slavery
A depiction of enslaved African Americans dancing to the banjo during the 1780s

Wikimedia Commons

A professor of history and African American studies has written a book that challenges the conventional narrative about American independence and should broaden the discussion of the July 4 holiday. But based on the limited attention it has received, likely won't.

Gerald Horne, who holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, contends that the traditional story promoted by government, schools and media is actually spin.

Elias Isquith of Salon likened Horne's "The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America" to Ta-Nehisi Coates' best-selling look at the reparations issue in the Atlantic.

Isquith wrote on May 30, "As penetrating as Coates' essay may be, a new book from University of Houston professor Gerald Horne would have our revision of our own history stretch back even further — to the very founding itself. In 'The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America,' Horne marshals considerable research to paint a picture of a U.S. that wasn't founded on liberty, with slavery as an uncomfortable and aberrant remnant of a pre-Enlightenment past, but rather was founded on slavery — as a defense of slavery — with the language of liberty and equality used as window dressing. If he's right, in other words, then the traditional narrative of the creation of the U.S. is almost completely wrong. . . . "

Horne isn't surprised by the lack of media attention. He told Journal-isms by telephone Monday that the reaction was "typical of [what is accorded] most authors." He also said, "This is not a very progressive country. We create myths that are very soothing to many." Asked why even his local media in Texas had not reported on his book, Horne said that given the political climate in the state, "I'm happy not to be indicted or murdered."

Horne did appear on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" on Friday. He explained there, "We should understand that July 4th, 1776, in many ways, represents a counterrevolution. That is to say that what helped to prompt July 4th, 1776, was the perception amongst European settlers on the North American mainland that London was moving rapidly towards abolition. This perception was prompted by Somerset's case, a case decided in London in June 1772 which seemed to suggest that abolition, which not only was going to be ratified in London itself, was going to cross the Atlantic and basically sweep through the mainland, thereby jeopardizing numerous fortunes, not only based upon slavery, but the slave trade. That’s the short answer. . . ."

In the Somerset case, a British court ruled that it was illegal for James Somerset, a slave, to have been taken forcibly to the colonies. 

At another point on "Democracy Now!", Horne said, "It's well known that more Africans fought alongside of the Redcoats, fought alongside of the Redcoats — than fought with the settlers. And this is understandable, because if you think about it for more than a nanosecond, it makes little sense for slaves to fight alongside slave masters so that slave masters could then deepen the persecution of the enslaved and, indeed, as happened after 1776, bring more Africans to the mainland, bring more Africans to Cuba, bring more Africans to Brazil, for their profit."

Co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez played a soundbite of President Obama from last year's Fourth of July commemoration, praising "this improbable experiment in democracy."

Horne replied, "Well, with all due respect to President Obama, I think that he represents, in those remarks you just cited, the consensus view.

"That is to say that, on the one hand, there is little doubt that 1776 represented a step forward with regard to the triumph over monarchy. The problem with 1776 was that it went on to establish what I refer to as the first apartheid state. That is to say, the rights that Mr. Obama refers to were accorded to only those who were defined as white.

"To that degree, I argue in the book that 1776, in many ways, was analogous to Unilateral Declaration of Independence in the country then known as Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in November 1965. UDI, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, was in many ways an attempt to forestall decolonization. 1776, in many ways, was an attempt to forestall the abolition of slavery. That attempt succeeded until the experiment crashed and burned in 1861 with the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest conflict, to this point, the United States has ever been involved in. . . . "

Lee A. Daniels, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Jim Crow's ancestors — and children (June 2)

"July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination in job hiring and public places, and provided for integration of public facilities, including schools," according to an announcement from C-SPAN about its programming for C-SPAN3, its American History channel.

"8 p.m. Eastern time — 1964 Civil Rights Act Signing Ceremony with President Johnson – Includes President Johnson’s remarks on the occasion as well as his interaction with attendees such as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. 

"8:30 p.m. — Congressional Commemorative Ceremony on the 1964 Civil Rights Act – House & Senate leaders mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The event includes the awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.

"9:25 p.m. — Congress & the 1964 Civil Rights Act — Senate Historian Donald Ritchie discusses the Congressional debate and passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with former CBS Congressional correspondent Roger Mudd and former Herald Tribune Congressional reporter Andy Glass.

"10:25 p.m. — Battle Over the 1964 Civil Rights Act – A talk by Todd Purdum, author of the book ['An Idea Whose Time Has Come:] Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.' (ends 11:25 p.m.)"

"A Sanford judge today put an end to George Zimmerman's libel suit against NBC Universal," Rene Stutzman reported Monday for the Orlando Sentinel.

"Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer is entitled to no money from the media giant.

"She issued a summary judgment in the network's favor, meaning that unless an appeals court reverses her, the case is now dead.

"Zimmerman had filed suit two years ago, accusing NBC of falsely portraying him as a racist in a series of broadcasts shortly after he killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford.

"Editors shortened audio from a 911 call Zimmerman made to a police dispatcher the night of the shooting, making it sound as if Zimmerman volunteered that Trayvon was black and that he racially profiled the Miami Gardens teenager. . . ."

"Let's focus on the central concern surrounding the shut-down of Tell Me More, which is race and ethnicity, even though the show covered much more than that," Edward Schumacher-Matos, the NPR ombudsman, wrote over the weekend for NPR. The seven-year-old multicutural newsmagazine is to be shut down on Aug. 1.

"I agree that cancellation of the journalistically seven-year old show is sorrowful, and I don't think I am talking out of school when I say that this seems to be a feeling shared up and down the NPR hierarchy," the ombudsman wrote.

However, Schumacher-Matos also wrote, "You will see that the audience last year for member stations that run NPR's news programs — the closest proxy publicly available for the shows themselves — was 5 percent African-American, 6 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian-American. For blacks and Latinos, this is less than half their proportion in the nation's adult population. Not so good, seen that way.

"But it looks very different seen through the lens of a breakdown of college-educated Americans. For better or worse, the public affairs programming of NPR appeals mostly to Americans with a college degree, regardless of race or ethnicity. By this measure, black listeners index exactly the same as their proportion of college graduates in the wider society. College-educated Latino listeners are lower but within shouting distance.

"Asians present the opposite picture. Twice as many Asian-American adults listen to NPR news stations as their weight in the population. Among college graduates, however, the proportions converge.

"The chart registers a 1 percent proportion of Native Americans across the demographic and audience measures, but the numbers are so small that they are not reliable. No conclusions can be drawn, except to say that there are some Native American listeners. . . ."

Elizabeth Jensen, New York Times: New NPR Chief, Jarl Mohn, Vows to Foster Diversity

"Minorities now own 3 percent of the commercial FMs now on the air, according to the FCC," Radio Ink reported Monday, referring to the Federal Communications Commission.

"That translates to 169 FM stations for 2013, down from 196 stations in 2011. Of the 169 minority-owned stations in 2013, 38 stations were in a top 100 Arbitron metro market, 54 stations were in Arbitron metro markets 101-274, and 77 stations were outside of all Arbitron metro markets. Whites owned 4,570 stations (80.0 percent) in 2013 and 4,467 stations (79.6 percent) in 2011.

The FCC study, released Friday, showed, "Hispanic or Latino persons owned 180 stations (3.2 percent) in 2013 and 151 stations (2.7 percent) in 2011"; "American Indian or Alaska Natives owned 23 stations (0.4 percent) in 2013 and 28 stations (0.5 percent) in 2011"; "Asians owned 41 stations (0.7 percent) in 2013 and 45 stations (0.8 percent) in 2011."

Blacks or African Americans owned 73 stations (1.3 percent) in 2013 and 93 stations (1.7 percent in 2011).

Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders owned 26 stations (0.5 percent) in 2013 and 28 stations (0.5 percent) in 2011; persons of two or more races owned 6 stations (0.1 percent) in 2013 and 8 stations (0.1 percent) in 2011.

Stations with no majority interest by race accounted for 975 stations (17.1 percent) in 2013 and 948 stations (16.9 percent) in 2011.

As reported Friday, the study also showed that people of color owned 3 percent of commercial full-power television stations.

[The National Hispanic Media Coalition said Tuesday that it has "long contended that strong media ownership rules that limit industry consolidation could create more opportunities for new entrants like women and people of color" and called on the FCC to design and implement "an aggressive slate of research projects that would help to determine whether or not its current media ownership rules are doing enough to advance its many objectives and statutory obligations when it comes to diversity. . . ."]

"The media has won deserved credit for its role in righting wrongful convictions [PDF]," David J. Krajicek wrote in February for the John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice, — "from Paul Henderson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Seattle Times in 1982 for revealing a false conviction in a rape case, to student journalists at Northwestern University, to the dozens of reporters who have been willing to listen to the Innocence Project and other advocates, particularly since the age of DNA exonerations began."

Krajicek cofounded Criminal Justice Journalists, a national association of reporters and editors.

He was a reporter at the Daily News in New York in 1989 when the Central Park jogger case exploded. In that case, the news media played a part in wrongfully convicting five teenagers in the savage 1989 rape of a jogger. Krajicek discussed other such cases last week at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in San Francisco.

Krajicek's February report continued, "But less attention has been paid to the media's compliant coverage of any number of criminal prosecutions that have led to wrongful convictions. Like law enforcers, the media fall victim to tunnel vision — a myopic focus on a particular suspect or crime narrative. The story line often is sketched out by paternalistic 'authorities,' typically male prosecutors and police officials — sources that reporters must rely on in the future. . . ."

Krajicek also wrote, "an analysis of news coverage of several highly publicized criminal convictions that were later discredited finds troubling patterns. In each case, the defendants were sentenced to die before errors were corrected. In general, journalists eagerly bought into the tunnel vision that led to the railroaded convictions.

"We'll explore the media's culpability in three case studies: the messy example of Florida's Groveland Four; the conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth in the 1985 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl near Baltimore; and the conviction of Walter McMillian for the 1986 murder of a clerk in Monroeville, Ala. . . ."

McMillan is black; Bloodsworth is white; the Groveland Four were black.

Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under President Bill Clinton, told the Indian Country Today Media Network that the FCC should reevaluate whether Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is "fit" to hold licenses from the FCC, Simon Moya-Smith reported for the network on Friday. "By 'fit,' Hundt said he means 'a person of appropriate character.'

" 'The FCC should consider whether Mr. Snyder is fit to own radio station licenses given that he uses radio stations to broadcast an ethnic slur,' he said. 'These licenses are owned by the public and they are given to individuals for the purpose of serving the public interest. The FCC does not give radio station licenses to felons; it doesn't give radio station licenses to people of bad character. Historically, [the FCC] has been reluctant to give broadcast licenses to people who advocate racially intolerant positions.'

"Hundt added that it'll take financial pressure for Snyder to change the team name and that Native Americans should petition the FCC to reconsider the use of the slur on broadcast radio and television. . . ."

Gyasi Ross, Indian Country Today Media Network: Redskins Name Will Change; Then It's Time to Get Our Communities Right

"Accusations of harassment, racism, elitism and union busting from El Diario employees, who claim their support of the Newspaper Guild of NY made them a target for termination[,] has impreMedia, the paper's parent company, in crisis mode," Veronica Villafañe reported Friday for her Media Moves column.

"A round of layoffs announced two weeks ago has sparked major discontent and union action from El Diario’s newspaper workers, including a picket in front of impreMedia's headquarters in New York yesterday.

"About 40 people rallied in support of the 12 people laid off on Friday, June 13. Of those, 8 were union employees, including 4 reporters: Rosa Margarita Murphy, Gloria Medina, Candida Portugués and Héctor Rodríguez, most of whom had been with the company over 12 years. The others were corporate employees in admin and sales positions.

" 'The accusations are completely false,' Juan Varela, VP of Content of impreMedia[,] tells Media Moves. 'There is no intention to dismantle the union…. this mess was caused by the tremendous manipulation of a small group of people.' . . . "

"The Nigerian government has signed a contract worth more than $1.2 million with a Washington public relations firm to deal with the fallout from the Boko Haram kidnappings, documents obtained by The Hill show," Megan R. Wilson reported Thursday for the Hill newspaper, which covers Capitol Hill.

"Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is up for reelection in February, is seeking to counter the perception that he has not done enough to combat the Islamic extremists in his country who abducted more than 270 schoolgirls in April.

"To that end, his government has hired Levick, a prominent PR and lobbying firm in Washington, to engage in an effort to change . . . 'the international and local media narrative' surrounding Nigeria's 'efforts to find and safely return the girls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram,' according to a contract document signed June 13. . . ."

At the National Society of Newspaper Columnists closing banquet in Washington Saturday, "The big surprise of the night was WaPo's Mary C. Curtis winning first place in the category for Online, Blog and Multimedia Columns with over 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors," Nick Massella reported Sunday for FishbowlDC. "Up against the late Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert and LA Weekly’s Gendy Alimurung, it was expected Ebert would take the top spot. Expected even by his widow Chaz Ebert, who when accepting his third place award said, 'If I had known it was third place, maybe I wouldn’t have shown up.' " Earlier Saturday, Curtis, who is based in Charlotte, N.C., appeared with this columnist, Rhonda B. Graham of the News Journal in Wilmington, Del., and Yanick Rice Lamb of the Howard University Department of Media, Journalism and Film on a panel, "How to Write Convincingly About Race with 21st Century Technology."  List of winners.

"The 24-hour, New York City newschannel NY1 will no longer use the term 'illegal immigrant,' Capital New York reported Monday," Christopher Mathias wrote for HuffPost LatinoVoices. "Capital obtained a memo from NY1 news director Dan Jacobson in which he tells staff to instead use the phrase 'here illegally,' or to use the term 'undocumented immigrant.' . . . "

"A man was killed and four others were injured early Sunday in a shooting during a pre-show party for the BET Awards in East Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Police Department," KCAL-TV Los Angeles reported Sunday. "Officers were called at 5:17 a.m. when gunfire rang out at Monalizza Restaurant and Banquet Hall, located at 1161 North Vermont Avenue. Lavell L.Smith, 33, died at the scene. . . ."

Robert C. Maynard was "a visionary regarding the potential of the Internet," Brenda Payton wrote Saturday for the Oakland Tribune, which Maynard led as editor and publisher. "I remember hearing him say that one day people would read the newspaper on their computers. Back then it sounded far-fetched. When newspaper leaders were ignoring the Internet, to the industry's detriment, Maynard saw its potential. I've often thought that if he had lived, he would have been a pioneer of online news. . . . "

"National GOP and Tea Party groups descending on Mississippi to scrutinize black voters seems like a pretty big story to me — one loaded with the sort of sensation and historical resonance that might otherwise attract journalists," Steve Rendall wrote Friday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. "But it also provides a confirmation of the charge that the GOP has a serious problem with racism, and corporate media are often loath to point fingers too directly at elite American institutions such as one of the two major political parties. . . ."

"Today, Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), launched its new JET magazine app," the company announced on Monday. "The app replaces the printed edition of the magazine. The new digital magazine app will add fresh content on a weekly basis, every Friday. Readers will be entertained by 3D images, video interviews, enhanced digital maps, audio content and photography from the JPC archives. The app will be available on all tablet and mobile platforms. There will be a free introductory offer of 30 days for all subscribers. . . ."

"Many forget that the first Muslims to celebrate Ramadan in America were African slaves," Khaled A Beydoun reported Saturday for Al Jazeera. "This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and eight million Muslims in the United States will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. A gruelling task at any time of the year, Ramadan this year will be especially daunting during the long and hot summer days. . . ."

"Bobby Womack was the last great soul man standing — the one whose music seethed with the intricacies of gospel, the blues, rock and funk," Rashod Ollison wrote Monday for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. The singer-songwriter-musician died on Friday at 70.

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.