By Vincent L. Hall
First, they came for the Socialists. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, then for the Jews, and I did not speak out. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. — Martin Niemöller
White folks are embroiled in their own Civil War right now, but it ain’t the first time. I remind you of Pastor Niemöller’s words because the “minorities” of this nation must learn to stick together. Not everyone is gay. Forty-three percent of us will never need an abortion. Nevertheless, democracy dictates that we form non-homogenous coalitions.
Check out “Reconstruction for Dummies.” In it, you can connect the dots from Reconstruction to Jim Crow, to Donald Trump, to January 6, 2021, and lately, a slashing of “liberal civil rights” by the Supreme Court. Black folks always have to be wary because it always affects us worse when civil rights are stripped, severed, or sacrificed.
Four weeks and four days after Dred Scott was decided, the first Civil War Began. Dred Scott was the 1857 Supreme Court decision that said, “A black man had no rights that a White man was bound to respect.”
Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, wrote the majority opinion and sought to put the “Niggras” back in their place. The election of Barack Hussein Obama threw us into a second Reconstruction period, but let me explain the first.
In 1861, the Civil War was a bloody battle fought over “ideals.” As the Civil War drew close, the United States Congress and President Lincoln realized that the newly freed Black men and women needed assistance. The transition to freedom after slavery would be tedious.
Lincoln’s enactment of land grants and other Freedman’s Bureau Act elements included a Freedman’s Bank. The aim was to establish a financial plan to guide formerly enslaved people toward independence. It was the financial literacy program of its day, but in 2022 we still ain’t taught our dollars no sense!
Black commerce went into orbit. The Freedman’s Bank maintained 37 offices in 17 states, including the District of Columbia. At its height, the Bank had over $57 million in deposits (adjusted for inflation) and 70,000 depositors.
Five weeks after the creation of the Freedman’s Bank, President Lincoln was assassinated. Never forget that messing with White folk’s money is a dangerous enterprise. Seven years later, in June of 1872, the U.S. Congress voted to close the Freedman’s Bureau permanently.
The Bank, however, remained operational, and in 1874 Frederick Douglass was asked to run the Freedman’s Bank as its D.C. branch relocated to a new home across from the U.S. Department of Treasury. The building was grand and cost $260,000 to construct.
In 1866, Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act declaring freed Blacks U.S. Citizens. Then, in 1868, Congress passed the 14th Amendment, granting A.A. equal citizenship and civil rights.
Historically, there had been a Civil Rights Act 100 years before LBJ signed the 1964 act with Martin King standing over his shoulder. Back in the day, if someone gave you something and took it back, you called them an “Indian Giver.” Unfortunately, history teaches us that Native Americans have gotten a bad rap, just like us.
In 1870, Congress passed enforcement acts to control the KKK and expand civil and political rights. That same year, Rev. Hiram R. Revels became the first African-American Senator. In addition, Joseph Rainey was seated as the first Black House Rep; five other black men were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
By 1875, the effects of Negro representation were palpable. Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1875, giving equal treatment in public places and access to jury duty. But by 1883, the “Whitelash” (White Backlash) began. The Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875. I’m guessing there are always some “Indians Givers” on the Supreme Court?
In 1896, the Supreme Court approved segregation with a “separate but equal” clause planted in Plessy vs. Ferguson. Jim Crow followed. Decades of battles in the Congress and courts produced the Acts of 1964 and 1965, which granted minorities civil rights and voting rights.
Obama was elected president in 2008, and the noise and nostalgia of the Tea Party turned into a sustained movement. White folks looked for the toughest talking, meanest sounding whip cracker they could find. Donald Trump capitalized on the racist 1980 campaign slogan Ronald Reagan cashed in on: “Make America Great Again.”
They came for the fetus. They will come for gay marriage. If you don’t fight to protect the rights of others, they will come for you! That train is never late.