a standpoint is justified. One who has grown up in an environment takes much for granted. On the other hand, one who has come to this country as a mature person may have a keen eye for everything peculiar and characteristic. I believe he should speak out freely on what he sees and feels, for by so doing he may perhaps prove himself useful.

What soon makes the new arrival devoted to this country is the democratic trait among the people. I am not thinking here so much of the democratic political constitution of this country, however highly it must be praised. I am thinking of the relationship between individual people and of the attitude they maintain toward one another.

In the United States everyone feels assured of his worth as an individual. No one humbles himself before another person or class. Even the great difference in wealth, the superior power of a few, cannot undermine this healthy self-confidence and natural respect for the dignity of one’s fellow-man.

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.

It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.

I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

Albert Einstein Head.jpg
Albert Einstein. Photo taken in 1947, courtesy of the Library of Congress.



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MEMORIAL DAY: 5-26-2008

Fort logan national cemetery 5.jpg

Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. The freed slaves reinterred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to individual graves, fenced in the graveyard & built an entry arch declaring it a Union graveyard – a very daring thing to do in the South shortly after North’s victory. On May 30, 1886? the freed slaves returned to the graveyard with flowers they’d picked from the countryside & decorated the individual gravesites, thereby creating the 1st Decoration Day. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic:


First Reading: The First Memorial Day by David W. Blight

“During the final year of the [Civil] war, the Confederate command in … [Charleston, South Carolina] had converted the planter’s Race Course (horse-racing track) into a prison. Union soldiers were kept in terrible conditions in the interior of the track, without tents or other coverings. At least 257 died from exposure and disease and were hastily buried without coffins in unmarked graves behind the former judge’s stand. After the fall of the city, Charleston’s blacks, many of whom had witnessed the sufferings at the horse-track prision, insisted on a proper burial of the Union dead. The symbolic power of the planter aristocracy’s Race Course (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freedpeople. … [B]lacks planned a May Day ceremony that a New York Tribune correspondent called “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The “First Decoration Day,” as this event came to be recognized in some circles in the North, involved an estimated ten thousand people, most of them black former slaves…. At nine o’clock in the morning on May 1, the procession to this special cemetery began as three thousand black schoolchildren (newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools) marched around the Race Course, each with an armload of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by three hundred black women representing the Patriotic Association, a group organized to distribute clothing and other goods among the freedpeople. The women carried baskets of flowers, wreaths, and crosses to the burial ground. The Mutual Aid Society, a benevolent association of black men, next marched in cadence around the track and into the cemetery, followed by large crowds of white and black citizens. All dropped their spring blossoms on the graves in a scene recorded by a newspaper correspondent: “when all had left, the holy mounds–the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them–were a mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond… there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy.” While the adults marched around the graves, the children were gathered in a nearby grove, where they sang “America,” “We’ll Rally around the Flag,” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The official dedication ceremony was conducted by the ministers of all the black churches in Charleston. With prayers, the reading of biblical passages, and the singing of spirituals, black Charlestonians gave birth to an American tradition. In so doing, they declared the meaning of the war in the most public way possible–by their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses, lilacs, and marching feet on the old planter’s Race Course….

After the dedication, the crowds gathered at the Race Course grandstand to hear some thirty speeches by Union officers, local black ministers, and abolitionist missionaries…. Picnics ensued around the grounds, and in the afternoon, a full brigade of Union infantry, including the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts and Thirty-fifth and 104th U.S. Colored Troops, marched in double column around the martyr’s graves and held a drill on the infield of the Race Course. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. But the struggle to own the meaning of Memorial Day in particular, and of Civil War memory in general, had only begun.”



“But such limitations do not release us from engaging filmmakers and helping them make good history. From my recent work on Civil War memory I came across a story that might provide an opening scene for some enterprising filmmaker eager to construct continuing answers to Birth of a Nation. It is a story worth telling not merely for its sentiment, but because it was all but lost in the historical record. After Charleston, South Carolina was evacuated in February 1865 near the end of the Civil War, most of the people remaining among the ruins of the city were thousands of blacks. During the final eight months of the war, Charleston had been bombarded by Union batteries and gunboats, and much of its magnificent architecture lay in ruin. Also during the final months of war the Confederates had converted the Planters’ Race Course (a horse track) into a prison in which some 257 Union soldiers had died and were thrown into a mass grave behind the grandstand.

In April, more than twenty black carpenters and laborers went to the gravesite, reinterred the bodies in proper graves, built a tall fence around the cemetery enclosure one hundred yards long, and built an archway over an entrance. On the archway they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” And with great organization, on May 1, 1865, the black folk of Charleston, in cooperation with white missionaries, teachers, and Union troops, conducted an extraordinary parade of approximately ten thousand people. It began with three thousand black school children (now enrolled in freedmen’s schools) marching around the Planters’ Race Course with armloads of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” Then followed the black women of Charleston, and then the men. They were in turn followed by members of Union regiments and various white abolitionists such as James Redpath. The crowd gathered in the graveyard; five black preachers read from Scripture, and a black children’s choir sang “America,” “We Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-spangled Banner,” and several spirituals. Then the solemn occasion broke up into an afternoon of speeches, picnics, and drilling troops on the infield of the old planters’ horseracing track.

This was the first Memorial Day. Black Charlestonians had given birth to an American tradition. By their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses and lilacs and marching feet on their former masters’ race course, they had created the Independence Day of the Second American Revolution.

To this day hardly anyone in Charleston, or elsewhere, even remembers this story. Quite remarkably, it all but vanished from memory. But in spite of all the other towns in America that claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day (all claiming spring, 1866), African Americans and Charleston deserve pride of place. Why not imagine a new rebirth of the American nation with this scene?






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