Malcolm X said: “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research."
Arturo Schomburg told Baba John Henrik Clarke to "study the [oppressor's] history..."
Today, WEB Dubois helped AYA students of the Following Araminta class do both. Just as Araminta (Harriet Tubman) is entering the war between the states (Civil War) that she helped to ferment, we took a break to go beyond the moral analysis, to understand some of the economic and social forces at play before, during and after this "Civil War." From his Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 the students read as DuBois cast the Civil War as the greatest labor revolution in history, but they were most riveted by his class analysis of the 7% elite vs. the white laborer North and South:
"While revolt against the domination of the (Southern) planters over the poor whites was voiced by men like Helper, who called for a class struggle to destroy the planters, this was nullified by deep-rooted antagonism to the Negro, whether [captive] or free... But the poor whites and their leaders could not for a moment contemplate a fight of united white and black labor against the exploiters.
Indeed, the natural leaders of the poor whites, the small farmer, the merchant, the professional man, the white mechanic and [captive African] overseer, were bound to the planters and repelled from the [captive Afrikans] and even from the mass of the white laborers in two ways:
- first, they constituted the police patrol who could ride with planters and now and then exercise unlimited force upon recalcitrant or runaway [Africans];
- and then, too, there was always a chance that they themselves might also become planters by saving money, by investment, by the power of good luck; and the only heaven that attracted them was the life of the great Southern planter"
The connections that the students began to make to events of today were outstanding:
- One student connected their "exercise of unlimited force" to Ferguson (Brown), New York (Garner), Ohio (Rice), etc.
- Another student connected White's belief in their own inferiority as a driver for their domination of Afrikans, so they could prove they were "somebody."
- They all began to see White "elites'" use of the "chance of becoming" illusion as a distraction for working class White people then and a distraction for us now (lottery) working for real and systemic change.
This comes on the same day as these youth started the Where My Voice Begins Class. It's a youth version of Warriors, Healers, and Builders. You know that I was lovin' it. And while a central thesis of Warriors, Healers, Builders is that "Europeans have chosen to use domination as a surrogate for spiritual transcendence," today I had to yield to DuBois' words: "the only heaven that attracted them was the life of a Southern planter."