As African Americans, we must remember from whence we’ve come. When we forget how far we’ve come, we can get kidnapped again, and without realizing it, some may find themselves in another form of slavery.
America has more prisoners than any other country in the world — another form of slavery. Bureau of Prisons statistics show that the incarceration rate for 100,000 inmates, there are 450 whites, compared to 2,306 African Americans. Disproportionate — another form of slavery! Every week, we see more and more police brutality; more men, women and children being shot to death. This has to stop, but we allow history to repeat itself when we fail to remember what has happened. Keep your eyes open, and vote on Nov. 3.
Let’s take a look back in order to go forward. One-hundred and fifty-five years ago, after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, 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. We were chattel.
Freedom came gradually over the next 50 years. We rose from full-blown slavery to become sharecroppers. My father was one, and our family worked in the fields for the opportunity to live in an old, run-down house owned by the landowner.
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. 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 one of the two labor-intensive cash crops that still promised to make money: cotton or tobacco.
Tenant farmers usually paid the landowner rent for farmland and a house. Sharecroppers seldom owned anything. Instead, they borrowed practically everything — not only the land and a house but also supplies, animals, tools, equipment and seeds. The sharecropper contributed his and his family’s labor. They 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. I write this from personal knowledge. My family lived the sharecropper lifestyle in North Carolina.
Between 1880 and 1900, the number of tenant farmers 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 backward again!
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.