Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Academic and Spiritual Sojourn

To those that view this blog periodically and even decide to make comments, I thank you (whether you agree with my views or not). For the past semester I have been working on my comprehensive or "ascension to candidacy" exams, just another one of the many hoops that those seeking the doctoral degree must jump through as we run the intellectual gauntlet. As I have been working...reading and writing...finding ways to familiarize and summarize the scholarship of my chosen field of study, I have been troubled, intellectually, spiritually, and even physically at times.

This process is surely not for the weak of mind, spirit, or body. And for those that have and continue to offer encouragement I thank you and appreciate your efforts. I tried to think of a way to contextualize what I feel from time to time from DuBois' thoughts in Souls of Blackfolk of being a "problem" to Douglass' plea to Americans to "live up to their constitution." I face the hypocrisy of American history with the transcendent faith that sustained those who sacrificed that I might be able to enjoy the rights and privileges I have.

Moreover, I hope that as I traverse my current stormy swell, I can find ways to not exist in the Ivy Tower of lofty idealism and speak truth to power that creates sustainable ways for the liberation of our minds and spirits. Lastly, I think that I now understand what Prof. John Henrik Clarke meant by proclaiming that:

"History is a clock that people use to tell the political and cultural time of day...it is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been...where they are and what they are. Most important, history tells a people where they still must go, what they still must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child."

With that said, I will be taking a brief hiatus from my blog to fully concentrate on my work. I leave you with one of the most moving clips in cinematic history...that I think illustrates Clarke's points and my own intellectual and spiritual sojourn perfectly.



Friday, April 11, 2008


Meeting David Wilson is a feature length documentary about the enduring legacy of slavery in today's young black society.

David Wilson, a 28-year-old African-American journalist, journeys into his family's past to find answers to America's racial divide. Along the way he meets another David Wilson, the descendant of his family's slave master. This discovery leads to a momentous encounter between these two men of the same name but whose ancestors were on the opposite sides of freedom. Through DNA testing, David determines his African roots and returns to his native land.

Check out the preview for the show on the website....

Here is the link:


This promises to spark a number of conversations...and as an aspiring historian I find this all the more timely.



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Peace and Respect to Cedella Booker

July 23, 1926-April 8, 2008

My prayers and thoughts are with the Marley Family during this time. Cedella Booker, mother of Bob Marley passed away Tuesday in her home in Miami.




Friday, April 04, 2008

Forty Years...

At some point today I hope you took time to reflect on the man, the movement, the countless others who shared his fate, giving the ultimate sacrifice as they struggled for justice. In his last book, Where do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community King cautions us to not allow time to be used unwisely. "Procrastination," he argues is still "the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, with a lost opportunity." Take time for self reflection/examination. King soberly warns, "This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos or community." Let us work to make sure King's death and so many nameless others was not in vain

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

When did Uncle Tom become "Uncle Tom"?

(Pictured above: Josiah Henson, the "inspiration" for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was born a slave on June 15, 189 in Charles County Maryland. He was sold three times before he was eighteen. By 1830, he had saved $350 dollars to purchase his freedom. His master told him the price for freedom was now $1000 and so he self-emancipated with his family and moved to Canada where he taught former bonded persons how to be successful in agriculture. His autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, was read by Stowe and thus the inspiration for the Uncle Tom character.)

Many are familiar with the the derogatory meaning within African American culture of "Uncle Tom." Typically this label is given to self-hating and self-denigrating blacks who seek the affirmation and benevolent praise of normative white society at their own expense, and the expense of the race. Extreme examples of such behavior can be found in the slaves who betrayed the insurrections of Gabriel or Denmark Vesey, or in a more contemporary context, Justice Clarence Thomas fits the bill for all practical purposes (as well as Ward Connerly, and several others).

Regardless, the character "Uncle Tom" in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin was anything but self deprecating. Actually he sacrifices himself for the sake of other slaves. Moreover, his uncompromising Christian beliefs in the face of brutal treatment made him a hero to white audiences. For them, he was the personification of Christian humility.

Tom's tormenter in the book, the brutal and savage Simon Legree, the Northern slave-dealer turned plantation owner, enraged white readers with his cruelty in stark contrast. Stowe convinced her readers that the peculiar institution of slavery was evil, because it supported people like Legree and enslaved people like Uncle Tom. Her book in its own way brought more whites to the cause of anti-slavery, but not to abolition. You must remember that "anti-slavery" not the same thing as abolition.

Now at the time of publication, in 1852, there existed a small number of persons in the United States who were literate. Of the that literate populous, one would need to interrogate the critical mass of transplanted Africans and free people of color who could read. Frederick Doulgass, the noted abolitionist and patriot, praised the book in his writings. He also was a friend of Stowe's who she consulted on portions of the text. There were those who found the novel condescending not just with the passiveness of Uncle Tom, but also the fact that the characters in Stowe's novel emigrate to Africa, they are never able to live in America. Again anti-slavery does not equal abolition.

So the question remains, just when did Uncle Tom become a bad thing to be? I can see the negative aspects of him being labeled weak and socially impotent in the face of oppression, but I seriously doubt that either Thomas or Connerly would have the intestinal fortitude to sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom.
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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.negrointellectual.blogspot.com.