“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a year none of us could have ever anticipated! As we prepare to install a newly-elected president of the United States, this is truly a time when we must remember from whence we’ve come.
We cannot and will not allow ourselves to be victims of the same racism that we as a people experienced 100 years ago; not even 50 years ago, especially given the fact that we have had our first African-American president, and he served with great honor and distinction!
Let’s take a look back in order to go forward. One-hundred and fifty-four years ago, African-Americans waited for midnight so that freedom would come. It was during this era that blacks were considered lower than animals. Slave owners often fed the animals before they fed the slaves.
Freedom came slowly over the next 50 years. We rose from slaves to become sharecroppers. I know about sharecroppers, because my father was one. Our entire family worked in order to live in an old, run-down house on his land, and it was owned by the land-owner.
Just this month, as I visited my sick sister this month down near Goldsboro, North Carolina, I saw one of those homes that my family lived in, while our father was a sharecropper. It still stood there, barns and all. When I saw that house, I made a U-turn so that my sister and I could drive up that long path to look more closely. But the road was closed off. If we wanted to get close, we would have to park our car and walk, but it was a reminder of where my family has come from, as well as hundreds of thousands of other black families.
It is with this history in mind that we must remember from whence we’ve come. We will not be driven back to that menial lifestyle again, even with the election of Donald Trump!
History reflects that after the Civil War, thousands of former slaves and white farmers forced off their land by the bad economy lacked the money to purchase the farmland, seeds, livestock, and equipment they needed to begin farming. Former planters were so deeply in debt that they could not hire workers. They needed workers who would not have to be paid until they harvested a crop — usually cotton or tobacco, the two labor-intensive cash crops that still promised to make money.
Tenant farmers usually paid the landowner rent for farmland and a house. They owned the crops and the income they made from them. From that income, they paid the landowner’s rent.
Sharecroppers, on the other hand, seldom owned anything. Instead, they borrowed practically everything — not only land and houses but also supplies, draft animals, tools, equipment and seeds. The sharecropper contributed his, and his family’s labor. Sharecroppers had no control over which crops were planted or how they were sold. After harvesting the crop, the landowner sold it and applied its income toward settling the sharecropper’s account. Most tenant farmers and sharecroppers bought everything they needed on credit from local merchants, hoping to make enough money at harvest time to pay their debts.
Between 1880 and 1900, the number of tenants increased from 53,000 to 93,000. By 1890, one in three white farmers and three of four black farmers were either tenants or sharecroppers.
Let us pay close attention to our history in America. We must look back in order to continue to move forward, and never, ever allow African-Americans to go backwards again. We must always look back so that we never repeat those devastating historical moments!
Lyndia Grant is the host of “Think on These Things,” a radio talk show on WYCB-AM, 1340, Fridays at 6 p.m. Contact her at 202-518-3192 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.