About This Show
Show Info: Wiki History is an exciting lecture series on African American history. Lectures are short and teach how you how to use history and MAKE history!
Show Info: Wiki History is an exciting lecture series on African American history. Lectures are short and teach how you how to use history and MAKE history!
Why love history? Does history matter? Welcome to rememberinghistory.com where we are remembering history and we’re making it. Hi, I’m Robin the host and one of many history lovers at this great and groundbreaking podcast show. Right now, you are at an exciting place to remember African American history, a peaceful place to reflect on the African American experience and a bold place to keep MAKING history every single day. I’m so glad that you’re here so we can share in this journey together. History should be a shared experience. So, let’s get started. Hello, habari gani, nangadef! As promised, I will explain these greeting a bit later in the show. People often ask me why I love history. They say “it’s so boring!” “it’s pointless” and my personal point of debate: “it’s all lies anyway.” Hmmm…I would love to say that none of those comments are true. But let me just say that they’re not completely wrong either. Or at least they don’t have to be. In elementary and high school, I actually hated history. Yes, it’s true that I was not always the history lover that I am today. But, when I was younger I found history to be boring and I definitely didn’t get the point of learning about dead people and past events. Then I discovered something: History isn’t about past events and dead people. It’s about events and people. As one of my favorite historians put it, “History is not about the past. No one ever lived in the past. They lived in the present. The difference is that it was THEIR present. Not ours. They were caught up in the living moment exactly as we are today. And with no more certainty of how things will turn out we have.” History does talk about past events—but all (or the vast majority) of those events were people driven. They didn’t happen in isolation. People made them happen. And those people are just like us today: Making events happen today. So, why do people think that history is boring, pointless, or untrue? It’s mostly in the presentation. History is usually taught as a series or names, dates and death counts. That’s a pity because history is so much more. It is a story, it’s our story. That’s why I love history; I have always been captivated by a good mystery, moved by a tender love story, excited by a dramatic adventure story or inspired by a story of victory or triumph. Judging by the number of people at the movies or people browsing bookstores, I’m not the only one who loves a good story. So ANYONE with a reasonable amount of curiosity or interest in people can love history. There is no end to the amazing stories. And history being made today and every day. About history being a bunch of lies…well people can take a bit of “creative license” when retelling a story. But they can and do cross the line. There are definitely untruths in history and that is especially relevant for people of color. African American history has been retold in ways that, at best, diminish our contributions and, at worse, eliminate not only our contributions but also our very presence and significance in those stories. And that’s the very reason why we should learn history—so we can tell the truth. That’s the very purpose of rememberinghistory.com—to tell the truth of African American history, including the contributions, the victories, the defeats, the challenges, the struggles—whole range of the human experience. On that note, let’s get started with the history or…the stories. Let’s start with a few birthdays. May 9 is the shared birthday of two history makers—white men, actually—who played an important role in African American history. We will talk about one today and the other will be a surprise for next week’s show. You might think it strange to open today’s show by honoring a white person. This is a show about African American history, after all. Well, this man’s work has been very influential in the African American community and actually on a global scale. I’m talking about the German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist. I’m talking about Karl Marx who was born on May 9, 1818. What importance does he have in African American history? Karl Marx believed in a classless, stateless egalitarian society, stating in his landmark book, The Communist Manifesto “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” The Communist Party was the only political movement on the left in the late 1920s and 1930s to place racial justice and equality at the top of its agenda. In fact, As the Great Depression unfolded, the Communists launched intensive campaigns against lynching, evictions, whites-only trade unions, job discrimination in jobs and police brutality. In the 1960s and 70s, the Communist Party in the US fought for civil rights, protested the war in Vietnam and demanded equal rights for African Americans and women. This was attractive to many Africans and African Americans. Many African and African American activists and leaders have also focused on fighting economic inequality as a primary cause. And many Black civil rights activists, writers and scholars received support from the Communist party and joined the party though some eventually left it. Paul Robeson. Richard Wright. WEB Dubois. Langston Hughes. Ralph Ellison. Chester Himes. I’m not trying to convince anyone to adopt Communism, but I do encourage having an open mind and learning the history. That’s what we’re here for. If you questioned the relevance of Karl Marx in African American history, you definitely will NOT question the significance of the next person. He was born on May 19, 1925. Do you know who I’m talking about now? Of course, you do. Malcolm X or El-hajj Malik el-Shabazz as he was known at the time of his assassination at the age of 39. Malcolm (as I remember him) was a complex person who continued to evolve in extraordinary ways throughout his short life. As a dynamic, charismatic and highly intelligent speaker and activist throughout the 1960s, Malcolm changed the way that Black people thought of themselves and their community. He started as a minister and national spokesman with the Nation of Islam. In 1964, after a life-altering pilgrimage to Mecca, he returned to the United States to found the Organization of Afro-American Unity. This Pan-Africanist organization was designedto fight for the human rights of African Americans. Malcolm was sadly assassinated in 1965. He is most remembered as fighting for the rights of African Americans “by any means necessary” but the quote that I think represents him more is when he said, “A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.” Happy birthday, Brother Malcolm! May, 2018 marks the opening of a new museum. Museums are a great way to learn history and I just love how museums are becoming more interactive and engaging. No longer are they places to just see pictures hanging on a wall—no disrespect to pictures by the way—but museums are places to become immersed in period of time, an issue, an event or even a person’s life. The museum that I’m thinking about does all of those things and more. What is it? Here’s a hint: It is in Montgomery, Alabama and it showcases (rather, honors) more than 4,000 people. Give that some thought and stay tuned for next week’s show when I tell you all about this amazing new museum. Here’s an important date: May 17, 1954. Brown v. Board of Education was decided by the United States Supreme Court on May 17, 1954. This was one of the most important cases EVER decided by the Supreme Court. It declared that segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14thAmendment of the United States Constitution. Argued by the renowned 46-year old civil rights attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who would successfully win 29 out of 32 cases that he would argue before the nation’s highest court. Many people were excited about the Court’s decision to desegregate the public schools “with all deliberate speed” (that comes directly from the Court’s decision) but Southerners fought against integration in many ways. Some counties closed down schools rather than be forced to integrate. Others created different criteria to prevent integration. Some states even created all-white academies—some of them still exist today. The Pupil Placement Law segregated students by subjective standards like family background or special ability. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld these Pupil Placement Laws. Dr. Martin Luther King said that the Pupil Placement Law was almost as far-reaching in limiting integration as the Brown decision was in limiting segregation. Yet I gotta say that the Court’s decision was absolutely an absolute victory and a bold step in the fight for civil rights. Still segregation remained entrenched. Two years after the Brown decision, no Black child had attended school with a white child in 8 of the 11 former Confederate states. Ten years after the decision, only 2.3 percent of Black children were attending school with white children. And today the resegregation of gripping school districts around the country. You can find more information on this topic at the rememberinghistory.com website. You’ll see another example of how history does not stay in the past. Now, we will end this section by remembering James Cone, the eminent religious scholar, philosopher and activist. Dr. Cone died on April 28, 2018. James Cone is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians in the United States. He wrote many landmark books including Black Theology & Black Power, A Black Theology of Liberation, God of the Oppressed, The Spirituals & The Blues and The Cross and the Lynching Tree. His books and speeches questioned the traditional teachings of the Bible, and made Christianity understandable and relevant to oppressed people. He is memorably quoted as saying, “I wanted to speak on behalf of the voiceless black masses in the name of Jesus whose gospel I believed had been greatly distorted by the preaching and theology of white churches.” Dr. Cone will be greatly missed but also greatly remembered. In fact, I’m gonna remember his teaching in next week’s podcast show. So, I hope you’ll come back for the next show. But no. we’re not done with this show yet! Last week, I greeted you with Habari gani and Nangadef. Some Rememberinghistory.com listeners will remember the Swahili greeting Habarigani from the December show when we celebrated Kwanzaa. But what is Nangadef? That is a greeting that I recently learned when I visited Senegal. Nangadef is a greeting in the Wolof language that asks “how are you?” The traditional response is to say “Mangifi” meaning I’m fine. Why do I bring this up? I’m reflecting on my trip or rather, trips, to Senegal. Travelling is a great way to learn about another culture, language and history. There was lots of all of this in Senegal! One of the main reasons that I went was to visit the island of Goree. Goree was an important part of the TransAtlantic slave (or, rather, people) trade for more than 400 years. This is where many people where held—after they had been captured—to be transported to Europe and the Americas where they would be enslaved. More than 20 million people passed through the ominous “door of no return” for the three-month journey that ultimately ended with their enslavement in America, Brazil, the Caribbean, England or another country. Twenty million people! And, I learned that another 6 million people died either on the island of Goree or on the journey across the ocean. I saw the small, dark rooms where the men, women and children (yes, men, women and children—not slaves!) were held for months awaiting the terrible journey. The rooms were overcrowded, small, dark and damp. People were let out of the room only one time per day to use the bathroom. I also saw the chains and leg-cuffs that were put on the people and the punishment room. It was chilling. I stood at the Door of No Return where people left the island and boarded the ships headed to enslavement in different parts of the world. Strangely, the island itself was beautiful: the water was clear and blue, the ocean air was crisp and fresh and the sun was shining. But this was the last view that (at least) 20 million people saw before going below deck and emerging in a new country to be sold into slavery. Goree is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I highly recommend visiting this important place. While I have read a lot about the transatlantic trade in people and the Isle de Goree specifically, I felt an emotional response when I actually visited the island. And I learned so much. So, I’m reflecting on the importance of travel as a way of learning and experiencing and FEELING history. Of course, there is a lot more to Senegal than the Island of Goree. And my guide took me to great places like the cemeteries where both Muslims and Christians are buried, bustling markets where local people are selling their products—not tourist products—but products for every day living like groundnuts, groundnut oil, shea butter, clothes, fresh meats and lots more. We passed on the animal reserves—I’ve got nothing against animals—but we had decided instead to visit the University of Dakar, which has 60,000 students. We weren’t able to sit in on a class but we visited some libraries, bookstores and an incredible exhibit by Cheikh Anta Diop who was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician. Dr. Diop studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture. I’ve read his book, Precolonial Black Africa and The African Origin of Civilisation. Those are both excellent perspective-changing books. And you can find them on the rememberinghistory.com website. Finally, we visited Layen Mausoleum, which is dedicated to Saidi Limamou Layen, the founder of the Layen Muslim brotherhood. It is magnificent and remarkable for many reasons. Besides all of the gold and intricate designs on the walls and floors, women had to be dressed completely in white from head (including a white head covering) to foot. People were there to help you dress properly. When I saw myself dressed in that way, I was shocked. Not in a bad way though. I had never seen myself in this manner and it was mind-expanding. No, I don’t always want to dress in that manner. But I realized that travelling can help you to see yourself and the world in a different way. And I was grateful for the experience. So, my reflection for this week is that travelling can be educational AND fun. And it is a great way to learn history. Try to leave the resorts and the beach, get off the bus, go for a walk, ask questions and be open-minded. Just take it all in. Music It’s story time! Storytelling is a great part of the African American experience, given to us from African cultural traditions. I am pleased to present this story (or fable) written by master storyteller, Eshu. The theme is purpose. Let’s begin with taking a few deep, cleansing breaths to help us focus on this story and its important lessons. Take a moment to get comfortable. Now, breathe in through your nose then out through your mouth. Let’s begin. This story is called Anansi and his Sons. Written by master storyteller, Eshu Bumpus who has generously allowed us to use these stories. You can find more of his stories at folktales.net. Anansi and his Sons When Anansi's first son was born and Anansi and his wife, Aso were ready to name the child, the baby spoke up and said, "I have brought my own name with me. It is See Trouble." Their second son also announced his name in this way. He was Road Builder. Each of his six sons in turn announced their names in this way. There was River Drinker, Game Skinner, Stone Thrower and Cushion. Once, Anansi had to go on a long journey. On his trip, he found a big, bright, shiny ball. He was bringing it home, when he fell into the lake and was swallowed by a big fish. Anansi decided right then that he would give the bright shiny object to whoever rescued him. As time passed, and Anansi did not return home, his family became worried. See Trouble looked ahead to see Anansi inside the big fish. He told his brothers. Right away, Road Builder cleared a path through the forest for his brothers to follow. When they got to the lake, it was the thirsty brother's turn. River Drinker drank up all the water in the lake. There was the big fish at the bottom. Game skinner went right to work. He cut open that fish to let Anansi out. Anansi was still holding that bright, shiny object he had found. Suddenly a giant bird flew down and grabbed Anansi. It took him way up into the sky. Stone Thrower grabbed a rock and threw it. He hit the bird just right to make it let go of Anansi. Down, down Anansi fell, but he didn't get hurt because Cushion put himself in the way. Anansi landed softly. Anansi wanted to give the bright, shiny object to the son who had rescued him, but he couldn't decide who had done the most to help him. He gave the bright, shiny thing to Nyame, who put it up in the sky until someone could figure out which son deserves it the most. It is still there in the sky. You can see it tonight. The End. I hope that you enjoyed this story. It was short but powerful and enlightening. This story is about unity (or Umoja in the Swahii language) and how we can all contribute our skills, thoughts and feelings to help each other. Separately, we can be lost. Together, we can not just survive but thrive and grow. By the way, if you DID enjoy that story and discovered that history is not boring or pointless and that it can actually be interesting and inspirational, you might like to learn more—there IS lots more!Rememberinghistory.com is committed to bringing this information to you in a fun, educational and memorable way. I’m talking now about our Black History Kits. These kits are designed to teach history through videos, games (like crossword puzzles or word searches), fun quizzes, recipes and, yes, books, too. These exciting kits will guide you step by step through learning different parts of African American history (like the slavery and reconstruction periods, Black power and activism and great achievements) as well as experiencing Black culture through making delicious recipes, listening to great music and reading African folktales. Learning history should be fun. And these Black history kits ARE fun, educational and unforgettable. There is lots to choose from for adults, kids and families. I hope that you’ll look at them on the rememberinghistory.com website. And mention this podcast for a free gift! Now it’s time to come to wind things down. Let’s end by taking a few deep breaths to help you absorb and relax. In through your nose then out through your mouth. Again, in through your nose then out through your mouth. Last time, and let’s make this a big inhalation through your nose, then slowly release your breath through your mouth. That’s great. If you like, you can stay for a 2-minute guided meditation to help you relax. Learning history is fun and interesting and important. But it can also cause tension or stress and bring about difficult emotions. So, I welcome you to stay for the relaxation meditation that will begin immediately after this show. No pressure. And, if you don’t have time right now, you can always find this short meditation and other meditations on the rememberinghistory.com website. Thank you for joining us today at rememberinghistory.com where we are remembering history AND we’re making it. Every day! Bye for now. *****MUSIC*****