The Shirley Sherrod debacle brings America face-to-face with race and denial—again

By Askia Muhammad and Eric Ture Muhammad -Final Call Staff | Last updated: Jul 28, 2010 - 10:58:56 PM

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WASHINGTON ( - It may be the most shameful incident in the modern history of the NAACP, and yet another failure on the part of President Barack Obama and his administration to understand the depths of racism in this country, and to lead the country to correctly deal with it.


Shirley Sherrod
The public pillorying of Shirley Sherrod, a Black USDA official fired for racial misdeeds she never committed, can also be seen as part of an onslaught of right wing propaganda and efforts to counteract any charges of White racism with charges of Black racial animus. Then there is a constant effort to calm White fear on one hand, hoping to avoid election year backlashes, as the other side seeks to inflame White fears to energize segments of White voters. Key to the right wing mobilization is apparently demonizing the president and Black civil rights organizations—and keeping both running away from race in the name of unbiased action.

The president was briefed July 19 about a March two and a half minute video clip purportedly showing Mrs. Sherrod, then director of Georgia State Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, telling a story during a local NAACP banquet about how she hesitated to do all she could to help a poor farmer 24 years ago because he was White and acting superior to her. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanded and received her resignation, declaring there is a “zero tolerance policy” for discrimination at USDA.

In a hasty response, the oldest and largest civil rights group in the nation— the Black community's “Good Shepherd” as it were—sternly rebuked Mrs. Sherrod, one of its own “sheep,” in an obvious attempt to appease the “wolf,” conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart who posted the deceptively edited video on the Internet.

Last year, Mr. Breitbart, a former editor at the Drudge Report, played a key role in the distribution of doctored videos that appeared to show ACORN employees giving advice to a pimp and a prostitute. Mr. Breitbart said he posted the Sherrod video in an effort to get back at the NAACP for passing a resolution at its recently concluded convention, calling on the Tea Party movement to repudiate racism in its ranks.

Within hours after learning of Mrs. Sherrod's forced resignation, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous supported Sec. Vilsack's actions and chastised Mrs. Sherrod.

“We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers,” Mr. Jealous said in the group's initial statement. “Her actions were shameful.

“While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

“No way in the world. No way. No way. I don't even want to talk about it,” Roger Spooner, the elderly White farmer at the center of the story told CNN July 20. “It don't make sense. She was just so nice to us as—she didn't—there wasn't no—there wasn't no racism attitude at all in it. Heck no. They don't know what they're talking about.”

“I never was treated no better, no nicer, and looked after than Shirley,” Mr. Spooner continued. “She done—she done a magnificent job. I don't have words—I don't have words to explain it,” he said. Mrs. Sherrod, he said, helped save his near 500-acre farm.

For the next 48 hours the White House, the Agriculture Secretary and the NAACP were in full retreat, personally and publicly apologizing to Mrs. Sherrod— who had worked for a non-profit group dedicated to stemming the catastrophic loss of Black farmland in the 1980s when she met Mr. Spooner. Her father was shot in the back and murdered by a White farmer when she was 17.

The NAACP, “after a careful investigation” and the day after its initial statement, said: “We have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed White farmers because of racial bias,” the new statement said.

“Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the White farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans,” Mr. Jealous said.

President Obama and Sec. Vilsack both telephoned Mrs. Sherrod to apologize. Mr. Vilsack offered her a new, unspecified job at USDA.

Mr. Breitbart refused to apologize, sticking by what he called his attempt to expose racism inside the NAACP. Some say it exposed the Obama administration's constant fear of a racial bogeyman.

“There are definitely a lot of people who surround (President Obama) that have these backwards views on what a president should do on race. I have dealt with many presidents and as far as Democratic presidents go, they have become less accessible. One of the real problems is that he (President Obama) himself does not make himself accessible,” said Barbara Arnwine, of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“He does a lot of good ceremonial meetings with African-Americans where he'll come in for a signing ceremony or reception, but he doesn't do policy meetings. I have been over to the White House several times and I have never seen him other than on the ceremonial set. That is unusual. Most presidents will make themselves available for some policy discussion. The fact that I have seen him in none is puzzling. All of the information he gets is filtered. He gets filtered information from his staff and he's not getting information directly from people.”

Fatahma Odebe, left, joins a rally outside the Department of Agriculture building in Washington, in support of Shirley Sherrod a former Agriculture Department’s director of rural development in Georgia, demanding that Sherrod be reinstated to her job July 21. Photo:AP/Wide World Photos
“This administration has to stop acting like they are afraid of the all-Black shadow. They have to become more affirmative proactively when dealing with issues that involve race,” said Ms. Arnwine.

“Why they reacted so badly in this situation, is because of their overall inability and lack of competence on handling racial discrimination acts and civil rights matters in general. If they had a better open policy; one of not bunkering and fear of our race, they would not have been off kilter so bad. They did not act professionally by just not checking facts. They should have looked at the source. Why would you trust this?”

“The real travesty of this case was perpetrated by Andrew Briebart, a filmographer that represents who is also associated with taking down ACORN and fomenting racial animosity toward President Obama. It was very clear that his efforts were triggered by the NAACP's criticism of racism within the Tea Party Movement and the unwillingness of the Tea Party to address it,” said Wade Henderson, a longtime civil rights leader.

“Breibart wanted to establish a moral equivalency, if you will, between the Tea Party and the NAACP. In essence, he would stop at nothing to do it, including, manipulating a film of Shirley Sherrod giving a speech at the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet and making her appear that she condoned and practiced racial bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Mr. Henderson, of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Post-controversy: Sherrod called ‘polarizing figure'

A week after the Sherrod story made headlines—beginning with an Internet post from Mr. Breitbart, which was picked up and reported by Fox News online and cable, and by talk show host Bill O'Reilly, who called for her firing and later apologized, and other media outlets—right wing bloggers and talking heads were still defending the man who started the fiasco.

Some painted Mr. Breitbart as a victim and others jammed the president and NAACP for making hasty misjudgments. If the NAACP had done “due diligence,” since Mrs. Sherrod spoke at an NAACP function and the NAACP had the full tape, they said, perhaps the controversy might have been avoided.

Mr. O'Reilly, in a July 26 column, apologized for not having all the facts in initially demanding Mrs. Sherrod be fired from USDA. But he wasn't willing to let things go and called Mrs. Sherrod “a polarizing figure.”

“Shirley Sherrod is a long-time liberal activist who peppered her NAACP speech with racial references such as this: ‘I figured I'd take (the farmer) to one of them (White lawyer)—that his own kind would take care of him. His own kind?” wrote Mr. O'Reilly on

“Now, we all make mistakes, and that just might be a harmless comment. But if a White federal official referred to an African-American by using the term ‘his own kind,' you know what would happen.

“Then Ms. Sherrod went on to tell the NAACP audience this: ‘I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism that we thought was buried, didn't it surface? Now we endured eight years of the Bushes, and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a Black president.'

President Barack Obama signs the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010 in the Oval Offi ce July 22. Photo:
“The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from endorsing political parties while on the job. Ms. Sherrod was invited to speak at the NAACP meeting because she was in the administration. So you make the call.

“There are two main points here: First, Shirley Sherrod was not initially treated fairly by me, some other journalists, the NAACP and the Obama administration. She deserved better.

“And, secondly, Ms. Sherrod may not be a great fit for the USDA. She is obviously a very political person with a strong point of view. Public servants are supposed to look out for all the folks; it is tough for polarizing people to do that.”

A woman over $1 billion budget?

Mrs. Sherrod—whose calm, dignified demeanor has been compared favorably to Mrs. Rosa Parks, who was arrested and bravely faced racial hostility for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955—declined to say whether or not she would return to work for USDA, which Black farmers have labeled the “most racist agency” in the federal government.

“Shirley Sherrod in her remarkable career has been one of the most active practitioners in assisting untold numbers of Black and White farmers to access the credit, conservation and other programs at USDA,” said Ralph Paige, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund.

“We find it ironic that in the 100 years of USDA's history of discrimination, not a single White person has been dismissed for discrimination, however, a Black women who is doing her job well is falsely accused of discrimination in an altered video and you decide that she can no longer do a credible and nondiscriminatory job of dispensing USDA rural development programs and must resign,” he said.

According to USDA, Mrs. Sherrod's former agency administers and manages over 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. The Georgia agency has an existing portfolio of over $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees. She was appointed by the Obama administration in July 2009.

“This woman controlled a billion dollars in funds,” Ms. Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told The Final Call. “Very few African Americans anywhere control $1 billion in funding.

To take away her job when she had that kind of power is a significant loss for all of those poor farmers who relied upon her for that support. I am curious as to why she is not being offered that job back. The job that they are talking about her taking—the outreach job—I don't see the money, nor the money power she had behind her before,” she said.

“One thing we do know is that on the part of the Agriculture Department, as soon as they found that this was a lie, that it was doctored; that she did not do anything, she should never have been forced to resign or fired. You reinstate her to her position, period,” commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson told The Final Call. “To offer her a new job was an insult. What was wrong with the job she was doing before? Right away this sends a signal that they are not dealing genuinely and sincerely with the issues with race.”

For 15 years before she went to work helping Black farmers save their land, Mrs. Sherrod and her husband, the Rev. Charles Sherrod—a veteran civil rights campaigner who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Student Non- Violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s—operated New Communities, a 6,000-acre farming cooperative, which was the largest Black co-op in the nation.

That community was crushed after it lost a battle over loans with the USDA and lost land. The co-op later won a $13 million settlement in that case. Mr. and Mrs. Sherrod were personally awarded $300,000 for their pain and suffering.

“Talk to almost any family member of a Black farmer or check out the C.R.A.T. Report (February 1997) published by the USDA resulting from the ‘Listening Sessions' of 1996 and see the government's documentation of how USDA employees, on the local and federal level discriminated against Black farmers, in particular,” Gary Grant, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association said in a statement.

“And nothing was ever done to penalize the all White officials bent on destroying a society of Black farmers across the nation: not one firing, not one charge brought, and not one pension lost,” the statement said.

“The real injustice clearly was done to a courageous civil rights hero,” added Ms. Arnwine. “This is a woman who the USDA knew, she sued them. They knew who she was. And to summarily dismiss her without any due process was just an actual slap, not only to her and the entire civil rights community.

“The next big injustice: I have been constantly speaking to the administration about their need to address racial justice matters in a clear and comprehensive manner. I think that unfortunately they continue to be too skittish, too unfocused and too resistant to addressing racial inequalities with any priority.”

“The USDA has huge problems. When you look at Vilsack's inner circle you can't find one Black person. There are none in his inner circle. If you look at what they've done on civil rights matters they haven't done a lot. You look at their policies on farming and small farmers, there is a lot there where she could be a powerful policy voice and she should have a substantial budget where she is able to redress problems. She doesn't want to be just a mouthpiece,” said Ms. Arnwine.

Ironically, as this episode unfolded on the national media stage, senators quietly stripped more than $1 billion intended to compensate tens of thousands of Black farmers for Pigford v. Glickman a decades old class action suit which Black farmers won, from the emergency Supplemental Act of 2010 before they approved it and sent it back to the House of Representatives for reconciliation on July 22.

Not all grassroots activists were confused or “snookered.”

“There's just so much outrage about what has occurred. It's so incredibly outrageous that Mrs. Sherrod was faced with the false charge of so-called anti- White racism and essentially fired as a federal worker for political reasons,” Sarah Sloan, an organizer with the International ANSWER Coalition told The Final Call after a noisy protest rally by several groups including CODE PINK and the D.C. Statehood Green Party, supporting Mrs. Sherrod at the USDA offices July 21.

“This is another example of the administration bowing to right-wing political forces. It was a clear manipulation of what Mrs. Sherrod actually said. We demanded that the administration immediately stop capitulating to rightwing, racist forces,” Ms. Sloan said. “We absolutely will take to the street against every instance of every racist outrage and act of discrimination that we see.”

Many observers agree that President Obama has been mostly silent on racial issues, and has a poor record of supporting Black appointees—like so-called “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones, who was labeled a “Black radical” and a “conspiracy theorist” by conservative opponents and was forced to resign.

So, instead of celebrating two major legislative victories that week—a $33 billion extension of unemployment benefits after a Republican filibuster was broken, and a major overhaul of financial regulations governing banks and investment firms—the Sherrod incident forced the Obama administration to try to defend the indefensible: its poor record on race.

Ms. Arnwine doubts the president “hears the urgency. We went to the meeting with all of his top officials in December about unemployment amongst Blacks. … They got him in this bubble; he is too insulated and he needs to personally become more involved with policy. I have been to a lot of big meetings and I am surprised that he is not there. The unlearned lesson is that in order to be the Black president for all of the people you have to understand that all of the people includes Black people. That is the lesson they have not learned.”

“Issues of race continue to be the enduring and a problematic core problem of American democracy. Racial bias, racial discrimination, issues of race continue to be at the very heart of American democracy in the 21st century. Particularly when you put issues of race, poverty, and structure inequality on the table. When you put these three things together, continue to make it difficult to resolve America's oldest dilemma. I think the country has been historically reluctant to discuss these issues openly,” said Mr. Henderson.

(Eric Ture Muhammad reported from Atlanta.)

Related news:

Brutal racial attacks on Blacks are on the increase in America's post-racial era (FCN, 06-17-2010)

Desperate and Insecure, Whites see country slipping away (FCN, 09-15-2009)

FCN Editorial: A prophetic warning and White anger in America (FCN, 09-15-2009)

Final victory over race hatred elusive (FCN, 07-03-2009)

Obama candidacy exposes race hatred in America (FCN, 11-10-2008)


An Open Letter To Black Leadership by Minister Louis Farrakhan

By The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan | Last updated: Jul 20, 2010 - 11:18:59 AM

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Minister Louis Farrakhan



July 19, 2010

To the Spiritual, Political, Educational, and Economic Leaders and to our Sports and Entertainment Giants:

May this open letter find you well and in good spirit as we search for a solution to the many problems that we face as a people.

Most of you have benefited in some way from a relationship that you have with members of the Jewish Community. Some of you have become very wealthy and are able to live in the best manner that you choose because of this friendship. However, have you ever noticed that no matter how rich and powerful some of us have become, we have never been shown how to network with the wealthy and learned of our people, pooling our resources that we may produce for our people that which would grow us from a begging position as little children to become masters of our own destiny?

The Jewish people have maximized their wealth by networking with their people and others in America and the World, thus they have become masters in banking, trade, commerce and have parlayed their wealth to become masters in every field of human endeavor. At the same time, we as their friends amass wealth for ourselves, our families and a few people who benefit from us but never have we done anything collectively to benefit the masses of our people.

It is not that we would not desire to do this; it is because we have not been shown how. Our distrust and disunity prohibits us from doing what the Jewish people have done.

These books that the Historical Research Department of the Nation of Islam has published, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews: How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy Volume 2” and “Jews Selling Blacks” are being shared with our people to show us how we were completely undone and how others have benefited from what has happened and continues to happen to us. We cannot deal effectively with our so-called friends as men and women without this vital knowledge.

Whenever the Light of Truth has been shone on them, they reach for you to defend them against the Truth that uncovers the horror that has been done to us. They have always been successful pitting us against each other thus keeping them from facing the Truth of their real relationship with us. As they call upon you to denounce me as an anti-Semite and, because of the favor you believe you owe them for what they have done to help make life comfortable for you; I am asking you to stand down. I am asking you to read this research and then discuss it with your Jewish friends. Would you condemn me as an anti-Semite for exposing the research that shows them as being anti-Black? I am asking you to stand down and let them come out to me to defend their record and history of their relationship with us that we compiled from that which was written by their own scholars, historians, and Rabbis.

If you become an apologist for them in this hour, you will be seen by the masses of our people as a modern day Uncle Tom who believes you owe more to them than to the masses of our suffering people. If you attack me at their insistence you will be seen as an enemy of the rise of our people as well as an enemy of your own rise; for you can never be free to rise above the limitations placed on you by them until you know the absolute Truth of your relationship with them. Being an apologist for them will be dangerous for you as the masses of our people are awakening and are increasingly angry at the reality of our condition. No matter how popular you may be and desirous you may be to defend your so-called friends, it is dangerous for any of us to defend those who are the architects of White supremacy and are the architects of the destruction of us as a people.

Most of you are afraid to face such a formidable and powerful enemy. So, I implore you to stand to the side and let them come out to defend themselves and argue against the Truth that I and we speak and write.

I will prove to you and them that Allah (God) is Present and He is with me. As David went out to Goliath and defeated him in the face of the fear of King Saul and the Children of Israel, likewise, I can assure you that I will be victorious over your and my enemies with the Help of Allah (God) and His Christ (Mahdi).

Thank you for reading these words.

I Am Your Brother and Servant,

Respectfully and Sincerely Submitted,

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan
Servant to the Lost-Found
Nation of Islam in the West


Note: See related links:

Minister Louis Farrakhan's Letter To ADL's Abraham Foxman (06-24-2010)

Jewish leaders demand Farrakhan denounce "Secret Relationship" book (07-11-2010)


Neo-slavery in the American South

By Brian E. Muhammad and Richard B. Muhammad
Final Call Staff Writers | Last updated: Jul 20, 2010 - 7:42:58 AM

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Though called by other names, poor Blacks are kept in bondage today in the United States

Photo: Istockphoto
COLUMBIA, S.C. ( - Nearly 150 years after Emancipation, trapped by extreme poverty, isolation, fear and shame, some Blacks remain victims of neo-slavery in rural areas of the South, locked into work in fields, factories and assorted industries.

While not bought and sold at auction block, these poor Blacks are forced to work, live in shacks, often have no indoor plumbing and are often trapped in peonage, tied to land where they owe owners debts that are never repaid, according to an activist and researcher. Some Blacks are even forced to pay rent to White landowners for dilapidated housing but are fearful of identifying landlords and owners.

“Slavery never ended and that's the point, it never ended. It just disguised itself in other forms,” says Antoinette Harrell, who is based in Louisiana and has documented the plight of people she describes as modern slaves in America.

Ms. Harrell has been tracking this problem for the past decade. She knows it is hard for many to accept abusive conditions that amount to slavery exist today. Blacks don't want to believe this is happening in 2010, she adds. But people are forced to stay on plantations in Glendora, Miss., Webb, Miss., Roseland, La., and other places where landowners use isolation and threats of violence to keep these Black workers under control, she says.

Antoinette Harrell in Attala County, Mississippi.
Though others would define the conditions as peonage, which was outlawed by the 13th Amendment in 1865, or as sharecropping, where agricultural workers live on and work on land owned by someone else for a share of the fruits of their labor, the researcher is adamant the bottom line is slavery inextricably tied to debilitating poverty.

It's slavery because people are forced to stay against their will, worked, controlled and dehumanized, she stresses. In some cases people have been murdered, charges Ms. Harrell, reciting accounts told to her over the years. In addition to extreme poverty and no opportunity, other essential elements make people vulnerable: There is no transportation, workers don't have cars, dogs are used to track people who try to run away and many feel there is nowhere else to go, says Ms. Harrell.

Dr. Ron Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, explains that after Emancipation, new systems were instituted to exploit Blacks and to keep Blacks essentially enslaved. Over the years, whenever federal officials were asked to intervene, one problem was proving that Blacks were indeed suffering from slavery prohibited by the Constitution, he says.

Plantation owners, understanding the law, would argue that there was no slavery and the Justice Dept. was unable to declare what was happening illegal because of “vague” Constitutional language, he adds. Another problem was the lack of political will and a concern about confronting and exposing the continued problem of slavery and Blacks in America, Dr. Walters explains. From 1865 onward, the problem has cropped up at different times, but it has never been entirely resolved, he adds.

Ms. Harrell, a genealogist, became aware of modern manifestations of slavery while exploring the issue of reparations. Based on conversations with workers, Ms. Harrell says she found many did not know they could actually leave. Ms. Harrell is unsure of how many people may be in this condition inside the United States. She has been able to access these areas by networking, researching plantation histories and locations and through the story of Mae Miller.

Ms. Miller, whose life as a modern slave in Mississippi and Louisiana has been documented, escaped captivity in 1961. The problem exists today, she declares. Ms. Miller, who says she was raped by a slave master beginning at age five, told The Final Call her family and others who moved from one plantation to another where they worked and were kept in horrible conditions and weren't regularly fed. We were beaten and barely fed table scraps, she recalls.

Ms. Miller says she didn't realize she had been kept illegally as a slave until 2001. She recalls that her father, her mother, her siblings, her grandfather were with her. She says she didn't know anything about other family members or what was happening in the outside world.

Ms. Miller says she knows people that are still on these plantations—and who still live under the fear and conditions that she suffered from. Her story was told in 2007 in People magazine, as well on ABC Nightline and CNN. She declines to talk about her family's experience—it brings up painful memories loved ones would like to forget. Her family's plight was called peonage in the People article.

Slavery in all its forms

According to the Florida-based Coalition for Immokalee Workers the problem of real slavery exists today—in particular among tomato pickers and agriculture workers in the Sunshine State. “Slavery in Florida today is not separate from the past—indeed its roots extend deep within our state's history. Farm workers have always been, and remain today, the state's poorest, least powerful workers,” says Gerardo Reyes of the coalition. “If we are to abolish slavery once and for all in Florida agriculture, we must pull it up by the roots by addressing farm worker poverty and powerlessness.”

“There is real slavery in the fields of Florida. This is not about lousy jobs, but violent control, vicious exploitation, and the potential for serious harm and even death,” adds Dr. Kevin Bales, of Free the Slaves, an international organization.

Photo of a cabin where workers lived in Webb, Mississippi. Photos: Walter C. Black Sr.
The coalition is kicking off a July 25-Aug. 14 tour of its Modern-Day Slavery Museum, which will visit the northeast. The exhibit consists of a cargo truck designed as a replica of trucks involved in a 2008 slave operation in Florida. Dozens of farm workers from Mexico and Guatemala were kept in trucks and shacks, beaten, forced to pay for food and showers, and plied with alcohol. Some of victims suffered in bondage for years and were forced to work fields in Florida and other locations in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The Coalition for Immokalee Workers, a farm worker justice group, says the upcoming tour is also an attempt to raise awareness of conditions in the tomato supply chains for Ahod's USA supermarket brands, which it says includes Giant, Stop&Shop, and Martins.

Since 1997, the coalition says it has helped the Justice Dept. prosecute seven farm slavery operations and helped free over 1,000 people.

“I am not surprised with that because it's the same system and Florida was one of the 16 states that really heavy peonage cases came from there,” says Ms. Harrell. “The new slaves that they are focusing on in 2010 are the immigrants.”

The sixteen states that Ms. Harrell's research has shown were once involved in post-Emancipation slavery included Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona, New York, Illinois and Georgia. Today the problem exists in Louisiana and Mississippi, she says.

Calls to the U.S. Department of Justice about allegations of modern slavery in the South went unanswered at Final Call press time, however cases of slavery involving immigrant workers have been prosecuted by the federal agency. Attempts to reach state officials in Louisiana were unsuccessful, Mississippi officials, however, did respond. “No one has complained of this to our office. If you have specific allegations, we'd be happy to hear them and see what we can do or help refer to the appropriate agency,” says Jan Shaffer, a public information officer with the Mississippi state attorney general's office.

While the plight of immigrant workers, sexual bondage, holding women against their will and forcing them into prostitution; human trafficking, in which immigrants pay for passage to America and are forced to work in factories, prostitution or restaurants; or child labor, where children are exploited and abused to make products, are acknowledged and called forms of slavery, calling poor Blacks in the South “slaves” remains distasteful and is seen as almost impossible.

But Ms. Harrell traces the connections to slavery and post-slavery practices through the U.S. National Archives, Justice Department records, local court records and interviews victims living on plantations to understand and document its existence.

“The documents are there from the slave holders; companies that insured our family members, our ancestors and once you start to look into records, you find something a little bit deeper,” Ms. Harrell says.

She says she met people in St. Johns and St. Charles parish in Louisiana who were on sugar cane plantations well into the 1960s and 1970s.

According to Ms. Harrell, letters appealing for investigations into the claims, filed at the National Archives expose that no fewer than three U.S. presidents knew of post-Emancipation slavery during their terms—Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Digging through U.S. Department of Justice records in Washington, D.C., Dr. Walters, who is also director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, found the extent to which the federal government was aware of post-Emancipation slavery and its challenges with addressing the problem.

Glendora, Miss., Mayor Johnny Thomas agrees bogus debt schemes like peonage and sharecropping were used to exploit Black people well into the 20th century. This was his experience growing up as a sharecropper in the late 1950s.

“It's pre-meditated,” Mayor Thomas explains. “You were kept indebted to the point where you couldn't leave.” In these cases the plantation owner pays the debt, then the “debtor” and—in most instances—his entire family work the plantation to repay the money. Only the debt is never caught up.

Mayor Thomas says as far as he knows sharecropping is going on, albeit hurt by the economy, but not slavery.

Both Ms. Harrell and Dr. Walters told The Final Call that the deplorable conditions people are living under on the plantations is nothing short of slavery regardless of the label.

“They are in deep rural areas, miles off the main highways, back off into cotton fields where you got 2,000 acres; how can they get away?” asks Ms. Harrell.

“I was born into slavery, I guess because my father was in slavery. I don't know if it was generational or only us,” Mae Miller says. “As far as I can remember back when I was a little bitty girl it was happening to us.”

Talks with Ms. Miller expose the extent of isolation experienced with no exposure to the world outside of the plantations. She later learned to read and write and worked following her literal escape from a White landowner under, she says, a death threat.

According to Ms. Harrell, two things must happen as awareness of slavery in modern America grows: The language of what is understood as slavery in the history books must be expanded and there must be a legal injunction against the U.S. for allowing slavery to continue illegally.

Eradication of slavery in America is an issue for the World Court because the practice is a crime against humanity, argues Ms. Harrell. She also sees the atrocity as another example of why Blacks deserve reparations. “It is necessary for the attorneys to come and further the case for reparations, not only for the 19th century but the 20th and 21st century,” Ms. Harrell argues.

The Cotton Pickin' Truth: Still on the Plantation (FCN, 07-13-2010


Jewish leaders demand Farrakhan denounce "Secret Relationship" book

By News | Last updated: Jul 16, 2010 - 9:07:08 AM

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Details emerge of meeting with Jewish leaders and Minister Farrakhan

CHICAGO ( - The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan continued his message “Who Are The Real Children of Israel?” with part two subtitled, “The Proof” at the Nation of Islam's international headquarters, Mosque Maryam on July 11, 2010. The message was also broadcast live via webcast to a national and international audience.

For some in the audience, it was the first time hearing detailed aspects of Minister Farrakhan's simmering and at times white-hot controversy with powerful Jewish leaders and organizations.

He went into details of a meeting over a decade ago with several prominent Jewish rabbis and leaders in which they laid down ground rules for him to gain friendship with the Jewish community. Their terms included a probation period of monitoring Minister Farrakhan's actions and words over a “protracted period of time.” Another term was that he denounce “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” Volume One, which they called a “calumny” against the Jewish people. No one has been written of well in history who has not been a friend of the Jewish people, Minister Farrakhan said the influential Jews told him.

Minister Farrakhan responded that since they had done more harm to Black people maybe it was us—as members of a vigilant Black community—that needed to watch the Jewish people over a “protracted period of time.” He then advised them that he would not denounce the book unless they were prepared to denounce the research and writings of the Jewish historians and scholars who were quoted in Volume One.

Published in 1991, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” Volume One set off ideological tremors resulting in denunciations, and chaotic scrambles into the archives of Jewish historical literature by those hoping to debunk its claims. They were unsuccessful, and quietly, the assertions that Jews were merely “co-sufferers or innocent by-standers” in the trans-Atlantic slave trade have been silenced.

The Nation of Islam's Historical Research Department has followed up with the highly anticipated Volume 2 in a series of scholarly volumes, this one under the subtitle “How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy.”

Related news:

Web Video - Exposed: The "Black Anti-Semite" Myth (FCN, 07-11-2010)

Text of Minister Louis Farrakhan's letter to ADL's Abraham Foxman (FCN, 07-01-2010)


Farrakhan's challenge to the Jewish community goes unanswered

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Jul 7, 2010 - 4:30:31 PM

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Hollow claims of anti-Semitism remain


‘I think most Black people pay no attention to what is said about Minister Farrakhan in the mainstream media. People are not blinded by the castigation of him.’
—Prof. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, University of Florida

CHICAGO ( - Over a week after the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a message to tens of thousands worldwide from the Atlanta Civic Center, his challenge to prove his words false, remained unanswered.

In fact, during his June 26 speech, Minister Farrakhan offered to give his life if anyone could prove anything he said to be incorrect.

Minister Farrakhan sent a letter to the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, as well as copies of the newly-released books by the Nation of Islam's Historical Research Department, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews Volume Two” and “Jews Selling Blacks.”

Additionally, copies of the books and the letter were sent to all of the heads of the major influential Jewish organizations. In the letter, Minister Farrakhan wrote: “I did not write this with vitriol, hatred, bitterness or a spirit of vengeance, because One greater than you and me has permitted this for His own wise purposes.” He continues, “I have pleaded with you over the years for a sensible, intelligent dialogue. You have rejected me, and some Rabbis have given me terms for friendship that any self-respecting person could never accept. So with this truth in our hands and yours, and soon in the hands of tens of thousands, I again ask you for a dialogue.”

Predictably, claims of anti-Semitism were leveled at the Minister and the Nation of Islam, however, none of the Jewish organizational leaders have proven any of the assertions made during his Atlanta message, nor any of the content in the books to be erroneous.

Acknowledging receipt of the books and letter, Mr. Foxman, on June 29 called Minister Farrakhan's words “obsessive, diabolical and unrestrained.” Following suit, in a June 30 press statement, the American Jewish Committee also denounced Min. Farrakhan's letter as a “hate letter” and called it “virulently anti-Semitic.”

Strangely, despite the fact that tens of thousands heard Minister Farrakhan's speech titled “Who are the Real Children of Israel?” in which he introduced over 600 pages of documentation contained in the two books, no articles appeared in the “mainstream” media until the ADL's June 29 press release. After that, an internet search turned up over 300 articles from news agencies across the U.S. and internationally.

Of those articles circulating, none have delved into the research and a majority of them appear to have repeated the baseless attacks from the ADL and Mr. Foxman.

According to Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, a professor of Islam and African American Religion at the University of Florida, this is part of a strategy to make Minister Farrakhan persona non-grata so others will pre-judge him before listening to what he has to say.

“Minister Farrakhan has been denigrated, he has been viciously attacked for years, and this is one of the primary weapons used,” said Dr. Simmons. “This is very unfortunate, but I think most Black people pay no attention to what is said about Minister Farrakhan in the mainstream media. People are not blinded by the castigation of him,” she said.

An internal ADL document titled “Mainstreaming Anti-Semitism: The Legitimation of Louis Farrakhan” appeared in the mid-90s citing Minister Farrakhan's ability to attract large crowds as a troubling factor for them. In the ADL's June 29 press release, clearly disturbed, Foxman is quoted as saying, “And yet he (Farrakhan)continues to fill convention centers with those eager to bear witness to his bigotry, and to believe that he holds the truth.”

Referencing the book “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon, Dr. Simmons said this type of research, and the naming of companies could finally form the legal basis for suits against those companies that have benefitted from slavery.

“This stuff is so painful and horrible,” said Prof. Simmons. “Without a doubt, we have been decimated,” she said citing factors such as a recent study showing a huge disparity between the worth of Black women and their White counterparts.

“Black people have almost no wealth, even if you are so-called middle class, it is only because of the salary you are earning,” Prof. Simmons told The Final Call. “The minute you lose your job, you have nothing because we have no wealth and wealth was accumulated on our backs from the time we were brought here as slaves up until the 50's and 60's,” she added.

According to Dr. Simmons, an honest discussion dealing with these topics is long overdue.

“This is why whenever we bring up reparations, people don't want to hear it, but clearly we have been economically disadvantaged and we have never ever recovered from what happened to us as a people,” she said.

“We so desperately need a person like Minister Farrakhan who is not afraid to speak out. He is not running for office, he doesn't need the approval of the media and this is why he is so important to all of us, because he will say what others are unwilling to say,” she added.


Text of Minister Louis Farrakhan's letter to ADL's Abraham Foxman

By News | Last updated: Jul 1, 2010 - 11:38:24 PM

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( - The Nation of Islam has released the full text of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's letter to the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman. The letter dated June 24, 2010 was sent with copies of two newly released books by the Nation of Islam's Historical Research Department, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews Volume Two” and “Jews Selling Blacks.”Additionally, he sent copies of the books and the letter to all of the heads of the major influential Jewish organizations.

In a June 29, 2010 press statement, ADL Director Abraham Foxman responded to Minister Farrakhan's letter.

The full text of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's June 24 letter as well Abraham Foxman's response is being made available via the PDF documents below: