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The Mission of Black History – Part 1

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Black History is not in any way opposed to White History. When the late Dr Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago wrote his book ‘Capitalism and Slavery’, he showed that without slavery, Britain especially, but also maritime Europe, had no chance of becoming a 19th century industrialized nation.{{more}} He documented the fatal raping of Africa, the inhuman trade in Africans across the Atlantic, the genocidal colonial slave production of sugar and other commodities, the slaughter of the first peoples in our region and the makeover of the Caribbean environment, while on the other hand, the Europeans developed new cities, new professions, new inventions, new social class segments, new wealth and investments, new ship building and marine domination, new ideologies, new industries, a new and reformed parliament and in all, an industrial revolution. This epic work by Williams, in my view, was not an opposition debate vs. White eurocentric history. He was not insisting on black presence and meaning in Europe’s development, but rather, Dr. Eric Williams was – like CLR James before him – redefining history and the theory of knowledge at a macro level, using the tools of colonial thought. Some British American historians want to carry on a debate against Williams and the black power of Europe’s industrialization. They miss the point by miles.

When Frantz Fanon from Martinique wrote about starting a new history of humanity, I choose this line to describe the mission and vision of black history. You see, in the history which we all live, we soon dead. In this history of ours, the globalized system of capital, encourages thieves to get so big, we are afraid to bring justice to them; we make room for the occupier and the terrorist to confront arrogant power because citizens are too busy toiling for bread; we soon dead because the ground people who are salt of the earth do not make decisions in the corporate boardroom or in the cabinet or in the UN Security Council. We soon dead, unless we strengthen this new history of humanity at the global or regional level, at the inter and intra personal level and at the national/community level.

BLACK ALBA: A New/Hemispheric History

The ALBA is a grouping of nations, or of nation leaders in our Caribbean and American Hemisphere. The leader who put it in motion is President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. ALBA wants to see this part of the world freed from control by empires which tell us how to behave, from our sex life to our banana trade. ALBA is a good idea; a different region with more freedom is a good idea. That sounds black, but ALBA needs a Dr Eric Williams to explain where the human and material roots of freedom are to be found in our hemisphere. A Black History of global America and the Caribbean begins in Haiti. The alternative to empire and domination was launched in a 12-year moral, military and materialist struggle which black/African people set in high gear in 1791, at Bois Caiman, on North Haiti, 21/22 August. Look at what made that black insurrection different from all others. L.S. Stavrianos, in his book ‘Global Rift’, made this point about the freedom struggles in South America. ‘The Latin American revolutions brought political independence but not social change. The position of the Indians and of the African slaves, comprising half the population, remained the same as before.

Haiti was different; the struggle for independence was also a struggle by slaves for their freedom. It was both a national independence and a social liberation struggle. In the USA, when the colonies took their freedom from Britain, they still largely kept slavery. In our English-speaking Caribbean, when we took emancipation from slavery, we still remained colonies for 124 years afterwards. Only Haiti made a national and a social revolution- a new history of humanity, the American alternative. And it was the Haitian revolutionaries who offered to help the South American struggle of Bolivar and others. I am saying that the new and alternative history of our American and Caribbean hemisphere is not truly a Bolivarian struggle, but a Haitian L’Ouverturian and Dessalinian erection. The ALBA programme must recognise this. That may be a hard swallow for the racist societies of South America to make, but black history calls undiplomatically like Eric Williams, like Frantz Fanon, like Walter Rodney for us to redefine history from a critical material and social starting point.

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