Category Archives: Race

The Willie Lynch Letter is a Hoax!

As a book seller, my primary goal is to connect readers with books that they will enjoy and learn from.  Having a reader thank me for introducing them to a book or an author they appreciated is one of the joys of running this website.

In a recent conversation we discussed the growing number of publishers publishing the book, Willie Lynch Letter and the Making of a Slave.  I asked, “Why is anyone still publishing this book when it is common knowledge that the letter is a hoax?”  Of course the answer is self-evident; the book is profitable.  Immediately, I was forced to ask myself, why am I providing a platform to sell this book, and helping to perpetuate a lie?

Death of the Willie Lynch LetterI searched the AALBC.com database and found five versions of the Willie Lynch letter, all from different pubishers, and all AALBC.com bestselling books.

I thought about removing the books from the website altogether, but realized it would be better to keep the book and update the pages to reflect that fact that the letter is indeed a hoax and change the book’s category from nonfiction to fiction. I also provide a link to another book, Death of the Willie Lynch Speech: Exposing the Myth by Manu Ampim which explains why the letter is a hoax and even shares an email exchange with the author of the letter, Kwabena Faheen Ashanti, PhD.

Why do myths like the Willie Lynch Letter persist?  

Hollywood would never be confused with an entity concerned with the accurate portrayal of Black history and culture.  However if you consider Denzel Washington’s compelling diatribe in the 2007 film, The Great Debaters, it is easy to understand why one would be moved to believe such fiction as the Willie Lynch Letter.

Of course in our social media fueled World Wide Web, scandalous information, whether it is true or not spreads quickly, while the often less compelling truth tends to get lost.

Some argue that it does not matter that the letter is a lie, for it is the message that the letter conveys that matters. That argument is flawed. For critical people, it is clear that the truth is required to understand how the enslavement in Black people in America impacts us today, not some 21st century hoax.

Don’t be lulled into thinking that the spreading of lies like the Willie Lynch letter does not matter.  Please share this article, or information about Manu’s book, the next time someone presents you with the Willie Lynch Letter as an explanation for anything regarding Black people, with the exception of how we can be easily misled.

Prince Among Slaves – Abdul Rahman Sori’s Story

With the recent popularity of the film 12  Years a Slave and focus on Solomon Northup’s the tragic story story, we tend to forget the millions of other precious souls whose lives were stolen, during what is referred to, euphemistically, as the “peculiar institution” of American slavery.

Abdul Rahman Sori’s is one example.  In 1788 Sori was 26 years old and heir to the throne of one of the largest kingdoms in Africa (present-day Guinea, Fouta Djallon) when he was captured, in an ambush, and was sold to English slavers.  Abdul Rahman Sori endured over 40 years of enslavement before he was freed.  Abdul Rahman Sori describes his story and subsequent ordeal in part;

Abdul-Rahman-Ibrahima-Sori

Abdul Rahman Sori

“I was born in the city of Tombuctoo. My Father had been living in Tombuctoo, but removed to be King in Teembo, in Foota Jallo. his name was Almam Abrahim. I was five years old when my father carried me from Tombuctoo. I lived in Teembo, mostly, until I was twenty one and followed the horesen. I was made Captain when I wasn twenty-one – after they put me to that , and found that I have a vergy good head, at twenty-four they made me Colonel. At the age of twenty six, they sent me to fight the Hebohs, because they destroyed the vessels taht came to the coast, and prevented our trade. When we fought, I defeated them. But they wen tback one hundred miles into the country, and hid themselves in the mountain. We coud not see them, and didn not expect there was any enemy. When we got there we, dismounted and led our hourses, until we were half way up the mountain. Theyn they fired upon us. We saw the smoke, we heard the guns, wes saw the people drop down. I told every one to run until we reached the top of the hill, then to wait for each other until all came there, and we would fight them. After I had arrived as the summit, i could see no one excpet my guard. they followed us, and we ran and fought. I saw this would not do. i told every one to run who wished to do so. Every one who wished to run , fled. I said I will not run for a Kufr. I got down from my horse and sat down. ………They sold me directly, with fity others, to an English ship. They took me to the Islamd of Dominica. After that I was taken to New Orleans. they the took me to Natchez and Colonel Foster brought me. I hae lived with Colonel Foster 40 years. thirty years I laboured hard. the last ten years I have been indulged a good deal. I have left five children behind and eight grand children. I feel sad, to think of leaving my children behind me. I desire to go back to my own country again; but when I think of my childre, it hurts my feelings. If I go to my own country, I cannot fell happy, if my children are left. I hope by God’s assistance, to recover them.”

Sadly, despite monumental effort, Abdul Rahman Sori, was unable to free his all of his children or return to his home.  Learn more about this story:

About the Film: Prince Among Slaves

prince among slaves dvdIn Theaters: Feb 4, 2008 Wide, On DVD: Feb 19, 2008

Unrated, 1 hr., Documentary, Special Interest, Directed By: Andrea Kalin , Bill Duke

Tells the true story of a little known African American hero, an African prince who was sold into slavery in the American South in 1788. His name was Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori, and he remained enslaved for forty years, before ultimately regaining his freedom and returning to Africa.

The broad outline of Abdul Rahman’s biography reads like a fairytale: A young prince falls from a life of power and privilege into exile and enslavement in a strange land. There he endures unimaginable indignities, yet carves out a life, marries a woman enslaved like himself, and has children. Then, through improbable circumstances, including meeting President John Quincy Adams at the White House, he is granted his freedom and returns to his homeland, but not before he rescues his wife from enslavement and sees his royal status recognized in the very land that held him in bondage.

 

prince among slaves bookAbout the Book: Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 30th anniversary edition (September 19, 2007)

In this remarkable work, Terry Alford tells the story of Abd al Rahman Ibrahima, a Muslim slave who, in 1807, was recognized by an Irish ship’s surgeon as the son of an African king who had saved his life many years earlier. “The Prince,” as he had become known to local Natchez, Mississippi residents, had been captured in war when he was 26 years old, sold to slave traders, and shipped to America.

Slave [editor’s note: the word enslaved is more appropriate in this context ] though he was, Ibrahima was an educated, aristocratic man, and he was made overseer of the large cotton and tobacco plantation of his master, who refused to sell him to the doctor for any price. After years of petitioning by Dr. Cox and others, Ibrahima finally gained freedom in 1828 through the intercession of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Clay. Sixty-six years old, Ibrahima sailed for Africa the following year, with his wife, and died there of fever just five months after his arrival.

The year 2007 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Prince Among Slaves, the only full account of Ibrahima’s life, pieced together from first-person accounts and historical documents gathered on three continents. It is not only a remarkable story, but also the story of a remarkable man, who endured the humiliation of slavery without ever losing his dignity or his hope for freedom. This thirtieth anniversary edition, which will be released to coincide with a major documentary being aired on Ibrahima’s life, has been updated to include material discovered since the original printing, a fuller presentation and appreciation of other African Muslims in American slavery-Ibrahima’s contemporaries-and a review of new and important literature and developments in the field.

Terry Alford is a Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College.

There is a Lack of Unity Among Black Websites

Over the last year, I’ve invested a lot of effort informing the public about the adverse impact of the corporate take over of the web and how this is hurting independent websites, particularly Black owned ones.

i-support-black-unity

Buy This Button from The House of Nubian

I have, however, not been very critical of the Black owned websites themselves.  Part of the reason for my lack of critique is that I’m very sensitive to the environment and in many ways understand when websites choose not to cooperate or work in unnecessarily competitive ways.

For example, Google, the most popular search engine, is now in a position to dictate to webmasters how to design their websites—what content can be published and how to link to other sites.   A webmaster does not have to comply with Google’s rules, but if they want their website to rank high enough to be found in Google’s search results, they have no choice.

Complying with Google’s mandates is not always easy.  The rules by which their search engine ranks websites changes constantly and no one outside of Google (few inside I suspect) completely understands how Google’s search algorithm works.  As a result, there is an entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) experts ready to help webmasters with a wide range of tools and techniques to help sites rank high on a Google search result.  The most unscrupulous of these “professionals” will guarantee a number one ranking for a website, or even worse utilize “black hat” techniques (sophisticated ways of cheating) to obtain a higher search result ranking.  These techniques can leave a website worse off, by being penalized by Google for attempting to game their search algorithm and reducing the quality of the site as more emphasis is placed on the SEO than content.

As a consequence of SEO, webmasters now have an incentive not to link to other websites, or when they do link they are encouraged to use rel=”nofollow” which essentially tells Google’s search engine to ignore the link.  Google does not want webmasters to swap links with other websites or to be financially compensated for a link to another site without using rel=”nofollow.” Some webmasters, being overly cautious in avoiding Google’s warth, have gone a step further and have stopped linking to other sites altogether.

Before Google was invented swapping links was one way sites were discovered.  Today, when independent websites are harder to find via search, linking to other sites is even more important, but sadly it is done less frequently.  Many, Black owned, independent websites are not linking to each other in meaningful ways, and we are all harder to find as a result.

ebony-magFrustrated by having to spend more time and effort jumping through Google’s hoops, I’ve decided to more aggressively, and directly, support independent websites.  I visit these websites—not their social media platforms—and share their content, engage others on their discussion forums and comment on their articles.  I encourage everyone to take similar action, but I try to lead by example.

One of the entities I’ve been promoting is Ebony Magazine.  I subscribe to the magazine and have been enjoying Michael A. Gonzales’ Vintage Vision, column on Ebony’s website.  I’ve been promoting Ebony Magazine, as well as all of the Black owned magazines I’m aware of on Huria Search (an advertisement-free website dedicated to supporting Black owned websites).  I also promote Ebony’s website on my listing of the Top Black Websites.  I even have a collection of Ebony Magazine issues going back over 60 years.  I’m a fan and a supporter.

The last issue contained an informative article about Black Americans exiled in Cuba.  It was an interesting article and I learned quite a bit.  I shared my enthusiasm on Twitter:

Recently, I posted the following comment on an article Ebony shared from the, NJ Star-Ledger, about Amiri Baraka’s recent passing.  The comments expressed AALBC.com’s shared grief and a link to a short documentary we produced highlighting Baraka’s work.

Ebony marked the comment as spam!!

ebony-spam

Now I understand if Ebony does not want to link to a another site (as explained in great detail above), but they did not have to hurt AALBC.com by marking the post as spam.  They could have simply not allowed the comment to be seen.   Not only was the comment the exact opposite of spam, one could argue that Ebony, or at least their visitors, would have benefited from the link.

nothing-foundI do not support Ebony Magazine because I expect anything in return.  I learned long ago that the biggest websites are the ones least likely to reciprocate.  I do not support Ebony because I like I everything they do.

I support Ebony because what they do is increasingly rare and more important than ever to the Black community.  Their coverage of books in the last issue was good too—not the usual diet of celebrity books many magazines and websites feel obliged to focus on.  In fact, I tweeted about their book coverage as well.

My motivation is not to call out one magazine on a trivial slight, no one would have know about unless I mentioned it.  My goal is to highlight a symptom of a much bigger problem that manifests in numerable ways across the Internet landscape.  The fact of the matter is we are simply not working together, as well as we must, to survive.

Individually, none of us have a chance to compete, over the long term, against the huge corporations taking over the World Wide Web.  Embracing social media is not the answer.  Collectively, we provide FAR more support and promotion of social media platforms than we do our own and we continue to lose.

Unless we bind  together, support and uplift each other, we have no chance of retaining ownership of our voice on the web.  When we lose our voice, we see articles focusing on our scandals rather than our triumphs, we see content that is the most marketable rather than the most important.  We also lose our ability to create business and generate revenue online. We have already lost so much, but we still continue to willingly relinquish what little we have left.

I’m fighting to reverse this trend.  Will you help?

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