From: Co-Publisher Glen Ford

To: Readers

Dear Reader,

If you have occasion to fly the jittery skies during this holiday period, be aware that you owe a measure of your safety to South Carolina's Black Congressman James E. Clyburn and to American Airlines whistleblower Julie Robichaux. George Bush is no more the air traveler's guardian than Richard Reid, the ridiculous - but still frightening - British-Jamaican shoe bomber.

When Reid was subdued while fumbling with matches in an attempt to light his explosive footgear, no one aboard Paris to Miami Flight 63 could assume that the danger was over. There were, after all, hundreds of other potentially lethal shoes attached to the feet of other passengers. In a suit filed in early June, dispatcher Robichaux charged that she was under instructions to place cost considerations ahead of safety.

Robichaux alleges that her supervisors ordered her to delay reporting the incident to federal authorities, and to keep the plane on course to Miami. A diversion to Boston would cost the airline thousands of dollars. She refused, got on the phone with North American Air Defense Command, and coordinated the Boston landing with fighter escorts.

The two-year old law that allowed Robichaux to defy her superiors, the Aviation Safety Protection Act, is Congressman Clyburn's brainchild. "Luckily, with the protection this law provides, the dispatcher felt courageous enough to ignore her superiors' orders and potentially saved the lives of all the passengers on Flight 63," Congressman Clyburn said. "The law worked precisely as designed, and became a source of strength at a critical time."

What does the incident have to do with President Bush? Everything. The Bush-Cheney administration's relationship to the airlines and mega-business in general is like that between members of a Star Trek Borg Collective - they communicate instantaneously, without the need to speak, in perfect, corporate harmony. Before there was even a ballpark estimate of the casualties at the World Trade Center, Bush and his congressional leaders were ready with a multi-billion dollar bailout bill for the airline industry, the only casualty that counted in high Republican circles.

The airlines and their political front men always insisted on paying poverty wages for airport security. It took September 11 for the Bush White House to change its tune, and then only reluctantly.

There is no need to conjure up a conspiracy to explain the administration's failure to take precautionary actions last summer, when all signs pointed to an attack on U.S. commercial aircraft. The Bush-airline collective understood that any additional vigilance might have signaled to passengers that all was not well, threatening ridership and profits.

This shared mentality explains the airline actions alleged by Flight 63 dispatcher Robichaux. In the face of passenger behavior never witnessed in the history of aviation, in which hundreds of lives hung in the balance, the instinctive reaction was to protect profits and fly on as if nothing had happened.

What applies to the airlines, also describes the current crowd in the White House: They will do nothing, nothing, that might impede the free flow of trade and cash.

Our history, George Washington's property

Philadelphia, with its Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, is a center of American mythology. Visitors and residents are fed a steady diet of pablum, which usually boils down to: the white men who gathered in this city did great things for which all Americans should be proud. We're damn lucky they won the Revolutionary War.

From the perspective of descendants of slaves, that's a very iffy proposition. It is not at all clear that George Washington's victory over the British was in the interests of the 20% of Americans who were Black, the vast majority of them slaves. Consequently, African Americans must also have some input on what modern America has to say about George, one of the biggest slaveholders in the all of Virginia.

(Indians did not figure into colonial head counting, and there can be little doubt that the Revolution insured the near-extinction of Native Americans.)

Since the Maryland swamp that was to become Washington, D.C., was still being drained at the time, George Washington divided his Presidential days between New York and Philadelphia, often residing at what is now called the Robert Morris Mansion. A rich white man in need of constant attention, Washington had eight slaves at his household's constant beck and call. These men and women were housed in the stable area near Sixth and Chestnut.

The National Parks Service (NPS) holds sway over the several blocks that make up Independence National Historical Park, including the sites where Washington and his slaves slept. The NPS also takes upon itself the duty of "interpreting" the deeper meaning of what went on in the hallowed halls, meeting rooms, kitchens and stables under its jurisdiction.

In an April letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, National Historic Park superintendent Martha B. Aikens wrote, "The Park Service has long planned to interpret [the mansion's significance], and we welcome suggestions about ways to reflect its history accurately and give visitors the best possible experience."

Aikens' assurances are not enough for Michael Coard, a Black attorney who has organized a demonstration on Wednesday, July 3 at 4:00 p.m to demand that the NPS "build a monument to the memory of the eight ancestors who were enslaved by George Washington right here in Philadelphia in the stable area of America's first White House." Coard has taken the lead in Black resistance to the NPS's hegemony over historical interpretation. If the feds refuse to loosen their grip on the national legacy, Coard envisions "a state and federal lawsuit filed by a 'Dream Team' consisting of several prominent Black attorneys." For information on the demonstration, E-mail Coard at

King George or Master Washington?

Historically, African Americans have responded to white hero-making with Black hero-making, demanding, for example, that Black Revolutionary War soldiers get equal billing with whites. This is all well and good, of course, but does not clean up essentially distorted history; it simply applies a layer of color to a flawed picture.

The significance of such symbols as the Liberty Bell or the houses in which Washington slept lies in the nature and character of the American Revolution: What was it about, at the time?

Specifically, let's compare George Washington's conduct toward Blacks at the start of hostilities, with that of the British. (We have made liberal use of an excellent PBS-WGBH website on Blacks in the Revolutionary War, the link to which can be found at the end of this article.)

The Governor of Virginia, whose royal title was Lord Dunmore…sought to disrupt the American cause by promising freedom to any slaves owned by Patriot masters who would join the Loyalist forces. (Runaway slaves belonging to Loyalists were returned to their masters.) Dunmore officially issued his proclamation in November, 1775, and within a month 300 black men had joined his Ethiopian regiment.

In fact, Virginia's slave owners took a long pause to weigh their options, before moving against Dunmore. Many wondered if the cause of separation from Britain was worth risking separation from their slave property. General Washington took a hard line against any manifestation of Black personhood.

When he took command of the Continental Army in 1775, Washington barred the further recruitment of black soldiers, despite the fact that they had fought side by side with their white counterparts at the battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill.

As common sense would dictate, substantially more Blacks fought in the British ranks - all of them with the status or promise of becoming free men. Many, if not most, of Washington's dark soldiers remained slaves during and after the conflict.

When the end came, the top British commanders kept their word to the King's Black soldiers.

In November 1782, Britain and America signed a provisional treaty granting the former colonies their independence. As the British prepared for their final evacuation, the Americans demanded the return of American property, including runaway slaves, under the terms of the peace treaty. Sir Guy Carleton, the acting commander of British forces, refused to abandon black Loyalists to their fate as slaves. With thousands of apprehensive blacks seeking to document their service to the Crown, Brigadier General Samuel Birch, British commandant of the city of New York, created a list of claimants known as The Book of Negroes.

Those Blacks fortunate enough to be listed in The Book - 3 to 4,000 former slaves and their families - sailed to freedom in Canada and England (although a number of former soldiers wound up in Jamaica, where some soon lost their freedom.)

All things considered, no informed slave would choose George Washington over King George III. In reality, however, the slave didn't have a choice; he simply tried his best to get as close as he could to any glimmer of freedom.

Crispus Attucks or Colonel Tye?

The Fourth of July is the holiday for heroes. Most African American school children are taught that Crispus Attucks was the first Black martyr of the American Revolution, shot down in Boston in 1770, five years before the actual war broke out. Our trusted PBS-WGBH website describes the 27-year old runaway slave as a dockworker and sailor who hung out with a rowdy crowd. The confrontation with British soldiers started with a Friday night street brawl.

That following Monday night, tensions escalated when a soldier entered a pub to look for work, and instead found a group of angry seamen that included Attucks.

That evening a group of about thirty, described by John Adams as "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs," began taunting the guard at the custom house with snowballs, sticks and insults. Seven other redcoats came to the lone soldier's rescue, and Attucks was one of five men killed when they opened fire.

Patriots, pamphleteers and propagandists immediately dubbed the event the "Boston Massacre," and its victims became instant martyrs and symbols of liberty.

The John Adams mentioned above was the lawyer for the British soldiers. He won acquittal for most of his clients, and went on to become a drafter of the Declaration of Independence and the second President of the United States. At the trial, Adams argued that Attucks was the aggressor who struck the first blow.

Which is fine with me. By all means, give Brother Attucks his due. However, my Black heroic favorite fought for the British.

Colonel Tye was perhaps the best-known of the Loyalist black soldiers. An escaped bondman born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, he wreaked havoc for several years with his guerrilla Black Brigade in New York and New Jersey. At one time he commanded 800 men. For most of 1779 and 1780, Tye and his men terrorized his home county -- stealing cattle, freeing slaves, and capturing Patriots at will. On September 1, 1780, during the capture of a Patriot captain, Tye was shot through the wrist, and he later died from a fatal infection.

In other words, Colonel Brother Tye returned to the old neighborhood and made all the slave-holding, Black folks-hating racists pay for attempting to transform him into a beast of burden. How come Melvin Van Peebles hasn't made a movie about this man - Ye Olde Sweetback's Bad Arse Song?

Returning to the present: Our sentiments are with Philadelphia's Attorney Coard and the others who are demanding a monument for George Washington's slaves. The ancestors deserve a memorial. Admirers of Washington should also be thankful to the slaves, for not killing the old son of a….

Finally, regarding Washington's status as Father of Our Nation: The Virginia planter had no legally recognized children, yet Washington is an extremely common surname among African Americans. Are there any white people out there named Washington? I've never met one.

Required Reading for Everyone's Fourth of July

Frederick Douglass was a giant of the Nineteenth Century. He towered over normal men, a person so astounding in intellect, oratory, passion and dignity that the very fact of his existence gave the lie to notions of white superiority. Racists shriveled in his presence.

In 1852, the prospects for Black emancipation could not have seemed worse. Other abolitionists might have been grateful for a chance to plead the cause of the slaves before a white audience as friendly as the Rochester, New York, Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society. The speaker would have been expected to congratulate the sponsors on their relative liberality. Not Douglass. The following excerpt from Douglass's speech, delivered on July 5th, is the essence of manhood, distilled into words.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Enjoy your holiday.


Glen Ford, Co-Publisher

PBS - WGBH Blacks in Revolutionary War site

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The N-word as Therapy for Racists: Randall Kennedy's Idiotic Assault on Black People's Honor

Goin' South:
To save itself, organized labor must capture Dixie

CIA Trumps FBI: Forget about a War on Drugs

National Security News Alert: President is Warned Race Bias “Threatens National Security”- Special Edition - Issue Number 5 - June 13, 2002

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Tar Baby Outrage!: Racism and Corruption at the Redstone Arsenal

Condoleezza's Complaint & Paratroopers in the Basement: Connie's image and the Venezuelan coup

Did the Green Party Betray Black America: by Dr. Jonathan David Farley, Guest Commentator

A Law That Gives Racists Something to Fear:by Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, Guest Commentator

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Condoleezza & Geraldo, a Fine Pair: The Role Models' Burden

Hard Right Cash Defeated in Black City - This Time
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Newark: The First Domino? - The Hard Right Tests its National Black Strategy

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ - April 5, 2002

A Letter from Harvard: "How to spot a "Black Trojan Horse." Dr. Martin Kilson, Guest Commentator

Reparations Part One: The True Value of Some Land and an Animal

The Living Wage Movement: A New Beginning - Bread, Power and Civil Rights in 19 Languages

Rep. Cynthia McKinney's Statement on the Events of September 11: The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle.

Make The Amendment: How to Get the U.S. Government Out of the International Drug Trade

Psychologically Unfit: The U.S. Can't Handle the Death Penalty

Linquistic Profiling: By Patrice D. Johnson, guest commentator