Over the last few months, I watched Roots, for the fourth time. I also watched Harriet, the story of Harriet Tubman. Both serve as reminders of the past, specifi cally what we have been through and how we got over. I have watched Presidents Johnson and Trump do their thing during their respective terms of offi ce. One was a man who understood he was a President for the people, while the other is a child playing President for his own benefi t, not thinking about his future as leader of this great country.
Roots told the story of Black Americans enduring the misery of slavery, from the offloading of the first Africans destined for slavery, to the fi ght to be free in 1863. The stories are numerous; the human benefi ciaries are just as numerous. Stories like “happy darkies” were just as false as they sounded and a racist view of the Black community. Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser gathered men to fight for their freedom. Like a Haitian slave was heard quoting General George Washington, who said, “War for war, crime for crime, atrocity for atrocity.” This slave, Jean Jacque Desalines, was an aid to Toussaint L’Ouverture prior to becoming his successor. Toussaint led the Haitian Revolution in fi ghting against Napoleon Bonaparte; which caused fear of similar slave revolts in the U.S. and around the world, which led to the abolition of slavery throughout the Western Hemisphere. (Before the Mayfl ower, Lerone Bennett – 1970)
Just as there were historic heroes who stood up to tell the truth and put their lives on the line, there were also those who were ‘tattletales’, informing the slave master of plans to gain freedom, who would put an end to the shenanigans. These also thwarted efforts of some slaves who chose the motto “Give me freedom or give me death.” (Patrick Henry).
In the midst of fi ghting for freedom, there were always those fi ghting for their personal reward of equality and justice. Likewise, there were always those willing to jeopardize the entire movement for their own reward. Freedom would have come much faster but for those seeking their own reward from the master. The following names represent some of our leaders who have led the battle in their own way: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Roberson, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Kwame Nkruma, Adam Clayton Powell, W.E. B. Du Bois, Elijah Muhammad, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Mary McLeod Bethune, Malcolm X and Booker T. Washington, among others.
These leaders represent a roll call to freedom and civil rights. They are a class of African Americans whose individual struggle and progress have served their part in an ongoing struggle for all our people’s freedom. What is left is up to us is to keep progress going for the next generation.