History should be an accurate, truthful presentation of factual events. In other words, we expect historians to tell it like it is. That would include the good, the bad and the ugly, as long as it is what actually transpired. Anything more or less is propaganda: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. An unbiased overview of black history should, therefore, include the accurate, truthful presentation of factual events.
I had always accepted certain truths, as reported by the “unbiased” media, as well as presentation from black leaders as being “the way it is.” However, education can present a danger to the status quo. In my case, it became the impetus for a personal revolution, causing me, from that point on, to question and then ascertain the facts of a matter.
It took years before I became aware that much of what was passed on as black history was biased or misleading. The Bible (not a religious book) says, “Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing … truth.” That verse became the impetus for a personal journey into reality.
All my young life, I had been taught that the white man had been the slave master, responsible for enslaving the thousands of blacks who arrived on slave ships. I felt justified in my anger and resentment against “whitey” “honkies,” “crackers” and “peckerwoods.” I became a revolutionary, committed to the “black revolution” – a follower of Malcolm X.
Fortunately, I had a personal encounter with the Author of truth, the Lord Jesus Christ, who changed my life – didn’t make me religious (Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X were religious) – and placed me on the road to seeking the truth that “shall make you free.”
The truth about truth is, it can cause dramatic changes in one’s worldview and approach to life; it can also be addictive. Once I discovered the facts about certain “truths,” I formed the habit of seeking to know how “it really is” about everything I held/hold to be important. Knowledge has a tendency to unsettle, especially when it concerns something”everybody knows.” Could I have been wrong about white people? Nah, everybody knew what went down, right? But, just in case: What really went down?
Let me briefly share what, to me, were one or two revolutionary historical facts. (For an in-depth read, see my book, “Black YellowDogs.”)
The first Africans to arrive in Jamestown, Virginia, were not slaves but indentured servants. In 1619, there were black and white indentured servants. These servants, as you know, had specified periods of servitude; they were not slaves. They voluntarily indentured themselves for a period of seven years (or less) in exchange for passage to the New World. At the conclusion of this period, they were freed and given citizenship and 50 acres of land. There was no stigma attached.
Some actually used the system as a means to prosper. For example, a father could indenture (sell) a family of four and all things being equal, qualify for 200 acres, as each family member was granted 50 acres. Anthony Johnson, by indenturing his own family members, was able to acquire 250 acres of land. His sons, utilizing the same strategy, secured an additional 650 acres, enabling them to become prosperous landowners raising crops and livestock.
Let me reiterate: Every indentured family member, black or white, was given freedom, citizenship, 50 acres and subsequently enjoyed all the rights and privileges of every other citizen. These bound servants – black or white – were considered simply a source of labor. Once the term was served, there remained no disgrace associated with the practice.
In support of the fact that blacks and whites received exactly the same treatment, here is an entry in a diary dated August 1619: “Young maids (90 white females) to make wives for so many of the former tenants (colonists) were priced by the Virginia Company at no less than “one hundredth and fiftie (pounds) of the best leafe Tobacco.”
The earliest record shows clearly that the first blacks to arrive in America were not slaves but were, as many whites, simply indentured servants who subsequently obtained their freedom with all the rights and privileges associated therewith.
As surprised as I was at what I had just found out, what I discovered next shocked me to my toes and caused a total revision of my historical perspective. It just could not be true! No way!
(I’ll have Part 2 next week.)