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Editorial

Blacks Fought for the British – Part 2

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By Mario Salas

Andrew Jackson, in an attempt to capture runaway slaves, and remove the Spanish from the Florida, sought to capture the “Negro Fort.”  In July of 1816, Jackson led gunboats toward the fort.  American forces defeated the defenders of the fort, which was defended primarily by the Colonial Marines, with Spanish, Creek, and Seminole allies. When artillery shot smash into the fort’s munitions area, it exploded, which forced surrender.  After the surrender, Andrew Jackson saw to it that many of the survivors were enslaved or hanged.  Some Colonial Marines were withdrawn and demobilized and settled in Trinidad in the West Indies.  This ended the Black Colonial Marines duty on the field of battle.  The Negro Fort today was stripped of its greatest historic legacy by Andrew Jackson and called Fort Gadsden. Fort Gadsden was built in 1818 directly on the site of the Negro Fort in order to erase history and the 300 free African American men that were massacred there.

These black marines were also known as the West Indies Militia, which defeated American forces at Bladensburg, Maryland, on August 24, 1814. The Americans ran toward the capitol and black soldiers chased them arriving at sunset in Washington, where they burned and destroyed most of the public buildings; most importantly the White House and the U.S. Capitol were burned. Cheering black slaves joined in or joined the British while others tried to protect their masters.

In 1813, a black man named Charles Ball, an escaped slave and self-declared “free man of color,” would make a terrible mistake.  His choices would be that he could row out to the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay and join the blacks already part of the British Navy, or he could volunteer for the American navy and defend a country that did not respect him as a human being.  Ball chose the Americans, and he was not alone in thinking that perhaps some good would result from it. It can be easily hypothesized, like it has been in modern times that by serving in the military, a black man would finally be respected—they would be totally disappointed.

When Ball enlisted, African Americans made up approximately fifteen percent of U.S. navy.  Although official U.S. policy at the start of the war prohibited the recruitment of black sailors, a shortage of manpower compelled the navy to accept anyone.  These black sailors had a reputation for intensity in battle thinking they would eventually be honored—this would not happen for centuries.  When one captain complained about having blacks on his ship, Commodore Isaac Chauncey replied, “I have nearly fifty blacks on this boat and many of them are among the best of my men.”  At the Battle of Lake Erie, his black sailors performed so well that letters were sent praising their courage. But, they would eventually be enslaved as would their ancestors.

It stands to reason that blacks often mistakenly thought they would be treated like human beings for serving in the American military. Living on a ship, closely together, was conducive to the development of mutual respect based on deeds and not on skin color.  Black sailors were sanctioned by the U.S. government to harass British vessels while many of their brothers remained enslaved on American plantations. On some of these ships more than half of the crew were black.

Fighting for Both Sides in the War
Charles Ball, as a free man, was fortunate enough to have a choice.  Besides the Navy and privatizing their service on naval ships, there were even a few black battalions in the American army, but the plantation owners in the Congress and pro-slavery presidents would eventually have their way, and most blacks would be sent back into slavery after the war.  Their history as blacks fighting for the American Revolution would be erased.  But for most American slaves, the best option was to escape to the British navy.  When the British fleet arrived in the Chesapeake Bay, in March 1813, entire families of slaves made their way by canoe to their ships.  The British commanders had orders to welcome these refugees. Eventually more blacks fought for the British than for the Americans, and the white Americans that supported the British were labeled “Tories” forcing them to escape South and into the East Coast mountains, were many of them would eventually become poor whites of the Appalachian Mountains.

Black soldiers and sailors fought courageously on both sides of the war, but the British promised freedom for slaves thus giving them a well-defined advantage. There was another advantage.  One British admiral suggested that a “Black Force … could be managed and kept within bounds, and the Terror of a Revolution in the Southern States increased to produce a good effect in that quarter.” The author had a clear understanding of the fear that white plantation owners had of armed black men. This would be evident as fear of the Haitian Revolution would be felt in the U.S. South. In 1836, the Alamo defenders would have been fearful of the hundreds of black soldiers in Santa Anna’s army that paraded outside the Alamo for days, fully armed, and who would be responsible for killing most of the Alamo slave-owner defenders outside the walls.

All told, between 4000 and 6000 people were freed from slavery – the largest liberation that took place in America until the Civil War.  Three companies of Colonial Marines were formed, and their presence did inspire hatred and fear among the Americans.  The corps took part in the burning of Washington, fought in the Battle of Baltimore, and skirmished against American forces all along the coast. The British comman­der-in-chief said they were “infinitely more dreaded by the Americans than the British troops.”

After the war, American slave owners demanded that either former runaways be returned to slavery or compensation be given for the loss of their property.  With few exceptions, the British rejected the demand and honored their promise to free blacks.  Slaves that arrived on British soil were considered free; a British ship at war had the status of being on British land, and thus thousands were freed.

Unlike American slave owners, the British offered the Black Colonial Marines farmland in Trinidad in February (Now Black History Month) of 1816, nearly a year after the end of the war, when the black marines refused to be transferred into the army as soldiers in the West India Regiments.  Their descendants live in Trinidad still, in freedom, and call themselves “the Merikins, “an abbreviated term for Americans.

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Editorial

Blacks Fought for the British-Part 1

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By Mario Salas

We always hear about Crispus Attucks, a black man that fought in the American Revolution for the slave owners, but we never hear about the thousands of blacks that fought for the British between 1808 and 1816.  Three events led to the American Revolution and all three were based on slavery and black resistance to the slave system of Virginia and other colonies. They were:

  1. The Somerset Case: In 1772, a slave owner named Charles Stuart bought a slave from Virginia to England named James Somerset. Stuart was trying to send Somerset to Jamaica for sale. An English abolitionist sued for his freedom arguing that slaves became free when brought to England. The Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, ruled that slavery had no basis in nature or under English law. Somerset was set free and back in America the American slave owners went ballistic. Even though white Americans thought themselves champions of freedom they were angered by the British ruling of freedom for James Somerset.
  2. About the same time as the Somerset Case, an event would take place that would drive the Americans insane with anger. A British ship was burned and the captain killed. The only witness against the Americans was a black man named Aaron Briggs who would testify against the Virginians. Briggs was about 16 years old, but hatred against him was racial. This hatred was generated by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry who led the way. Historians believe that this was a crucial moment prompting the Americans to revolt against England. In writings and speeches, Briggs was referred to as the “Negro-Indian witness.”  This incident, of a black man testifying against whites, led to the formation of the Continental Congress and the Committees of Correspondence.   This event was greater than the Boston Tea Party in popularity, but white supremacy suppressed this incident.  Thus, 1772 became the cornerstone of the American rebellion.  The Gaspee Affair led straight to the 1776 Revolution, and later to fasten slavery upon America. The leaders of the attacked ship were slave owners (John Brown and Abraham Whipple). As was typical throughout history, the black witness was made into a liar by the Virginia colonists.
  3. Lastly, Lord Dunmore called for blacks to escape slavery and join the British army with a promise of freedom and to smight their brutal owners. In November of 1775, he offered freedom to slaves and indentured servants if they would help fight the American rebels. In early 1776, about 800 enslaved men flocked to the British camps and Dunmore organized them into a unit he called the “Ethiopian Regiment.” To discourage black slaves, Virginia slave owners brutally beat blacks in the public square and often cut off an ear in revenge. They sometimes cut off heads and stuck them on polls and lined the streets with skulls. In 1781, Lord Cornwallis led a British army to Richmond, Virginia which attracted over 4,500 runaways including 23 from the Thomas Jefferson slave plantation, and 16 from George Washington plantation.

Blacks Burn White House

During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, black soldiers called the Colonial Marines, who were former slaves that escaped American slavery, attacked Washington, DC. These black troops defeated American forces at Bladensburg, Maryland, on August 24, 1814, and arrived as the sun went down in Washington, where they burned the White House and the U.S. Capitol down.

Escaped black slaves formed a military unit called Britain’s Royal Navy Corps of Colonial Marines.  After the War of 1812 these former soldiers established Trinidad’s “Merikin” communities (Merikin is short for American), which became free communities after the British refused to return slaves to America. These marines in the British Navy were first organized in 1808 to support Britain’s Caribbean bases.  During the War of 1812, British Rear Admiral Alexander Cochrane formed the Colonial Marines.  Although they were of direct African descent many more were formerly enslaved people in the Americas. These troops received the same training and benefits as their white Royal Marine counterparts. This would anger the American slave owners and explains why Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner with the 3rd Verse attacking blacks.

Colonial Marines were part of the British troops that attacked Americans outside of DC and drove them back into the city, setting the White House on fire. One of the Americans who witnessed it was Francis Scott Key-a pro-slavery man. Key also witnessed continuous British bombardment of Fort McHenry. After seeing the White House burn, Key became so angry at blacks that he wrote a poem that became the national anthem. In the third verse, Key had a special message for the enslaved people who had dared to fight for freedom:

 

The Hidden Third Verse

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

This is hardly ever mentioned in American History courses; it is purposefully ignored to mythologize American history along white supremacist lines. In April of 1814, Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane made the British position official: “All those who may be disposed to emigrate from the United States, will, with their Families, be received on board of His Majesty’s Ships…. They will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Forces, or of being sent as FREE Settlers to British possessions, … where they will meet with all due encouragement.” Afterwards, Cochrane ordered Rear-Admiral George Cockburn to form the black Colonial Marines, units made up of refugee slaves that hated their American masters.

The Colonial Marines saw military action from across North America between 1814 and 1816.  These former slaves often had extensive local knowledge of creeks, wetlands, and river valleys during that period as a result of being slaves and contact with Native Americans. They participated in numerous battles and raids during the War of 1812.  They supported the British forces who burned Washington D.C. in 1814 and who were later repulsed by US troops at Baltimore, Maryland.  The Colonial Marines assisted Britain’s Southern Coastal Campaign by guarding the British Army’s right flank during the invasion and subsequent Battle of New Orleans in 1815.  When the 1814 Treaty ended the War of 1812, the Colonial Marines was transferred to British bases in Bermuda and later to Canada, Nova Scotia, and Trinidad.

The Negro Fort

Interestingly, free black people in 1683, built a settlement at St. Augustine while the Spanish were still in control of Florida (Robison, 2003). This settlement later became Fort Mose, which served as a lightning rod for slaves on the English plantations of Mississippi, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Though the fort would be destroyed by James Oglethorpe in 1740, it was rebuilt and established a safe haven for runaways. Because Florida remained on the British side when the 13 colonies went to war with England, Spain was allowed to repossess Florida thus allowing for a greater influx of slaves.  Thus, Fort Mose would serve as precedence for another fort that would come to be known as “Fort Negro.”

These black marines fought at Prospect Bluff, Florida in 1816 and were ordered to defend a Spanish-fortified structure at Prospect Bluff.  This fort was part of a complex of river and road communication networks extending into Georgia and Alabama.  The fort had previously been under the protection of Spanish authorities in Florida and became a sanctuary for runaway slaves, Creeks, and black Seminoles.  It became known as the Negro Fort.  It would be guarded by the black Colonial Marines

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Editorial

Confederate Statues Tell a Story – an Ugly One

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By Mario Salas

Confederate statues tell a story. The story these despicable symbols carry is one of trying to keep the walking dead ideology of white supremacy alive—trying to keep racism alive even after these traitors lost a war that killed hundreds of thousands all for the cause of slavery and injustice. It is no surprise that right after the Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, southern bigots and racist lunatics sought to keep their evilness alive by erecting statues at a time when they were trying to enforce Jim Crow laws. All of the lies generated by the former slave owners, and their brainwashed ancestors, were aimed at supporting segregation and white supremacy through their worn out method of changing the subject. They changed the subject by claiming the Civil War was about “Northern Aggression” and all sorts of propaganda. However, they messed themselves up by admitting that the Civil War was mostly about slavery in their own words in their Articles of Secession. Confederate statues tell a story, but it is not the true story of racism and slavery.

Confederate statues tell a story. White supremacy has always found a way to stick around. First slavery was employed to control Native Americans and finally black people, and when that was lost in a civil war southern racists were not finished yet. This is a case were the losers were actually allowed to write their own history because the North abandoned the cause of human rights for blacks. Racist northerners and racist southerners conspired to deny civil and human rights for black Americans and others. The former slave owners were allowed to convert slavery to a new form that could only be described as “slavery by another name.” They did this by passing vagrancy laws that simply made it illegal not to have a job—they then began arresting blacks on false charges to create another racist system. They did that all the way up until the 1940s and beyond, by kidnapping blacks to work on farms and in coal mines by using the legal system.  Black unemployment and the lack of any help from the North, and from federal and state governments, to aid people coming out of slavery simply was not present after Reconstruction.

The 13th Amendment was sabotaged. Read it! “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” What you have to notice is the trick Northerners and Southerners used by wording the amendment to satisfy the former slave owners which allowed them to put blacks back into slavery by accusing them of a crime, whether it was true or made-up. The word “except” is the story those Confederate statues tell. After the Civil War, former slave owners and the legal system conspired to convict blacks, mostly on invented charges using enhanced criminal penalties. Their principle weapon were the  vagrancy laws which all of the former slave-owning states adopted. In each generation, white supremacy has sought to hold on by using new tactics to achieve the goal of keeping people that still believe they are white in positions of power. Confederate statues tell this story.

White supremacy was deemed necessary as an important ingredient in the formation of the United States from its very beginnings. In order to secure its place as an operative policy, new forms began to take shape in the form of segregation. Jim Crow law was instituted across the nation in order to keep the supposed idea that whites were superior. Restaurants, theatres, bus stations, schools, graveyards, swimming pools, and other public spaces were deemed “white only.” They put up their racist statues to enshrine this madness but claimed it was just to honor their dead—their dead fought for a cause that was a bad as the cause of Hitler, and Confederate statues tell that story. Today it is no longer an accepted norm to openly use “race” as a way to discriminate so another tactic was employed, “colorblind” foolery, and a “War on Drugs” enhanced with a “War on Crime,” and Confederate statues tell a story. These racially inspired tactics were, and still are, a method to extend white supremacy. So nowadays, they use the last bastion of overt discrimination, the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is an interesting extension of slavery and white supremacy, for it punishes crimes differently for drug use based on race and harsher sentences for people of color across the board.  The criminal justice system is a well-disguised and well-oiled system of racist social control that mimics Jim Crow. This is how racism changes from one generation to the next and Confederate statues tell this story.

One cannot claim that efforts to control crime are simply unconnected to racist control, for all of the evidence reveals that this idea is wrong. Sentencing policies that allowed harsher sentences to be given for crack cocaine is a good example. The so-called “War on Drugs,” launched like the good ship lollypop in 1982 by Ronald Reagan, was publicized to the hilt by highlighting all kinds of “crack babies.” All of this was a timed plot that was conjoined with the CIA moves in Latin America to smuggle drugs into the United States and many of you all have simply succumbed to the propaganda. The United States needed drug smugglers to fight leftist guerillas in Nicaragua, and hence America’s black community was the dumping ground for the drugs which augmented the fake call for a “drug war.” We know from Senate Hearings at the time that Oliver North was a drug smuggler who allowed drugs into the black community much like racist “Indian agents” allowed alcohol onto reservations.  In this way, the poor, blacks and other minorities could be “legally” targeted for arrest.

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Editorial

The Matrix of Racism

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Can blacks be racist? The answers will vary on how racism is defined.  Let’s look at the matrix of racism. If it is defined it as hatred toward another “race” (even though race has no real meaning), then blacks can be racist on an individual basis. If you define racism as the belief that racial differences construct a dominance of one race over another by some false biological argument then the answer is yes once again, and again on an individual basis. However, if racism is a distinct system of institutionalized advantage by those with most of the control and opportunity, then we are not looking at a position that blacks have power in; to oppress in institutional ways. From that standpoint the answer is a big no. As an identifiable group whose oppression is the result of skin color and other physical features, blacks do not control the joystick of power, nor do they control the power of privilege. On an individual plane, blacks can be as racist as anybody else, usually in the form of calling other ethnic groups by racist terminology; such as “Meskin, chink, peckerwood” and other derogatory terms. However, these individual foolish comments cannot be equated to the power of white supremacy and how it is a controlling mechanism.

 

In quoting Joe Feagin, one of the past presidents of the American Sociological Association, “Racism is more than a matter of individual prejudice and scattered episodes of discrimination designed by African Americans to exclude White Americans from full participation in the rights, privileges, and benefits of this society. Black (or other minority) racism would require not only a widely accepted racist ideology directed at whites but also the power to systematically exclude whites from opportunities and rewards in major economic, cultural, and political institutions. While there are Black Americans with anti-white prejudices, and there are instances of black discrimination against whites, these examples are not central to the core operations of U.S. society and are not an entrenched structure of institutionalized racism.”

 

According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,  “The term ‘racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” From this universal definition one can see that individual blacks have no real power to inflict mass discrimination upon others. There is a big “however” in any case; we are all obliged to confront all forms of racism whether it is coming from a society or from confused individuals.  Perhaps Nelson Mandela said it right on the day of his release from an apartheid prison; “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. . . . I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

 

According to the United Nations declaration we should “Undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . . . .” White supremacists, neo-confederates, and Nazis don’t want this to happen.

 

What we must do is to take away the myths of racism. We must defeat white supremacy with real history and prove to all that blacks and whites have fought together against racism. The southern bigots do not want to admit that the white abolitionist John Brown was a hero for fighting against slavery in the same light that Malcolm X fought against white supremacy and the belief that whites were devils. For example, if you have not seen the movie or read the book, The Free State of Jones, it is a classic that totally destroys southern racial myths. One of the myths shattered by the book and the movie is the fact that many white soldiers deserted the Confederacy after they realized they were fighting for wealthy slave owning plantation men. After the American Revolutionary War, many whites migrated to Mississippi. Many of these families moved into what became known as Jones County, Mississippi. These white men would later married black women and would declare war against the Confederate States of America (CSA). They became known as “Southern Yankees.”

“. . . many white soldiers deserted the Confederacy after they realized they were fighting for wealthy slave owning plantation men.”

The South has sought to falsify history by denying that thousands of whites deserted the Confederate Army, and in the case of Mississippi actually declared secession from the Confederate States of America (CSA) and defied Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Ancestors of the slave owners adopted fake history and falsely educated folks with lies which enforced an inflexible philosophy of racism. This led to erecting statues and symbols to enshrine bigotry across time by a movement called the “Redeemers of the Lost Cause.” These so-called redeemers were actually racists that sought to distort the true history of the war and the fact that the Civil War was mainly about white supremacy and slavery. In order to create racial myths, the former slave owners had to hide the fact that thousands of whites refused to support the South and its racist belief system.

 

Jones County, the home of Newton Knight, a real anti-racist white hero, lived in the Piney Woods of Mississippi.  It is important to understand that there are three types of “whites” (remember there were no whites before they came to America, but lost their Irish, German, and Italian roots and were turned into whites), anti-racist whites, color-blind racist whites, and racist whites. Slavery and segregation was the American dream for a time, and though most whites did not own slaves, many of them still supported white supremacy. This, in part, is what led Newton Knight to lead a rebellion against the racist minions of Jefferson Davis. In 1864, Newton Knight his company of soldiers to overthrew the Confederate power structure and raised the United States flag over the courthouse in Ellisville, Mississippi. They created the Free State of Jones, and it essentially seceded from the CSA.

 

Across Mississippi, the adversaries of the slave owners were often tormented in what whites from that time described as, “A reign of terror.” Many were forced into the Confederate army at gunpoint, and told that they would be killed if they did not support the slave-owner cause. The Confederate authorities passed a law called the, “Twenty-Negro Law.” This law allowed planters who owned twenty slaves to be discharged from the draft. This made it possible for wealthy whites to avoid fighting and make poor whites die for them. In essence, poor whites fought an unjust war by being sucker punched by the wealthy plantation owners. In short, Confederate soldiers were pawns of the slave owners. Many poor whites during that time said the law, “Made it a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

“Twenty-Negro Law.” This law allowed planters who owned twenty slaves to be discharged from the draft. This made it possible for wealthy whites to avoid fighting and make poor whites die for them.”

Confederate power brokers also inflicted more pain upon poor whites with a “tax-in-kind” scheme. This tariff allowed tax packrat collectors in Mississippi to take whatever they wanted from poor whites. According to research on several legitimate online websites, “They took meat from the smokehouses. They took horses, hogs, chickens, and corn. They took cloth the women had saved to make clothes for the children. Confederate Colonel William N. Brown reported that the corrupt Confederate tax officials had done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee army” (Source: mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/309/newton-knight-and-the-legend-of-the-free-state-of-jones). So much for the noble cause of the South! Most of what we were taught about the Confederacy was pure lies and some still believe this hogwash. The soldiers that fought for the Confederacy should be recognized as victimized poor people that were manipulated by an evil power.

Knight helped black slaves escape from Confederate authorities. He married a black woman named Rachel Knight and defied southern segregation even in death as he demanded to be buried next to his wife, which was done.  Newt Knight’s modern relatives, both black and white, are alive today to tell the story about how many whites refused to fight for Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War many poor whites felt they had more in common with black slaves than with slave owners. Jim Crow finally set in after the defeat of Reconstruction, and Confederate statues and monuments began to jump up everywhere by racist design. Fortunately, cities across America are removing these symbols of hatred.  San Antonio should be the Free State against Racism and Confederate Statues.

— By Mario Salas

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