She Failed to Act Like a Negro Should Act

“We venture to say that fully ninety per cent of all the race troubles in the South are the result of the Negro forgetting his place. If the black man will stay where he belongs, act like a Negro should act, work like a Negro should work, talk like a Negro should talk, and study like a Negro should study, there will be very few riots, fights or clashes.” (Leon Litwack, Trouble In Mind, 1999, First Vintage Books Edition, New York, p.179).

The article in Litwack’s book appeared in the Shreveport (Louisiana) Times in 1919 as justification for the white race resorting to violence against the black population, in Shreveport, Louisiana. But it was also applicable throughout the South. It was part of the white man’s rules of racial etiquette. Blacks were expected to follow the rules as defined by white society. When white folks approached, you got off the sidewalk, even if it meant walking in mud. You always bowed your head and never dared to look white folks in the eye, is only one example of the many rules that Blacks were expected to follow out of deference to the “superior race.”

Professor Leon F. Litwack writes, in his historical account of the Jim Crow years, Trouble In Mind, about what happened when a Black man failed to follow the rules of racial etiquette in the South: “Rufus Moncrief made one mistake, when on his way home from work he encountered a group of white men. He did not display the expected humble demeanor and seemed reluctant to pull off his hat to them when they spoke to him. The men beat him badly, and soon other whites joined in the attack, some of them severing Moncrief’s limbs with a saw. They dragged what remained of him to a nearby tree and strung him up as they continued to mutilate his body.” (Litwack, p. 308) According to the white man’s rules of racial etiquette, Rufus failed to act like a Negro should act, and had to pay the ultimate penalty.

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In 1913, in Valdosta Georgia, Mary Turner failed to act like a Negro should act when she set out to seek justice for her husband, who had recently been lynched. For her actions, the eight month pregnant Mary was the victim of a white mob, “determined to teach her a lesson.” After tying her ankles together they hung her from a tree, head downward. Dousing her clothes with gasoline, they burned them from her body. While she was still alive, someone used a knife ordinarily reserved for splitting hogs to cut open the woman’s abdomen. The infant fell prematurely from her womb to the ground and cried briefly, whereupon a member in the mob crushed the baby’s head with the heel of his boot. (Litwack, p. 288)
One hundred years later, on a road in Texas a young, educated and confident Black woman, Sandra Bland, was pulled over by a Texas Highway Patrolman on what can be considered a very weak offense. When Trooper Brian T. Encina asked Sandra to put out her cigarette while he appeared to be writing her a ticket, she told him no. It is at this point that southern history raised its ugly, racist head and smacked Sandra right in the face. Southern history tells us that Sandra failed “to act like a Negro should act.” She had the audacity to tell a white man wearing a uniform, that no law prohibited her from smoking a cigarette in her car. But she broke the hundred-year rule of white racial etiquette, when she failed to adhere to the trooper’s demand. But maybe she didn’t know those rules were still in effect, in the minds of many southern whites.

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Over the years since the Shreveport article, many Blacks have failed to adhere to the white man’s rule of racial etiquette. Emmit Till defied that rule and paid the ultimate price with his life. Medgar Evers defied that rule and was shot in the back. Thousands of Blacks defied that rule during the Civil Rights Movement and were beaten by southern police. Trayvon Martin defied that rule; Michael Brown defied that rule; and dozens of other young Blacks have defied that rule and all are dead. Despite the constant exposure of violent police tactics against Blacks, they continue to happen because some of these white police officers still feel a sense of superiority over all Blacks, and when the white rule of racial etiquette is broken they are compelled to punish the violator.
Ms. Bland evidently believed in the Constitution, and she thought all others shared her confidence that the document could protect her from being harmed when exercising her rights. What she didn’t realize is that the rules of racial etiquette will trump that Constitution every time. Whenever in direct conflict with the white man’s rules of racial etiquette, it is easily dismissed. The one constant throughout this country’s history has been that rule, and white policemen are demonstrating to us, as Blacks, their loyalty to it over loyalty to the Constitution.

Make Some Noise for the Color Black

darkwaterThis may sound like a very unusual request, but I am going to ask everyone to make some noise if you agree with me that the color black has been denigrated and abused far too long. The noise is to signal all those who have accepted the definition “Black is wicked, black is ugly, and black is evil,” that a change is going to come. The great scholar, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, made some noise back in 1920 in his essay, “The Souls of White Folk,” found in his book, Darkwater, when he boldly exclaimed that the European and dominant American cultures have extolled the color white while debasing other colors, including black. He wrote, “Everything good, efficient, fair and honorable is white; everything mean, bad, blundering, cheating, and dishonorable is yellow, a bad taste is brown, and the devil is black.” All colors are equated with negative qualities with the exception of white. According to Dr. Du Bois, yellow and brown get pretty low grades but the lowest is the color black. So that is why I am making a request that anyone who wants to join me to change those definitions should make some noise for the color black.

black is the color of strength

authorsI made some noise when I invited twenty-three writers to provide me with an essay, short autobiography, or biographical sketch about the African American culture for publication in an anthology celebrating the beauty, grace and strength behind the word black as in Black America. The result has been the release of Black Is the Color of Strength. All of the writers who chose to participate shared a common goal, and that was to present this country and the world with a range of well written works, accentuating the positive qualities found within the Black culture in this country The last section of the book is titled, “Legacies of Courage” and features short sketches on such giants as Dr. Maya Angelou, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and Shirley Chissolm. There is a short essay on the Tuskegee Airmen and a final work called, “The Love That Forgives.” It recounts the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in September 1963, and the unique ability of Black Americans to forgive. This anthology is available for review on our website and on Amazon.com.

firesbookI made some more noise when I decided to tell our story our way and wrote a historical novel about the Tulsa Riot of 1921 titled, Fires of Greenwood. The novel chronicles the real-life events that led to the horrendous slaughter of American citizens, during this country’s turbulent racial past. I have also brought to life, the debate between Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist approach to segregation and Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois’ advocacy for a more radical protest, against the evils confronting Blacks during the early years of the Twentieth Century. This novel is an excellent primer for those who are interested in tracing the history of racial violence in this country, and why racial turbulence continues to confront us today. It is available for review on our website and on Amazon.com.

DrDiopDr. Mateen Diop made some noise when he wrote an excellent book, Inner City Public Schools Still Work. Dr. Diop shares with all of us concerned about the future of public schools, how they can still serve as effective tools for teaching our children. The key, according to Dr. Diop, is dedication and concern for those innocent young minds that are starving for knowledge. He challenges the notion that charter schools are superior to public schools, and gives examples to back his argument.  However, he agrees that both are useful institutions for teaching our children. In one very interesting section, he takes the reader through his own experience as a principal of an inner city school and how his staff, under his leadership, changed the entire learning environment, and increased the children’s scores far above just passing on state examinations. Dr. Diop’s book will be available through Prosperity Publications in August of this year. It is available for review on our website.

TMoffettAttorney Toschia Moffett made some noise when she meticulously interviewed and then wrote, The Spiritual Journey of a Legend, about the life of one giant of a preacher in Gaffney, South Carolina. Dr. Reverend James W. Sanders was one of those brave heroes that led the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s He did his work right in the city of Gaffney, challenging segregation in all its manifestations. This is the story of a man whose life’s journey begins in a segregated schoolroom in Union, South Carolina in 1933, and reaches its pinnacle of success when he is invited to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008. Toschia points out how the Christian faith can still serve as a vehicle for social change and economic improvement, in the Black communities. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, who was one of the many admirers of Reverend Sanders, wrote the foreword to the book. This book is available for review on our website an on Amazon.com

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The late David Floyd made some noise when he wrote about his extraordinary climb from a young man who graduated from high school reading at the second grade level, and in 2014 received his Doctorate Degree in Accounting. In his autobiography titled, Through My Mother’s Tears, David shares with the reader the tremendous obstacles he faced growing up in poverty in Freeport, Texas.  He recounts the personal humiliation and his rejection by others because of his dark skin color, and because he could not read. Despite all the obstacles, and with sheer determination, David turned a tragic beginning into a glorious victory in his life’s journey. This book is a must read for all educators interested in knowing, from a first hand account, how the education system can fail to help a child who always had a desire to learn, and for those who have lost hope and need a source of inspiration to keep on fighting for a better life. David’s book will be available through Prosperity Publications and on Amazon.com in July of this year.

chrispittardChris Pittard made some noise with his coming of age story, The Transmanaut Chronicles, about his brother, two friends and him. These four young men take off on a trip from El Paso, Texas to San Francisco, California, making stops in San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland. Chris, who is an attorney in San Antonio, has given us a refreshing book, not about young men who are slinging drugs, chasing women and killing each other. It is the kind of book that young men and women can read and recognize that if these four boys can challenge life at an early age and commit to great accomplishments, then they can also do the same. Chris’s brother, Dana Pittard, is a Major General in the United States Army and his two friends are IT Specialists working for the United States Government in Washington, D.C. Attorney Pittard’s book is available through Prosperity Publications or Amazon.com.

These writings represent just the tip of the iceberg of the works that Prosperity Publications will publish over the next six months. The company plans to release the second in the trilogy on the color black, titled, Black Is the Color of Love, in August of this year. It is a series of short stories accentuating the love and courage of our ancestors. These fictional stories complement the non-fiction works found in Black is the Color of Strength.

The company will also release the personal memoirs of the great Hall of Fame basketball genius, George Gervin, in October of this year. The one man, who is responsible for the San Antonio Spurs moving from the ABA to the NBA and made them into a competitive team, is determined to write a different kind of book from what you usually get from an athlete. He is determined to tell how after basketball he dedicated his life to building a school for young people that often make wrong choices in life, and end up being locked up and forgotten about by society. He has taken those young people and provided them with an environment conducive for learning and, therefore, giving them a second chance to succeed in life.

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We invite you to visit our website at www.prosperitypublications.com and make some noise with us. If you find one or two of these works interesting, we further invite you to make some more noise and purchase them when available. You will not regret it because these books are entertaining, enlightening and most important empowering.